Given our ability to employ the talents of a wide array of academics and partners, we present a working model for development based on the concept of survival ethics. Research on its compatibility with ethical systems of traditional cultures in the Global South is critical to the success of this model (Gutema and Verharen 2012; Verharen 2012). Howard University researchers and colleagues from African institutions are drawing upon mutual global expertise in addressing the long-standing failures of global development projects. The Howard model builds on a network of university-based centers for ethical and sustainable development with an initial focus on Africa. While our goal is to bring together many different partners both inside and outside of Africa, as Howard University is an HBCU (Historically Black College and University), we also strive to enhance the networks and harness the resources of the Black Diaspora and impoverished African communities).
Due to the high rates of poverty and development challenges throughout Africa, strategic economic development is critical for this region. According to USAID (2012), three out of every four Africans live on less than $2 a day. Approximately half of all children who die are African. Africa is the only continent where crop yields have remained stagnant over the last forty years. Grounded in the concept of survival ethics, the Howard model establishes relationships between United States and African universities to address the health, technological, environmental, cultural, political and economic problems that cause poverty and the subsequent problems derived from poverty (e.g., human rights violations, conflict, displacement and marginalization).
In conjunction with the International Network on Appropriate Technology, Howard University has established partnerships with a cross-section of African universities in developing nations to leverage expertise in areas congruent with the core objectives of international development agencies. Virtual networks of indigenous and international experts collaboratively address challenges identified by communities and defined through assessment of collected data in targeted areas. Taking into account poverty indicators that define the most vulnerable communities is critical to the survival ethics protocol. The uniqueness of this approach is the establishment of student outreach programs in tandem with ethical, community-inclusive partnerships that are data-driven, evidence-based, and tied to the use of appropriate technologies. The model empowers communities to address self-prioritized needs, improve quality of life and raise standards of living.
Survival Ethics Model
Like other initiatives in Africa that use science and technology to reduce poverty, this model partners communities with academia, NGOs, SMEs and CBOs (Zeng 2008). The survival ethics model harnesses the enthusiasm of youth in the US and developing countries. It directs the passions and focus of these team members in a framework with expert guidance and mentorship from academics and practitioners. It also serves to bring people together to implement innovative and sustainable solutions to community-identified problems.
The approach addresses community-delineated issues within an ethical, social and culturally aware decision-making framework that involves all affected groups and promotes gender equity. Full participation of team members and assessment and evaluation at all phases is also part of the model.
The survival ethics model includes the following:
A core of interdisciplinary faculty trained in social and ethical concept and component inclusion in science and engineering education (Tharakan et al. 2005; Tharakan 2006).
Faculty who recognize the potential of their students to promote community capacity-building (Tharakan et al. 2008).
Networking among NGOs, SMEs, CBOs, community member partners, target organizations and individuals throughout the African Diaspora, and governmental agencies engaged in specific development projects—a synergistic outcome of faculty exchange and mentoring (Fortunak and King 2010).
Revisions and inclusion of service-learning courses in technology curricula. Curricular offerings focus on: (1) ethics and the philosophy of technology and engineering; (2) appropriate technology for developing communities with focus on water, food security, sanitation, and environment; (3) alternative and renewable energy solutions in developing communities; (4) pharmaceutical manufacturing; (5) cultural and historical context, facilitation, and working with community members; (6) environmental, archaeological, and heritage conservation; (7) data collection, evaluation, assessment, and monitoring (Tharakan 2006, 2011, 2012; Tharakan et al. 2005; Bugarin 2009); (8) and socially relevant computing (Kadoda 2012).
A new generation of students trained in socially and ethically responsible engineering and social development. Students gain real world experience in development through mandatory curricular engineering service-learning projects (Tharakan 2012).
All teams learn from and work in tandem with the communities they hope to help (Fortunak and King 2010).
As a pragmatic approach to solving problems for populations in need, survival ethics benefits university faculty and students as well as community members. The survival ethics model teaches both students and faculty to deal with real-world issues in a real-world context (Balazs and Morello-Frosch 2013; Nussbaum 2013).
Deploying the Model
In the initial efforts to execute the survival ethics model, community-based projects are designed, developed and implemented in partnership with NGOs, SMEs, CBOs and the inclusion of communities at all phases (Fig. 1). The potential for sustainability of these projects will be significantly higher, since monitoring and evaluation will be conducted on a long-term, on-going basis with community participation.
