Integration and Community Leadership Needs More Than Just Funding Changes

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 5.57.12 PMThe nature of our world is multi-nodal and, with technology, today’s means of accountability, collaboration, communication and fulfillment of responsibilities are evolving to reflect integration. International development needs to catch up – quickly. Locus, Pact, Church World Service, and The Hunger Project – all members of the international Movement for Community-led Development – addressed this in a comprehensive discussion at the United Nations during the 56th Commission on Social Development.

In looking at respective research and successes from integration, panelists and attendees identified a shared belief that integrated, community-led development is the effective and most dignified approach needed to achieve sustainable development for all. What ensued in discussion around means toward implementation was not typical banter about shifting funding streams and enabling conducive policy environments. Yes, of course that came up. But, robust discourse focused mostly on how development professionals should carry out their work by helping community members live authentically as thee leaders in our collaborative work toward the SDGs.

“When people tell me they will build capacity of communities, I say, ‘Who told you the community doesn’t have capacity?'” MacBain Mkandawire, Executive Director, Youth Net and Counseling, revealed the most obvious “secret” to development professionals: communities already have the capacity [and thirst] to incur their sustainable development. Our work should aim to compliment work already happening at the local level through collaboration with community leaders, not competition or programmatic control over them.

“People say, let us give voice to the voiceless. Well, they are not voiceless. We just haven’t talked to them.” Oyebisi Ohuseyi, Executive Director of Nigeria’s Network for NGOs, revealed the second “secret”: community members already behold opinions, grievances, solutions and priorities. In order to foster true ownership and agency, community partners should be the ones prioritizing which development issues matter most to them. And inarguably, communities have the deepest knowledge of their context and can offer the best insights on [most appropriate] ways forward.

Mkandawire added “Before we go to donors, we should be asking ourselves what do we need to change [in our work as development professionals]?” He was acknowledging that there are multiple layers of power and privilege toward realizing community-led development.

Therefore, the development community and its many stakeholders are called to move from the less helpful “outside expert-driven” tendencies and donor pandering toward budgeting and programs with a bedrock of fostering community agency and expertise. Ultimately, this means we need a new kind of capacity development professional: one able to convene, befriend, facilitate, energize, accompany, co-learn, and co-create with community members “with [sincere] reverence and respect.”

The discussion also brought attention to unrealistic time constraints and reporting windows that strap capacity, ultimately hindering sustainable change. Even incremental progress is valuable and worthwhile, as was described by a woman from and working in Nepal. She detailed an extensive self-managed cooperative thriving with over 1,000 members—but mostly after 18 years of incremental progress.

In reflecting on the discussion, the panel moderator, Ellie Price, Coordinator of Locus Coalition, noted “It is easy to get bogged down in the technicalities of our work, or the limitations imposed by global power structures.” This makes it near impossible to represent and act on views or experiences other than your own.

The event’s discussion shed action-oriented light. Members of the Movement for Community-led Development are dedicated to mobilizing and collaborating with local community leaders. Bringing government ownership to community-led processes is the Movement’s current priority to achieve sustainable development.

Rattling top-down power structures among stakeholders and influencing strongly devolved political systems will not only garner community leadership, but also community ownership and due dignity as people – rightfully so – steer their own development process.

Proposed Budget Cuts: Community-led Development at Risk

President Donald Trump released his first formal proposed budget to Congress on 16 March 2017. As promised, the “America First” budget is proposing $54 billion in cuts throughout different federal government agencies and programs to offset the increase to the defense budget. Here is a snapshot of some departments that will be experiencing budget cuts:

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Picture Source: CNN Politics President Donald Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts

President Trump wants to reduce foreign aid, and has reflected this by proposing a 31.4% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a 28.7% cut to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). If Congress approves this budget, it would cut funding for international development programs and the World Bank. It would also remove funding from programs aimed at combating climate change, therefore, culminating U.S. support to the United Nations’ climate change programs.

