Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Community Task Force

Everyone who's ever worked in development knows the importance of getting community buy-in. This is probably the single most difficult aspect of development and this difficulty has been compounded in Loopeng by the lack of any sense of community amongst residents.

As I've mentioned before, Loopeng is not one village but rather the combination of many plus a large resettlement. While the roadsign may say Loopeng, generally people don't identify with that name. Instead, they insist on retaining the historic, and more specific, name of their neighborhood. For example, when the attendance sheet passed around during an examination asks for their address, learners do not just put their house number and then Loopeng. No, they put Slough, or Mampestad, or Agrico or any number of places that aren't distinct villages.

The refusal of local people to adopt Loopeng as their "official" home is quite understandable when you consider that there is no chief in Loopeng. Instead, each "neighborhood" retains their own chief.

This has all come up recently because the school I work at has decided to prepare sports grounds. The school used to have this land available, but it was requisitioned by the municipality. In order to have it returned to us, the parents have formed task teams to petition each local chief who will in turn petition the higher-ups.

I have no doubt that these parental task force teams will get the job done and our land will eventually be returned to us, but the whole episode has been a very good lesson to me in how easily off-track projects can get when you don't understand or utilize the appropriate hierarchy. Sure, this is annoying and will probably drag on and on, but it's better to do it right the first time than fight over it forever.

I should note here that the only chief I am familiar with is the one in Slough, where I live and work. Should I have gone to meet the others? Yes. Hindsight is always 20/20.

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