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Report, 2008

NGO policy change in relation to donor discourse

Johansson, Karl-Erik; Nylund, Jan-Erik


The Vi Tree Planting Foundation in Sweden, generally known as Vi Skogen (ViS), is a well-documented case of an NGO that started from idealistic efforts developed from two contemporary narratives, ‘desertification’ and the ‘fuel wood crisis’ merged into the concept ‘planting trees to halt the spread of the desert’. ViS was initiated by an article in the Vi Magazine (ViM) in February 1983. Today, ViS is an efficient and widely appreciated NGO implementing a comprehensive rural development programme in four countries, reaching more than 175 000 farmers within the Lake Victoria basin. ViS’s development since 1983 has not been without problems and struggle. The main objective of this paper was to describe ViS’s development with a focus on policy change in relation to general discourse on development cooperation and Sida’s policy change from 1983 to 2001. From the beginning, ViS managed to sense the perception of ViM readers and individual donors in relation to important contemporary narratives. Despite, the growing importance of local ownership, ViS initiated its own local NGO instead of building partnerships and capacity of indigenous NGOs in the recipient countries. ViS gradually developed an approach with a top-down organisation based on paid labour and the issuing of free seedlings that was increasingly counter to the growing concern of the dependency syndrome in the 1990s. In 1996, the SPM-study seriously criticized this development and Forum Syd proposed phasing-out Sidasupport for ViS. From 1996 onwards, ViS started to reform its policy and organisation decisively. In 2000 the fourth ViS assessment team was convinced of ViS potential to successfully contribute to the alleviation of poverty in the Lake Victoria Basin.


Development cooperation; Agroforestry extension

Published in

Rapport - Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Institutionen för skogens produkter och marknader
Publisher: Dept. of Forest Products, SLU

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