These budget proposals will have a direct impact on the movement for Community-led Development (CLD). Independent agencies, such as the U.S. African Development Foundation, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the United States Institute of Peace have been suggested for elimination. These agencies provide economic support, childhood development, education and food security, amongst other development services to communities throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The CDL programs rely on the financial support of USAID, the State Department and numerous independent agencies to support their missions. It is imperative that Congress does not allow this blueprint to pass because of the negative repercussions it will have on U.S. foreign policy priorities and international development goals, which have been the frontrunner for women’s rights.

Community-led development begins and ends with the empowerment of women. This budget proposal would jeopardize years of progression that development programs have been able to achieve, particularly in the areas of reproductive and sexual health and gender equality. The ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) rely upon investments and resources from the United States, as well as other donor countries. The influence the U.S. has over foreign policy cannot be overlooked. Their funding is crucial in garnering support from communities around the world to see the SDGs come to fruition. The proposed budget has received strong criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

The Trump administration’s budget proposal focuses on allocating majority of the federal dollars towards the defense budget. It is important that the International Development community stress to Congress that the USAID and the State Department are important entities to protect the United States from foreign attacks against our great nation. It is imperative that both the United States and the rural international communities are backed by the USAID and State Department.

Together for 2030 – A Global Partnership Committed to Betterment of Humanity

At the Together for The 2030 Agenda–The Partnerships Playbook, seeks to share values in action with member countries, one that is humanity-based. The Partnership comes together in a renewed and focused manner through what unites us rather divides us. According to the 2030 Agenda “We are bound by our commitment to work together to support all people to achieve their full potential.  Our partnerships are based on the principles of national ownership, of mutual trust, of transparency and of accountability.” Achieving sustainability of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be accomplished through enablement of people on every level.  The creation of prosperous and self-reliant communities can in part be realized by maximizing and using all the available local resources.

There are 10 values set out for this new global partnership to achieve via a sustainable and workable method by 2030.  The Together 2030  values are:

  • Country-Led Partnerships to Achieve Sustainability;
  • Right-Based Charter of the United Nations;
  • Inclusive Private, Civil, Academia, UN, and Government Partnership;
  • Transparency of Intentions;
  • Predictability and Mutual Accountability;
  • Evidenced-Based;
  • Conscientious Communication;
  • Action in Ethical Manner and with Integrity;
  • Mutual Respectability; and
  • Doing No Harm.

Adherence to these rule-based values and the discipline to monitor its ongoing progress by the partner countries, will be its biggest challenge.  “Doing no harm” and “action in ethical manner and with integrity” is huge.  At present, most of the ongoing world projects that seek to implement a responsible, ethical, and right-based behavior have failed to achieve its purpose. The members of Together 2030 face a daunting task when it comes to these values, but specifically the two listed above will be the ones that will test this Partnership’s commitment the most.

The 2030 partners have created an idealistic plan, but hopefully a realistic one, due to the harsh reality of a divided world that only unites during conventions and summits.  What makes these set of values any different than the existing ones under the United Nations (UN) today?  Same principles, and similar purpose, just written differently, or is there a new motivation gaining momentum around the world, centered on people’s empowerment and community-led movement?  The Partnership requires a serious dedication to these values, and a unified front in its actions and implementation.

The Hunger Project has spearheaded global advocacy that endeavors to mobilize communities in various developing countries to use its own local resources first.  It seeks to train, especially the youth, and individuals to act as animators that provide a workable roadmap to achieving people empowerment.

The current SDGs to end hunger by year 2030, and now the Together for 2030 Partnership are finally putting people first.  We realize that our resources are limited, be it money, manpower, education, or health.  Our governments, state and local level municipalities are often short on funding for the non-emergency community development programs.  Many nonprofits must choose and prioritize projects based on fund procurement.  It is for that reason that the global advocacy for community-led development is so appealing because it delivers evidence of the actual results that were achieved.

