Can development happen without local community involvement?


Earlier this week I had to write an article for a magazine about the work of the Charity Let Them Help Themselves Out Of Poverty in Ruhanga SW Uganda. I was thrown back to that August day in 2008 when I arrived at  the project. It was a very hot and I couldn’t wait to get Kabale, which is further, SW and much cooler.

Whilst at the project I met two women from the women’s group as well as a man (George) that was overseeing the project that day.  At the time my colleagues and I here in the UK were in the middle of organizing a fund raising dinner and dance to raise money to get piped water to the village.

 I asked George and the women what they thought the village needed the most. George told me that a nursery school was important and led me to what I can only describe as chicken shed and said

Look at this, this is where our children do their lessons and because of their age we can’t send them to the government school because it is too far away

I too could see that something had to be done about the conditions in which the children were learning. However when we rejoined the women and I asked them what they thought were the village priorities, the answer was WATER.

We desperately need clean water as we current have to walk several miles to access any water at all and that water is hared with livestock

Fast forward to 2012 and we do have a school that provides free education to 400 children thanks to our child sponsors and we completed the piped water program last year, there are 20 taps dotted around 3 village cells. We have a community resource centre where local teachers and the youth in the community are given computer lessons by overseas volunteers and a local women teaches women in the village the art of dress making. As of last month work has started on the construction of a Community Health Centre

 As I put all this on paper I asked myself a question

 Could we have achieved any of this without the community under the leadership of Denis Aheirwe the local chairman?

 The answer is a resounding NO

How could we? Denis has negotiated any thing and everything that needs negotiating on the ground including getting the rest of the community  on board and with the best will the world we could not have managed this regardless of how much money we might have had behind us.

 The roles are very clear, we find the money the community does the work, they hire builders, engineers, get necessary permissions from local government  and above all oversee all the capital projects as and when they arise and above all manage the project with minimal input from us on a day to day basis.

In mind therefore with all the money in the world the this project could not have happened with the involvement of the community and community leaders. If you don’t believe me, check out Madonna stories, with all the gazillions dollars to her name she could erect a school in a Malawi.

I would really love to hear your views and or experiences on this issue

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