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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

RIC-NET OFFERS TECHNICAL SUPERVISION TO INFORMATION CENTERS



On the early morning of Friday 27th 2012, RIC-NET staff ; (program manager, Finance officer, Documentation officer, ICT personnel and Assistant Information officer) set off for kamwenge Communities’ Information Centre (KACOICE) located in kamwenge town . The team was welcomed by centre members who were eagerly waiting for their arrival. A brief meeting was held with the centre members to discuss issues affecting the centre; achievements, challenges and way forward. The members appreciated RIC-Net support extended to them such as capacity building, financial support among others.

Through interactions with staff and board members, the team learnt about the progress of the centre in the last three months as they had been boasted with funding from HIVOs through RIC-NET which have facilitated a set up of a KACOICE sign post

for visibility purposes, daily newspapers availed to the readers from which articles relevant to the farmers are photocopied and shared with the farmers being that they are the majority of the users, the centre had so far shared information on bee keeping, pineapple growing, poultry, diversification in agriculture among others

The centre had also collected about 1000 telephone numbers from stakeholders to facilitate information sharing using the bulk SMS, the RIC-NET staff did a lot of orientation done in this area as most members interacted with had a thinking SMS alerts are always generated by the technical staff at RIC-NET but later they realized that since they are placed at the grassroot most of the times the SMS alerts would come from them as the technical team sends them.
Noting that KACOICE has subcounty level centers, the team also had an opportunity to visit one of them located in Nyabbani subcounty known as Nyarwe mixed farmers, where they appreciated the success stories shared in the newsletters but further requested RIC-NET to make a Documentary of their work on pineapple growing and the best practices which could inspire other farmers at regional and national level.

However, the members addressed the following issues to RIC-NET; they needed training on the use of online platforms(blogs,skype,D’groups) website for their center, repackaging their information and some skills in handling computer related programs of which RIC-NET pledged to fulfill as it has always done in the past.

Monday, January 30, 2012

INFORMATION OFFICERS’ REFLECTION MEETING ENDS SUCESSFULY



RIC-NET on Friday 20th January 2012 had a reflection meeting of information officers from all information centers/points in the Rwenzori region. These centers include the following; Kabarole Information Centre (KIC), Bwera Information Centre (BIC), Cemuliki Information Centre (CIC), Kyegegwa Rural Information Centre (KRIC),Busongora Rural Information Centre (BRIC), Mwenge Rural Information Centre (MRIC), and Kamwenge Community Information Centre (KACOICE). Each center was at least represented by either one or two officers.

Objectives of the reflection meeting were to learn from experience and good practices of information centers / points; find out issues/complaints arising from communities that shall form a basis for community dialogue meetings to engage leaders and community members for social accountability. The members freely shared information on activities they have been doing which was quit interesting. A number of issues emerged and respective officers concerned were asked to make further investigations and gather reliable data to be considered in the future for community dialogue meetings. Most of the issues/complaints raised in the region were concerning inadequate water supply, food security, education, NAADS, and inadequate medical services.

A number of success stories were shared, for instance, in Kyarusandara sub-county-Kasese district, there was a problem of water shortage which had put the lives of residents at stake; BRIC held community meeting with the sub-county leaders and demanded for clean and regular water supply. The community members pledged to participate in digging trenches. Leaders and community members worked jointly to arrest water crisis in the area. As per now the people in the sub-county are enjoy clean water. Most information officers also reported that they have been collecting sub-county work plans, and approved budgets and sharing it with the community members through public notice boards and meetings which has accelerated vigilance of the members to critically monitor development activities in their areas for social accountability. Most information officers reported that they had collected and submitted a number of telephone numbers to RIC-NET head office to be entered in the bulky sms data base, one of the tools RIC-NET uses to collect and disseminate information to the general public.

The members enjoyed nice but short reflection, as the day came to an end when they still wished to continue the discussion. In his closing remarks, the Executive Director, Mr. John M. Silco, encouraged the members to work hard and fulfill all the duties assigned and report accordingly. He urged the members to always design their work plan according to the proposal and contract made in order to avoid misuse of funds and ensure that any spending is in line with the project being implemented and they clearly defend it.

