in CommunityDevelopment Mbeere

Martin Walsh
Schoolof African andAsian Studies Universiw of Sussex


draft working paper project prepared the ODA ESCOR-funded for Linkages in Rural Livelihood Systems Fann/1,{on-farm and Lower Embq Kenya,19721 to 1992-3 (Research R4816) Scheme

Community Development Mbeere in

1 The Rootsof Community Development 1.1 A Brief History of Community Development 1.2 Community Development Kenya in 1,2.1 Community Development the ColonialPeriod in 1.2.2 Harambeeand Community Development 2 Community Devclopment Mbeere in 2.1 The ChangingRole of the State? 2.1.1 TechnicalInterventionsand Aid Projects 2.1.2 The Institutionalisationof Community Development The District Focusfor Rural Development PoliticalAsendas The Emperor'sNew Clothes 2.2 Grassroots Initiatives 2.2.1 Womcn'sGroups 2.2.2 Rotating Savings and Credit Associations 2.2.3 Schools and Churches 2.3 The Roleof NGOs 3 Conclusions Bibliography

Community Development Mbeere in

I The Rootsof Community Developmcnt

In the pastdecade twin concepts communitydevelopment local participationin and the of the planningprocess havebecomeessential components state-(donor recipient)of and plansandproposals sub-Saharan in Africa. This is evident,for sponsored development in for example, recent(1992) proposals the provisionofBritish aid to strengthen planningandimplementation development capacityin Embu,Meru andTharaka-Nithi Development Districts. The termsof reference drawnup by the British Overseas Administration(ODA) for the consultancy prepare to theseproposals specified that they "...will be made the contextofa process-project participatory planning a key in with as whilea wholeannex ofthe resulting reportwasdevoted the subject to of objective", (ODI 1992). communitydevelopment

1.1 A Brief Ilistory of Community Development

This ernphasis communitydevelopment aswe shallsee,equallyprominentin the is, on novelty, strategydrawnup by the Kenyangovemment.Despiteits apparent development world war, in Kenya it hasa long pedigree datingbackto the yearsfollowing the second as in world. The historyof communitydevelopment a aswell as elsewhere the developing policy providesimportantinsightsinto currentpracticeand suggests a development practitioners would do well to take numberoflessonswhich contemporary development

in for of note of It alsosetsthe scene an examination communitydevelopment Mbeere, its effectiveness dateandthe potentialfor the future. to

management, approach naturalresource to In a recentreviewof the community-based in has that communitydevelopment general evolvedfrom the Hassett(1994: 7) argues . mergingof two distincttraditionsof rural development The first of theseis the tradition (NGOs) and pursued non-government organisations development by of "grassroots" is throughoutAfric4 Asia andLatin America. The second the tradition of state churches (includingthe involving "penetration" stateagencies by management ofrural development, ministriesanddepartments) of apparatus representatives govemment and administrative nationalDolicies. in into rural areas order to imolement

was approach with statemanagement the An early attemptto mergethe grassroots in state Programme lndia"initiatedby the newly-independent in CommunityDevelopment up the early 1950s. As Hassettremarks,despiteits populistrhetoricthis ended mainlyas in of a "top-down" programme agriculturalextension which the views of ordinaryfarmers "communitydevelopment" initiatives (1994: 8). Nonetheless were not well represented countriesaroundthis time. The emphasis were startedin manycolonialandindependent and wasvery muchon extension training,particularlyin agriculture,though often with the evenlesseffectthan in the Indiancase. In the 1960s communitydevelopment projectasa vehiclefor overseas and aid gaveway to the development approach planningindustry. "Whereas", Hassettwrites, investment, the rise of the developrnent and "'communitydevelopment' beenbased a moral critiqueofthe socialand had on planningtreatedpovertyasa technical institutionalbases rural poverty,economic of problem,which couldbe solvedby the application scientifictechniques.The of plansofthe 1960s were almostuniversallystronglycentralised and 1970s development

people's needs their behalf' on to andrelied on 'experts', often expatriates, determine (1994: 8).

