Monday, January 10, 2011

Tribalism and conditionality

Over the past two MicroGrant meetings with a rural community in northern Rwanda, ‘tribal’ divisions have been ever present. Pygmies and non-pygmies have clashed in meetings; one women threatened to leave multiple times but then was reminded that leaving wouldn’t help anything; if she stayed, she could gain agricultural support. Many of the men brushed off her attitude saying she was caught with ‘tribalism’ and sick in the head. The first meeting was quite rowdy over the issue, however, in the second meeting, the community came together. The woman, who caused ruckus in the first meeting, voluntarily gave a summary of the situation at the commencement of the second meeting. She calmly stated that they had discussed pygmies and it was clear the community has to work together. Both groups were present at the meeting.
The MicroGrant is for a whole Umudungudu, (a Rwandan village).  The chosen problem is food insecurity and their primary proposal surrounds starting a group agriculture project while a secondary project focuses on home gardens. The MicroGrant will be implemented in two phases, the first implemented in time for the February planting season and using the group model and the second phase will be for home gardens. The second phase will be conditional on success of the first.
Since the MicroGrant is for the entire Umudungudu, which consists of around 150 households, the idea of groups did come up and the community will be divided. The community memebers debated three primary methods of grouping:
1. Pygmies and non-pygmies
2. One big group
3. Two groups divided by geographic region and ensured to be a mix of pygmies and non-pygmies
The third was peacefully voted on as the best resolution. During the next meeting they will develop their proposals and implementation plans.
The group was much more focused and dedicated to working together during the second meeting rather than during the first. Local government officials are keen on the MicroGrant opportunity and have expressed their sincere thanks for working with the Umudungudu and bringing the people together, rather than keeping them segregated. The relationship between Spark MicroGrants and the community is reminiscent of conditional aid to states, where states must perform and meet certain democratic standards to receive aid. Now we are seeing this on the ground level, and we are sure to learn a lot from the process. 

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