Friday, 30 January 2009

Thoughts about "A Day On"

The ETOlutionist

President Obama’s call for a “Day On” in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. is to be commended. This year was the largest turnout ever with more than 12,000 service projects registered.

Everyone seemed to want in–understandable since this is something we can feel good about – helping others, using time off to do good. The intention is good but in the end – intentions are not what are most important in making a difference. To have the most impact –whether through volunteering time or donating money –it is critical to understand the mission, goals and strategy of an organization and how the organization will work to achieve its intended outcomes. Unfortunately, this information is not often readily available, placing the onus on individuals to request it – demand it – before committing time or money to a cause.

Here are five questions to help you obtain this information and make sure your time/money is being well spent… more rewarding than a cup of coffee.

  • What is the mission of the organization and/or its programs?
  • What indicators are used to measure its progress toward achieving its goals?
  • Does the organization have metrics, reports, or some form of evidence to demonstrate success?

  • What impact has the program had on the population that it serves?
  • What are some examples of recent adjustments to programs and/or services that have helped to improve performance?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Will nomads ever get a fair deal?

Does this ring a bell?, got it off another blog, I thought it was worthy a good read).read on....

It’s hard to look forward to something as difficult and sad as Medicine Sans Frontieres top ten list of global humanitarian crises. I noted last year that this appears to be the season for top ten lists, and that these lists range from the positive to the extremely disconcerting. MSF’s list is certainly discomfiting, but it’s also a very helpful reminder of what stories we should be paying attention to.

Two of MSF’s top ten focus on Somalia and the ethnically Somali portion of Ethiopia. MSF reports a massive refugee crisis in Somalia, connected to ongoing instability and violence. Unfortunately, MSF is able to provide little help within Somalia - the situation is simply too dangerous for their staff. Three staff were killed by a roadside bomb in Kisamayo, and MSF pulled its international staff out of the country in early 2008 - their local staff continues to work despite a high degree of risk.

Eastern Ethiopia, a region that’s majority Somali-speaking, is facing a severe food crisis. Many of the people who live in this region are pastoralists. An ongoing conflict between the Ethiopian government and rebels have made much of the region inaccessible, which is preventing herds from reaching water and food. Here MSF is constrained from acting not so much by violence, but by an uncooperative Ethiopian government, which has put major hurdles in front of the organization and which forced an MSF project to close in the region.

(While I’ve complained in the past about how little attention is paid to Somalia, the rising threat of piracy has helped attract some attention to that country’s problems. But news from the Somali region of Ethiopia is almost nonexistent - try a search for “Jijiga”, the regional capital, on Google News, or within the New York Times, where most results are from the second World War. A paper from Dr. Abdi Aden Mohamed - whose views are clearly anti-Ethiopian and pro-independence for the region - gives a sense for how isolated this region is: “… 3. There is no electricity any where in the region and most of the people in the region have never seen a Television or Cinemas. 4. No communications like postal services, and most of the people have not seen or used up to now telephones, faxes etc., because there aren’t any in the region. 5. There are no roads in the region except dirty dusty ones and trails created by the nomads and their herds.”

The difficulty MSF is having in reaching Somalia and the Somali region aren’t just coincidental - the disconnection of these areas helps explain why they are in such dire straits. Political and military strategist Dr. Tom Barnett offers the maxim “disconnection defines danger”. Countries that are tightly integrated into global communication, financial, trade and military systems tend not to fail catastrophically in meeting the needs of their people. The idea is not unrelated to Dr. Amartya Sen’s assertion than functioning democracies don’t experience famines - they’re able to access markets and seek help from other nations to avert this sort of catastrophe. (If you’re as disconnected as North Korea, you’ll find your neighbors using food aid as a carrot to try to coax better behavior from you.) This helps explain why Burma, still recovering from Cyclone Nargis, makes MSF’s list. It’s not a surprise that MSF hasn’t been able to send international staff into Burma - the military government has refused to issue visas, leaving the task of providing critically needed medical care to local staff.

I’d always assumed that MSF’s purpose in publishing this list was to fundraise. Oddly, there’s no link to giving information on their site - if you’re in the US and want to support their important work, you can find a link on the Doctors Without Borders site. The idea of disconnection suggests another reason - MSF can’t work in many of the places on their top ten list without better security for their doctors, or international support in obtaining visas. Without more “connectivity” - in Barnett’s sense - these are largely crises they have to watch from afar and help with only indirectly. Top ten lists, whatever else they’re good for, are a way of directing attention, and attention is a necessary precursor to connection.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

South Coast Experience-Mombasa

Msambweni town is situated in Msambweni Division, Msambweni Constituency of Kwale District (recently elevated to Msambweni district). Msambweni Division is a semi-rural area approximately 60 kms south of Mombasa town. The area relies on small-scale farming, fishing and small businesses for livelihood. The community is almost 100% Muslim and most are practicing and attend the mosque. The community is mainly composed of the Digo (a sub-tribe of the Mijikenda peoples) and the population is approximately 211,814 people with 92,594 households (Census Report 1999).

