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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!