A first-of-a-kind experience sharing workshop, organised by the United Nations and Japanese aid agency,(JICA) took place from 20-21 February 2008 in Kambia town.
The workshop brought together councillors and project managers from two development projects based in Kenema and Kambia Districts respectively.
The purpose of the exchange programme was to share the policy and project implementation experiences of the two projects, and to strengthen the collaboration of discussions between local development partners.
The first project, the Kenema District Economic Recovery Programme, is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).
The five-year community development programme is designed to foster local economic development in Kenema District, and to develop the capacity of both the District and City Councils to provide services and infrastructure to local communities.
The second project involved in the workshop is a three-year JICA pilot programme aimed at improving community development in three Kambia chiefdoms, through child and youth development projects.
During the two-day workshop, participants visited a selection of Kambian communities benefiting from the JICA project, to speak directly to community members about the successes and constraints of the projects they implemented. Following the field visits, participants came together in a lively discussion of best practices of their respective projects, and to explore the possibilities of integrating these practices into the operation of both projects.
Speaking at the workshop, UNDP assistant resident representative, Toshihiro Nakamura, noted that, “for the first time, two districts have come together to learn from each other the challenges and lessons of decentralisation and community development processes. By fostering dialogue between districts with relevant contexts we can work together to accelerate the development of Sierra Leone.”
The success of the workshop has prompted the UN and JICA to plan future collaborations for experience-sharing.
“The feedback from participants was so positive we plan to expand the concept,” said the UNDP representative; “we intend to invite additional donors and districts into the process to continue to harmonise projects.”
The chairman of the Kenema District Council, Patrick M. Samu, rounded up his thoughts on the experience saying that, “this workshop has offered us a unique opportunity to foster unity between Kenema and Kambia Districts. The links we have created encourage a competitive spirit between our two districts, which we intend to put into practice to inspire the development of both our communities.”
By Saidu Bah