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Douglas Ensminger Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Douglas Ensminger

B.S. (Agriculture), University of Missouri, 1933; M.A. (Rural Public Welfare), University of Missouri, 1934; Ph.D. (Rural Sociology), Cornell University, 1939. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1939-51: Bureau of Agricultural Economics, in charge of Community Organization Research; Director, Rural Sociology Extension, Federal Extension Service; Coordinator, Foreign Training with land-grant colleges; Member, Food and Agricultural Organization Commission to Mexico on Rural Development and Land Tenure; Member, F.A.0. Latin American Extension Conference; in charge of International Conference on Extension; and Office of Foreign Agricultural Relations. Ford Foundation representative for India and Pakistan, 1951-53; Representative for India and Nepal, 1954-70.

Columbia, Missouri
June 16 and July 7, 1976
by Harry S. Taylor

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

 


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened February, 1977
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

 



Oral History Interview with
Douglas Ensminger

 

Columbia, Missouri
June 16 and July 7, 1976
by Harry S. Taylor

 

[1]

TAYLOR: Dr. Ensminger, at the time the inaugural address was made, of course no one knew exactly what the Point IV program would be. Do you remember what a general consensus in the Department of Agriculture was regarding Point IV?

ENSMINGER: Both Stanley Andrews and I believed that Point IV was extending our know-how, but interpreted to mean our know-how in terms of how one solves problems. Very early in the

 

[2]

interpretation, operationally given to Point IV in extending know-how, meant that we take to the other countries our institutional structures, our approaches to doing things, and in the field of agriculture increasingly over the years, it has meant somehow another taking our agricultural technology.

At that time of Truman's inaugural address in 1948 John Hanna was president of Michigan State University and was president of the Land-Grant College Association. It was in this capacity he sent President Truman a telegram offering the cooperation and assistance of the land-grant colleges in carrying out what he interpreted to be the meaning of Truman's Point IV program. At that time it was Hanna's interpretation, and this was the reason for offering the land-grant institutions cooperation, that Truman had in mind a far more simpler approach

 

[3]

to Point IV development than the people who related to the European Recovery Program and economists later injected into the program which was economic development. Hanna saw really the role of the land-grant universities in this, going back to their early history and the role they played in helping farmers find solutions to problems, and in helping this nation understand the kinds of policies and programs that we were going to need to have our own agriculture succeed.

This is very much what Hanna had in mind in offering the service of the universities back in 1948, which is to help these countries develop a technology which meets their needs, rather than transport our technology to them.

TAYLOR: Was there any discussions concerning the possibility of transferring the philosophy

 

[4]

of the American land-grant college of this period to the institutions of higher learning in the underdeveloped world?

ENSMINGER: Well, there was very much of this in Hanna's point of view, because Hanna shared the basic philosophy of M. L. Wilson, whom I was then an assistant to. Wilson was Under Secretary of Agriculture. He is given credit for having designed most of the New Deal programs. M. L. Wilson said over and over again, and this was echoed by Hanna in the early period, "It was not then, it isn't now, our institutional structures and our advanced technology, that the developing countries need. What we had to offer then is what we have to offer now -- a philosophy of an educational institution helping to find solutions to problems and in helping design programs to solve those problems."

 

[5]

TAYLOR: Well, do you think that the problem-solving approach of the American university, particularly the land-grant institutions, and as Extension developed around it, do you think this would have been compatible with the English concept of higher education that was quite literally transported into the countries of the Third World?

ENSMINGER: Well, we all found very early that it was practically impossible to build anything that was applied into the existing institutions of higher learning that were from British heritage.

TAYLOR: Historically we'd been involved in several types of programs at the Institute for Inter-American Affairs through the World Bank. Did anyone at that time envision that perhaps Point IV would bring a lot of divergent groups

 

[6]

together, and perhaps give some simple directions to our foreign aid to underdeveloped areas?

ENSMINGER: I don't think we were that far along in our thinking. At the time Truman enunciated the Point IV program, we were very much involved in the ERP, European Recovery Program. The ERP was a program to provide money as resources. The European community had traditions of doing things, they had leadership, they had the institutional structures and what they needed was massive inputs of money. And that was the Marshall Plan.

Well, I have repeatedly felt that if it had not been for the very recent experience with the ERP, which was a program of money, that Truman's Point IV program would have become quite a different program. But it's interesting that in the very early stages it was the county agents and the vocational

 

[7]

agriculture teachers who were sent abroad. I used to say that the people who were then looking at the program were talking about sending county agents and vocational agriculture teachers and maybe a pocketful of nickels. In other words, we were not then oriented to massive economic aid in terms of the developing countries.

Well, as I look back on this process in terms of what happened, many of the people who were actively involved in the ERP began to drift home, began to find themselves involved in the State Department carrying out of the Point IV program, and they just couldn't quite see how we could make a contribution to these developing countries unless we really talked in terms of economic aid. And it didn't take very long for their point of view to prevail. And the interesting thing to me is

 

[8]

that if you go back to my own experience in India, I went over there in 1951, which was three years after Truman enunciated the Point IV program, and Ambassador [Chester] Bowles came over, arriving there within weeks after I arrived, with a very clear mandate from the President to find appropriate ways to help India with its development.

Bowles was oriented to what he interpreted the Truman concept to be of helping develop people and helping people carry out their own development. It's also of interest, that when India gained independence, out of the colonial period into independence, Nehru and the other political leaders very early began to look for ways and means of keeping your pledge to the masses of the people that they made in the struggle for independence, which was essentially this: "You join us in the

 

[9]

struggle for independence and freedom and when we become a free nation, I pledge that as your leader, the resources of government will be devoted to improving the conditions of the masses of poor people.

