Socio-economic reintegration projects: when workers on the ground innovate!

Apr 3, 2017

Bursts of laughter arise in the courtyard of a mud-walled house. Tools and wheelbarrows decorate the entrance, well-aligned against the wall. In the interior of the plot, about 40 people in work overalls are busy cooking in good humor and sharing a simple meal, composed of foufou (boiled manioc flour) and beans. The house is located on a terraced hillside, the flanks of which stretch into the waters of Lake Kivu. We are on the Isle of Idjwi, where 250 beneficiaries are engaged in high-intensity labor that will last two months. It’s a matter of restoring the soil-fertility of hilly farmland by constructing agricultural terraces, which prevents erosion. 250 men and women participate in this socio-economic reintegration program, managed by the Centre of Rural Promotion (CRP), and supported by UNDP thanks to financing from Japan of up to $1,250,000. They have been selected according to vulnerability criteria, to aid the poorest to escape extreme poverty.

The project follows the 3x6 Approach, a specific methodology created by UNDP to improve social cohesion and stimulate economic recovery in regions that have been affected by crises. The 3x6 Approach is implemented by UNDP and its partners in several regions of DRC. At Idjwi, after finishing the on-site work, the beneficiaries will be supported in the second phase to create their own income-generating activities. They will benefit from savings generated by the work completed, augmented by UNDP funds. In total they receive 300 dollars of allowance, 100 dollars in savings and 100 dollars of grant awarded by the project. On this island, the activities have taken on a special color: the implementing partners and the beneficiaries have been particularly involved in the project implementation, by bringing improvements and innovations!

Selection of beneficiaries: transparency and participation

At Idjwi, more than 1500 candidates volunteered to participate in this high-intensity labor. However, only 250 workers could be employed in the work to restore the fertility of the soil. The CRP team used a dose of ingenuity to be completely impartial in the engagement of candidates.

A participatory, inclusive and transparent method to avoid the frustration and suspicion of favoritism was used: A random draw system, in the presence of all the candidates, was implemented, with several witnesses from civil society and the local authorities. This provision helped to ease tensions so that everyone agreed on the list of successful applicant workers. 

During the project launch, the beneficiaries together defined regulations for the 3x6 work. For greater ownership, the site rules were co-developed by the workers with the support of CRP and the local authorities. At Idjwi, the following principles were agreed and proved a success for the rigor of the implementation and for social cohesion: designate a group president, an activities manager (to motivate site workers, defuse tensions…), a communications manager (to share the latest local information on-site each morning), a time manager (to respect the start time, break time…). The relevance of these is being shown by the efficiency of the work.

Sport, ally of development projects

During the initial phase of the work, the beneficiaries suggested organizing friendly football matches (both male and female teams) to reinforce social cohesion and get to know each other. At the end of the competitions, the prizes were handed out by CRP to the winning teams: goats and turkeys which were then cooked for everyone on the worksite. The sports initiative helped forge social ties, eased tensions between the three local groups, and helped to enhance women’s self-esteem. These latter have, in fact, shown that they know how to play football as well as the men…

It should be emphasized that the socio-economic reintegration project at Idjwi has a strong environmental component. The project to fight against erosion follows permaculture techniques that allow revitalization of the soil, and so fights against the problem of food insecurity by increasing crop productivity.

At Idjwi, the socio-economic situation of households is extremely difficult; demographic pressures and decreasing natural resources and agriculture is continuously pushing more people into extreme poverty. The demand is enormous for new projects of the type 3x6, to help more vulnerable citizens to better their living conditions. The creativity and sense of innovation of citizens and local actors should in future encourage cooperative organizations to create developmental and environmental projects at Idjwi.

Aude Rossignol


 Article translate bye Victoria Stevens

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