Networks of Community Based Organisations leading on poverty reduction

Sudan is the third largest country on the continent (after Algeria and DR Congo) and the sixteenth largest in the world with an area of 1,886,068 km2. It is a vast country rich in natural resources represented in the fertile agricultural lands, livestock and minerals, forestry, fisheries and abundant water. However, many of these resources remain underutilised, in part because of protracted civil wars.The sheer size of the country means that it covers a diverse range of peoples; there are 597 tribes that speak over 400 different languages and dialects with clear differences in customs and traditions demonstrated in their ways of living, behaviors, practices, and beliefs.Differences in language, religion, ethnicity, and political view make Practical Action Sudan’s work a big challenge. Nevertheless, we want to reach our targeted beneficiaries and we want to make a great impact.

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scan0001 Old pictures show WDN’s activity in food processing

When Practical Action started working in North Darfur 26 years ago, it adopted a strategy of developing and strengthening civil society to enable them to meet the needs of their communities. The organisation started by establishing community based organisations (CBOs), including Village Development Committees (VDCs) and Women’s Development Associations (WDAs) that were capable of leading and implementing their own development activities. CBOs were supported with a range of interventions including seeds and tools banks, grain banks, animal drug revolving funds and micro credit revolving funds. By the end of 2002 Practical Action had helped establish 28 of these CBOs providing outreach to over 50,000 households.When the conflict started in Darfur in 2003, Practical Action found it difficult to access the field for security reasons, so we decided to depend on the CBOs for monitoring and later implementing project interventions. From these efforts it was clear that the CBOs could take on more responsibility. As a result in 2003 a group of WDAs came together to form the Women’s Development Association Network (WDAN) which mainly represented WDAs either inside or in close proximity to Elfasher town. Then in 2005, due to continued instability in Darfur, Practical Action helped in the formation of the El Fasher Rural Development Network (FRDN), this was the beginning of giving autonomy to the VDCs. Following this success, in 2006 a second group of VDCs came together to form the Voluntary Network for Rural Helping and Development (VNRHD). The three networks succeeded in registering with the Humanitarian Aid Commission as Sudanese NGOs.Practical Action then replicated the model in Kassala, with the formation of a Women’s Development Associations Network (KWDAN) and Al-Gandool Network.

Food Processing Training in Kassala

Food processing training in Kassala

Practical steps had been taken to develop the orgnisational capacities of the networks through training and strategic planning. Forms of training provided included: Human Resource Management, Proposal Writing, Report Writing, Financial Management and Monitoring & Evaluation. As a result we are proud to see the networks have continued to evolve, expand, and serve increasing numbers of highly supportive members. They have effectively increased their social capital by consolidating and improving relations between communities and livelihood groups, and their political capital by engaging and influencing state, non-state actors, and market institutions. Most impressive, the Networks have the capacity to build and utilise strategic relations and secure their own funds. For example, by 2011 the three networks in Darfur had accessed nearly USD 4,000,000 from a range of UN and INGOs donors. Presently, the Networks have become empowered to improve the livelihood of their communities, promote the culture of peace, introduce micro-credit system to finance petty trade (goats, donkey carts and tea making), contribute to the delivery of basic services (Health, Education, water),whilst maintaining environmental balance.

Visit with FRDN to school in Al-Fashir

The success of our experience has proved that community ownership is the source of change.We will be very happy to replicate and reflect our success with others.

“An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory.”
E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered

2 responses to “Networks of Community Based Organisations leading on poverty reduction”

  1. Nahid Says:

    Wow what is amazing blog from wonderful sara well done

  2. ibrahm Omer Says:

    Thanks so much dear Sara it’s an absolute, wonderfully, amazing and a brilliant blog in which you offered through the juicer and distinct experience of Practical Action particular with regard to community interaction ,the quickness of response and enthusiasm of the communities in tacking it forwards .
    There are, of course, several challenges which contrasted the smoothness of the idea and are vary from one region to another e.g. What elements that brings about the maturity of experience in Darfur and its early expansion and progress in Kassala which could definitely encourage us all to applying in the Blue Nile and for all of Sudan Insha’Allah?
    Thank so much Sarah

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