Why this project in Sierra Leone shows the importance of community participation
Contrary to popular belief, alleviating poverty requires more than just teaching people skills or handing out materials. A key factor often overlooked in the international development field is community participation. When the community is engaged in the initiative you are trying to accomplish, the likelihood of long-term, sustainable impact rises.
Communities experiencing poverty know their needs best. Asking questions and listening helps ensure that all voices are heard. People are also more receptive to assistance when they feel understood. Without this step, development projects often fail because they are out of touch with the actual needs of the community.
An example of an organization doing community participation well is our newest collaborator OneVillage Partners (OVP). Together we are working to improve access to sanitation in the remote villages of Madina and Makka in Sierra Leone. The project will construct 68 latrines, which are toilet systems that do not require water to flush. These latrines and the addition of handwashing stations will ensure proper sanitation and reduce the spread of diseases in these communities.
OneVillage Partners makes it a priority to listen to the community’s concerns before starting a project. To do this, they have established community action groups who meet to decide on the top five priorities that need to be addressed in their villages. OVP then works alongside leaders to solve the issues. For our partnership with OneVillage, the community action groups decided they wanted to focus on improving sanitation.
In addition to listening to the community’s voice initially, there also needs to be community participation throughout the project. This means including community members in the planning, construction, and implementation.
Participation throughout the process passes on important skills. It also encourages buy-in from the community and ownership of the project. This empowers community members to continue the project, even when the organization leaves.
People living in Madina and Makka will work alongside OVP in the implementation of the sanitation project. As a result, local ownership will be more likely, which means people will participate in the use and maintenance of the new latrines and handwashing stations.
Lahai Amara, one of the beneficiaries of the project says, “to enhance project sustainability, communities should contribute.” He will be one of the local volunteers that will encourage and educate his community on the effectiveness of handwashing and using the new sanitation facilities.
OneVillage Partners notes the importance of their local leaders: “Together with toilet facilities and handwashing station construction, people like Lahai will be actively contributing to the improved wellbeing of the community of Makka.”
For each of ODW’s projects, we make sure that the communities where we work are brought into the process of planning and implementation. We believe that listening to people’s voices and involving the community is necessary in order to create sustainable impact.
You can support this sanitation project in Sierra Leone here.
Jessinia Ruff is an ODW Blog Contributor and student at Seattle Pacific University.
More stories of impact
In this guest post, Henna Cheema of African Initiatives, shares her experience meeting children and teachers taking part in an HIV education project in Tanzania.read more
The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is a reminder of the complexities and messiness of development, but don’t let that discourage you from engaging.read more
Eugene Cho and Jeremy Lin travel to Thailand to learn about the intersections of girls’ empowerment, poverty, human trafficking, and education.read more
The coast of Greece is one of the main entry points for refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Currently 62,000 refugees are stuck in Greece awaiting relocation or asylum. ODW board member Davis Goslin took a trip to the Greek coast to volunteer in refugee camps. In this eye opening account, Davis shares about his experience.read more
Climate change is currently at the forefront of many political and environmental debates in the West, but for many poorer regions, the effects of climate change are a daily reality.read more
At the Cooperative Middle School of San Pedro Petz, Guatemala, a group of eighth grade girls and their mothers participate in their first workshop of the year. The workshop teaches students and their parents about the Family Reading Time program, where the girls will bring books home and read to their families.read more