We note the following example in East Africa. At the request of the St. Luke Foundation in Moshi, Tanzania, Howard and Purdue University researchers and African partners have established an Industrial Pharmacy Training Unit at the Kilimanjaro School of Pharmacy/St. Luke Foundation. The Unit teaches the fundamentals of drug development, regulation, and quality-assured drug production. World-class experts in drug discovery and development produced a curriculum that teaches attendees how to manufacture medicines efficiently and with assured quality. Contributors from the pharmaceutical industry, drug regulation agencies (USFDA), law firms (patents) and academics have further tailored the program for the needs of African pharmaceutical professionals. This program utilizes intensive classroom training, team exercises and hands-on product development in a laboratory and a pilot production facility that has been designed and built for this purpose.
Completing the program, participants are able to develop new drug products and processes, as well as meaningful tests and specifications to assure drug quality. Participants are also able to utilize their learned skills to detect substandard and counterfeit medicines. Participants also understand how to meet International Standards for Quality Assurance and are, therefore, prepared to make applications to sell their products to International Donor Agencies as one path for economic development. These operations are governed by a Quality Management System that includes roughly 400 Standard Operating Procedures to assure proper oversight of desired ethnical principles and congruence with international standards of quality assurance practice (Fortunak and King 2010).
The contribution of survival ethics to expanding global access to medicines is a useful, specific example. The lack of access to medicines greatly increases mortality and saps economic growth through associated morbidity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Current life expectancy in the United States is approximately 78.1 years (US Life Tables 2008). In Nigeria, by comparison, current life expectancy at birth (2012) is about 52.05 years (Index Mundi).
Much of the difference in these figures can be attributed to the lack of access to modern medicines. Although high-income countries and medicines donation programs largely focus on the “big three” diseases of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, many more people in Nigeria and other African countries die from simple infections, cardiovascular disease (i.e., hypertension, heart failure), diabetes and cancer than from these “big three.” The point to be made is not that high-income countries are “wrong” in donating medicines for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria to LMICs, but rather that donation programs are not a comprehensive or sustainable solution to the overall problem.
Medicines are intended for human or animal consumption to treat disease. As such, a high level of ethical reflection goes into their production and management. Since 2000, substantial funding has been made available from governments, NGOs and Foundations to provide medicines to LMICs. The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM), the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation each provide over $1 billion annually to promote access to medicines for AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Substantial, overlapping contributions from science, engineering, and ethics are needed to enable sustainable access to affordable, high-quality medicines. The correct balance of application from all these areas assures the effectiveness, efficiency, and maximum sustainability of access to quality medicines for LMICs.
Survival ethics for medicines is a multi-faceted issue. Simply donating medicines to LMICs saves lives. Donations also, however, perpetuate a long-term culture of dependence and de-emphasize national sovereignty in drug manufacturing and regulation. A comprehensive approach to survival ethics involves developing the regional capacity to discover, manufacture, and regulate medicines. This (a) helps end the culture of dependence upon donations; (b) contributes to industrial and economic development; (c) increases access to medicines beyond those for AIDS, TB, and malaria; and (d) helps address the widespread problem of counterfeit medicines that largely result from unscrupulous importation and ineffective national regulation.
Our role in survival ethics for “Access to Medicines” includes enabling the regional manufacture of high-quality, critical medicines in a most affordable and environmentally benign manner. Our work also includes training national drug regulatory agencies in detecting counterfeit and substandard medicines. The ethical regulation and manufacturing of medicines is substantially dependent upon the development of human resources. National drug regulatory agencies and manufacturing companies must, on the whole, understand the elements of the following: (a) science; (b) Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP); and (c) quality management. The end result is that companies will consistently manufacture high-quality products, and drug regulators will protect their populations by identifying counterfeit and substandard medicines and assuring that companies selling medicines are regularly capable of meeting required standards.
With this approach, we have trained over 80 pharmaceutical and regulatory professionals who have contributed to the approval (by the US FDA or the WHO Pre-Qualification of Medicines Program) of three African companies to sell their medicines to donor agencies, thereby promoting economic development and increased access to medicines in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Clean Water Supply
Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) is a US-based international service organization focused on projects in developing communities that address basic needs congruent with the survival ethics model. EWB-USA has numerous professional and academic student chapters across the country and the world. The student chapters, under the guidance of academic advisors and professional mentors, partner with communities in developing countries and work with them to address community-prioritized needs.
