Taking hold in the Great Lakes region is the system of ground-up development, in which the lowest level of government, LC1 in Uganda, directly tied to a small population it represents, conceives of their own plans for development and then sends them up through the government chain.
These systems are aspirational and require that appropriate information gets into the hands of community members themselves. The EEEGL project has worked with community-based organizations as well as individual parishes and districts neighboring both the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks to first develop detailed village profiles and then facilitate village-level visioning and identification of development projects. These communities are often very remote and at the far end of development opportunities and resources.
Working with the District Planning Units, guidelines for village profiles and planning were drawn. In total, six sub-counties were included, five in Kisoro District and one in Kanungu District, which in total included 79 villages. At each village, two community-based facilitators were selected- one woman and one man- who collected data from their village.
An intensive community led process produced first village profiles: these include comprehensive information on demographics, health, education, sanitation, agricultural production and income, skills, perceptions of the neighboring park, issues with the park, benefits from the park, and infrastructure. Next, community members gathered to review the profile and asked themselves the following questions- Is this what we want? If not, what do we want and how can we get it?
The review of the profiles transitioned into visioning exercises by different groups of the communities- women, men, and youth:
The discussion didn’t end with the visioning exercise. Community members then collectively decided which of the emerging projects they could manage themselves with the resources at hand and which projects they would request assistance from either community-based organizations or the local government.
In the case of Bukazi, since the visioning exercise in early April 2011, the village has already made progress in that the bridge to the village has been repaired by the local community and a CBO based in Kisoro used the same information to construct one of ultimately three water tanks in the area.
The date generated by the profile and the visioning has certainly been useful at the village level and also at the District and even national level. The information collected in the 64 villages comprises some of the most comprehensive and up-to-date information of any villages in the region.
At the District level the information will be used to identify projects for funding through the Community Driven Development Program (CDD). Through the CDD, districts set aside 5 million Ugandan shillings for each parish to support household well-being. But to qualify to receive these funds, the household must achieve minimum standards including having a pit latrine and proper household structure and sanitation. The profiles are helping to facilitate allocation of these funds to households that reach these standards.
The community profiles and visioning exercises will also complement other work at local-level community development through the better awareness and provisioning of Gorilla Levy funds, a revenue sharing scheme for communities living near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Long-term success of the community-based planning will depend on the regular updating of the village profiles and the visioning exercise. Volunteerism within the villages has its limits as the demand for time is great. Moreover, the success will depend on the positive response and attention by local government authorities towards these bottom-up processes. Local government authorities in the area have extended tangible support to the activity. Initial signs exist that demands are being considered, both within park revenue sharing systems and local government resource allocation systems. This experience falls within a national context of increased expectations for devolution and bottom-up development processes.
We look forward to what villages like Bukasi might look like in another 20 to 30 years.
Post by Helen Ninsiima with CARE-UGANDA and Anna Behm Masozera with IGCP
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