————— an overlooked element to sustainability —————
A major priority in development work is the prevention from over-dependence on outside sources. You might be familiar with the saying, “You can give a man a fish to eat, or you can teach him to fish.” The saying implies that if you give a man a fish, once he has eaten it, you will need to give him another fish and so on whenever he needs to eat. However, if you teach a man to fish he will always have food.
While the saying may be simple it is doubtfully an easy thing to accomplish. If our projects are nothing more than a “handout,” then the communities we work with will develop a nostalgia for life prior to their having a well. We have seen this many times. When the pump breaks people go back to drawing water from the contaminated sources they used before. They can seem indifferent to where they get their water.
ownership is empowerment
WWFA believes part of this is due to a lack of ownership and responsibility for the well. The leaders and elders of a village must be integrated into the decision-making process from the beginning and hold a balance of investment and responsibility in the project. It is WWFA’s responsibility to empower them to do so. However, ownership is not naturally accompanied by a well’s installation.
We learned that the key to empowerment begins with listening. Because we’ve listened we’ve learned the process village elders use in making large decisions. We’ve learned that every community has different motivations for having a well. We’ve learned that needs are in someways subjective. And by finding un-imposed and unmolested motivation within a community for having a well, empowering them to then unite and achieve their goal becomes much easier.
The result of this kind of empowerment is that these communities possess full ownership of the well. When someone misuses the well, the elders deal with them appropriately. If there is conflict, they have a reason to resolve it. It is after all their well.