Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Life update on the author of the most neglected blog in the world.
I don’t have much time or energy these days to write, but I should at least try to keep you updated more, right? Here’s a few nuggets…
The WASH proposal – In my last post I explained the WASH proposal that I had been working on since March. After 4 months of hard work on this, I ended up dropping out of the bid for the project. It was disappointing, but sort of an honest return to reality and who we are and what we can handle and what is more than we can handle at this stage in life and with all the other considerations we have here.
I would have enjoyed working with a project that I designed from the start and a staff them that I picked and trained. It also would have let me get projects in more districts in this province, which I think would be great.
Unfortunately there were big concerns in the security outlook, and when the project got trimmed from 3 years to 2 years I realized it would be impossible to count on training local leaders to fully take responsibility for a project in such a short time; I would have to manage the whole thing myself from start to finish.
Sadly, the nail in the coffin of this project, for me, was that the consortium leader (the organization that was going to be the leader of the multiple organizations in this country all joined in the same project) was doing such a lousy job of leading the other partners in the consortium. I lost faith in that organization supporting me in my unique part of the project (all the other partners were working with existing teams in existing fields, I was the only one starting from scratch), and my wife and I finally said, “if they can’t give me more than 24 hours to respond to demands for budgets or beneficiary spreadsheets or proposal revisions, then they’re never going to respect that we’re trying to live as a healthy family here!” That was the end of that. Decisive as that sounds, I still feel a sense of loss (but not regret).
The well with the half-naked well digger – If you didn’t read this 3-part story, you should scroll down and give it a go. If you have followed along, you’ll be as disappointed and shocked as me to hear that the community has blamed us for dividing their community with this project.
In this project we have found a classic example of how not to do a proper “Do No Harm” analysis prior to projects, and the negative consequences of neglecting that step! Do No Harm, by the way, is a whole methodology that focuses on, well, you get the idea from the name don’t you? I have a draft of a post about Do No Harm that I started in… April… hmm I’ll try to finish that soon.
Back to the well: it seems that the community was not adequately prepared to face 2 new realities: 1- the fact that water was no longer free (they would have to pay the electricity bill for the water pump), and 2- access to the reservoir was going to be more contentious than they realized.
Once reality #1 sunk in, reality (problem) #2 started to churn as well. The people that lived close to the reservoir helped themselves to as much water as they wanted, but the people living further away felt cheated. The poorest people pushed for everyone to use the water only for drinking water so that the electric bill would be low, but the ‘not-so-poor’ people fought to use the water to wash, water animals, and even water their big gardens with.
When these disputes started to arise, the village council did not want to take any responsibility for the problems. This is disappointing, because prior to the project, our team had spent some time with the village council going over policies and agreements about the well and water usage, in attempt to make it fair and good for all. Clearly, those discussions had not been serious enough or deep enough or touched on the right issues!
For the past 2 months now our team has been hounding me with one suggestion after another to pacify this community. The reason they’ve hounded me so long is that I am not going to agree to another hardware solution until the community is all together again in the fall (this community, like many in the area, scatters in the summer for grazing and fieldwork elsewhere).
It’s been an interesting couple of months because I have learned a lot about the local team that works in this project, and they have learned a lot about critical questions! Each time they come with another simple argument for what we should build for the community to shut them up, I ask them a series of critical questions that point specifically to the social angles of this project that have already gone wrong, and cannot be corrected only with cement and pipe. So, week by week they are doing more and more meetings with individuals and families to learn where different people in the community stand on the issues surrounding the well, and by the time I get back here in Oct we will be ready to sort out a solution that is backed by a load of interactions and discussions between the project staff and the community, and among the community members themselves regarding the key reasons for why this project hasn’t been satisfactory for them yet.
Well, I think this is long enough for one night. I’ll try to write again in the next week and tell you a few other updates such as latrines, courses, and developing leaders- stay tuned!