No-aid policy explained

I am often asked why I fight for the dignity of people in Africa, even though I am white and injustice does not affect me. The treatment of Africa by industrialised nations conceals an invisible injustice that is hidden behind two nice words: development aid. This sounds like something good for a layman, but on closer inspection it turns out to be a bad system lie created by us white people. In order to make the associated insights visible I have created (B)energy. With a fundamentally different approach, we want to prove how strong human dignity is and therefore we are implementing biogas in Africa without any Western funding!

Katrin Pütz, founder of (B)energy

Everybody at (B)energy, this means the founder Katrin Pütz, the core team and our partners worldwide, have one thing particularly close to their hearts: they want to change the West’s view of poorer countries and the general view of development aid. We have taken the time to describe and explain in great detail some of the most important points. Together we are working in an ever-growing network to educate and involve people who want to play a positive role, while at the same time trying to change or prevent initiatives that negatively affect the dignity of the people and the local market. Many people have a good heart and really want to help, they even put their own interests on the backburner, but if you take a closer look at the aid industry, you will soon realize that something is going wrong. We don't want to scare anyone away or make them sad, because we know that the reasons for the sometimes sad living conditions of people – e.g. in Africa – are often desperately complex and it seems to be better to do something than to do nothing. But unfortunately, this is not so. But there are ways to change this and therefore it is important that we, the (B)energy network, help to achieve a better understanding among those who are really interested in supporting poorer people.

In order to explain our attitude towards development aid/assistance (ODA) and organisations in detail, we would like to use our guidelines to share some facts and above all our experience and that of some of our partners on the following key issues:

This relatively old graph by William Easterly shows very impressively that development aid, as it has been provided since 1970, has little to do with a growing gross domestic product. There are many reasons for this, corruption, dependencies, resource curses, etc. - All these things are interrelated and are systematic and structural problems that simple aid programmes cannot solve, precisely because they are not designed for sustainably implementable structures.

If you visit biogas plants installed by aid programmes in Africa, you will see that hardly any of them are in operation. It is more likely that people dry cow dung on it, which they then burn for cooking, than feed the plant with the dung to produce biogas for cooking. However, those who know the background are not surprised about this.

As long as the system is made available free of charge or without considerable effort on their part, it is not a loss for the "owners" if it no longer functions after a certain period of time. After all, no one has actively campaigned to get it, and according to the motto "What costs nothing is worth nothing", most people return to the old routine, i.e. wood, charcoal or manure. This is also due to the fact that no sustainable infrastructure is created during the projects, which would enable reliable, competent and affordable customer service, but which is essential so that the plant owners can contact someone in case of technical problems. This is also one of the main reasons for the failure of large, state-funded biogas programs, such as those in India and Ethiopia. Sarcastically one could say: the aid industry creates the market for constantly new projects for itself, because it is not as if this system problem was not recognized by the organizations.

We are convinced that the key to success is personal responsibility. Only those who use their own money or accept credit risks really check the local demand and whether this product is the right one for the country, the people and the market. Only those who use their own money will take care of the investment, maintain it and keep it in good shape. Only those who have invested their own money have the motivation to develop a sustainable business model and adapt it to changing circumstances. In this way (B)energy, together with its local business partners, is supporting and encouraging more and more entrepreneurs on their way to their own business. However, if people cannot afford their own biogas plants, then either the solutions offered are not sufficiently adapted to the market or the problems are more structural in nature. In this case, donated technology would not solve the problem, but rather exacerbate it by concealing the cause and removing local responsibilities. This will reinforce the structural problem in the long term.

“Considering African nations, where great aid support has been given, it seems that these aids instead of helping economically, end up pushing these nations further into economic hardship. This means, that the interest of the givers of these aids are more important and given utmost concerns. Where aid is applied, the normal economic system is disrupted, businesses operate in difficulty and are forced to operate far below economics of production, distribution and sales and often end up unprofitable.”

