And … is that such a bad thing?

May 18th, 2016 Sections: Contemporary Kyrgyzstan, From an Expat, News
Honeybees on a honeycomb

Honeybees on a honeycomb

The headline writers for Britain’s tabloid press have had a field day recently …

These are references to a project, part of the Darwin Initiative, aimed at countries “rich in biodiversity but poor in financial resources” … which, I suppose, sums up at least one aspect of Kyrgyzstan pretty well.

It appears that a Conservative MP used this as just one example of how, in his opinion, the British aid budget has been brought into disrepute by projects aimed not just at beekeeping, but also slugs and snails India, Malaysia, Nepal and Laos, fish sustenance, and the giant salamander population in China.

The public, he is reported to have said, “thinks overseas aid is to help countries and people who have suffered natural disasters.”

Well, in one way he is write, in that this is one of the aims of international aid … but only one.  The Department for International Development, (DFID – the agency responsible for the oversight of Britain’s aid budget), also talks about issues such as “tackling the great global challenges – from the root causes of mass migration and disease, to the threat of terrorism and global climate change” and “defeating poverty, tackling instability and creating prosperity in developing countries“, as well as “building peaceful and stable societies, creating jobs and strong economies, fighting corruption, unlocking the potential of girls and women, tackling climate change” and, yes … not forgetting, “helping to save lives when humanitarian emergencies hit” … all of which, it claims, is “strongly in support of the UK national interest”.

To be fair, it also talks about “achieving value for money“, which is exactly what it’s critics claim it is failing to deliver.

The Beekeepers, 1568, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Beekeepers, 1568, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

According to the project’s 35 page final report, it lasted for two years, (from July 2012 to March 2014), and although the report doesn’t give figures to show how the almost £150,000 was spent, it does give a wealth of other information.  For example, the training 60 ‘herders’ to develop new skills as beekeepers – which was the thrust of these strident headlines – was just one of the six outcomes that it was hoped the activities undertaken as part of the project would achieve.

It starts with a fairly good brief summary of beekeeping, and the problems faced by beekeepers, in Kyrgyzstan … followed by an outline of what it was hoped to achieve; a list of what actually achieved; an outline of how it was achieved; and some details arisiing from the monitoring and evaluation that the project underwent.


Whether or not this project was a good use of taxpayers money, is a good and valid question, and one which DFID’s critics are right to raise … but not necessarily when they take it out of context, as seems to have happened in these headlines.

Now, I haven’t read the report of the slugs and snails project, and I admit that my gut reaction is somewhat similar to theirs, Good Grief! Looking at the documentation for this project, however, it seems to me that it actually fits quite well into the profile of the mission and objectives of DFID – as they, themselves, outline them.

A problem was identified, and an approach to help address it adopted … and adapted in the course of the project in the light of experience and local conditions … helping to strengthen an economic activity, and thus relieve poverty, and thus improve social and economic stability, unlocking potential and creating jobs … as well as addressing the obligations and responsibilities that Kyrgyzstan faces under the various conventions that it has ratified.

Although £150,000 is a lot of money to spend … I feel a need to ask, is it unreasonable?

Yes, it is true there are other things that could have been done with that money … and different people will have varying views about what was the best way to spend it.  Given, however, the aim of the project and the fact that it fits the criteria set out in DFID’s strategy and objectives, there are other questions that come to mind … was it an unreasonable use of the available funds?;Did it give value for money?; Did the project achieve what it set out to?; Was this the best way to do so?; Could it have been done cheaper?; Could it have achieved more? … and if, so, what would that have cost?

It seems to me, for example, that it might have been helpful to address, also, the question of laboratories for testing the final product, the honey … so that it could be more easily exported … but that, apparently, wasn’t in the brief.

It also comes to mind that, with the crisis facing the bee population worldwide, it was a particularly apposite and timely project.

Finally, for those who want to criticize the project, I want to ask: whatever happened to Give a man a fish, feed him for a day … Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.  Isn’t that what this was all about?




There are 2 comments. to “And … is that such a bad thing?”

  1. Guest
    May 18th, 2016 at 11:22

    I would understand the outrage if it was £150 millions, my point of view, British taxpayers can keep £150000!

  2. Guest
    May 18th, 2016 at 11:22

    that’s like one weeks wage of an average premier League footballer. However i haven’t heard of this aid before.

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