INFORMATION IS ALL YOU NEED TO DEMAND FOR YOUR ENTITLEMENTS

The more the better, the stronger they are made, the more effective they will be. It is a chain, intertwined together, complementing each other’s role at different levels; regional, District, County, Sub County, and Parish levels. This chain of Information Centers and points at the different society levels has curbed the traditional challenge of limited access to information by the community since the main business of these points is information sourcing and sharing/dissemination. Located in Kabarole, RIC-NET is complimented by eight County Information Centers and several Information Points across the Rwenzori region that she routinely supports in their information sharing work.
On a very cold Tuesday Morning of 24.01.12 at 7:30am, RIC-NET staff (Information Officer, ICT Officer, Finance Officer, Videographer and the Program Manager) set off for Kasese to visit their information Centers and Points and to also conduct an evaluation exercise of their work. It was a new day, and duty was calling unfortunately the team although present and ready for duty still looked sleepy. On and on the driver, drove, while members remained silent and yawned one after another till they reached their first destination; Bwera Information Center (BIC). At BIC,

the RIC-NET team met a hospitable and vibrant team of six members (Zaverio-BIC Information Officer, Muhesi and Happy from KALI, Abdu from RWECO among others). Key among the things discussed was the social accountability program that BIC is implementing. The team shared that since August last year BIC together with KALI embarked on monitoring “Amaizi Marungi” Gravity Flow Scheme in Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Town Council as a response to several complaints from the community about the continued lack of water despite the Scheme’s said completion. Several findings ranging from lack of water, non functional water scheme, lack of source attendants and nonpayment of the acting source attendants for around two years to use of small sizes of water pipes as opposed to the project design were discovered and are being compiled into a report to be shared during a Stakeholders meeting on 15.02.12. This sharing was supplemented by a mountain climbing field visit to the water source in question at Isango- Kitholhu Sub County to verify the previous monitoring findings and to also establish the current status of the scheme.
Following this, the team then hit the hot and dusty road to one of BIC’s Information Points; Kayanza Information Point. Despite the Information Point’s location at the Lakeside, it was so hot and the place looked long deserted. The air smelt of dust, fish and the sweat of the ever busy fishermen and women. With the presence of largely small and congested semi-permanent old buildings it is almost impossible for one to believe that the population of people at this landing site is of over 1500 people. Nevertheless, this atmosphere did not seem to deter the visiting team, it rather interested them to learn more about the impact of the information services offered by BIC in such a setting. In a meeting with the Information Point’s members who included the Information Point’s Chairman Mr. Bwambale Kasuki, his Executive, some members of the Point and the area LCI, the team learnt that the presence of BIC coupled with the support she gives to this Information Point together with the different information services she offers have transformed the lives, minds, thoughts and actions of the community in Kayanza. Being the only Information Point in the community everyone looks up to it for information on what is going on in their Constituency and beyond. Explaining BIC’s contribution, the Chairman asserted thus “I am now computer literate because of BIC, I thank her for all the computer trainings members of my Information Point have been taken through. I additionally thank BIC for the TV and other related equipments that she has supported us with; from these my community has been kept abreast with what is going on in the country and beyond. It is interesting how lots of people, young and old, female and male throng the TV room at the news hours especially “NTV Akawungezi” at 7:00pm to listen to the news”. According to the Chairman, this has facilitated civic empowerment now being witnessed in the community’s active participation in development programs like planning meetings and the monitoring of the services offered at the primary school, and the HCII especially the use of PHC funds. However, the members noted a few challenges like the lack of funds to buy daily newspapers for the community and the lack of adequate, translated and relevant information. He appealed to RIC-NET and BIC to source for, translate and share with them information on HIV/AIDs prevention and management, fish farming, agriculture, and education among others. Besides Kayanzi Information Point, BIC in total has 16 Information points spread across Bukonzo West and East Constituencies. This marked the end of a long, interesting and educative day one as members retired to their homes and Hotel rooms.
