I am back at Ndabibi for the first time in around 3 months and attending the regular monthly meeting of the NDAMAMO Economic Empowerment Group. I have now known most of these thirteen members for about two years. I have seen several leave and others join, but they have been very stable and focused. One member recently resigned when elected as the local member of parliament , I learned just a few minutes ago that Bernard who is the president lost his wife last month. I am proud they have stayed together during the post election clashes even when there was killing in the ADP and many residents had to flee for their lives because of their birth tribe. The ADP had to close for over 3 months because of serious safety concerns for the staff and several staff have been permanently relocated because of their tribe.
They call me the father of their committee, not because I have provided any money, in fact far from it, I have only ever been a mentor and watered the hope that they already have. And so far, this small crumb, has been enough for real changes to take place.
Bernard is the president of the committee, he is a small farmer and trader and from what I can gather he does well buying and selling butchered cattle shins. Figure that. And now, Bernard is giving me a verbal report on the committees activities. He is frequently interrupted by other committee members when he overlooks some fact that someone thinks is important.
Bernard is telling me about the first Annual General Meeting of the committee. Apparently there was supposed to be someone there from World Vision Kenya to help them with the meeting but they didn’t come, so that committee was there on its own along with 130 of their 151 members. There are a lot more people who want to join Ndamamo as members, but the committee has frozen membership for now, as it scared of growing too quickly or not being able to meet community expectations for economic development initiatives. Members pay 50 shillings, around Aus $0.80 per month to belong and for many that is around a day’s pay so it is a significant commitment and provides accountability expectations on the committee much stronger than any NGO performance contract.
So, Bernard Continues “ Jock it was vary vary scary” and someone else echoes this, “Yes, vary vary scary” and says Bernard “They asked us very challenging questions” and the echo repeats “yes vary vary challenging” .
And gradually the story from last week’s AGM was told. The membership had come accusing the committee of receiving money from World Vision, and they were asking why should the committee be asking them for support when they could access funds from the very wealth World Vision office.
The committee rightly denied that they had received any money, they were able to explain that they had not benefited personally from an overnight exposure trip to visit another economic development committee, that World Vision had arranged for them, and that the World Vision Tent that the meeting was being held in, was just borrowed.
Well, it turned out that the Committee was successful in gaining the trust and support of their members, the constitution was ratified, it was agreed that free and fair elections would be held according to the constitution and the treasurer committed to keeping books of account in such a way that every income and expenditure was noted and could be viewed by any of the members.
As a result the committee now has a stable income of its own and has rented its own temporary office for 3000 of the 7500 shillings they receive from members each month, And, they have received an undertaking from the local authorities for a one hectare a grant of land, and the power company KenGen looks like giving them a further grant to build a small business center.
But the one thing the committee are now all very sure of,receiving any assistance from World Vision is a two edged sword and any thing that is given needs to be meticulously recorded and that without proper accounting and community participation, they will loose the support of their community along with the chance of a sustainable and independent future.
Jock Noble Kenya June 2008