In Lesotho, microprojects are implemented with weakly organised beneficiaries groups who remain very passive
01 / 1999
1. Context and Challenges
Poverty alleviation in rural Lesotho is the main objectives of the unit. This assistance is not meant to directly help people but to help them to help themselves. This is a very big challenge to avoid to develop frustration because you have brought the people something that they cannot run, or manage or generate proper incomes from. Although Lesotho is rural, there is more and more urban poverty that expands very fast. Unfortunately nobody seems to focus on the needs of these urbanised or semi-urbanised populations.
2. The actors
Up to now, the actors were really more beneficiaries than real actors. Small groups from 5 districts of rural areas were the main target.
The unit finds difficulties to delegate any responsibility to local actors. They see a risk of nepotism because most of these organisations are donors oriented rather than the emanation of a grass-rooted challenges. They are also too weak and unable to properly account for received grants. Their 25% contribution in the budget of their project is already very problematic. Anyway, one can say that the approach contradicts itself since it wants to promote income generating activities but first need to"consume"25% of the budget. As it is something people cannot pay, it is said that they have to participate in kind, generally through work. Then during such periods, people have to drop their usual income generating activity... to please the donor who wants to give them an income generating activity. Moreover, other donors provide food for work. Although they are not more successful, it developped a dependent behaviour among the community regarding donors.
The MMU has no agreement with NGO umbrella organisation at the national level. It very often collaborates with international NGO’s in the fields on specific programmes.
3. The procedure
The unit receives project proposals or writes project proposals on behalf of identified actors. Once the project is approved and the budget released, the unit manages the funds. When contractors are needed to do works, it is done through bidding procedures un der the supervision of the unit.
However the appraisal and the evaluation of the project proposal is not properly done. Very few importance is given to training and marketing aspects.
These groups very often have no proper capacities. They rapidly wrote blue print group bye-laws to be able to qualify for receiving an aid. Members are not really concerned. There is a need to include training aspects in the project proposal especially in management and marketing aspects. For example, a bakery has been built. But are the people able to manage it? Eventually not. A women’s group has been given sowing machines. Is there a market for their items? Eventually not. Up to now, the unit has just been interested in spending as if it was the only valid indicator of success. Monitoring was out of the question. Changes should occur to allow an action and training process where local actors implement their own proposal and trained themselves through this action provided that the unit staff is able to monitor th ewhole process.
The procedure to be followed is very long since the unit is considered as a governmental body. Any of these rather small proposal has to be reviewed by an ad-hoc steering committee and then by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Central Planning before being forwarded to the EU delegation. There is not enough involvement of the delegation who only sits in steering committees.
4. Evaluation of the outputs
The unit does very little but it matters a lot because it is very closed to the people and they can see it. That makes the unit in a very difficult situation when politicians want the unit to do a project for them to obtain votes from the population.
However concrete micro-projects has not yet led towards local development. The unit itself is not properly run and there is a high need of internal organisational development. The fact that the unit was headed by an expatriate co-ordinator may have affected its organisation. Things were done in a very loosy way.
In the office close to the coordinator’s, half of the space is occupied with big boxes. Somebody decided to assist a guides’ group to run poney trekking activity. The group is not existing anymore. The saddles are here with no horse around.
The new Lesotho Coordinator of the unit seems to have radically different views from his European predecessor. Being himself a trainer and formely director of the vocational training department of the Ministry of Education in Lesotho, he wishes to include training as one of the components of any projects. However, he may be very isolated if he does not receive any support from the government and from the delegation. He also enlightens the contradition of such units headed by expatriates staff whose interest may be to realise short term objectives which they can be evaluated on rather than participate in a process where it is very difficult to understand and what role they exactly played.
Co-ordinator Microproject Management Unit- Ministry of Planning Economic Manpower Management - P.O. Box 0986 - Maseru West 105 Lesotho Tel: 266 - 311725 - Cellular: 266- 852711
[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 LEBAKAI, Jacob