in Meanwhile,an altemativetradition wasbeingdeveloped the NGO sector,throughthe communitywork of radicalactMstsin Latin America. This tradition wastheorisedand the widelypopularised thewritingsofPauloFreire(1972). Duringthe 1970s Freirean in had and upon "conscientisation" "empowerment", a significant thought,with its stress impactuponthe practiceof NGOs, especially thoseworking in Asia, andsawthe povertyandits corollaries. of emergence manylocal NGOs with a concemto eliminate or communities Many NGOs beganto uselocal staf andfieldworkersto encourage activities, groupsofthe rural poor to start their own smallenterprises development and so experience capacities that they would not be and andto developtheir own management permanently on dependent extemalaid.

markedlywith the failure of initiativescontrasted The quiet success ofthese "grassroots" projects. As Hassettnotes(1994. 9and manylarge-scale state-sponsored donor-funded questioned designandphilosophy behind practitioners the increasingly l0), development solutionsto on suchprojects. Theywere criticisedfor their over-emphasis technological for of disregard the development problems (the quick "technical fix") andcorresponding planners with by for humanresources; the way in whichthey wereplanned, professional with the people little knowledgeof local conditionsandwith a minimumof consultation (includingthe "beneficiaries") who werelikely to be mostdirectly affected;andfor the (their rather than"process" inflexibility oftheir implernentation useofa "blueprint" this approach).In the courseofthe 1980s led to a growing intereston the part of state in of (bothdonors recipients aid)in the social of dimensions development, and agencies planningas development, in participatoryandprocess and institutionalandorganisational interestin community to development:in other words to a renewed a means sustainable

yearsby the NGOs. This, "the returnto in development, developed intervening as (Shepherd 1994:10),has,in the termsof 1992,citedin Hassett development" community and of development the ofthe traditions grassroots Hassett's analysis, completed merger statemanagement.

in is accurate While this accountofthe historyof communitydevelopment reasonably of outline,it doesencodea significantbias. It is written from the perspective current orthodoxy,which offersunqualifiedsupportfor the integrationof a participatory, plansandprogrammes.It is perspective developnrent into communitydevelopment ofthe possible, the however,to take a more cynicalview, andremember lessons in the Programme India. In this andother cases mergerof the CommunityDevelopment as identifiedby Hassettmight be betterdescribed the two traditionsof development by actionandrepresentation) the other (the state),where appropriation ofone (grassroots but the stateadoptedthe rhetoric of popularparticipation continuedto manage ofthe history of fashion. An examination in development traditionalauthoritarian position,and communityparticipationin Kenyaprovidessomesupportfor this sceptical and for development the way in which it suggests the cunent enthusiasm comrnunity that is construed put into practiceshouldbe subjectto more critical scrutinythan it usually and is.

in 1.2 Community Development Kenya

in 1.2.1 Community Development the ColonialPeriod

as Communitydevelopment a policy was originallyintroducedinto Kenyaby the British in colonialadministration.It madeits first appearance a documentsentto all the colonies

referredto by his in November1948by the British ColonialSecretary subsequently and name,asthe "CreechJonescircular". The introductionofthis new policy - alsoreferred a of to at timesas'mass education' 'social and development'representedreinterpretation ratherthan staticpolicy (shades ofblueprint and colonialindirect rule asa d1'namic process!) in responding change the demand development the colonies.It was for to and locatedwithin the overall statedobjectiveof guidingcoloniesto eventual"selfgovernment".