Come 25.01.112, it was day two. The sun shone so hot and brightly that one would think it was 2:00pm when actually it was just 8:30am. So much to expect ahead; dust, heat, thirst and lots of interesting people as well. Without wasting time, the RIC-NET team drove to Busongora Information Center (BRIC) in Base Camp-Kasese Municipality where it met the Center’s Chairperson Mr. Isingoma Patrick and a few other members. Patrick informed the team that the Center was managing although with several challenges. He noted that the Center under the Social Accountability program last year (2011) monitored service delivery in Kyabarungira and Bugoye Sub Counties with particular focus on Rwesande HCIV, and Kabatunda HCIII. Monitoring findings about these institutions have been compiled and are yet to be shared with the different stakeholders.
The visit did not stop at the main Center; Patrick later led the team to some of BRIC’s Information Points located within the Community. Katooke Rural, Kabagaga and Kyabarungira Information points in Bugoye and Kyabarungira Sub Counties were among those visited during this exercise. At Katooke Rural Information Point the
Chairperson one Ms. Biira Evacate revealed that the quickest and most effective way that the members use to pass Information to the Community is through Music, Dance and Drama. She noted that, “at the inception of this point there was a lot of reluctance and lack of interest in the Information Point’s services, this forced us to change our strategy and we formed the Katooke Actors Group for Entertainment that we now use to reach out to the community. We stage shows on key development concerns in the community like how to curb corruption in the health sector. We do this monthly from one parish to another, and we usually stage on Sunday afternoon when most people are known to be free. This strategy has pushed us from the initially 20% population of people we were serving to around 60% now”. Just like Kayanza Information Point, Katooke Information Point appealed for more translated information on Youth activities/programs, education, farming and health among others.
Interestingly at Kyabarungira Information Point, RIC-NET met a team of around 25 members, out which only one member was female. Besides this, 80% of the members were elderly. Sounds boring, huh? Wait a minute, this was a very vibrant and empowered team which had, for your information, actively monitored service delivery at their HC- Kyabarungira HC III and even compiled a report which they are planning to share with their leaders to indicate their dissatisfaction in the quality of services offered at the Center. I learnt one thing, that, no matter how old you are, it takes just the right information to spur the energy in you to demand for your entitlements. It is evident that the various information received and shared at this Point amongst the members and the community has left many informed, empowered and ready to be instruments of change within their own Communities.
General Observations and Recommendations.
I observed that there is a lot of hunger and need for information by the community than the Information Centers and Points are providing; and that the little information that the Centers have provided has most often remained unutilized by the largely semi-illiterate population because it is most often in English. I suggest that more efforts should be devoted to understanding the information needs of the community and translating the required information by the community to familiar languages if greater impact must be registered.
Lastly I also observed that the use of multimedia pulls more people and appeals to many as opposed to the literature that we most often congest our libraries with.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

RIC-NET SETS UP DATA CENTER AT DENIVA, TRAINS STAFF


In the same spirit of promoting social accountability and increased access to information, CEW-IT through RIC-NET set up a data center at DENIVA head offices in Kampala on 17th Jan 2012. DENIVA Staff thereafter was trained in the use of E-plat forms on the 18th Jan 2012.
ICT CEWIT CU-Emmanuel Oluka took DENIVA staff through an over view of the Uchaguzi platform that was used during the 2011 elections. He showed them how it was used.
The essence of this was to introduce them to the HUDUMA platform that is going to be used during the social accountability project. He explained to the participants that Huduma is a Kiswahili word meaning “service delivery”. He said that this is being harmonized together with other partners in Kenya called Sodnet.
Emma went ahead elaborating that this platform was going to work just like the Uchaguzi platform. Members of public (Citizens) will be sending messages to 6333 a short code that is yet to be procured and those messages would be approved, sent and flagged to different people responsible for address. And that these messages will capture and focus on 5 major issues in the project namely;
 Water
 NAADS
 Health
 Education among others
The Huduma platform was discussed in details.
The Executive director RIC-NET further led the participants in the use of other e-platforms for easy communication and information sharing. Among others was the use of blogs where one was created for DENIVA, use of skype.

