The past 2 weeks we looked into issues that we are concerned about and whether we can have some influence to change things around. We saw that issues of concern include but are not limited to national and international politics, disasters and emergencies, terrorism, extremism and closer to home the costs of living, the education of our children, crime, our health, our jobs, the business etc. All are issues to be concerned about indeed but not everybody is in a position to influence them. There are issues within our so called circle of concern and there are issues within our smaller circle of influence.
If your circle of concern is big and your circle of influence is small, chances are that your life and business are at the mercy of your external environment. Your situation is dictated by other people,
circumstances and factors and you have a lot to worry about. The point is to realize how big your circle of concern and your circle of influence are in relation to each other and ask yourself what to do to enlarge your circle of influence to push towards your circle of concern. In other words, make up your mind about the issues that you are concerned about, decide whether or not you want to do something about it and subsequently work on enhancing your influence on the issue. If you come to the conclusion that an issue is not for you to have any influence over, it may be better to stop being concerned about it at all. Instead focus on what you can have a (growing) influence over.
I mentioned some issues I am concerned about and they included but are not limited to our degrading environment, pollution, work ethics, traffic, infrastructure, population growth and corruption. The reader may add his or her own issues of concern here but the question we have to ask ourselves now is whether there is anything we can do about them and turn issues of concern around into issues of hope.
Now, environmental degradation is closely related to the ever growing need for cultivation and agriculture as well as firewood and charcoal. Where this continues at the expense of trees and forests, we will continue to see erosion, resulting in loss of soil and water. I’d like to think that there is sufficient expertise around to improve on methodologies and practices, especially when combined with supportive policies and awareness raising. We have no option but to think about other, better ways to practice agriculture and use energy. Ways that are more environmental friendly, ways that take soil and water conservation into account, ways that are more sustainable in the end.
If done well and consistently it may even influence issues related to climate change. Those of us who are in the business of agriculture, research, development work, policy development and extension work for example are thus in a position to have an influence over the way agriculture is practiced and can be improved. This needs to be done in a coordinated way and in a way that reaches all those that practice agriculture, whether small holders or commercial firms. There is no time to waste if we want to stop the desertification we are witnessing. So let us get our act together, share good practices from
research and pilot projects, agree on sustainable methodologies and support policy development. Those of us who have the knowledge and who are in a position to play a supportive role but are not sufficiently extending their influence to turn environmental degradation around are not doing their job.
The growing need for cultivation and firewood is of course directly related to the rate at which our population is growing. We need to be able to feed and create jobs for millions more. Now, I am no expert on issues related to birth control and reproductive health, but many others are. Their knowledge and insights, need to inform policy, which in its turn needs to be implemented and applied by those working in the areas of awareness raising and at community level. This can only be done successfully when addressing gender issues and empowerment of women in respect of their reproductive rights and there are organizations that do this very well. Again, their experiences need to
be shared, inform policy and be scaled up.
Traffic continues to be an issue of great concern, especially when travelling out of town into the countryside, for work or for other reasons. There are always sights of accidents that happened recently, many quite serious and resulting in needless loss of life. Every time I am on the road, I face one or two situations that could have easily turned ugly, mostly by careless behaviour of other road users, be it drivers or pedestrians. We will have little influence over the behaviour of others in traffic but we surely are in control over our own. Driving more carefully, following the traffic rules more
consistently, driving in a more defensive manner, less speeding, allowing more space for other road users and regular maintenance of our own vehicles are just a few ways in which we can have a direct
influence in reducing the hazards on the road. It all begins of course with the way aspiring drivers are trained and I think there is much room for improvement here. As long as learners only practice driving
in a protected compound, where it is not possible to get even into third gear, they will do all their learning only after being allowed on the road, while being a danger to others and learning all the bad
habits that are difficult to unlearn again. If traffic police officers would also concentrate more on and punish offenses that directly endanger traffic, like for example speeding and overtaking in the
wrong places and on the wrong side, instead of minor offenses, this would also help in reducing dangerous driving, I believe.
Now, in terms of doing business, what influence do business owners and managers have over the effectiveness of their operations, the motivation and work ethics of their workers, the competition, the
economy, the environment, etc.? We will continue to look into some of these issues next week.