Saturday, December 27, 2008

Food-For-Work by WFP, My Personal Comments

The pond in the summer before we got there, renovation for the pond was requested by the villagers through the village monk who contacted our office. (you can barely see the monastery and village pagoda)
The villagers have to scoop out the muddy water for domestic use. (but not for drinking)

Old lady from the village has to take 2 hours to fill that bucket. That's the conditions that I was determined to fix.
Some work done already, dig out the silt and heap it on the embankment, also needed a civil engineer to help with something this big, the size of the embankment, the spillway etc..

The article that prompted me to write this;
YANGON, 26 December 2008 (IRIN) -
"The UN World Food Programme (WFP), in collaboration with its implementing partners, will soon begin an ambitious food-for-work programme for thousands of Cyclone Nargis survivors.
The programme aims to rehabilitate local assets and restore livelihoods in affected communities, and will target 40,000 participants and 200,000 beneficiaries in Myanmar’s badly affected Ayeyarwady Delta.
“Food-for-work activities can make a significant difference to food-insecure residents of the delta, and at the same time help households rebuild their individual and community assets,” Chris Kaye, WFP country director for Myanmar, told IRIN in Yangon, the former Burmese capital.
WFP is currently screening projects proposed by its partners, with expected project sites to be announced soon.
The programme is set to begin at the end of January and run till the end of April, with a focus on the construction, repair and maintenance of roads, and the construction of wells, dykes, dams, ponds and drainage ditches.
Reforestation, land clearance and irrigation projects will also be included. Individual projects will last 15-45 days."

Yes, news like that gnaws at my heart.
I was a Team Leader for World Vision (Myanmar), based in Yenanchaung Township, that township is 662 miles north from Yangon by way of the Pyay-Magway-Bagan highway. This distance took 14 hours to cover in a "express bus", and I have taken the trip dozens of times.
During my period of assignment there, I lead the World Vision, Yenanchaung Team to complete over 30 drinking and domestic-use water ponds, the largest had a water surface of 28 acres (the pictures), building 14 schools, and an assortment of activities such as fly proof latrines, hand pumped tube wells, rainwater collection tanks and so on.
The primary method of achieving these objectives were by means of the Food-for-Work programme.

I have implemented and observed many different rural development activities in the past, during my service with Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) projects, cash for work, seeds for work and etc.
All of these methods are extremely effective, but only under the strict oversight of a project leader and supervised by a team of trained team members. If you don't know what you are doing, better leave the village the way it is (they may be poor, but they all help each other, to the extent not seem in cities). This team has to be coordinated and guidance given for strict adherence to the project schedule and budgets.
Personally I endorse the FFW (Food-for-work in UN shorthand), for the following reasons;
  • The food that is received as wages, immediately and directly provides relief upon the food security stress the beneficiary household bears.
  • Excess food may be sold or barter for other condiments. This excess is determined by the spouse of the head of household, and a very comfortable safety margin is considered.
  • Normally the cash intended for the purchase of food may be used for further investment of paying of the school expenses of the children.
  • In many cases if cash is paid, it is collected by the head of household, and there lies a great chance that much of it not reach the household. Normally it is used to repay any debt or other less admirable activities such as a drink or gambling may be undertaken. Regardless of the purpose that the cash is used, a small percent of it reaches the household and most of the time the amount is too small to contribute to anything significant.
Again as I have mentioned this has to done under the oversight of a trained team and a experienced team leader.
The entire project must be reviewed completely in every aspect before implementation. All the food, tools(if needed), documentation, logistics must be ascertained well in advance and the entire team must know the backup plan- cold.

After the project was completed, 28 acres of water surface (this pic above), supplying 4,000 people of 6 villages with all-year round water. It used 56 tons of rice and provided short term employment for thousands of villagers.
What did I get? I got the satisfaction of getting a really big job completed, and the criticism of not following 100% the guidelines of WFP. We put a 18 person team of villagers to run the labor and work allocation, and they parceled it out to workers from 6 villages. Although there are guidelines that say that only the villagers from the immediate beneficiary community may be employed in the work, but to them they is no way on this earth that they can say no to a fellow villages living 2 miles away, a person they have known all their lives, and they know that he is in the same situation, maybe worse, then they are. They let him and his work at the site, with my blessing (they didn't need my blessing, but I wanted to encourage them, its supposed to be called empowerment or something of the sort), besides I needed that pond done and finished before the first rains. I adhered to the principle that if any community used the asset, then they could participate in its renovation. Well anyway, regardless of the conflicting concepts. I made sure the job got done. (eveybody knows me over there in the village, its nice to know that there is a couple of places in the world that you are welcome- anytime.)
99.997% to the target set.

If anyone need some advice considering the field implementation of Food-for-work activities, I would be more than glad to provide free consultation.

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