Reviewing Katine: What’s happening with governance?

30 June, 2009

In her recent posting on this topic, Madeleine Bunting said “I’ve listened to Joshua Kyallo, Amref Uganda‘s director, explain how villagers can be empowered to demand better services from the government at district level. But there are plenty of questions in my mind as to how effective this will be in improving the operation of state services in Katine….The district budgets for health and education, for roads and water are desperately inadequate. It is not just the lack of demand for services that causes the state to be so ineffectual at village level here. I find the “rights-based” approach, based on developing in villagers a sense of entitlement to basic health and education, hard to understand

Before asking whether the rights based approach is affective we need to ask if AMREF is in fact pursuing a rights based approach? As of August 2008 I could find no evidence of this on the ground, though the Country Director did affirm that AMREF supported a rights based approach. There are other interpretations of what empowerment is all about. The simplest and easiest to realise, is individual empowerment through the provision of practically useful information, for example, how to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea by maintaining clean water sources. This sort of empowerment was being addressed by the AMREF project in 2008. But it does not address wider issues such as the willingness and capacity of government to provide basic health services. Perhaps the project strategy has turned more in this direction since August 2008. The Mid-Term Review needs to look at this.

In the same article Madeleine Bunting also noted  “Several of the Amref staff spoke of how they had struggled with huge expectations of the project from Katine villagers. Is that the Guardian’s fault, I asked, with its headlines promising “transformation”? Perhaps partly, they agreed…I wondered how actively Amref has managed expectations and how widely it had communicated with villagers across this very scattered sub-county about what the project was going to do and what it was not going to do

Expectations are usually about objectives and how they should be reached.  If they are diverse this suggests that communication and negotiation about project objectives may not have been as effective as they should have been. Madeleine Bunting’s article raises two possible causes: (a) insufficient communication with local communities by AMREF, and (b) the influence of the Guardian’s frequent visits to Katine communities. It could of course be both.

Another possibility is lack of clarity within AMREF itself, about what the project was trying to achieve. This was a concern I expressed in the first paragraph of my first visit report in January 2008. “The final objectives of the project may need clarification and agreement, by AMREF, its donors and local stakeholders. This agreement should be evident in a smaller set of indicators that show changes in people’s lives, reflect the impact of all five project components, and which can be easily be monitored by community groups.” At that stage the monitoring and evaluation framework had 35 indicators about expected changes in the lives of individuals and households and 60 indicators about the expected changes in the functioning of community groups and organisations. These are large numbers by the standards of most development projects. Later in 2008 the project staff in Katine made some efforts to prioritise these and focus on some key expected outcomes. One of the questions for the MTR should be looking at this year is the clarity of objectives within each of the components – within AMREF in the first instance, then amongst the wider group of stakeholders.


2 Responses to “Reviewing Katine: What’s happening with governance?”

  1. Stephen Shaw Says:


    I realise that this posting is a couple of months old but something that interests me as a good possibility with the Katine project and the Guardian’s participation is the option to provide a considerable depths of information and comment. You raise the question here of whether AMREF are taking a rights based approach. But whether they are or not it would be good to see some connections made between the Katine project and its own objectives and the wider aid programme in Uganda in which DFID is a major partner. As many of the Guardian’s readers will be based in the UK it will be interesting for us to see what links there are from the centralised DFID aid agreements with the Uganda government and the resources that go into ministries such as Health and Education and how much of that gets down to the people of Katine. The Guardian’s Katine project is very small by development standards. It probably has too many, too ambitious objectives. But it is not the only source of development aid. Can your evaluation put the Katine project into the bigger aid picture?

  2. rickjdavies Says:

    (Please excuse this late response)
    The NTR was carried out by Hazel Slavin, an external consultant contracted by AMREF. The ToRs did not include a requirement to analyse the project in the light of wider sets of aid activities on the national level. But they did ask for attention to coordination issues with other aid activities within the Soroti district. The ToRs can be found in the annexes to the MTR, published on the Guardian website, at

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