According Hill (1991:23), from whomthis account drawn,theBritishgovernment is to had a very definitesetof political objectives mind: "The CommunityDevelopment in policy wasdesigned part to meetcriticismof colonialrule by liberal lobbiesin the in in colonialcentre,but without putting colonialinterests jeopardy;in part it was also intended defuse to oppositionby nationalistgroupsin the colonieswhich were callingfor political independence." This is a far cry from the "moralcritique ofthe socialand institutionalbases rural poverty" referredto by Hassett,andit is temptingto seesimilar of at manifestations ofthe policy. Certainlycommunity agendas work in conternporary has intimatelylinkedin somecontextswith the post-ColdWar development become beingtouted by the westempowers concepts of"good governance" "democratisation" and with their new found political morality andfoistedupontheir former alliesin the world. developing

not The Kenyangovemment alsohasits political agendas, leastofwhich arethe needto defusepolitical opposition. It satisrylocal aspirations and,like its colonialpredecessor, with the wishesof its alsohasan interestin formulatingpolicieswhich areconsonant helpsto achi€ve donors,andaremore likely to attracttheir aid. Communitydevelopment of : all of theseobjectives.But herewe arejumping ahead our argument let us return to discussion ofthe colonialoriginsof communitydevelopment.

policy was slow andundramatic, The implernentation the new communitydevelopment of in by andhindered manyareas the outbreakofthe Mau Mau uprisingandthe declaration was ofa StateofEmergencyin 1952. At first communitydevelopment addedto the tasks District of of District Officers: later on it became responsibility newly-appointed the Officers. In somedistrictsAfricanssubsequently took over CommunityDevelopment thesepositionsfrom British colonialofEcers. They did so asAssistantAdministrative paid by Officers,the most seniorpost to which Africanswere admitted,their salaries District Councilsratherthan centralsovernment.

Theseofficersput the new policy into practicein a numberofways. This includedthe women's ex-servicemen's associations sports and oflocation Councils, clubs, organisation upon'self-helpprojects' Accordingto activities. Most importantwasthe new emphasis labourundera new name: Hill, however,theseappear havebeenlargelycommunal to "They were unpaid,organized chiefs,approved contributedto by by and sometimes District or Local Councils. The work centredon buildingprimaryschools,earthdams (water reservoirs)andwater catchments, local roads,and soil maintaining extending or conservation work. Several ofthe projectswere probablyinefficientin their useof lack of co-ordinationanddeficiencies oftechnical manpowerowing to poor organization, (1991:26). As a resulttheycontinued facecriticism from localactMstsand to support" nationalistpoliticians. As Hill remarks,"The reality of muchcommunity on development.. far from the notion of self-helpasbeingbased voluntarism,popular .was philosophyin the participationandlocal decision-making. CommunityDevelopment activity appeared allowunderthis rubricanydevelopment to colonial world ofthe 1950s to invoMng the communityasa whole which wasjudgedby the authorities be to its (1991:26-27). benefit"

in communitydevelopment the late colonial between It is not difficult to draw parallels upon real are Someof theseparallels based period andits currentmanifestations. in continuitiesof policy andpractice,othersreflectbroadsimilarities intentionsand initiativesin Kitui District and outlook. Hill's accouatof colonialcommunitydevelopment from this point of which areinteresting pointsto a numberoflocal experiments elsewhere in view. OneDistrict Commissioner Kitui formeda District DwelopmentTeamof strategy- an earlyattemptat a heads establish district development to department integated local planning. Theteamadopteda planfor eachlocationto build an and schoolanda dispensary, seta targetoffifty damsa yearto be built in the elementary input ofcompulsorylabourandwas met with district. This plan entaileda considerable were from the KenyaAfrican Union that the work be paid Thesedemands demands time ignoredandthe work went on until the targetswere largelyachieved.At the same on themselves the fact that suchprojects were ableto congfatulate the colonialagthorities busyandleft themwith little time to indulgein politics (Hill I 991: 27kept their subjects 28).

