The Sunday Mail
UNLESS you are relevant to spaces that matter, you may not matter much. In my work, I do a lot of work with agricultural-related businesses and NGOs.
I facilitate strategy development workshops, work on capacity building, transformational and organisational development interventions. The role of the NGOs in development and raising the standard of living in our rural areas is highly commendable and should continue.
A number of other community actors have also taken the responsibility to make a difference at the grassroots and at household level.
I have also met many individuals that have done many commendable things in their rural spaces.
Efforts are there but they are not enough. Unless we start seeing the potential of our rural spaces and investing in them proactively, development will be a distant song playing on foreign radios. Should we choose, you and me can do something where we are, with what we have to change the rural development narrative.
What is regrettable and disheartening is that there is a significant portion of capable and resourced people that have abandoned their rural areas and left them at the mercy of anyone-to-whom-it-may-concern and whatever-may-happen there.
To use a rural home as just a burial site is to abuse a family and national treasure. We can never rise to greatness as developing nations so long as we ignore the rural areas and allow them to be abused for cheap political egos without tangible development.
Many people have over the years been playing their part in rural development and it is clear that the new frontier of interest and opportunity is developing rural areas, empowering our people and positively impacting the grassroots.
Tooting high-sounding verbiage and development rhetoric to small pools of urbanites that are not willing to take personal responsibility while ignoring the great rural majority at the grassroots will hold future generations of our nation hostage to debilitating poverty.
In most areas in Africa, even for city denizens, your primary identity is the rural home of origin. In the colonial era, the first interview question used to be: “Where do you come from?” You could not be taken seriously if you referred to some urban area as your base. Much has changed since.
In Zimbabwe your rural district is still identified by your national identity number. For a few senior citizens, even your kraal is identified by your national identity. To drum interest in the rural areas as a ticket into circles of power is to abuse our heritage. We must start taking active responsibility for our rural destinies.
It is gross irresponsibility to treat rural homes as places to bury and confine the poor, aged, sick and dying. This change starts with a change in attitude and mindset. To be cloistered within the urban comforts and forget that the rural areas are not another country, but part of who we are is to be self-deceived.
Without taking personal responsibility and interest in developing our rural spaces we will forever be a lost people with confused and stinking priorities. We will be known for singing great ideals and emotive choruses but doing nothing worthwhile to transform and uplift our own heritage.
Visit often: Look critically within
Perhaps for others it is a long shot to start talking about taking responsibility for a place that you only reluctantly visit out of parental guilt or obligation. Perhaps for some the first call is that it is important to visit rural homes more often without any agenda but to see the sorry state (in some cases).
For a good number of people, the visit to the rural area is precipitated by some emergency: be it death, funeral, lobola or sickness. In such instances, some of the visits are prosecuted as though under heavy hypnosis.
We arrive, sleep in car, drink bottled water, bury and escape! We at times do not take time to critically look at the decay and scout for noble opportunities to make a positive difference, clean a little, repair a little, plant a few trees and do something significant within our ability.
Children do not learn what we tell them, they learn what they see us do. When they see us abandon our heritage, how could they ever have pride in the rural space or even dare associate with it? Unless we visit with a view to create and stimulate productivity, those growing up in the rural areas will never think or see the opportunities under their feet.
There is a Zimbabwean saying that states that you can never know your grandmother without being told who she is. So it is with any rural space.
Invest something: A little
makes a difference
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be. Driving across the rural areas in Zimbabwe, a clear narrative emerges: Most areas have been abandoned and left to decay.
The sense of pride, attention and order seems distant. Development in our rural areas will start in earnest when we start investing in them and dirtying our hands there. Beyond putting up ego-massaging but abandoned structures in villages, the call is to start thinking real development, infusing financial intelligence and leadership, and spurring income-enhancing and employment-generating projects.
If we do not do it, who will? If we do not care for our own heritage, why should we expect others to care for what we abuse?
A little investment in time, money and attention in a rural area will always show. Patriotism is not spoken, it is shown by actions. We must not let our rural homes advertise our lack of attention, irresponsibility and national mindlessness.
Have a vision: Dream possibilities
Most rural areas, as they stand today, are a product of past visions by grandfathers, fathers and a good number, perhaps, now dead. Enter the new settlement areas. Some are just a replay of the crowded and sometimes mindless rural legacies, without any fresh sauce to offer. Wherever vision is alive it will always show.
To claim responsibility and not display visionary action is to hide behind dirty fingers. Wherever there is no vision, people grope in darkness. Wherever there is no vision, doom will always show. If you look at your rural area and you cannot see anything that emerged from your vision, you have not taken responsibility. Vision does not need to be big, scary and out-sized. It certainly needs to go beyond grocery items and a few drinks at a local rural bar.
Distant dreams lead to local nightmares. Start dreaming in perspective and do something worthy. Our grassroots are crying for attention and practical action. Nearly 70 percent of our people are in the rural areas. Talking only and tracing roots to impress friends will not cut it.
Great ideals in grand places without basic actions on the ground will just be frustrating and fuel widespread hopelessness. Visionaries working to uplift their people and make a difference in tangible ways are in demand. Sign up through taking action to make a difference. Small actions birth big consequences.
What you have is a seed
Poverty is a mindset. It is easy to look for what we do not have in our pursuit of more and more and think we are poor. To pursue shiny things without deep foundations is empty gloss. It is time to be basic and start looking at what we have and how we could best deploy what we have to make a difference that matters in someone’s life and in the space that matters to all of us — the rural space.
Sometimes it is a resource, tool, asset or relationship which we could leverage to make a positive difference.
None of us is so poor that we cannot give a little to make at least a little difference in some little rural space. Giving goes beyond money. To have attended a rural school, escape to the shining lights of the city, travel far and wide, then never to invest in that rural school is senseless irresponsibility and fickle values.
Positive influence for action
Any group of people united by an inspiring vision and acting with one mind can do a lot of good. In my mind I can see bands of families, alumni of rural schools, relatives and the many civic and community groups, working together with an agenda to raise their rural areas.
As they rise, they increase their appeal as a market and production centre. When development is owned, it attracts more resources, momentum and support.
The worst enemy of rural development is the indifference of the city dwellers who have severed their rural roots. When we start mobilising and promoting our rural areas at every turn, development will spring forth like a deep fountain and irrigate possibilities beyond our wildest dreams.
It’s time for a rural revival and renaissance that does not have boxed motives.
The rural space is not a rotten space. It is an open canvas of possibilities waiting for visionary actors who love their country, their heritage and their people enough to do something meaningful. The opportunities to make a difference are abundant, fill your space.
Committed to your greatness
Milton Kamwendo is a cutting-edge international transformational and inspirational speaker, author and coach. He is a strategy and innovation consultant and leadership coach. His life purpose is to inspire people to release the greatness trapped in them. He can be reached at [email protected] and on WhatsApp at 0772422634.