Identity in the Movement for Sustainable Development

In my first paper I discussed the broad topic of Sustainable Development, in the globalized world in an attempt to both define the movement as a human right, its goals, objectives and the work currently being done as well as specific groups and organizations which are working with in the movement it self. After my initial research I found that the two predominant issues associated with the movement are economic struggles and poverty.

In this paper I will be discussing the idea of identity in regards to the Sustainable Development movement in terms of a) how it shapes the movement, b) the actors who work with in the movement, and c) the issues which arise from the struggle to find and solidify identity with in the over all. This paper is more focused on the identity theory with in the progression of the movement it self rather that focusing on the fact that it is a collective group of human rights under the heading of the broader movement, ie Sustainable development.

In my approach to studying the broader topic of Sustainable development I am going to focus mainly on two specific areas with in the whole ; Employment rights and Hunger. I have chosen these to factors because I feel they are the biggest issues which effect the globalized world as part of this movement.

Employment rights, which substantially effects the economic and social status of many millions of people world wide, is one the main focus points with in the movement for Sustainable Development. ‘Slave’ wages and enormous rates of unemployment through out the globe contribute significantly to the high poverty levels.

Hunger, and the right to basic human necessities to sustain life, are directly effected by poor wages and unemployment. Statistically speaking hunger and death resulting from starvation is a world wide epidemic. In this paper I will explore the issues and movements which stem from said human right issues

It is my belief that individualism and identity play a significant role in the lives of those who are trying to solve these two main issues. Taking into account the theory presented by Antimo L. Farro in his article “Actors, Conflict, and the Globalization Movement” I will specifically explore the idea of two types of individualism with in the movement. The individual which resist joining a larger group in order to sustain their own unique voice while acting with in the movement, and those actors who affirm their individuality through their action in a larger organized group. Both types of individuals are important to the fundamental furtherance of the movement but in specific and often drastically differing ways.

The individual who resists is often involved on a more personal level, being effected or having been effected by the issue or issues associated with the movement. The individual then becomes an actor in order to further their own goals and and to fix situations which effect both them on a distinct personal level and/or as part of a social or economic classification which may be based on one or a combination of factors such as gender, ethnicity, social status or sexual preference. In the Sustainable development movement the main factors are often ethnicity and social status, particularly economic classifications, specifically in third world countries.

The individuals who work with in groups and organizations affirm their individuality through collective action. This may come about in many ways specific to the idea of race as a tie which binds. For example an actor may work with in an organization run with in their country in order to improve the conditions of their ethnic group or the actor, living in another country may join a group working with in the movement in order to help address issues in their native or ancestral homeland which effects people who are of the same ethnic origin.

Identity Within the Movement

Identity plays a major role in the Sustainable Development movement, not just for the actors but for those affected. There are many different identities for the affected which link them together. The overall collective identity is as members f the human race. There are many different peoples who are affected by poverty and economic troubles. What it all boils down too is that they affected are as a whole, human beings which are tied together with a common problem.

As we work our way to a more specific identity we can look at the collective identity of each people with in their country. African countries, Bolivia, Guatemala and other individual poor countries share in a major national identity and even with in these countries there are often a more specific identity among races, tribes and communities of people. For example, you will latter read about a project in Bolivia, specifically in the poor farming town of Hunanucollo which is the embodiment of this sort of more focused collective identity.

The Amayan people who live in Hunanucollo are not numerous, there are only 120 families which make up this poor community, but they share in the collective identity of being Amayan citizens of Hunanucollo. It is from this identity that, with the help and resources provided by a larger organization, they were able to begin rebuilding their environment and bettering their economic growth.

From this example we can see that there are many levels of collective identity, which shared among a commonly afflicted people can band them together and once empowered by either themselves or an out side source allows them to draw from their sameness.

This movement also embodies the idea of identity specific to the individual, weather it be with in the collective identity (ie race, gender, social class etc.) or an identity of unique experiences from through out said individuals life. Many of the times these ideas come together to form the full identity of actors with in a Movement.

Take for example the work of Self Help, an organization we will discuss latter in the paper. This organization uses only African nationals in it’s African projects. These nationals over see projects in which their fellow countrymen are given the tools and opportunity to better their economic status. By using those actors who share both the collective identity of being African, and the individual identity of the actor (what poverty, disease, and famine they have seen and experienced in their life time as an African), this organization empowers the individuals they wish to help, to take responsibility for their future along side familiar faces whom they can identify with.

