Analyzing the Dynamics in a Local Self-help Group’s Initiative to Improve Rural Livelihoods in Mbale District, Uganda

By Willy Ngaka, Rainbow Choi, Seyhan Arik and Heidi Garcia de Presno Sandvand.

Published by The Learner Collection

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In this paper, we discuss the forces that interact in a local self-help development initiative intended to promote sustainable management of natural resources for realizing a secure livelihoods in Mbale district. We use the experiences of Dubana Farmers Group, referred to thereafter, as Dubana to analyze how the different factors such as conditions necessary for membership, education and literacy levels, gender and culture; government agencies; and local and international NGOs influence access to options and resources needed for building sustainable rural livelihoods and how these in turn affect the expected benefits for the members. We assess the achievements the group has registered in the course of its interactions with the named factors and argue that low levels of education and literacy among the rural population greatly affect the benefits for the core poor and threaten to exclude them from an initiative that initially was meant to improve their livelihoods. We further argue that unless deliberate efforts are made to institute alternative measures to meet the needs of the core poor, majority of whom are non-literate, the conditions set up to join the group and the tendency to focus on those who already have something to start with, will instead favour people who have accessibility to other resources. This is likely to worsen the living conditions of the core poor, thereby alienating them further. In light of the fact that the majority of Dubana members are non-literate and can never get back to a formal system of education, the need to deliberately structure and incorporate adult literacy and non-formal educational activities into the various poverty reduction initiatives becomes inevitable.

Keywords: Core Poor, Exclusion, Initiative, Non-literate, Poverty Alienation, Resources, Rural Livelihoods, Self-help Group, Sustainability

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp.47-56. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.516MB).

Dr. Willy Ngaka

Doctoral Candidate, School of Adult Learning & Higher Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Willy Ngaka, lecturer at Makerere University, is currently completing his PhD at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He coordinates Project Management component of the MSc. (Development Studies) and MSc. (Natural Resources Management for Sustainable Agriculture), a collaborative Masters Programme between the Agricultural University of Norway and Makerere University. He is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, International Reading Association, and International Association for Community Development. His PhD proposal on “The Role of Literacy in Enhancing Capabilities for Participation in Uganda’s Plan for Modernization of Agriculture: Exploring the Experiences of Rural Subsistence Farmers in Manibe Sub County” won the prestigious Elva Night Research Award for the year 2006, making him the first Ugandan and the 4th African Scholar to win it in the last 25 years. He is interested in exploring the linkage between literacy and issues of sustainable rural development. He peer reviews for International Journal of Learning and International Journal of interdisciplinary social sciences. Articles he has authored include: ‘The Contribution of Literacy Activities to Natural Resources Management’, ‘Equity, Participation and Opportunity: A Critical Look at the 1.5 Points Female Access Scheme of Makerere University in Uganda’, and ‘Cooperative Learning in a Universal Primary Education System’.

Ms. Rainbow Choi

Graduate student, Development Studies, United Nations-mandated University for Peace, Costa Rica

Rainbow Choi is a graduate student at the United Nations-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica, where she is pursuing an MA in Peace Education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Global Resource Systems at the University of British Columbia, specializing in International Development in Africa. She has taken graduate studies in Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and at Makerere University in Uganda. Her intellectual interests include conflict resolution and peace building in particular with respect to development discourse and the capacity to create cultures of peace through education.

Mr. Seyhan Arik

Graduate student, Nor-Agric / Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB), -Oslo, Norway

Seyhan Arik is currently completing his masters at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. His research focuses on Education, Conflict and Development in Palestine.

Ms Heidi Garcia de Presno Sandvand

Graduate student, Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB), -, Norway

Heidi Sandvand holds Bachelors Degree in development Studies of University of Oslo and is now completing her masters in development studies from the Norwegian university of life sciences

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