This was yet another session that members enjoyed and signed up for some of these e-platforms. LCDs (projectors) were later handed over to DENIVA for her the other data centers that are yet to be set up soon.

Monday, January 23, 2012

YES WE CAN!


Hurriedly they walked as if to catch up with something very precious that they wouldn’t dare to lose. One by one, young and old, women and men all gathered under the mango trees that offered a beautiful shade and breeze to its inhabitants.
Slowly the number swelled, mothers hurriedly breastfed and made simple makeshift beds for their babies so they wouldn’t disturb, while the men artistically arranged the venue for the meeting. With peaceful faces they all sat murmuring greetings to each other waiting for the set time 3:00pm. And finally the Clock struck 3:00pm, thirty two out of the expected fourty six people had gathered so far. Members prayed and sang the National and Toro Kingdom Anthems; it was now time for the Citizens’ Parliament, call it Neighborhood Assembly if you like.
IWDP had on this day 18.01.12 organized an assembly for her first group called Nyankwanzi People’s Voice. (RIC-NET supported this activity with documentation expertise).
Chaired by the group’s Chairperson Mr. Madhivani Moses, members (who included teachers, farmers, business persons, students and politicians) discussed issues that affect them in their communities in the sectors of NAADs, Health and Education. Several service delivery challenges were raised and a number of solutions to them were also suggested;
NAADs
Procurement and supply of poor quality enterprises; members noted that at the inception of the program, the community was informed that NAADs was going to introduce new and better breeds of animals and crops unfortunately nothing has changed, all enterprises are procured locally from the same old breeds. Accordingly the spread of crop pests and diseases has remained a challenge. Sharing her experience one, Hadija revealed that the NAADs banana suckers she received in 2010 came with Banana bacterial wilt that has since eaten up her entire plantation, “I regret why I accepted these suckers because they brought me diseases that I didn’t have before…”

Lack of adequate knowledge on the selection of beneficiaries and enterprises was also noted amongst the community. This was revealed in the various complaints by the members like the neglect of the poor and disadvantaged persons and their appeal for different enterprises like coffee.
Lack of supervision and follow up of NAADs beneficiaries by the NAADs officials, supply of inadequate enterprises viza viz the beneficiaries prepared land and limited involvement/ interest of some community members in groups.
Members appealed for more sensitization of the community on the NAADs program and the change of strategy of the supply of enterprises from group to individual. Explaining this one Jackson Mugarura asserted that the supply should target individuals and that Government could put measures to either arrest or punish those individuals who will not have utilized the enterprise as expected “I personally believe that this would increase the number of beneficiaries and also ensure uniformity in the program”
Commenting on these concerns the area Councilor to the Sub County Hon. Rubongoya Atuha thanked members for raising such pertinent challenges which he pledged to share with Council in their next Council Session. He appreciated the fact that NAADs has a number anomalies, although on the other hand, the community is to blame for the poor performance of the project; Hon. Rubongoya explained that there is still continued limited ownership of the enterprises and the program by the community and limited will and boldness in holding their leaders accountable. He informed the meeting that service delivery is two way- demand driven, and as such the community should be able to walk to the offices of their leaders and demand for information on issues of concern to them.
Health
Several issues were also raised about Nyankwanzi HCIII, these ranged from inadequate staffing, poor relationship between health workers and patients, frequent drug stock outs especially septrines, continued failure to follow first come, first serve basis when handling patients, lack of confidentiality by health workers in the HIV/AIDs department- they gossip about their patients in the community, and keeping of patients for long hours yet they send them away at the end of the day without drugs. Wholesomely members appealed for immediate intervention of the Sub County and relevant development partners into the appalling situation at the HC.
Education.
Members regretted to note that the Sub County was still doing badly in terms of academic performance; other challenges included lack of staff houses at schools, high pupil and teacher absenteeism, inadequate facilities in schools, inadequate teacher salaries and inadequate parents’ contribution/support towards education programs among others. About this, members appealed to government to consider increasing teachers’ salaries and construction of staff houses at schools if their performance must be improved. Commenting on these concerns, Hon. Rubongoya equally challenged the parents to find it within their priorities to send their children to school effective 30.01.12 and to support education programs.
Summing up the discussions, one of the discussants Mugarura Jackson thanked IWDP for this initiative of bringing citizens together to deliberate on issues affecting them, he revealed that he is optimistic that this initiative is going to cause positive change in Nyakwanzi Sub County. He however challenged the political leaders to use/maintain the energy, time and money they invest in soliciting for votes during elections when offering services to the community.
Conclusively it should be noted that this was a practical forum; active participation of the community members was witnessed/realized. From this I learnt one thing; that the solutions to development challenges are within us- the community, and to this bottom- up planning needs to be revamped if effective and quick development must be attained.

