Notwithstanding the gripping poverty precursors of Kenema district, as contained in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), senior technical adviser, Ronald McGill has expressed optimism about the situation on the ground stating that Kenema district “has the potential for [developmental] success, [albeit its poverty indicators].”
The reason Kenema district was chosen to pilot the district economic recovery programme, was because after wide consultation “we have to choose a place where we’re genuinely solving problems, [and has] the potential for victory in everything we are trying to achieve, that’s why we choose Kenema,” he said.
The Kenema District Economic Recovery Programme (KDERP) – McGill explained that the project which was funded by UNCDF and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the aim to compliment government’s poverty reduction effort and peace consolidation in the district. This is a five year pilot community development programme designed to stimulate local economic development in Kenema district, and to develop the capacity of both the city and the district council to provide services and infrastructure to local communities.
McGill maintained that the project seeks to develop approaches to local economic development of the district to increase agricultural activities, market information, engage women in enterprise development, and enhance local revenue collection.
Speaking about replication of the project in other districts when it might have succeeded in Kenema, the UNCDF senior technical adviser said, “it is not up to us to decide where else it could be; what we have to do is to make sure the programme actually works well, once that happens, it is a political decision… it is up to us to provide the evidence to see what is actually replicable; then it will be up to government to say we would like this to be replicated wherever,” he maintained.
He further explained that regardless of the political divide; “from the developmental point of view the challenge is entirely developmental, and we are hoping that that enthusiasm for the development imperatives, translates into the whole community participation process…”
Throwing light on the political will with regards to the programme attaining its objective, McGill said, “there are two sets of political will here one from the centre nationally- since the new administration came into power the new minister has been very enthusiastic … locally we have very good rapport with the technocrats within the two local authorities.”
Commenting on how youths will benefit from the project, the UNCDF adviser said, “if we are trying to do anything to increase economic activity within Kenema town and district…the youth will be swept out within that economic activity, [since] we are dealing with the fundamentals of economic growth.”
The UNCDF programme specialist, Gaia Toschi disclosed that the women enterprise development component of the project will provide micro-credit schemes for women empowerment.
She disclosed that the project also aims at capacitating women to participate and also make meaningful contribution towards the development of their society.
UNCDF over the weekend concluded training at the Kenema District Council hall with stakeholders of both Kenema district and city council who benefited a great deal from the learning by doing format of the programme. Participants and team members turned the training into rudimentary drafts of planning, budgeting and capacity building proposals.
By Ophaniel Gooding