Socio-Economic Reintegration Projects: When Agents in the Field Innovate!Jan 3, 2017
Roars of laughter erupt from the yard of a mud-walled house. Tools and wheelbarrows surround the entrance, lined up against the wall. Inside the plot, around 40 people in overalls work in good spirits, cooking and sharing a simple meal, consisting of Fufu (mashed cassava flour) and beans.
The building is set on a hill carved with steps, with slopes stretching out into the waters of Lake Kivu. We are on the Island of Idjwi, where 250 beneficiaries are engaged in labour-intensive work which will last two months. The work involves restoring the soil’s fertility over several areas of rolling farmland and building agricultural terraces, designed to withstand erosion. Two hundred and fifty men and women are taking part in this socio-economic reintegration programme led by the Centre of Rural Promotion (CRP) and supported by UNDP thanks to financing from Japan equalling US$1,250,000. They were selected according to vulnerability criteria, to help some of the poorest people escape from extreme poverty.
The project follows the 3 x 6 Approach, a specific methodology created by UNDP to improve social cohesion and stimulate economic revival in areas which have been affected by crisis. The 3x6 Approach is implemented by UNDP and its partners in several regions of the DRC. In Idjwi, having carried out work on a building site, the beneficiaries will be supported during a second phase to create their own income-generating activities. They will benefit from the savings generated by the work carried out and a fund established by UNDP. In total they will receive $300 by way of a rationed allowance, $100 from the savings, and $100 from the subsidy awarded by the project. On this island, activities have taken a very interesting turn: the implementing partners and the beneficiaries have been particularly involved in the implementation of the approach, bringing improvements and innovations!
Selection of beneficiaries: transparency and participation.
In Idjwi, more than 1,500 candidates volunteered to take part in the labour-intensive work. However, only 250 workers could be hired to work on restoring the fertility of the soil. The CRP team have shown a great deal of ingenuity in order to manage impartially the hiring of candidates.
A participatory, inclusive and transparent method has helped to avoid frustrations and suspicions of favouritism: A system of drawing names out in the presence of all candidates was put in place, with several witnesses from both civil society and the local authorities. This approach has made it possible to ease tensions and ensure everyone is in agreement on the list of successful candidates.
When the project started, the beneficiaries defined in plenary a 3x6 works regulation. To ensure a better sense of ownership, the regulation of the site was developed jointly by the workers with the support of the CRP and local authorities. In Idjwi, the following principles were adopted and are proving to be a success for rigorous implementation and social cohesion: designate a group president, an activities manager (to motivate the workers on the project, ease tensions, etc.), a communications manager (to share the latest local information on the project every morning), a time manager (to adhere to start times, break times, etc.). Roles whose relevance for the efficiency of the works is being demonstrated.
Sport, the partner of development projects.
During the beginning phase of the works, the beneficiaries suggested organising some friendly football matches (both female and male teams) to strengthen social cohesion and to allow them to get to know each other. At the end of the competition, prizes were handed out by CPR to the winning teams; goats and turkeys which were then cooked for everybody working on the construction site. The sports initiative has made it possible to forge social ties, to reduce tension between the three local groups and to reinforce the self-esteem of the women. The latter have indeed demonstrated that they can play football as well as the men…
It is worth noting that the socio-economic reintegration project in Idjwi has a strong environmental protection component. Erosion control works follow the techniques of permaculture which revitalises the soil and helps to counter the problem of food insecurity by increasing crop productivity.
In Idjwi, the socio-economic situation of households is very tenuous; demographic pressure and the depletion of natural and agricultural resources places more and more people in extreme poverty. Demand is great for new projects using the 3x6 approach to help more vulnerable citizens improve their living conditions. The creativity and sense of innovation of local populations and stakeholders should encourage cooperative organizations to develop projects dedicated to development and the environment in Idjwi.
Article translated by Jennifer Bradley