Well, India was moving to formulate programs to really carry out the Gandhian concept: the Gandhian philosophy of village and rural development. So, when Bowles came along, looking at India in the concept of the Truman Point IV, he sought the opportunity for the U.S. to play a role of providing considerable technical help in terms of how do you do something, and limited financial help enough to get started in carrying them out.

So, Bowles jumped on this idea of U.S. aid, tied to community development, and this got a very great response in India, because it was not a U.S. imposed program. The U.S. was not dangling large sums of money in front of

 

[10]

India to try and influence her to buy a change of policy, but of helping India carry out its own programs and its own commitments to the people.

This started the community development in 1952. The Ford Foundation was also involved in the community development program. We're talking now about Truman and Point IV, and Bowles coming along as the Ambassador with backing from Truman, and the State Department, in terms of U.S. making financial and technical inputs and commitments into helping India carry out its community development program.

This big program was launched on Gandhi's birthday, on October 2, 1952, with national enthusiasm, and continued through the next five years. But increasingly the Congress leaders began to get restless, saying that India

 

[11]

needed massive economic aid and that community development was too slow, that India needed to put its foreign aid into big economic development projects. And interestingly enough, this began to happen in the developing countries throughout what we called the Third World.

TAYLOR: The period, from '48 to '51 is the period when the Point IV program was floundering in Congress. Why?

ENSMINGER: This is my personal observation that in Point IV we had the very inklings of a stratified organizational approach to foreign aid that never got off the ground.

TAYLOR: But there was such a protracted discussion in Congress for almost 18 months in developing a program, what were the problems?

ENSMINGER: I'll tell you one of the problems

 

[12]

that came out. I can identify one specifically and it was very widespread. In order to help sell this thing to Congress, one of the tasks that Stanley Andrews was caught with; they were looking for success stories.

Let me tell you one success story that created more problems than it ever solved. There was a man in India by the name of Horace Holmes, who had been a county agent, and he had been recruited to go over there by a fellow by the name of Albert Mayer who was doing their rural development program in a district called Itaoa, and they'd had about three years of experience and really had visible evidence of change.

Well, Point IV persuaded Life magazine to send photographers over there, and they did a four-page spread on him. But what did they show, they showed Horace Holmes doing everything, they didn't show the Indians doing

 

[13]

one damn thing, and when this document came out Nehru and the government said if this is what they are going to do, they'll destroy our people. If the Americans are going to say every time, every place they have a person, they are going to get credit for it, we get this in our effort to sell it to Congress, and we hurt the program tremendously, he wasn't even shown -- didn't even show an Indian plowing and him showing him how to use it.

In our efforts to sell it to Congress we just completely destroyed the very concept we were trying to promote, which was the self-help program, to help the people help themselves.

TAYLOR: The initial appropriations for the TCA, I believe thirty-even and a half million dollars, was that a sufficient beginning?

ENSMINGER: Well, it was a beginning, and at that particular moment it probably was all the

 

[14]

money they could effectively use, because the orientation in the beginning was developmental.

We were talking about technical assistance with a little money to help get ideas started, that's quite different from now in terms of big development projects and loans. Now we found that you could -- I helped do some of the early recruiting. We didn't have much trouble recruiting in the early period because people wanted to go, it was a part of a great adventure, I didn't have much more trouble recruiting for the early period than you did for the Peace Corps, and then they didn't have all of the bureaucracy in terms of what's involved in recruiting. So more of the responsibility in the early period was placed on back in the countries and India with Bowles having a direct line to Truman, there wasn't very much bureaucracy involved in getting approval of things.

 

[15]

TAYLOR: What about the influence of the missionary work in terms of self-help and Point IV in this initial stage?

ENSMINGER: Well, very much of the missionary work was drawn on to document that the approaches they were talking about would work. In India, for example, there were several very important agricultural missionary programs sponsored by the YMCA. Spencer Hatch, and there were many others, so that in the early period a country like India would have -- first it had the very great documentation of Tegor and Gandhi's rural development programs, and it had the programs of the missionaries, so they had experience to draw on. And the interesting thing, during that period there was no stigma of drawing on these missionary programs because these were not dictated from outside, these

 

[16]

were not dictated from outside, these were very much oriented to the people, and the people involved; they were what you call low-key programs. The missionaries were not seeking headlines in terms of things they had done.

TAYLOR: Was there any initial negative response from trying to Christianize Moslems, or to work with them, or similar problems.

ENSMINGER: Yes, but then you see, you get into a different kind of -- one there were missionaries over there who were development oriented, and then there were missionaries who were proselytizing.

TAYLOR: What breakdown would you -- would you give a percentage?

ENSMINGER: Well, most of them were proselytizing and now the countries did object to this once

 

[17]

they became independent, and India wrote into its constitution a provision against any form of proselytizing for this mass of untouchables, the poverty ridden group, so that missionaries or anybody else couldn't go out there and say that if they were converted to join -- became Christians that all their problems of poverty would be behind them, so there was some problems.

TAYLOR: There was a beneficial help and a hindrance at the same time.

ENSMINGER: That's right, there was a great deal of tension in the early period against certain of the missionaries, and this got misinterpreted back in this country, that India and other countries were against Christianity, or against missionaries, but this wasn't so at all. Prior to 1948 and before the period of

 

[18]

decolonizat