Not long ago, the dominating matters discussed at official meetings in Gedo Region were, as often is the case in Somalia, heavily security related. But since the Dialogue project started in all communities and villages in the seven districts of Gedo region, there’s an impetus to discuss development related issues. Even more surprising for some inhabitants, the administration is now actively collaborating with the communities to push projects forward together.
30% of project funds were contributed by communities
The Dialogue project is an initiative by the Somalia Stability Fund (SSF), the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and Shaqadoon with the main goal of addressing ongoing inter-clan conflict in the region and increasing trust between Gedo’s citizens in the government authorities. It does so by encouraging communities and authorities to prioritise development projects in a participatory decision-making process and also offers a funding scheme that supports public projects and encourages contributions from local resource mobilisation to increase ownership. More than 30% of each community project has been co-funded by targeted communities and districts. Overall, 35 projects ranging from building or renovating primary schools to road construction/rehabilitation to water dams and health care centers were realised. 5,800 individual backers contributed and overall US$ 776,300 were raised, including funds provided by the Somalia Stability Fund. The funds were channeled through the Jubaland Government Single treasury account which ensured that communities acknowledged the role of Government in the project.
Breaking down communications barriers between the administration, communities and rivalling clans
One community leader in Belet Hawa, found this to be the “first project of its kind in this area, where the district authority worked closely with the community leadership and representatives in delivering a project as truly collaborating partners”. Many community leaders and residents of Gedo region feel very similar about the project, which is why all the 7 districts and 83 communities from Dollow, Luuq and Belet Hawa submitted their concept notes to access funding from the Dialogue project.
A rigorous research carried out by the International Centre for Tax and Development found evidence of a significant overall increase in trust in the district government, with larger impacts in treatment villages relative to control villages.
The feedback and interest from communities was in fact so high, that a lottery scheme had to be employed to choose a limited number of projects. The idea was to allow residents to put ideas forward and mobilise resources to see them realised, all the while collaborating with other members of community. The project also succeeded in bringing together different clans who worked jointly towards a common goal. In a context like Somalia, where trust towards government institutions is very low, and collaboration between clans is very limited, this a notable achievement that has contributed towards sustainable peace.
Better intra-government relations
Officials from the Jubbaland Ministry of Finance have also seen a welcoming shift: “The type of participation that the Dialogue project pursues has enhanced a sense of ownership in all project activities and has increased trust between government and citizens. In turn, citizens feel that the governance system has changed and that the government is ready to deliver services to the village level.” The new-found confidence of the state has also meant that Jubbaland is more pro-active in reaching out to communities in Gedo region. Additionally, the project has also improved collaboration between different tiers of the government (state level and district level) – a welcome byproduct of the Dialogue project.
Adapting to local contexts and accommodating different levels of wealth
Another key success of the project has been its ability to adapt to the local context. The size of the village projects was proportional to the capacity of each village to raise resources based on their level of wealth. Also, community members were able to provide contributions based on their wealth. According to an independent evaluation, the flexibility of the funding scheme allowed a greater level of participation. It also proves that cash contributions are more suitable than in-kind contributions, which can be regressive when only the poorest segment of the population are called in to provide free labour.
An evaluation of the project has found that “one of the greatest impacts noted from interviews with community members is the sense of self-reliance”. As one youth leader interviewed from the evaluation from Luuq put it “This project has shown us that when community come together, then we can do a lot to take care of our welfare. We trust that the school we have built is just the first step of the ladder to what we can do through such projects.”