Power of Community Mobilization in Local Development
When the Local Governance and Service Delivery Project (LGSDP) was initiated in Jur River County early last year, the residents of the remote village of Ugu Beer in Kuajena Payam were unable to fully participate in its activities. The long journey by foot to the local payam administrative headquarters proved hard to do, limiting their participation at the village level.
LGSDP, a Government project locally known as LOGOSEED, utilizes a participatory approach to development by placing communities at the centre of local governance and service delivery. Yet despite limited participation, other participants from Kuajena payam unanimously voted Ugu Beer as a compelling case for receiving a borehole.
A project verification team, which later visited the village site proposed for the borehole, found a stagnant pool that residents relied on as their only source of water for both domestic and livestock use.
The experience of Ugu Beer demonstrates to Government and other development partners, the importance of adequately consulting communities in decisions on how and where local development resources can be allocated, according to Stefano Wieu, the Project’s State Coordinator for the Western Bahr el Ghazal region.
“The community knows who is really in need,” he explains “This experience demonstrates that if you leave the community to decide who needs resources, they will make the right decision. Although these people were not able to participate in the planning process, other community members considered their need. Community knowledge and awareness of equitable distribution, has been enhanced.”
Having recently gained its independence in 2011 after decades of civil war, the Government of South Sudan is faced with pressure to deliver critical basic services to a population, which has endured decades of conflict and marginalization. Through LOGOSEED, local governments receive technical assistance to effectively plan, budget, and supervise local development projects with full community participation. The Project also funds small infrastructure projects through its Payam Development Grant (PDG), disbursed to participating counties.
To ensure community participation, the Project, facilitates the mobilization and organization of local community development structures, known as Boma Development Committees (BDCs) and Payam Development Committees (PDCs). These act as community focal points during planning and implementation
“Since LOGOSEED came to the area, we have been trained on many things,” says Rudolf Ongwech, PDC chairperson for Kangi payam. One of the things Ongwech has learned in his new leadership role is the delicate art of negotiations with his community.
Although ideally each PDC member represents the interest of their own community or boma, as a team, they are also duty bound to map out resource development gaps and prioritize resources to the most under-served areas. Because PDC decisions are also subject to scrutiny by the wider community, selling the message why some areas were prioritized above others in project allocation was initially challenging.
“People in my village asked me why we did not get any projects,” explains Ongwech. “But we felt that we at the payam headquarters have some facilities. Some communities had not received any services from the government. We decided to give the chance to these communities because they needed the facilities,” he says.
These initial misunderstanding among the community was cleared as soon as they understood how they were being integrated in the decision making structures of local government, according to Ango Anei, a community mobilizer for the project in Jur River County.
“The project has brought more clarity about various roles and responsibilities that the communities were not aware of before,” he explains. “Before, most communities were not even coming together because of conflicts, but now it is easy for them to organize themselves and resolve their issues.”
Augustine Nawuyo, LOGOSEED Monitoring and Information Officer in the region has no doubts as to the value that the LOGOSEED approach is bringing in to local governance in South Sudan, especially in terms of allocation of resources. “The project has brought great change. People had not been consulted before,” he says. “Previously, the government and leaders decided for them (communities), but with LOGOSEED, the communities now know where they are headed.”
Judith Omondi is the former Community Engagement Specialist, Local Governance and Service Delivery Project