This book questions many key assumptions about the efficacy of NGOs and civil society in development. It provides suggestions on how to improve NGO performance and how NGOs can better link with local African initiatives and agendas. Beginning in the 1980s, sub-Saharan Africa witnessed a veritable explosion of NGOs and CSOs engaged in efforts to develop the subcontinent. Often praised for their commitment, flexibility, close contact with grassroots movements and marginalized groups, these organizations have become the darlings of donors and the UN system. During the same period, however, rural Africa has sunk deeper into poverty. The massive NGO engagement appears not to have made any meaningful progress. ""Snakes in Paradise"" breaks through the generalizations and neat theories to discover why these efforts have failed. Focusing especially on those local NGOs that are frequently overlooked by studies that cover the major international players, Holmen uncovers a NGO landscape that is considerably more ambiguous than the popular development literature would have people believe.
Hans Holmen is an Associate Professor in Social and Economic Geography at the department of Water and Environmental Studies, University of Linkoping, Sweden. He received his PhD at Lund University in 1991 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1996. He joined Linkoping University in 1997, where he teaches geography and development studies. Holmen has been a member and board member of various NGOs in Sweden - trade union, student union, consumer and housing cooperatives. He worked for a northern NGO in Jordan in the early 1980s and has conducted research on organizations and development since the 1980s. Since 2001, he has been a member of the African-Swedish research team Afrint, which combines micro- and macro-level studies to identify drivers of change in African agriculture ultimately aiming at enhanced agricultural productivity and improved food security in sub-Saharan Africa.