Sunday, 11 May 2008 12:02 AM

Coordination of Rural Development

Following Governments focus on rural development as its overarching goal, and the announcement of ways by which this goal would be achieved, more funds, programes and schemes are earmarked for the rural areas now than it has at any other time in history. When the assistance of donors are added to this, the total resources avaiable for rural development in my view, reaches a precedent level. I will assume in the meantime that these resources are easily accessed by the rural people.

Limited to my knowledge, the following funding, services, program or scheme are intended or can be traced to assist the livelihood of the rural dwellers:

(1) Funding for rural livelihood project under the Ministry of Rural Development, (2) Cattle rehabilitation program, (3) Subsidization of shipping services, (4) RCDF Funding, (5) Micro project funding, (6) Ward Grants, (7) Loan guarantee scheme with the CBSI and commercial banks, (8) RAMSI infrastructure funding, (9) RAMSI support to rural services, (10) EU micro project funding, (11) Japanese grass root scheme, (12) Community Services Program by AUSAID, (13) Healthe sector funding by AUSAID and other donor, (14) The millinium Enterprise Challenge fund by AUSAID, (15) NZAID funding on basic education, (16) Other small project funding by Ausaid and Nzaid, (17) Other NGO assistance, (18) Other direct funding by ROC, (19) Other Central Government budget for rural areas in education, health, police, agriculture and other services, (20) Other Central Government budget for capital project in rural areas, (21) Other Provincial Government budgets for services and development in the rural areas, (22) ....... The list goes on.

If one goes further and designate actual budgetary amount to this list, he will be marvelled at the reasource availabile to rural development, in particular how substantial the amounts are. All stakeholders, the Government being at the center, who have had the concern to improve the lives of the rural poor have been pouring resources to this course in the past. As the Government puts rural development upfront more of these assistance are looking for rural development. This is a very encouraging outcome. Although development has its own diffculties, because of the substantial amount of resources available, it is not impossible to help people out of their hardship and live a better life.

This is a positive aspiration to have. But, has it occured to the Government and the development partners (in a practical way) that even with these substantial resources, they could be ineffective and fail to bring about the intended development results? I think the answer is yes. The Government and donors need to be more coordinated and assistance to rural areas better targeted. What seems to be the case now is that various Government programs are not done in a coordinated manner by mother Ministries. Further still donors seem to do their own thing, because of lack of trust on Government system and and lack of confidence on public officers.

Besides assessing project proposals, making funds available and monitoring of project implementation an important role the Ministry responsible for rural development should prioritise is coordination of assistance. This is critical to the success of rural development effort and at the same time a big responsibility. It may be effective to do this jointly with the Ministry of Planning and Aid Coordination.

Within the Government a simple coordination task for example would be to critically analyse the complimentary benefits various program could derive from each other in relation to resource saving, marketing, monitoring, better implementation timing and so on. Shipping subsidies for example could be be implemented and coordinated inline with other agricultural and social services project, cattle rehabiliation project and perhaps RCDF. When donor funded project are brought into the picture, more results and benefits can be achieved just by instituting better coordination.
I believe sufficient resources are now available for rural development. If you ask rural dwellers, however, quite the contrary will be their response.

I have posed a question on this line and the answers I recieved were either of the following: "mifala barava no lukim any government help," "honorable and olketa supporter blong hem noa kakaem every selen", "fact finding mission kam oloway, but help lelebet nomoa", " every selen luk olsem consultants spendem long visits nomoa",......

The villagers are quite right as their condition of living remains unchanged or wosen in the last ten years. Where have we failed then? and what can we do better as more funds have been announced? I believe past mistake will continue to be repeated unless in addition to the good work already inplace, better coordination and targeting of assistance is done, simplification of process to access assistance is instituted, and expertese in formulating good business proposals is provided. Besides ensuring project/business viablility (e.g. in a cocoa project), this effort will add and complement the general feasibility of each program (e.g the ffectiveness of shipping subsidies) thus ensures rural development.

Small funding and projects in a dispursed Solomon Islands can be fragmanted, and their benfits can easily be diluted. It is therefore, time the Government and development partners come together in a more coordinated manner. Some level of coordination has been achieved at the national level, but more is required if we have to effective in reaching the difficult, remote and disadvantaged rural area.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Judas Gelu and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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