These are the theories which I believe truly embody the role of identity with in the movement of Sustainable Development. In order to fully expand upon their role we must look to the organizations which work with in the movement. I have chosen two specific organizations, both which are currently active with in the movement, and both which look to sustainable development with the 3rd generation idea of solidifying identity with in the movement in order to achieve their goals. These organizations are the aforementioned Self Help working in Africa and Strategies for International development (SID) working in several areas.

Strategies for International Development

One group that is working with in the movement for Sustainable Development, with an emphasis improving economic status and decreasing poverty/hunger is Strategies of International Development (SID).

SID is an organization based in the United States which “develops and promotes better strategies for achieving the goals of international development – adequate diet, health, and housing, as well as improved education, employment, and human rights – for all residents in the developing countries of Latin America and Africa.(1)” SID is made up of private, voluntary members who work with in the movement and has offices in Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala and Burundi.

The main focus of this organization is two fold. First, to reclaim soils and pastures which have been ruined over time through poor farming processes and economic inability while increasing productivity of the agricultural industries and gaining better income for the rural workers with in their area of focus.

Secondly, they work to strengthen democracy by expanding citizen participation in decision making processes. In other words getting those who have the most at stake, the worker and their families involved in decisions which affect rural productivity and ultimately giving them the power to take charge of their economic well being.

SID is an organization that has used its strategies, and globalized message to truly make a difference in the movement. Over the past 3-5 years this organization has helped increase the income of over 3500 families in Bolivia and Guatemala. They have also helped to recover previously eroded land, strengthen livestock industries through immunizations and parasite eradication, have increased beef, dairy and agricultural production and have planted more than seventy-five thousand trees in these two countries. All of these accomplishments have made it possible for the development of a better environment, more production and a better quality of life for thousands of people.

SID is representative of the individuals whom work with in the structure of a social organization for the furthermost of a movement. In a case study that I read on the web site, Huanucollo: A Community’s Transformation, I was able to truly see an example of an individual on both sides of a global movement.

Hunanucollo, Bolivia is a community which resides on harsh, barren and eroded lands that are to the untrained impossible to grow crops and farm on. One of Hunanucollo’s once poor farmers is Alipio Alvarez, who grew up in the community.

Alipio tells us that “There is no pasture. There isn’t tule or huicho [native grasses like cattails and bulrush]. There is nothing. Just dirt and rocks. This is the result of overuse and poor farming practices. The land was worked too hard, and now we have no more. But we’ve put another part of our land in reserve.” (2)

Today Alipio is one of SID’s paid farmers and has been working with SID as an agricultural expansionist (that is to say a person helping to expand the land regeneration project) in his area for more than a decade. Having been a poor farmer himself prior to the SID project, Alipio has worked as an individual to help correct the issues which once plagued his community.

His involvement with the project began in 1996 when he became one of the first to have been tough how to regenerate the barren lands. Today he plays a major part in the continuation of the project through teaching and working the techniques imparted to him by SID. In this way Alipio, working in conjunction with the organization, is bettering the economic and social status of himself, his family as well as his ethnic, and social group, ie: his community. In this way, he has been given the opportunity through training, funding and encouragement, to work with in the movement while keeping his individuality. He is not merely a volunteer of Sid but rather an individual actor , a poor Bolivian farmer from Huanucollo, improving the lives concentrated in his direct environment because he has an important personal stake in the success of his work. In tern this progresses the movement because it is spreading development and fixing poverty in this centralized area.

Before the SID project had come to this area all lands were barren and generally useless. The normal yearly income for farmers in Hunanucollo was three-hundered and twenty dollars. nearly a decade later half of the land is flush with grains and grass on which the farmers can raise and sell cattle and sheep.

One farmer buys skinny cattle for the equivalent of one hundred dollars and fattens them on his land to prepare them for sale on the market. He is then able to sell the same cow for two hundred and fifty dollars, more than doubling his money. Ten years ago this would not have been possible.

This cattle farmer is not the only one who has increased their income. The average yearly income for a farmer in the area today is six hundred dollars. SID plans to continue work in the area with the goal that the average income will increase to nine hundred dollars a year.

“We have a strong desire for more financing and training for the community of Huanucollo. With additional funding, we are going to improve our eroded land by constructing water retention ditches, damming gullies, and constructing stables to keep our cows from roaming everywhere. This is how we’re going to have a better family income, and we’ll progress together, as a community. But without this work, we’re not going to have our own income. We don’t want to be poor. (2)

SID is currently funding other Agricultural projects in their four key territories, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala and Burundi.

