02 / 1999
1- Context and challenges
In Uganda the political climate is very conducive to empower people. Part of the policies of the government indicate the path: decentralisation of the administration, demonopolisation of the economy, democratisation .
Ugandan Change Agent Association (UCAA)still goes on with its mission that was initiated 8 years ago by a Norwegian NGO. Men and women must be able to initiate and sustain their own personal development process in all economical, social and political spheres; Training rural men and women allows them to become the catalysts of the process.
2- The actors
On the decentralisation process enhanced by the Government, leans a huge challenge. Local councils at village, sub-country and district levels have been conferred various powers and it is the respnsibility of the councillors to assume it. It is at that level that empowered and enlighten change agents are needed. Trainees came from rural areas. They have been selected by a parent organisation who may be a community based organisation (CBO)or a non-governmental organisation (NGO). Recently UCAA started to train councillors for sub-countries local councils (third level of decentralisation among five). Most of them are the elected leaders of those selfhelp groups. Once the training is over they reintegrate their community where they can stimulate and facilitate conscientisation and training processes in their groups. However, people stands as individuals during the training. They are not endoctrined in any party machinery. Two hundred men and women are trained every year.
3- The institutionalisation
Once trained, they are considered as change agents and can join the association. Due to difficulty of communication, the association is very much decentralised. Change agents gathered in local branches at sub-country and district levels. The association encourages its branches to hold regular fora on specific topics adapted to their context. In 1998, 400 fora were held all over the country. A fixed sum is granted to the branch providing that it prepared an accurate budget. A first instalment is made before the meeting and the balance is paid on presentation of the actual expenses. UCAA also organises a one-day-annual national forum focused on a relevant topic - land tenure -. Although UCAA belongs to various national networks of NGOs, they have no links with Ugandan academics and are in-world looking. This lack of opening to the world is slightly readjusted with the acceptance of a popular Member of Parliament known for her anti-corruption positions, to become the patron of the association. Apart from a quarterly newsletter, UCAA has some radio programmes and sometimes appears in the local media.
4- The outputs
The process of changing people is very slow although the local impact is important. 50% of all change agents have been elected in local councils although they were never involved in politics before. One of the District Chairpersons is a change agents as well as various representatives in the National Women Council. Since UCAA instills values and skills to the change agents, they are able to denounce corruption and to control accountability and transparency in the local councils.
The demand is still very high. In the Western District, 125 people postulated for a training when there were only room for 25 of them. Moreover, trainees are requested to pay a fee and have no financial income during the training course that lasts for 3 sessions of 2 weeks.
5- Donors involvment
Donors have been very supportive to the programme. They are a variety of 7-12 donors. Some are very minor. There is no financial support from the Government of Uganda. UCAA generates 10-15% of its budget through fees, sales of training materials, membership contribution, consultancies.
Donors generally do not intefere in the orientation of the activities. However, some of them have certain conditionalities that need to be satisified: for example UNICEF wants to see how do the children benefit. Most of major donors work on a three year budget but others can only commit a one year budget. Very few agree to entrust the association with a general subvention which is used for the activities. Some donors very strongly earmark the activities they want their money to be used for and they are not even interested in the an overall report of activities of the association. What bothers them is: Is their money used the way it was supposed to be? Such donors may be very disturbant and consume a lot of energy since they want to see the justification of any expenses done. There is a strong push by donors to get involved in micro-credit operations. The association is still reluctant but it accepted to participate in one such programme in a particular district.
UCAA is truely rooted in changing rural people. However, it is challenged to remain a sole training institution or to use its experienced people for other activities: micro-credit, national lobbying, communication.
The initiator of the process still has a very strong position in the association which hampers the other leaders taking over him.
Uganda Change Agent Association, POBox 2922, Kampala, UGANDA tel: 256-41 236 907.
[[Written for the public debate "Actors and processes of the cooperation", which could feed the next Lome Convention (European Union/ACP countries relations). This debate, animated by the FPH, has been started by the Cooperation and Development Commission of the European Parliament and is supported by the European Commission.]
Interview with BURKEY, Stan/KIZITO, Paul