Why all foreign aid workers should be designers
The Sahel is a ecological zone in Africa that stretches across the widest part of the continent, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. This transitional region is where the extreme conditions of the Sahara Desert meet the dry savanna creating a very dry region that only has rain for up to five months of the year. This vast region has a harsh climate that is difficult to grow food and sustain livestock in. A closer look at this region shows that it is one of the most poverty-stricken, malnourished, and destitute ecological regions on earth. Of the nations with the lowest literacy rates, four of the top five are completely or partially in the Sahel. Malnutrition, disease, lack of access to proper medical services, and lack of access to water all play a role in the daily lives of the 58 million people who live in this ecologic region.
This area as a whole seems to be completely ignored by the rest of the world. In a way it makes sense. This giant region doesn't have any valued commodity and doesn't house any significant cities or technology centers. The overwhelming population is substance farmers who are working hard just to survive. What should be done with impoverished, ignored regions of the world like the Sahel? Should we just ignore them and see what happens, or should we get involved and ask the right questions for how to move these areas of the world forward?
The first option definitely seems like it would be the easiest, until you factor in that the population of the Sahel is expected to rise exponentially in the coming years and climate change is slated to have a devastating effect on its already fragile climate. These factors could lead to this region of the world becoming the center of a humanitarian crisis. If we decide to take the second option and look more closely at these regions and how their most pressing issues can be addressed, we find more questions than answers. Neglected, underprivileged regions of the world face complex challenges that require simple answers.
The world's usual response to large issues is find solutions through political input or involvement. Politics has a role to play in humanitarian issues but maybe nations should be using design to address systemic problems.
Design is all about finding creative solutions to problems. Through research and analysis, communities can come together to creatively rethink their problems and devise sustainable ways they could be solved.
The growing communities in the Sahel could be transformed by design. Collaborative design could develop processes that re-energize the region including, new agricultural practices that increase production, new distribution methods for doctors so more patients can be seen, and new construction techniques that allow for cheaper educational structures to be built. The potential for what design could do for the people living in the Sahel is extensive, but it isn't just in this region. Countless communities around the world could benefit from design and the creative solutions that come along with it.
Maybe its time for countries to stop sending foreign aid workers and start sending designers.