The Howard University Student Chapter of EWB (EWB-HU) has engaged in a long term partnership with the Choimim community and the Build the Village NGO in the Nandi Hills region in northwestern Kenya, working together with the community to develop and enhance pressing quality of life issues around the critical resource of water. The community had identified water quantity and quality as its two most pressing concerns. Responding to these needs, the EWB-HU chapter implemented rainwater harvesting (RWH) to increase water storage capacity in the community, and installed freestanding bio-sand filters (BSFs) to increase community capacity for potable water production.
In the assessment and implementation process, students worked under professional and academic guidance in a service learning context. Community recipients of the BSFs were trained as community engineers (CEs) and tasked with operation and maintenance of BSFs. In addition, the student chapter was able to engage a local NGO to ensure local sourcing of all materials and to develop a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plan that includes regular testing of the BSF for flow (capacity) and water quality. Working with the NGO, the CEs also make the BSF technology available to surrounding communities (Water Is Life Project Website).
We note the following example of the model’s deployment in Sudan. Under the auspices of the International Network on Appropriate Technology, Howard University and University of Khartoum faculty promoted a partnership with the Barefoot College in Rajasthan, India. The College’s training activities equip the rural poor with technical skills to provide themselves with in-ground water storage tanks and solar electrification. The College trains women from remote villages in Asia, Africa and Latin America over a 6 month period. The Barefoot College’s partnership model brings together a local NGO and a local community.
The NGO locates a village, monitors project progress, and ensures that the selected community is engaged during candidate selection, project planning and implementation. Training preference is given to non-literate or semi-literate older women (young grandmothers) who are unlikely to leave their villages. The agreement established at the project onset states the financial contribution of the village towards the wages of the returning trainees and for future material needs, while the College secures start-up funds through agreements with organizations that operate small-grant programs in the country.
Two villages in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan were selected because they were far from the electrical grid and because their members were enthusiastic about the projects. The phases of the project included constructing a village workshop (solar engineers working space) from local material, solar electrifying two villages (Mirri and Aldorot), and establishing a local awareness and training program with the vision of spreading the project to nearby villages and to other parts of the country.
The recent war in the Nuba Mountains destroyed the villages. Two of the solar engineers returned to the Barefoot College in Rajasthan to join the September 2012 solar electrification course to retain their currency. Their training keeps them up to date for rebuilding when the time is right, and enables them to act as Trainers-of-Trainers, replicating the Barefoot College experience on a local scale. By the time Mirri village was solar electrified, there were nine community members who had become apprentices to the solar engineers.
Various elements of the Barefoot model are related to the survival ethics approach. Most prominent are female empowerment, appropriate technology for the environment, the partnership of community members, as well as NGO, CBO and academic activism in the development process. One of the solar engineers applied a local ethical principle of “the sacredness of something one is entrusted with” to the knowledge she acquired from training to deliver to her community. This sacredness sustains the project through the College’s selection criteria of what is most vulnerable—community—and least acknowledged—women. The College defines success through a community perspective rather than by traditional certification.
Many in the development world have recognized the need to address gender issues as they pertain to international development, poverty, ethics and science (e.g., Malhotra and Schuler 2005; Campion and Strum 2004). Building upon their contributions, the survival ethics model stresses the importance of gender equality and female empowerment. Addressing the needs of both genders, our strategy entails: (1) advocacy and female mentorship pairings; (2) participatory appraisals and social impact assessments that engage both genders; (3) facilitating leadership roles for both women and men; and (4) development of gender appropriate training and educational tools. Underlying each initiative is an ethical core that promotes trust between genders to build rapport.
The foundation of ethical development relies on confidentiality, consent, and risk disclosure. To do this, we obtain consent from participants and facilitate environments that guard their confidentiality. We include both genders in the decision-making process. In addition to all-inclusive community meetings, we meet separately with women and men to encourage further input. Assessment, performance evaluations, and documentation of communication challenges will gauge our abilities to engage both genders.
Natural and Cultural Environment
We include the following example to illustrate the independent application of survival ethics principles to problems of ethical, sustainable development in Latin America. In 2008 the government of Ecuador implemented an innovative national forest conservation program to benefit landowning indigenous communities—the Programa Socio Bosque. Funded by public fees and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) carbon emission reduction funds, the program conserves over 5 million hectares of forested land and provides income to 2 million mostly poor indigenous people and farmers.