of success someprojects,it was evidentthat their negativeimpact Despitethe apparent a efforts demanded more and ofthe administration its development upon local perceptions approach.Oneearlypointer in this directionwasprovidedby research sensitive employed in undertaken 1949in SouthNyanzaDistrict by Philip Mayer, an anthropologist that report(1951),Mayerrecommended In administration. hispublished bythe colonial and muchvillageimprovement, techniques, or insteadof compulsion evendemonstration by could be undertaken utilisingtraditionalwork agriculturalmodernisation, especially project for District was chosen an experimental party institutions. In 1953Machakos for alongthe lineswhichMayer had suggested SouthNyanza. This project conducted Officer, JohnMalinda,andinvolvedusing by washeaded an African Administrative od traditionalKambawork parties,the neighbourho myetlrya(singtlu muethya),as lhe

groups the objectbeingto get roundhatredofthe ofnew community development basis ofthe newmyethya labour system.Local electedcommittees existingforced communal the themandensure to and on took decisions whatprojects undertake how to undertake s of compliance groupmembers.The Machako myethyaundeftooka wide rangeoftasks (especially terracing),makingfarm measures soil includingbuilding schools, conservation (on land),constructing damsandother forms of water supply boundaries newlyregistered and (for localroadsandpaths, building use),clearing and andstorage livestock domestic projectbecame something a showpiece, of the new houses.In the late 1950s Machakos appears havebeensubsequently to andthe work party modelof communitydevelopment in by adopted districtofficials manyotherpartsof Kenya(Hill 1991:31-35).

project served numberof purposes.Largepartsof a the As Hill argues, Machakos to by Machakos District were seriouslyeroded,andattempts the administration reduce livestockholdingsin the areahadfailedmiserably.Therewas somerisk that the Kamba that mightjoin the Mau Mau rebellioq andit wasrecognised their economicaspirations project providedan ideal would haveto be met in definiteways. TheMachakos and to opportunityto do so, andit owed muchof its success the fact that it was designed labour the headed a local Kambaofficial, who phrased projectasa reform of communal by Needless say,the new to and in the directionof local organisation decision-making. it did myethyasystem not meetwith universalapproval,and someareas was still for by labourandattacked nationalists this reasonQlill I 99I : with compulsory associated madeby the alongwith otherinnovations the 35-38). In spitethis criticism, myethya, were to providepotent in colonialadministration the nameof communitydevelopment, era. in for models sovemments the post-colonial

1.2.2 Harambeeand Community Development

the Althoughthis fact is not widely advertised, colonialpoliry andpracticeof community independence 1963. in for after formedthebasis manydevelopments Kenya's development and The ideaof communitydevelopment, the participationof all Katyans in that "Harambee" (derivedfrom a in was development, enshrined the new nationalsloganof into Englishas "Let's pull together!"). Since Swahiliwork-gangcry andusuallytranslated Harambee been has the first Kenyatta's formaluseofthe termin 1963, @resident-to-be) rallying-cryat political andother motto on the Kenyannationalcrestandthe customary and was of ralliesandmeetings.The centralmessage Harambee self-reliance, this was in most concretely the rural self-helpmovement.As a political sloganandthe expressed was catchwordfor an ideology,Harambee explicitly meantto contrastwith colonialstate labour. In practice,however,it meant in control andits manifestation forced communal tnwethyasystem kinds of interventio4 the adapted of the continuation manyofthe same by writ andits analogues largeandlegitimised the new nationalist(andtherefore ideology. The rhetoricwas - and still is - different,but the methodsremain unopposable) remarkably similar,if muchmorerefined.

