This blog post originally appeared on the Global Delivery Initiative website.
Every development project has a story. And for many projects, this story can be almost as exciting as a novel, with protagonists who contend with obstacles and challenges that stand in the way of reaching their goals and achieving development impacts.
The JICA Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development (JICA Ogata Research Institute) publishes the "Project History Series.” So far, the institute has published 25 Japanese-language installments in this series. This initiative aims to review JICA's development co-operation projects to date, analyzing their trajectories and outcomes. Each installment is a full narrative, and until now, the targeted readers have been Japanese development practitioners and those interested in development co-operation. The authors are Japanese experts and JICA overseas office representatives engaged in projects. Unlike “official” reports or publications, the series depicts the “messy” reality of development projects and describes how experts have muddled through crises, conflicts, disagreements, and challenges during project implementation.
To start off this year, hoping to reach a global audience, the JICA Ogata Research Institute published the first English-translated version of the series. The book title is "A Memoir of a Japanese Development Practitioner: In Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina." This publication describes a peace-building project, unprecedented in JICA’s history, which promoted ethnic reconciliation and post-conflict rehabilitation by offering agricultural assistance following the Bosnian War of 1992-1995.
In 1995, towards the end of the Bosnian conflict, more than 8,000 Bosniak (Muslim) residents were massacred in Srebrenica. Many international development organizations provided support in the post-conflict period, and in 2005, JICA launched a project to promote ethnic reconciliation and post-conflict rehabilitation. One of the authors of the study, Yasumasa Oizumi, was dispatched to Srebrenica as a JICA expert and lived there for five-and-a-half years. Oizumi began to question the appropriateness of providing support within the prevailing understanding among the international community. Donor organizations regarded Bosnian Muslim residents as the victims of the armed conflict, and as such, focused their assistance on this population. Oizumi was keenly aware, however, that assistance to only the Bosniak residents would never lead to ethnic reconciliation and would only widen the gap between the ethnicities. He put down roots in the village of Skelani in Srebrenica and engaged in daily discussions with the residents. Oizumi started to look for new ways to achieve ethnic reconciliation working alongside members of NGOs established by local residents and the members of the municipal government.
Over the next eight years or so, through a wide range of activities such as planting plum seedlings, planting strawberries and greenhouse vegetables, growing and processing herbs, restoring pastures, beekeeping, and renovating water supply facilities, the incomes of both Bosniak and Serb residents increased, and interaction between the two ethnicities gradually developed. Then, Oizumi and the members of the NGOs and municipal government managed to open a kindergarten attended by children from both ethnicities. Throughout the project, the authors write, JICA acted as a catalyst, drawing the two ethnicities closer. Oizumi says providing opportunities for local people to think, partner up, take action and open up their own lives is what inclusive development co-operation is all about (you can download this publication in PDF format here).
The JICA Ogata Research Institute will continue to publish such English-language texts in this series, covering various development co-operation projects including "Peace and development in Mindanao, Republic of the Philippines" and "Peace and unity through sports in South Sudan."
Photo: In the photo above, local residents gather for the launch of JICA's assistance project in Srebrenica. Photo courtesy of JICA Ogata Research Institute.