I feel compelled to thank IWDP and all the other members that have already started implementing the lessons they learnt from their study visit to Kakamego-Kenya in 2011 about Neighborhood Assemblies. I am optimistic that these assemblies will facilitate increased community participation in development programs and cause consequent improved service delivery in the community.
Neighbourhood Assemblies, way to go!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

RIC-NET ACHIEVES A REFLECTION OF ISSUES, DIET AND MUSCLES



RIC-NET staff have accomplished a three day reflection meeting at kasunga. The meeting commenced on 4th January 2012 at kasunga training conference resort in Kyenjojo District where staff members gathered for a three (3) days reflection meeting last week.

Different issues were shared, and resolutions made on what should be implemented that was laid down in a document to be used by all RIC-NET departments for 2012 work schedules.

The three days meeting, staff had the opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the past year 2011, the lessons learn t and areas of improvement which finally formed the annual report. Also during the meeting staff came up with an annual work plan for the year 2012.


It was not only a time of academic book warm but a reflection on diet and relaxation of muscles by staff members exercising the freedom to brainstorm on their personal issues eating and refreshments, making physicals, and enjoying the clear breeze of Kasunga environment.

While closing the meeting, the chairperson board of directors Rev Isaiah muchunguzi appreciated the efforts of the ED with the entire staff for managing, directing and selling RICNETs image to the Rwenzori community and the entire nation.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

RWECO FORMS THE FIRST EKYAGHANDA KYABATAKA IN KASESE DISTRICT


Community members of Nyakiyumbu subcounty in Kasese District on Monday 9th 2012 witnessed the first formation of the ekyangahanda kyabataka which would be translated as the citizens ’ forum. The activity was organized under the citizens manifesto in action project as a platform where citizens would regularly meet and inform leaders of their development concerns.
Through the Rwenzori consortium for civic competence RWECO, a consortium of Rwenzori information Centers Network (RIC-NET), Integrated women Development program, (IWDP), karambi action for life improvement (KALI) and Good hope foundation for rural development (GHFRD). Karambi Action for life improvement organized the function that led to a full house attendance at the kalongoghire catholic church, Nyakiyumbu subcounty among the participants were KALI & RWECO staff, CSO representatives, religious leaders, community members, the community development officer, the sub county chief and LCIII chairperson

Two staff of RIC-NET participated in the meeting where they documented the proceedings of the day.
According to the Executive Director KALI Ms. Katusabe Beatrice, the organization identified the Ndongo anti poachers association as the community based organization through which the ekyangahanda kyabataka or the citizens’ social forum would be promoted as the citizens will have meetings on issues concerning them and task leaders to address their concerns.


Among the priority concerns raised by the participants that need to be addressed by the leaders were water, roads, sustainability of the Citizens social forum, market access for the farmer produce of which they agreed to invite the respective leaders as the sub county agriculture officer, the secretary for works at the subcounty. The participants also managed to elect Mr. Bwambale Zerubabel as the speaker for the Citizens social forum by the end of the day.