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.