The third question we ask ourselves is: Am I effective?
When Nova was founded, researchers such as John Kenneth Galbraith, in his book The nature of mass poverty, had already pointed out that the huge development industry, that started in 1948 with a speech of US President Harry Truman, was not based on an adequate understanding of the nature of poverty (Galbraith 1980:36, 37, 40): “We suppose that on social questions we proceed from diagnosis to action. But if action is imperative, we make the cause fit the action. So it was here. To recognize this is absolutely fundamental….(The problem is our) failure to understand the nature of mass poverty….In the great explosion of concern over poverty, we did not, to repeat, move from cause to remedy; we moved from the only available line of remedial action to the cause that called for that action.” Action was imperative, says Galbraith (pp32-33), because of political motives.
Patrick Marnham pointed out that poverty has an obstinate ability to re-establish itself, like a cancer that feeds on the medicine that is supposed to destroy it. In his book, Fantastic Invasion, (1980: p150) he pointed out that food aid to famine-stricken countries tends to do more harm than good. The cause of famine is mostly not a lack of food, but insufficient distribution, usually for hostile political reasons. Food aid doesn’t help to solve this problem; it mostly increases it because the political forces hijack the food and misuse it, for example, by selling it to buy more weapons to even more effectively oppress those who are hungry. Food aid brings food prices down, and so damages the existing food producing system. Farmers leave their land and join the queues for food aid. Marnham says that food aid is the most effective way to make a country permanently dependent on foreign aid. He regarded it as the economic equivalent of war! Such insights were recently confirmed by books such as When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (2012).
It is not an insight that is generally followed. Since 1994, when the first democratic election was held, the South African government has provided more than 3 million free houses to people who are poor. Social grants have increased from 3 million in 2000 to 16 million by 2014. By 2013, according to Statistics South Africa’s General Household Survey, 30.2% of the population received a social grant from the state; 45.5% of households received at least one social grant. It is a solution to poverty that confirms dependence and that is vulnerable to economic decline.
President Jacob Zuma recently said that this approach has made people too dependent on the state. It has made them passive, while people from other countries make use of the opportunities there are. (http://www.southafricalatestnews.co.za/news/450-foreigners-are-not-lazy-like-you-poor-south-africans-president-zuma-says.html. 2014.11.03.15.02). This confirms the insight Nova has been promoting from the beginning.