Franci Okoh, (B)angel from Nigeria

Whether the chicken market in Cameroon, the solar industry in Nepal, or the biogas sector in Ethiopia, these are all examples where market prices are distorted or market development is hindered by Western interactions. This is due not only to aid projects, but also to the global trading system established by the industrialised nations, which primarily serves their own interests. European agricultural policy is a very good example of this. Development projects that nip any independent market development in the bud with free products also contribute to underdevelopment.

Every project, with which, for example, biogas technology is brought to the market for free or subsidised with Western money - whether by state aid organisations or the privately engaged European - automatically disadvantages local companies that use the resources available in the country and destroys the initiatives of (B)energy's social business partners. Because: all (B)energy biogas entrepreneurs have taken part in a (B)energy training course at their own expense. They have invested in know-how, in technology and in a distribution system for biogas plants on site and want to invest further in order to expand. They make sure that the benefits spread throughout the country, that plants work and attract new interested parties and customers. They ensure that biogas enjoys a good reputation and create confidence in the technology and the company. They build a market for biogas in the country, because the more interest in the technology spreads, the faster the network of dealers and installers who take care of sales and service grows. And the number of people who invest in the technology can continue to grow, because they are not dependent on external support measures. But if a similar or even the same technology somewhere in one of these countries is subsidised by foreign organisations or even given away to selected people, these independent local importers, installers, trainers and promoters, i.e. the middle class so important for development, can no longer exist there. No matter how small the free project may be, nobody pays money for facilities or training that are available somewhere without having money. This also applies to areas where there is no private biogas sector at the time. Intervention by aid organisations will also prevent the future development of the sector there.

This system of dependency can only be solved if you are part of the solution and advocate personal responsibility, not if you bow to the system, cooperate with development projects and thus become part of the problem. Therefore (B)energy will not participate in aid projects and the technology cannot be purchased by aid organisations, except for their own use.

The project GEN - Green Energy and Nutrition reduces CO2 emissions by replacing firewood with biogas from domestic biogas plants and by inorganically storing animal dung. Compared to the so-called "Three-Stone-Method" (you could compare it to a campfire), an alternative energy-efficient cooking method can be offered in Uganda by building domestic biogas plants and starting them up properly. GEN is expected to save up to 14,520 tCO2e in a 6-year project period at best. The funds for the project costs of € 703,188 for 200 biogas plants come from donations and CO2 compensation payments from European private individuals and companies.

Caritas Kärten, IFA – Institut für Umweltbiotechnologie (BOKU), Caritas Gulu und Gulu Universität (Uganda)

If climate protection is the reason for a project:

The CO2 emissions per capita are 9.15 tons in Germany, 8.16 tons in Austria and 0.12 tons in Uganda. The idea of solving our problems in Africa is nothing more than a dishonest approach to the real problem, namely excessive flying. There is also a practical problem: such subsidised biogas plants, as in the project described, will not work, because there is neither the real interest in them nor the necessary infrastructure to operate them professionally and in the long term. A badly managed household biogas plant causes emossions comparable to a small car driving 20,000 km/year (Lansche & Müller, 2017). This helps neither the climate nor the local population, but harms them both even more. How many flights from Austria will be necessary to monitor the planned 200 biogas plants in the GEN project and the large project sum. According to those responsible for the project, this CO2 will in turn be offset. Ultimately, such measures will lead to even greater damage on a global scale, as a pseudo-solution for climate-damaging behaviour is created. Instead of developing other transport and flight alternatives that save fossil kerosene, renewable wood is being saved in Africa. This climate balance is not only bad, but also delays development on both sides.