The Partnership Playbook‘s progress reports will hopefully distinguish between the merits of those values that will be realized by 2030 and those that needs a rethink or a shift in methodology.  Most importantly, the lessons learned within the various countries will be of enormous help going forward.  It can be a useful guideline for creating similar successful projects that are feasible.

To learn more information,please visit: http://www.together2030.org/en/

Image courtesy of: http://www.savematabelelandcoalition.org/

For more information on Playbook 2016 Agenda, visit: https://drive.google.com/a/thp.org/file/d/0BzT29s5nVXnJSk8tWkdramtPUWc/view?ts=57ea8c7c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxfam’s Female Food Hero from Nigeria: A Change-Maker in Her Community

It’s about shifting the mindset…medium and small scale farming can generate income.“- 2014 Female Food Hero Monica Maigari from Kaduna State, Nigeria 

Last week  Oxfam America hosted a Brown Bag Lunch, which couldn’t have came at a better time as it was a day after International Women’s Day 2016, to share their Female Food Hero(FFH) Contest . The FFH Contest recognizes the achievement of rural women who are small stakeholder farmers and is evidence of how providing a platform for  women to be agents of change can benefit entire communities. Oxfam America had special guest Monica Maigari, one of the 2014 FFH winners in Nigeria,  to speak on her experience.  

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Pictured: (L) Monica Maigari, 2014 Female Food Hero in Nigeria    (R) Manre Chirtau, Organizer of Female Food Hero Initiative in Nigeria

With the recognition as a Female Food Hero many women in Maigari’s community respected her, counted on her to be the voice of the community, and depended on her to shed light on the challenges they faced. In Nigeria where the population is 184 million people , women account for 60-79% of the workforce agriculture, but only 7.2% them own land, according to a representative from  the Female Food Hero initiative in Nigeria.

Maigari mentioned that because women are denied many land rights they have to give money or part of their harvest to use the land. This limits economic freedom for women and disproportionately undermines women’s position as the main producers of  agriculture in Nigeria.  Because of her recognition as a Female Food Hero, she has gained respect and was sent to  speak with the chief of her province advocating for her community on issues such as land-tenure rights for women. 

Oxfam is a partner  in the Movement for Community-led Development , a coalition of organizations that believe in a  gender-focused, transformative process that “empowers citizens and local authorities to transform entrenched patriarchal mindsets and take effective action.”  Oxfam’s initiatives like the FFH contest is addressing the patriarchal mindset that challenges rural women farmers and harnesses their empowerment as key change agents in communities to take action.   

As a benefit of being a Female Food Hero, Maigari  was awarded a cash prize of 200,000 Nigerian Naira (NGN), which enabled her to purchase two hectares of land to farm -which is not an easy feat for  women in Nigeria.  She also uses her land to benefit the community by allowing the land to be used as an “experiment” lab to see which crops or farming strategies work well.

The process of selecting the Female Food Hero was a national-wide effort where across Nigeria female farmers were were able to send in over 3000+ nominations ,and after a screening of the nominees, 12 finalist were selected. As one of the 12 finalists,  Magari participated in a week long of events receiving training and information surrounding women and farming, meeting other industry professionals,  and other women farmers alike. She mentioned that she is going back home and sharing the trainings received through a cooperative she has helped form.  

Monica Maigari says, “It’s important that women teach women because they listen to themselves. A man  just cant go to a women and teach, they will not accept it. Women come and they will listen. Man don’t have the patience.Women will have patience to demonstrate correctly [to other women].”

When Maigari asked what was the most important advice on replicating initiatives like the FFH contest she said the trainings should give more attention to labor saving strategies.”We need drought resistance seeds and [other technologies] that makes agriculture easier for women so they can balance [work and home duties].

By engaging women as key change agents and rethinking the power of community , long-lasting sustainable development can occur to make the dream  of living in a food-secure word without poverty a reality. However, another caveat to making that dream a reality  is recognizing the important role of women as key stakeholders in these issues. 

To view the full trailer of the Female Food Hero Initiative in Nigeria please click here