Ugandan Project Pioneers Transparent Development

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

A pioneering experiment in the community of Katine (www.guardian.co.uk/katine) in the East African nation of Uganda recently came to its official end. A unique three-year project to try and transform the development outcomes of this rural community, it pioneered a new model of communicating aid and development. Unusual transparency was used to show how things work – or don’t – in development. The budgets, the reports and the evaluations are all available on the website. Britain’s Guardian newspaper regularly covered the work, and two Ugandan journalists embedded in the community gave regular updates as well.

A rich resource of web content was built up over the three years. People were able to post their comments and criticisms on the website for all to see. Members of the community logged onto the website as well and gave their on-the-ground views. Development workers had to explain what they were doing and why.

Anthropologist Ben Jones wrote in The Guardian that Katine is “remarkable: for the first time, the complex reality of doing a development project has been brought to a wider audience.”

Katine is a rural community of villages and home to 29,000 people. The Katine development project set out to focus on five aspects of deprivation: health, education, water and sanitation, livelihoods and governance.

It was launched in 2007, when The Guardian urged its readers to donate to support the project. The British bank Barclays pledged to match the donations up to £1 million (US$1,619,229). The NGO Farm-Africa (http://www.farmafrica.org.uk/) provided expertise on agriculture and the project partnered with Amref (http://uk.amref.org/), a leading African health NGO.

Journalists, academics, development experts and NGOs tracked progress on the web and shared this with the general public.

The records show that the project spent a total of US $3.72 million between 2007 and 2010. Administration in various forms used US $968,166 while, US $501,935 was spent on health projects, US $650,866 on education and US $577,997 on water and sanitation.

Accomplishments included a boost to safe water coverage from 42 percent to 69.6 percent, and the distribution of 7,000 malaria nets. A co-operative was set up to help sell surplus agricultural products from farmers and teach new skills to grow disease-resistant cassava. A culture of saving and investing was also introduced with the establishment of 150 village savings and loans associations. They charged a start up membership fee of 12 US cents. Villagers used small loans to start small businesses or to buy medicine. In one year, a total of £22, 482 (US $36,401) was banked.

Along the three-year journey, tempers flared over the cost of a school’s classrooms, and people vented their feelings regularly on the project website.

Beyond the donated inputs to the community, the issue of sustainability has taken more hard work. The community needed a better organizing structure and committees were established: village health teams, parent-teacher associations, water source committees, farmers’ groups, parent-teacher associations, and village savings associations.

It wasn’t just a legacy of poverty the community had to contend with: residents also were overcoming the disruption and trauma of decades of violence and instability. The Lord’s Resistance Army had terrorised the population in 2003, for example.

With the relationship with The Guardian ending, Amref will continue to work for another year to strengthen the community structures to lock in the sustainability of the achievements.

This experience is an interesting one that could be copied across the South, with people sharing their recent experiences of development and how they overcame poverty.

Resources

  • Katine Project: Three years’ worth of resources on the Katine project, including 60 videos, school resources, galleries and interactive guides. Website: www.guardian.co.uk/katine
  • Millennium Villages: The Millennium Villages are proving that by fighting poverty at the village level through community-led development, rural Africa can achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Website: http://www.millenniumvillages.org/

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