For the biogas entrepreneurs in Uganda, this means that their work is no longer worth anything from now on. Anyone who has invested in biogas in Uganda in recent years and hears about this project will be very disappointed. On the one hand users who have invested their own money in biogas. They will rightly feel treated unfairly and will be annoyed that they did not passively wait for help from outside, as others did. On the other hand, biogas installers and entrepreneurs who have already invested in a company to sell biogas technology, because now the market is distorted or perhaps even destroyed for them in the long term. This has not only to do with the value of a biogas plant, which is reduced so much by this project that a local company can no longer compete with it, but also with the perception of the people. Biogas technology is damaged in its reputation because it is considered a technology for the very poor and, in this case, an additional problem will arise: the project plans community biogas plants that are operated by several households together. The well-known "tragedy of the commons" predicts that dangerous disputes will arise here, which will quickly paralyze the plants. The technical implementation of gas distribution without the biogas backpack patented by (B)energy is also very difficult and has never been successfully implemented before. All in all, such a project is doomed to failure from an expert's point of view, and is therefore in many respects a threat to the biogas sector in the region.

Why emergency aid is important, but must not become permanent 

The drought keeps coming. The communities here used to have their own survival strategies, but those have largely disappeared. People say, "Why should I grow anything at all when there are aid supplies anyway?

Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan, Kenya

Drought, war, refugee chaos, natural disasters or epidemics - all these can have catastrophic consequences and then it is important to provide humanitarian aid quickly. Short-term emergency aid is a crucial factor in alleviating the emergency situation that has been triggered. In these cases, solidarity in action is right, important and great!

However, development aid is something completely different. When it comes to economic development, it is about prospects, and economic prospects in our system here can only exist with a functioning, fair market. For example, food aid is essential during or shortly after unforeseeable, exceptional droughts. However, if it is provided in addition to local cultivation or the well-known climate-related droughts, the "aid" destroys existing local structures, producers and traders and their networks, which would undoubtedly be necessary for economic development. It also prevents governments from taking preventive measures.

In this paradoxical system, a race for aid money is now emerging, because as long as one receives aid money, according to the calculations of some people in power, the less one has to worry about one's own population. Even statistics are falsified so that one continues to be rated as one of the least developed countries, i.e. poorest countries in the world. It is a cycle in which only a few, namely the elites in power, benefit. In designated development aid, such mistakes are more often the rule than the exception, but now to treat places or countries like emergencies because of their "regressive situation" is wrong. It is difficult for many people to imagine, and obviously even more difficult to accept, that gifts create more problems than they solve. Often enough, however, it is even the case that the "helpers" understand the above arguments and even agree that often considerable damage is done. Nevertheless, they implement their projects as planned. This is morally highly questionable and the affected aid recipients cannot (yet) defend themselves against it, which leads us to our next topic.

Why development aid is undemocratic

People do not have a say in what they need. Aid wants to help people by giving things away. People now stop working for their living as they are just getting things for free. When people don’t work, the country’s economy goes down and they won’t have money or manpower to face their problems and then more aid comes to “help” more people. This cycle never ends

Rinusha Maharjan, from Nepal

A comparison: How unpleasant is it to refuse someone's gift and tell the person that you don't like it, or that you can't use it? Very, that's why it's better to accept the teflon pan as a present for moving in, rather than revealing that you plan to buy a gas stove.

It's the same with help:

First of all, "aid" is not democratic because it is a social consensus that we cannot help everyone at the same time, and it is therefore in the hands of the helpers who is helped and how. However, the fact that we cannot help everywhere at the same time makes it clear that there is a need to help. This is not a problem as long as the helpers do not automatically see themselves in an active role and do not make the "beneficiary" a passive recipient - but this is almost always the case. The active role of the helper is always positively appreciated, no matter where and for what purpose it is used. Who can be against helping? By accepting and improving the position of the helper to a higher/active/powerful level, the result is that usually no one questions where and how help is given. The equality of the helpers and the recipients of help is thus automatically faded out, because the helpers who have more freely give something to help those who have less. Due to these role relationships it is inappropriate on the part of the recipients to refuse help and/or to make suggestions for improvement.

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