The area being in the south coast, is one of Kenya’s main tourist destination locations, hence an intersection of different cultures. Msambweni town lies on the main Mombasa-Lunga Lunga highway, which connects to Tanzania, therefore a destination to many truck drivers. Msambweni Partners NGO which operates and conducts its activities in MaryAnna house in Bomani village-Msambweni (thanks to Anna Witham for her generosity), was faced with the challenge of empowering the community members through testing of new concepts-participatory methodologies and other tested alternatives through promotion of self-help groups in the area. Although the promotion of CBOs as instruments of community empowerment is a relatively new concept. Admittedly, there has always been community development initiatives promoted through self-help community groups such as women and youth groups among others. However, the tradition in the past tended to see these groups as mere conduits for channeling ‘development handouts’. It was believed (and still remains a fact) that distribution of such (otherwise meager) ‘development tokens’ through groups (rather than to individuals) is more cost-effective (Mulwa.F. 2005:137).
According to Obaidullah Khan (1980:75-76), CBOs also have the important task of acting as channels for government and non-governmental attempts at development. It is the CBOs that must link with outside organizations to enable the flow of input and must mobilize the local people, so that they can play their proper role in community development.

CBOs provide a basis for development ‘’in so far as they are building an organization and bringing the community together around mutual concerns and needs’’, if started and supported with the right motive, have the potential to become effective vehicles for community empowerment and people’s participation in decision-making on matters that affect them.
They create an opportunity for the otherwise powerless sections of the community to acquire collective bargain and solidarity necessary for lobbying for change in public policy in their favor.
Among the first to be formed was Msambweni Partners Self-Help group (MPSHG). MPSHG was formed with an initial membership of 60 members in 2000 with aim of providing self-employment to its members through the establishment of IGAs, to acquire skills for its members to initiate small-scale micro enterprises and uplift the general economic welfare of members.
The group took about three years to settle down and reach the performing stage. Many original group members left the group in the various development stages and finally after a big struggle a manageable number of 30 members remained. MPSHG was formally registered with the Ministry of Culture and Social Services in 2003 in Msambweni.
This group has since initiated and established three (3) IGAs namely, Mwarubaini Soap making, Matt weaving and Basket making, and a Tree Nursery from where various seedlings are planted and sold when ready to various individuals and groups within the division. Several capacity building training workshops have been conducted for the group by their established networks.
They have an office, good record keeping and maintain two bank accounts. The group members meet every Wednesday to receive their merry-go round contributions and review the revolving fund activities.
Every Friday afternoon the group meets in the offices, sometimes to prepare the soap but mostly at the seedling farm for watering and to review the activities......more to continue

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Nomads challenge

Here i am to rave, rant, Promote and provide knowledge management skills and expertise to improve productivity and efficiency on development matters that affect the marginalized nomadic pastoralists.
Nomads are a marginalized group in the modern World. They are not well understood, and most of their requirements not a priority, if our Kenyan context is anything to go by. But the famous winds of change are now sweeping across the Nomadic plains.
In many pastoralist areas, the irreversible process of privatization has already begun. Driven by population pressure in the humid highland areas, agricultural communities have already taken large areas of the sub-humid plains that were originally grazed by pastoralist communities, pushing the pastoralists to the drier regions.
Commercial developers are also taking advantage of the low land prices in ASAL areas to buy up huge properties for industrial and other developments.
These new settlers have been enabled to do this by the subdivision of the previously communally owned land which has created individual or group ownership of land with the option to sell.

The most serious threats to the welfare of Pastoralists and Nomads include recurrent drought, famine and diseases, lack of processing and marketing facilities for livestock and animal products.
Ineffective and unequal bargaining power, due mainly to the dominant role of middle men and large scale traders and coupled with the lack of exploitation of alternative income-generating activities.

The area of grazing land available to most Pastoralists groups has reduced greatly in the last 100 years, while the population size has increased during the same period.

Analysis of the carrying capacity of Pastoralist areas shows that, most, if not all of them can no longer support the populations that are living there.

Ways of dealing with this problem include among others, changes in the ways of life ‘Pastoralism’ and adapting to the emerging options.....more to follow