I am used to programs where things build up slowly, steadily, and sometimes laboriously to a climax. But attending a recent Global Water Initiative Regional Advocacy meeting in August, a much more nimble dynamic seemed to be afoot. A group of about 50 (?) participants from national- and intermediate-levels of government in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, research institutions, the media and NGOs came together in Morogoro, Tanzania to discuss the grave need for enhanced financial investments and political commitment to water for smallholder agriculture in East Africa. In a mere day and a half of meetings and with revisions to the draft text rather bravely facilitated in a plenary discussion, these individuals had penned their names, and thus affixed their commitments, to a joint charter urging for governments and other concerned stakeholders to take action.
Let me put things in context. This was the first time this particular group of people had come together. The meeting organizers had merely hoped for consensus around a draft charter text; it was participants that wanted to sign a finalized charter before leaving. An official from Uganda even requested that the word â€œgovernmentâ€ be added in a certain place to leave no ambiguity as to who needed to take action.
Having been involved from the NGO side with projects that aim to work closely with government, I tried to reflect (with the hopes of future replication) on what the ingredients of success were. Maybe it was the fact that GWI, an action-research project, has been designed to involve government early on, rather than carry on independently before sending forth some well-researched but ill-timed and uninformed requestsâ€”a shortcoming many programs are guilty of. Maybe it is that government, despite its reputation for bureaucracy and interminable deliberations, is comprised of many individuals who are eager to improve the lot of their constituents and are capable of swift action. Or maybe all were inspired to do bold things by the grandeur of the Uluguru Mountains overlooking the venue. Whatever the secret, I hope to see more of this catchy enthusiasm spread out from the various players that came together to change the face of water for smallholder agriculture in East Africa.
By Malaika Cheney-Coker
Learning and Influencing Advisor, CARE Water Team