and wasco-ordinated monitoredby a new Ministry of The self-helpmovement of In and CommunityDevelopment SocialServices. the first two decades independence muchmorethan its colonialprogenitorscould everhaveimagined. this achieved schools(known asTlarambee of Thousands primaryschoolsandhundreds secondary of of contributions moneyandlabourfrom local werebuilt with substantial Schools') with were constructed communities.Likewisemanyother kinds of local amenity roads,improvedwater and Harambee contributions labour: healthfacilities,unmetalled in rural development and supplies cattledipsto namebut a few. For a time in the 1970s muchas 'Ujamaa" and movement, with Kenyaseemed be synonymous the Harambee to l0

in of definedthe policy andpractices development Nyerere'sTanzania.It rural socialism for hasbeenestimated self-helpprojectsaccounted roughly30% of all rural capital that expenditures formation,and,between1967and 1973,11.4yoof nationaldevelopment however, was (Gachuki1982; contribution ofthe state, Holmquist1982).Theeconomic budget minimal:in 1979,for example, only onepercentofKenya'scapitaldevelopment projects@arkanet dl. 1979,cited, togetherwith the above was devotedto self-help in el references, McCormack al. 1986:47).

thattheHarambee by thereweresigns Despite earlysuccesses, the mid-1980s its as movement wasrunningout of steam. "Harambee!" a nationalsloganhadbeendiluted "footstepsl"), reference his a to Moi's addition "Nyayol"(meaning of by President in whomhe succeeded 1978. The ofKenyatta" intention follow in the footsteps to had the Ministry of CommunityDevelopment SocialServices long sincebecome and flor with responsibility communitydevelopment Ministry of Cultureand SocialServices, of within it, the Department SocialServices.The term falling to one department Community itself was dropped,andthe Department's communitydevelopment working at locationallevel andstill paidby their local district Development Assistants, had the Assistants.Harambee become common SocialDevelopment councils,became event,for whateverpurpose,andthe financial namefor any collectivefund-raising werewidely resented, in exactions chiefsandtheir assistants the nameof Harambee of in labourhadbeenresented the colonialperiod. Now, however, muchascommunal of systern resentment not directedat foreign ovemrle,but at the widespread was endemic within local administration.To manypeople comrption which hadbecome had a by Hararnbee become tax imposed the rich uponthe poor, a far cry from its original purpose.


gtoup movement, progr,unme in the women's was The last major resort of the self-help Bureau and of co-ordinated the Department SocialServices monitoredby the Women's by at within the ministry. This will be discussed lengthbelow. Otherwise,asBarkanet al. for (1979:23')noted,self-helpwas skewed towardsthe provisionof socialservices the groups,little emphasis placed was members rural communities.Exceptamongwomen's of rural productioq andthe earlier(colonial)link betweenself-helpand upon increasing demise self-helpand of was agriculturaldevelopment largelylost. The apparent however,by policy was matched, as communitydevelopment an aspectof development projectswhich requiredminimumlocal participationand, the rise of larger,donor-assisted with the local beneficiaries if in manycases, alsoinvolveda minimumof consultation were meantto be local people. From the point ofview of some indeedthe beneficiaries politiciansandofEcialsthis shift certainlypaidbetter: therewas now a lot more moneyto which had be madeout oflarge aid projects- the largerthe better- than local communities in and alreadybeenmilkeddry by local officials. Investment experimentation community whoseactivitieswill initiativeswere left largelyto the NGOs andchurches, development below. alsobe examined

(1994, identified Hassett by in corresponds, part,to the transition Thischange emphasis of to approach the more in and discussed section1.I above)from a communitydevelopment aid by of explicit management development the statethroughlarge-scale projects. The itselfhas alwaysbeen in difference, Kenyaat least,is that communitydevelopment from a variety of motives,both managed the stateasa policy andpracticewhich stems by economicandpolitical. and transparent opaque,


in 2 Community Development Mbeere

in of The rest ofthis paperis devotedto an examination communitydevelopment Mbeere, grassroots and initiatives, the role ofNGOs. andlooksin detailat the role ofthe state,

2.1 The ChangingRole of the State?

in in development Mbeere,aselsewhere independent Despitethe rhetoric of Harambee, where ofthe state,assisted, as Kenya,haslargelybeenconstrued the responsibility role, and ofthe state's the examines nature donors.This section necessary, external by askswhetheror not this role is really changing in the directionof increasing planning- asset out in in and decentralisation communityparticipation development international donors,the British ODA by policy documents prescribed Kenya's and outlined generalhistoryof communitydevelopment, included. Accordingto Hassett's are approaches now mergingwith the hitherto above(section1.1),community-based and tradition of statemanagement intervention,offeringnew promisefor dominant dwelopment. Is this the casein Kenya"andin Mbeerein and equitable sustainable particular?

