Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with a population of around 15 million people. In a measure to alleviate poverty in the country a lot of international and national organisations have set up development projects. This is to benefit people living n the rural areas, the ones who fill the real sting of poverty. But for these projects which are being implemented in the rural and uncivilized areas to be properly carried out, it needs expertise of educated people.
Having worked with on a volunteership programme called Progressio ICS (International Citizen Service) for the past six months has taught me a lot on the need of understanding our roles and working tirelessly to fulfill them. In the programme our team was attached to an organisation which works hand in hand with other stakeholders in raising awareness about climate change and other environmental issues. The Non-Governmental Organisation is called ‘Environment Africa’ and in our six months placement we were based in Salima which happens to be my district of origin.
I will not bother to go into details of our job there, but I would like to focus on the part which has forced me to come up with this article. Many of the NGO’s working in the rural areas when coming to the areas they instill much hope in the villagers. With their papers where project targets are neatly elaborated, a lot of the people from the communities see an end to their problems. Despite such enthusiasm many organisations loose roots in their work just three months of a year into their various projects. According to my observation this trend is happening due to negligence from both sides. This is to mean the implementer (NGO’s) and the rural communities themselves.
Mostly the rural communities leave the development projects in the care of the implementing organisations. The communities forget that the projects are for the benefit of their own families. This extends to the extent that the communities demand cash allowances for any activity they are participating in the stages of project implementation. Whenever the organisations try to liaise with the communities that the projects are for their own good they always seem to understand but show their disagreement by avoiding work on the projects sites. The tendency of demanding money handouts has been implanted in the villagers by other NGO’s who have ever worked in the same areas.
And to the part of the organisations, many organisations are working in the same areas and with the same interventions. For example an NGO comes with a component of Manure making and from there other four NGO’s will come with the same intervention. All the projects demand attention of the same villagers and at the end many of the projects flop because the villagers tend to view the organisations as a bunch of greedy companies aiming to get donor money out of their misfortunes.
The other hindrance to successful completion of development projects is lack of internal coordination in the implementing organisations. It is understandable that for any organisation to run efficiently it needs finances. But the problem arises when the finances start dictating how the organisation is run instead of the project activities dictating how the finances have to be spent. Project funds are meant to be spent on the activities and the projects staffs are meant to spend eighty percent of their time in the field of implementation rather than spending most time planning and accounting for finances, therefore staying in the villages for a little time. When field staff scarcely visits their projects, the rural communities take this as negligence and end up being frustrated and give up on the project works. This demeans efforts by well wishers in poverty alleviation.
In respect to the above mentioned challenges there is a need of understanding our individual roles. People in the villages have to be properly civilised on the importance of being dedicated in the development projects being carried out in their areas. And for the organisations, there is a need of proper sharing of information among organisations working in the same areas. This could help to enhance successful implementation at the same time giving opportunities to other areas to benefit from the interventions instead of sticking to the same areas.
Non-Governmental Organisations in consideration of transparency and accountability among their staff but they also have to make sure that there internal squabbles do not have to infect the implementation of their projects in the rural areas. If appropriate measures are followed in financial channels then villagers will restore there hope in the NGO’s working in their areas.
Finally, for the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved it needs every one’s effort starting from the head of government departments, NGO heads, Traditional chiefs and the common man languishing in poverty in my home village of Kambwiri in Salima district. Any of us has a collective responsibility if we are to take Malawi to a higher stage in terms of development, as the American president John F. Kennedy rightly said it that “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.