The ol’ Push or Pull


Situation: A farmer wants to learn how to grow exotic vegetables, like eggplants and red peppers, because she knows there is a lucrative market for them.

Intervention: In lieu of adequate government extension, an NGO provides the farmer with the training she desires.

Complication: Though she’s gained the training she wanted, she can’t get her business going because she faces other challenges. She’s fallen sick, her garden is plagued with blight, she’s waiting on a loan to buy fertilizer, and the road to the market has been rendered impassable by recent rains.

Outcome: It’s going to take her some time to realize the benefits of her training. But it’s also possible that she never will.

Was the NGO’s intervention successful?

The NGO responded to a demand, that of the farmer’s desire to be trained. Her desire to be trained was a response to an even larger demand, a market demand. The intervention was demand driven; it was working with what appeared to be a strong pull.

But the pull wasn’t strong enough. Actually, in hindsight, the intervention looks more like a push than anything else. It gave the farmer some information and hoped for the best.

I personally prefer working with a pull rather than, well, pushing a push. For example, I’d rather help a farmer improve the quality of the eggplants and red peppers they already grow and sell than get another farmer started with it.

It’s not to say that pushing is a bad thing. I think pushing is important, especially when the government can’t provide those services. Someone should train farmers how to grow eggplants and red peppers.

In reality, all development efforts are some combination of push and pull. But it’s important to realize that the more you push, the more you leave success to chance and longer it will take to achieve it.

So, how much pull are you working with?


1 Response to “The ol’ Push or Pull”

  1. 1 Mark September 17, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    great post. Simple explanation. It reminds me of not wanting to help those who dont want to help themselves. (that would be 100% push – kinda like when I was 10 years old and hated going to school)

    It makes sense to me if we start at the opposite end of the spectrum, that is the end which is closest to a 100% pull, and as those opportunities are all taken up, slowly start working with less and less of a pull.

    Does that mean primary education will be the last thing we do? Well ya, but its likely that there arent all that many strong pulls to work with.


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Working to include smallholder farmers in agricultural markets, we know there are no easy answers. This blog is a place to ask "What does it take to make it work?" and to share what we're seeing and learning.
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