The program also serves to reduce illegal logging and agricultural-induced deforestation. The program recognizes the role of these communities in conservation, providing direct income in exchange for commitments to protect key areas of forest in places where at least 50 % of the population is below the poverty line and where important ecosystems are not currently included in the national protected area system.
Communities are involved at all levels of decision-making, including decisions whether to participate or not. Besides implementing a domestic incentive-based policy to tackle deforestation, the program offers a clear and transparent mechanism for delivering benefits to local communities, including indigenous peoples (de Koning et al. 2011).
As development literature suggests, the protection of biodiversity in tandem with the conservation of the built cultural environment and social development is crucial (MacKinnon et al. 2004; Pierce et al. 2002; Bugarin 2009). To ensure both food and social security, a comprehensive environmental and landscape analysis must attend to natural and cultural resources as well as farming system, agronomics, soil analysis, ecological systems and natural resource management (e.g., foraging and pastoral strategies). Our dedication to environmental sustainability within a cultural landscape is woven into all activities through: (1) studies of subsistence strategies focused on achieving food security; (2) assessment, mitigation, and monitoring of all project phases; (3) coordination of experts; (4) explicit protocols; (5) community-based initiatives; and (6) teaching, training, research and outreach.
Projects are developed with an all-inclusive approach to ensure that both natural and cultural environmental resources are safeguarded, particularly while alternative subsistence strategies are devised for communities lacking food security. Following those who recognize that sustainable social development mandates attention to heritage sites, cultural and natural resources, and the ways in which humans interact with a variety of resources in their landscape to meet their basic needs (Breen 2007; Samuels 2007), we recognize that sustainability must take into account a wide array of variables. In addition, we strive to ensure that environmental hazards are not generated, and if they are, that they are handled in accordance with appropriate regulations, guidelines, and criteria.
Environmental sustainability will be ensured through data-driven initiatives, conservation efforts, and preservation. Archaeological, soil, water, botanical and faunal data are collected from communities to build an environmental database, identify resources, define patterns of diet and ecological strategies and pinpoint harmful activity areas. Information regarding biodiversity, the habitats of endangered species, and various ecosystems will also inform projects. When applicable, biologists and environmental anthropologists will assess development impacts on communities of both wild and domesticated animals, cultivated lands, soils, natural water resources and native plant species.
Through archaeological and heritage conservation efforts, we also identify disposal patterns, ecological relationships, and impacts through surveys, interviews, excavations, maps, and ethnographies. Aerial photography, archaeological data, and the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) allow us to analyze long-term impacts on a landscape, chart environmental changes, pinpoint untouched fertile areas for potential cultivation and create visual tools and maps to devise resource management strategies. These strategies are particularly useful where they inform conservation projects, land management plans and socially relevant computing approaches in engineering and technology.
Howard’s partnerships with institutions in Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania serve as foci for testing the survival ethics model. Each partnership focuses on incorporation of social and ethical engineering education and practices to make critical and sustainable impacts on development challenges. They employ the model of community partnerships with multidisciplinary students and faculty, along with NGOs and SMEs to create and implement development solutions. Our expectation is that the successful execution of the model will provide development agencies with a clear ethical framework for the determination of aid needs and priorities. Anticipating success, we will endeavor to extend the model to the rest of the world, particularly the Caribbean, Latin America and impoverished regions of Asia and Oceania.
Critical to the success of the survival ethics protocol are effective measures of assessment and evaluation, as crafted by many in the development world. The survival ethics model focuses on five areas of assessment: (1) the ethics-based checklist (Verharen et al. 2011; Verharen and Tharakan 2010); (2) participatory rural assessments and community-based social assessments (Tharakan 2012, 2011); (3) the integration of faculty and students in service-learning, social development, and engineering programs with NGOs, SMEs, and CBOs (Fortunak and King 2010); (4) natural and cultural environmental impacts, including impacts on agriculture and other types of subsistence strategies (Bugarin 2009, 2002); and (5) gender and child impacts (Malhotra and Schuler 2005).
Partnerships in development projects are assessed by the rate and efficiency of their establishment, their relationships with NGOs, SMEs, CBOs, and their ability to meet the needs of the poorest communities. Evaluation of community-based projects examines the inclusion of the community in all phases of the project from conceptualization and prioritization of needs to project design and implementation. The potential for sustainability of these projects is determined through effective monitoring. In addition, the effectiveness of knowledge and technology transfer is examined with respect to informed community engagement, discussion and approval, quality of community outreach, education, capacity building, extension beyond the community, and evidence of government and multilateral aid agency support.