In the past few weeks, Jeff Morgan and I visited Cote d’Ivoire to review the progress of the community development plans of the Sustainable Cocoa Initiative’s Vision for Change program. We were encouraged to see the first development plans validated by a local government lead committee, the Validation Committee.
The vision of the program is that communities, supported by ANADER (National Agency for Rural Development Support), come together to write development plans and organize themselves to manage and lead projects across a diverse range of areas, including education, health, economic development and the building of roads and other infrastructure. With increased incomes from more productive cocoa plants, communities will be well-placed to invest in those plans. At the same time, with the capital-intensive nature of many of the communities’ needs, it is critical to connect the communities with external government and private sector investment. It is therefore crucial that the government acknowledge and support the communities’ plans. The meeting we witnessed in Kragui showed us that the Validation Committee we have trained, made up of the local government authorities, and the communities we have supported, are working together in an effective manner to realize government approved and supported community development plans.
As an example of the importance of this validation, the government of Cote d’Ivoire has created norms for schooling that include numbers of classrooms according to village size, standard classroom sizes, specification of canteens, sports pitches and water and sanitation facilities. If communities construct schools that do not fall into these norms, if it is difficult for them to be recognized by government on the official “Carte Scolaire” (schooling map). This lack of recognition can leave schools without the support of government-salaried teachers. Our Vision for Change approach has focused intensely on facilitating the linkage between communities and local authorities -seeing this meeting and its success is encouraging for our approach.
What’s more, the presentation of the development plan for Kragui and the surrounding villages and hamlets of the “Terroir of Touadji II” was made by Madame Bomba, leader of the local women’s group. Empowerment of women is an integral aspect of the Vision for Change approach, and seeing the emergence of women leaders like Madame Bomba representing not only the women but all the members of multiple communities is also a huge encouragement.
I also want to offer congratulations to Georges Atta Kouassi Bredou, Community Development Manager at ICRAF, who is leading this work on the ground; to the ANADER teams involved; to the Validation Committee members; and of course, to Madame Bomba and all the members of the communities involved who are the real leaders of this journey.
I believe that “every day is a school day,” and a chance to learn. While on this last trip in Cote d’Ivoire, I certainly learned more about the local proverb: If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.