The Importance of Community-led Development Projects

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”

Community-led development projects empower locals to lift themselves out of poverty, by allowing members to create and achieve locally owned visions and goals, with the starting help of charities like COCO who equip families with the skills and knowledge they need to lift themselves and the rest of their communities out of poverty. These projects are particularly important in low-income countries, such as Tanzania, where basic infrastructure and public services are either limited or non-existent; a fundamental requirement for sustainable development and growth. Hence, many people find themselves entangled in a poverty trap from which they cannot escape.

Extensive field experience shows that the journey out of poverty begins in communities, and that aid strategies should be designed from the community upwards. The United Nations believes that community-led projects are at the forefront of solving their sustainable development goals. COCO is working to ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, one of the key UN sustainable development goals. 

One such beneficiary of community-led projects has been the beautiful village of Litisha in Tanzania, which, since receiving sustainable agriculture training from COCO alongside Hoja Project in 2011, has built and established its own nursery, containing 57 students (as of August 2017), which they now hope to expand into a primary school. An internal COCO study into sustainable agriculture training has found that average household income increases by 284% as a result of the training. From this training, parents decided to pool their increased income to build a classroom to house the nursery and to pay a teacher from the community.

The community-built nursery is owned and run by the community group Kimamba CBO, containing 18 members

The organisation is now using its own initiatives to generate further income to sustain and expand the nursery. Further schemes have involved keeping bee hives in a sustainable manner without smoking them and table banking in which they lend small amounts to community members who pay back with some interest that covers admin and provides income for the group. This has funded the construction of a well for water access to the nursery and the creation of football and netball fields. COCO remains on hand to support the community, but the community is pioneering its own development.

Head of Kimamba group, Julianna, is chairperson of Kimamba CBO and is responsible for overseeing all of the projects in the group, including running the nursery, the community farm, beekeeping and small loans.

Julianna- Chairperson of Kimamba CBO

“I now feel confident as a woman. My personal future plans are to become a pharmacist. I have been sponsored through pharmacy training but I still need to complete a 2 month course to get a certificate and become a pharmacist”.

“For Kimamba, our plans are to set up a SACCOS (Savings and Credit Cooperative Society) in our own building, so that the whole village will benefit and others around will be able to get money and live well. We then plan to use the income to have a full primary school here”.

Community leaders like Julianna are crucial to the success of such programmes, ensuring ongoing community mobilization and giving the confidence needed, in particular to women, that they can create change and determine their own futures. From the start, COCO aims to ensure communities build their own vision of self-reliance so that all members can buy into the aims and challenges facing such projects and realise benefits for all. The initiative has helped to reduce poverty, develop community cohesion and improve social indicators.

Building of the new nursery classroom in Litisha

In October 2018, Jess Hamer visited Litisha and had many great things to say about how local members are tackling the challenges they are facing:

“The community are so motivated and are working hard to lift themselves and their children out of poverty. The group have begun giving out small loans to group members and other community members, so that they can set-up or improve their own individual businesses. They also buy products in bulk, including fabric, which community members can then buy and repay over a longer period of time with a small amount of interest. This generates income for the group and means the buyers don’t have to travel to town themselves, saving time and money. Such a small amount of funding injected into this community has made such a huge difference! This is what your support can achieve, thank you”.

The individuals in the group are proud of their own personal achievements too, having used their training on their own farms. Brother and sister Damas and Condrada were excited to show us their newest achievements. Damas is currently building himself a house, something which 10 years ago he never dreamt he’d be able to do, and Condrada showed us her cow and new born calf. The community have always had the skills and ambition, just a little bit of support and they’ve changed their own lives.

Damas and Condrada Fussi in 2014

COCO has also provided equipment to support disabled students attending the Litisha primary school. Such children either deaf, blind, or with mental or physical disabilities have benefitted from this initiative.

Other beneficiaries of COCO’s community-led projects have been the MLASEO project, where, to further develop our work, small loans were distributed to parents in the community, to enable the establishment of microbusinesses to boost household income. One of our latest community-led projects in Bwayi, Kenya, aims to the resemble the success of these projects.

The importance of community-led development is clearly evident; it allows for long-term, sustainable and self-driven improvement of a variety of interlinked social and economic issues and allows for the achievement of COCO’s secondary and tertiary goals through close supervision and support without the need for continued direct action.

Overall, such projects have achieved several of COCO’s key goals- primarily addressing the issue of food scarcity but also reducing poverty and improving educational opportunity. Because the work has been community-led, progress can continue far beyond the scope of what COCO itself could achieve. The journey to self-reliance arguably starts with community-led development and that’s why all COCO’s programmes are led and owned by local communities. This allows local members to “learn by doing”, generating a self-reliant attitude, enabling them to flourish and drive economic growth.

Donate now to empower other communities like Litisha to establish Schools for Life, or contact [email protected] if you would like to support a particular programme at Litisha, MLASEO or Bwayi!

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