Siena Anstis “is a Swedish-Canadian freelance journalist currently working with Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) in Kampala, Uganda”. On July 11th she posted information about the Katine project on her blog. In that post she raised the important issue of whether investing in one village amongst many was justified. My comment on her blog clarified some points on this issue. Since then Siena has edited her blog to take note of the points I raised.

It may be worth repeating and expanding on these points, because the same issue has arisen in comments on the Guardian Katine website.

1. The Katine project is focused on Katine sub-country, which contains approximately 50 villages. The project is not focused on one village. This misunderstanding may have been encouraged by the Guardian’s unfortunate choice in late 2007 to name their website “Katine: It starts with a village

2. Prior to AMREF’s involvement in Katine there were already inequalities between the sub-counties of Soroti district, as there are throughout the rest of Uganda. AMREF’s intervention has not introduced inequality where there was none before. Katine was one of three sub-counties in the district that were badly affected by the LRA insurgency earlier this decade, and one which AMREF believes had received less help than the others since then.

3. Given the scale of the investment now being made in the AMREF Katine project it could be argued that although old inequalities between sub-counties will be reduced they will be recreated in a new form, as Katine becomes much better off than others. This is probably “a problem we would like to have”. It would imply that the intervention has been conspicuously effective, within the sub-county.

4. In reality other things are likely to happen which will complicate the situation. Some benefits will seep in to other parts of the Soroti district. Staff working on the project will spend their salaries in Soroti and Kampala. Materials to improve water sources, schools and clinics will be purchased in elsewhere in the district, in Kampala and possibly outside Uganda. Improvements to the health services within Katine sub-county, especially Tiriri clinic, will be made use of by people living in adjacent sub-counties (e.g. Tubur and Otuboi). And District officials may make adjustments to budget allocations across the district in the light of what they know about the amount of resources going into Katine. Stephen Ochola, the Soroti district LC5 chairperson, was quoted in May as saying ““What the Katine project has done is to relieve our budget. The money we would have spent can now be used in other areas of the district” Finally, although there may be relatively big investments in Katine over the next three years this fact alone is no guarantee that the impacts will be sustainable. In the worst case, the functioning of the health centres, schools, water sources and local community groups could go backwards in the years that follow.

5. Given these complexities, how can the wider impact of AMREF’s investments be assessed?. One relatively simple method, which may be useful, is a ranking exercise. It may be possible to ask key people at the district level (appointed and elected officials) to rank the 17 sub-counties of Soroti, in terms of their relative standard of living, and to do this at yearly intervals during and after the completion of AMREF’s work in Katine. If useful, this ranking exercise could be done separately, looking at differences in health, education, water, sanitation, and livelihoods. Ranking methods have been widely used as a means of assessing people’s perceptions in development projects. As well as identifying where Katine sub-county fits in any ranking, it would be equally important to identify and assess the evidence the respondents are using to support their judgments.

As well as shedding light on wider changes at the Soroti district level, and placing Katine sub-county in context, this sort of analysis could also be relevant to AMREF’s governance efforts. The results could highlight the types of information officials are using and not using, and how they weigh up the importance of different developments.

See other related posts by Siena