Development is complex and ambiguous considering the varying conceptions of freedom and what a good life is. The realm of developmental studies is constantly evolving and thus requires constant innovation, multi-stakeholder participation, and knowledge circulation. Development studies and policies have generated transformations throughout the world since the end of World War II. The first perspective of development included grand visions of societal transformation and the emancipation from underdevelopment, however this grand vision limited the capacities to guide sustainable development. In response to the challenges of a complete societal transformation, development perspective shifted to focus on performance assessments and measuring progressive change on a short term basis. This perspective centralized focus on the outcome of change, which at times undermined the preferences of the local actors benefitting from development. The Western notion of development has dominated the field and the Post-modern approach aims to highlight the negative impacts of these notions. (Summer and Tribe, 2008)
Considering the power dynamics behind development, the public and scholars alike must be aware that forms of development must be attuned to individual communities needs and wants, since not all countries and regions are equally developed or underdeveloped. The Post-Modern approach acknowledges that a ‘one size fits all model’ cannot work effectively in the realm of development. Diverse populations require diverse mechanisms and community-based approaches allow communities to help guide development. International Development had been steered by Western ethnocentric notions, which have vastly expanded the role of technological innovations within the field. While technology offers many opportunities for progress, various technical approaches have the power to undermine long-term sustainability efforts, especially within the agricultural sector of developing countries.
One example of Western ethnocentric development can be highlighted by the Green Revolution, which was the adoption and spread of high-yielding seed varieties (HYVs) (otherwise known as genetically modified organisms), among small-scale farmers in developing countries. The development of HYVs began in Mexico through a partnerships between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican Government. The HYVs were adapted to Mexican wheat varieties in 1961 (Wu 2004, 12). By 1965, the HYV of wheat improved yields by 400% in comparison to yields from 1950 (Randhava 1986, 365). This development highlights the first and second perspectives of development. The grand vision of societal transformation was marked with applied innovation and technologies to address one of the world most pressing problems, hunger. While the second perspective addresses the notion of performance assessment and measuring progress on a short-term basis. The rapid increase of yields provided the Development world a strong performance indicator of the short-term progress which aided in the implementation of the technologies worldwide.
As these technologies increased short-term yields, the long-term sustainability was not fully integrated in the approach. By the mid 1980s, yield growth slowed down and environmental degradation caused by intensified agricultural productions, which has been widely recognized as a downfall of these technologies (Pingali 2012). Furthermore, farmers who introduced the seeds in their farming practices were then required to buy new seeds externally on a yearly basis, contrasting the traditional manner of reusing seeds yearly. While Development and technological innovations go hand in hand, we must be aware of the implications of technology and address the short-comings of progress, such as the environmental and social implications of developmental strategies. Amartya Sen defines freedom as having the capabilities to live the life one desires to live, thus the Development community must understand the complexities of communities and their needs and desires before implementing strategies (Sen, 1999).
Randhawa, M. S. A History of Agriculture in India, Four Volumes. New Delhi: Indian Council of Agricultural Research, 1980.
Sen, Amartya. Development as Freedom, Anchor Books, 1999.
Sumner, Andy and Michael Tribe. International Development Studies: Theories and Methods in Research and Practice.Sage, 2008.
Pingali, Prabhu L. “Green Revolution: Impacts, limits, and the path ahead.” Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Boston, MA. Vol. 109 no.31.
Wu, Felicia, and William P.Butz. “The Green Revolution.” The Future of Genetically Modified Crops: Lessons from the Green Revolution, 1st ed., RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA, 2004, pp. 11–38.