Self Help

Another organization working with in the realm of Sustainable Development in Self Help. This organization was founded in 1984 in response to the Ethiopian famine. Based in Ireland, this organization works to help others by empowering them, like their name suggests, to help them selves.

While self help’s base location is Ireland they has a main African office in Ethiopia as well as field offices at each project through out the continent. Each office is staffed by nationals of that country rather than out siders. By doing so Self Help is able to establish and maintain the premise of their work, ie self help.

More than that, by maintaining nationals as the ones who run and guide the process it strengthens the collective identity of both the actors, and those effected by the projects. Both actors and the affected share the identity of being Africans, mostly local Africans, working together to build up their economic status. This gives the people who are suffering a sense of sameness and achieve comfort level that for example, white americans, or white europeans would not in this situation.

As part of this collective identity, the actors themselves can feel a sense of immediacy and national pride in their work. Instead of helping in a faceless cause, the actors are working in their own backyards, to solve issues that many of them have been exposed to and/or been affected by in their life. This allows for these actors to be more passionate about the work they are doing and the people they are helping because in essence they are helping them selves.

An important concept, relating to identity, in the way that Self Help’s projects work is the uniqueness of each project in regards to the region.

“Self Help is unique in its approach to building self sufficiency in Third World countries through its understanding of the concept “what works for me may not work for you. The organization implements projects designed around the priorities of each local area. Each project is tailor made to the specific requirements of each community and with the full input of the people in that community, using their expertise, ideas and labour.” (3)

This description has one main key concept in the way the Self Help works with in identity and sets itself apart from groups working on similar projects. This idea of a “tailor made” project for each community with the full input of the people in that community is the embodiment of identity impacting a movement.

The work of this organization does not stem from the out side looking in, or from a cultural invasion of alien beings coming in to take over and fix situations. Rather it is the ideas and expertise of the people effected which is used to repair the economic and poverse conditions under which each community lives. In this way not only is there a merging of those who are effected by these conditions in to the role of actors which play a major, and often leadership type role in furthering the movement, but also a defining of issues and solutions which are important to the specific identity of the community and the individual actor/beneficiaries.

Self Help’s projects focus on the most basic form of economic development, and the most long stay. The agricultural industry of Africa is very important since it is a predominant means of economic stability for the people. Self Help uses it’s funds to provide communities in Africa with the tools and techniques to conserve and use their land so that they may produce crops such as mustard and corn. These agricultural projects help both to further the economic well being of the farmers working in Africa, and also provide them and their families with a maintained supply of food which helps sustain them . In this way the people of these communities are able to stand very much on their own two feet in a way that with out funding they would never have been able to.

Other initiatives include beekeeping programs in which local Africans are taught how to raise and keep bee hives which produces honey. One group in Kericho, Kenya, the Segment Beekeeping Group, have just begun to yield the fruits of their labor after two years of hard work as beekeepers.

“‘In the first harvest I got 15 kg of honey from two of my hives, but in the second I was able to collect 22kg of honey from one hive’, says group member Humphrey Langat. He says that they sell their honey at present to Baraka College for 80 Kenyan shillings per kg, but that there are other local markets also available for the produce.” (4)

Among the other projects which Self Help has initiated and over seen include fish and Goat farms in Malawi, irrigation systems through out Malawi, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, Savings and loan projects through out the nation, Aids support in Uganda and the creation of a maternity unit in Uganda which provides much needed health care for new mothers.


After extensive research into both the broad idea and issues which define the movement for Sustainable development as well as the key role that both collective and individual identity plays in the furthermost of this movement I have concluded that the key to Sustainable development lies with in the personal and collective goals of both the actors and the beneficiaries of the actions.

Taking into account the model given to us by Self Help and the case study of progress made with in the town of Huanucollo, Bolivia it is apparent that identity is vital to the furthermost of the cause. Tailor fitting solutions to nations which are unique and individual with in their collective identity is key in furthering economic growth, squashing poverse conditions which are conducive to hunger and death from starvation and over all improving both the quality of life for those affected and the environment in which they live. It is the right of every human to live a basic quality of life in which they are able to sustain themselves with the basic necessities of existence, food, shelter, ecconomic and social growth, access to basic medical care, and access to education.

(1) (
(2) qoutes from Alipio Alvareza, featured in Hunanucollo: A Communities Transformation by Paul Grubler, (
(3)”The Future” from (
(4) (

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