OUR APPROACH: COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
“Lack of community involvement causes 50% of other projects to fail”
It is no longer news that the big boys trap support meant for the poor people in African hard to-reach areas. CHAMA do not lump money across to Africa from Canada, rather we help directly by going to the communities in need and involve them.
We believe people in developing countries know best how to solve their own problems. That's why we engage with community groups that understand, and are part of, the local culture. The result: a solution tailored to the needs of each community, instead of a technological fix the community has no way of maintaining.
- Community groups are better positioned to understand and navigate social, political, and economic issues impacting projects.
- Community partners have more savvy at leveraging local financial resources for cost-sharing in projects.
- Local expertise exists to implement projects.
- Working with local volunteers partners is more cost effective than maintaining expatriate staff.
HOW WE SELECT VILLAGES THAT WE HELP
People often ask how we select the communities we work with. Since our approach is demand-driven, the communities actually select for us and we review, following our criteria and select. Communities with a water or sanitation need contact our in-country Volunteer National Coordinator. Our on ground coordinators evaluate the communities and makes recommendations on water and sanitation, healthcare projects or as the case may be. Often, our next project comes from the neighboring community of a community recently served by CHAMA project through CHAMA members who had work with us in a previous project– word spreads quickly!
CHAMA helps and work in rural African communities and villages where primary life necessities are not present such as: Clean water, toilet, hospital, and where there are high mortality rates and poverty.
Primary elements include:
(1) A preliminary screening;
(2) Field visits and evaluations
(3) Interviews with potential, community leaders, state holders and beneficiary households of water and sanitation projects;
(4) Oral surveys completed by all the potential stake holders’ community groups and as well as by community members.
Most importantly, CHAMA requires that the beneficiary communities are at the center of the project planning process and invested as stakeholders. Women in the community must play a significant role in the projects. Lastly, CHAMA undertakes all its projects directly, direct labour and encourages community participation across all levels. No contract award or signing of any form.
COMMUNITY OWNERSHIP AND BOTTOM UP DEVELOPMENT APPROACH
Community ownership is at the heart of CHAMA’s philosophy. Regardless of whether the project is small or big, community ownership is at the center. For a project to be truly successful, communities must be viewed and must view themselves as the owners of the project. That’s why CHAMA engages communities at every stage and at every level – from project planning, building and financing, to ongoing project maintenance and monitor.
One of the first project activities is for the community to elect a local water committee. Because women disproportionately bear the burden of collecting water, and our approach is gender sensitive, it’s essential that the committee include female members. The water committees play a critical role in the project’s success. They serve as the liaison between the community and CHAMA, facilitate the hygiene education program, and determine the community work schedule for project construction. Members of the water committee are also trained on how to operate and maintain the water and sanitation systems, and how to manage the project when completed.
Contributing to the cost of the project is another way that communities and individuals become invested owners. CHAMA require communities to contribute at least between 10% to 20% of the total project cost. This may not necessarily take the form of contributing financially, rather, securing local materials, or putting in “sweat equity” with physical labor. It is the security and physical labour that have been practical and realistic during our various past and ongoing projects.
By engaging the community, CHAMA ensures that the technology selected for the project is appropriate to the local community and their particular situation. The community selects, with technical input from CHAMA organization experts, the type of project, what local materials to use, where it will be located, and how much it will cost.
Communities must be able to build and maintain the water system on their own. Thus, CHAMA projects involve locally-available, relatively simple technology. Because local technology is used, materials are readily available, which allows projects to be quickly and easily repaired and cost effective.
Communities also participate in the construction of their water project. This helps to alleviate high capital costs of the projects, and increases community investment. In addition, it allows the community to better understand how the technology works, protect it and take up ownership responsibility.
All water systems need regular maintenance and at some point, repair. CHAMA equips community members with the skills and strategies to handle system maintenance and repair. If communities encounter a problem they are unable to solve on their own, CHAMA provides assistance through our local leaders. The regular maintenance fees collected by the communities’ water committees pay for these costs (applicable only where such levies are collected). Helping communities to address such needs is integral to providing lasting solutions.