2.1.1 TechnicalIntelTentionsand Aid Projects

of The primary role of the public sectorin the development Mbeereover the pasttwo has decades beendirective. The government,acting mainly through its different ministrieS.hasfosterednumefoustechnicalinterventions,someof them in the form of with the help of external projects sponsored internationaldonorsand implemented by 13

to and organisations expatriatestaff. Someof theseprojects, especiallythosedesigned impact improve the basic infrastructureand relatedservices,havehad a tremendous upon Mbeere. Almost every aspectof life hasbeenaffectedby the constructionof clinics,andthe provisionof electricity,telephone roads,bridges,dams,schools, services,and improvedwater supplies- to mentionjust someof the more obvious 'development', in Mbeereas elsewhere, becomelargely has developments.Indeed with suchinterventions. synonymous

(1988'.270-278,297-299)provide an overview of state-directed Riley and Brokensha and with our own observations more interventionsin Mbeerewhich is consistent to generalcritiquesof this "top-down" approach development. Despitethe obvious in chenges qudrty of life and somepositive impactsupon the local economy,the often benefrtshavebeenunevenlyspreadacrossMbeere(with greateradvantages accruing,as might be expected,to the higher potentialzones),nxrny interventionshave made investments failed or had negativeimpacts,and the overall return to development by the govemmentand its donorshasbeenpoor (imagining that sucha balancesheet could be drawn up, which of courseit cannot,exceptin notional terms)'

fashion, following the policies and Many interventionshavebe€nmadein piecemeal working in Mbeere, including the progilmmes of the different ministriesand agencies for responsible agriculture, livestock, public works, water ministries and departments compositionof these health, and education(the namesand departmental development, to over the years, usually in response on ministrieshavechanged numerousoccasions political manoeuvres reshuffles). Other interventionshavebeenco-ordinated,to a and great€ror lesserdegree,as part of wider programmes. One of the most important of hogramme (SRDP). In 1970Mbeerewas thesewas the SpecialRural Development chosenas one of six administrativedivisions in Kenyato take paft in the SRDP' a t4

progrirmmewhich was to plry an important role in nation-wideintegrateddevelopment promoting the institutionalisationof the state-managed, donor-funded,model of observationthat the SRDP in development Kenya (compareRiley and Brokensha's in particular had "unintentionallyinduceda strongsense dependency, relianceon of of government provide everything" (1988: 146). The SRDP in Mbeerewas financed to agency,which spentsomeKshs by NORAD, the Norwegiangovemmentdevelopment 17 million in the period from 1970,when the programmewas inaugurated,through to 1977. NORAD alsoprovided technicalassistance different kinds as part of the of programme.

The main aims of the SRDP were to increase agriculturalouput, reducerural unemployment,improve agriculnral extensionand social services,encourage decentralisation divisional level, and to test the replicability of this programme. As at RJleyand Brokensha observe,theseaims were not met, and five main constraintswere of identified: lack of credit, shortage farm inputs, difficulties of subsequently of communication,shortage waGr, and limited extensionfacilities. To theseRiley and to the Brokensha another,more general,constraint: failure adequately understand add nG271). existing systemof agriculture(1988:-

in The SRDP's main emphasis agriculturewas on increasingthe productionof selected cashcrops: cotton, Mexican 142beans,tobacco,castor,and, as a famine reserve, was given to the various consideration Katumanimaize. However, insufFrcient constraintsreferred to above,and aboveall to existing productionpracticesand patterns level. Where someof thesecrops have since of resourceallocationat the household of beenmore widely adopted,it haslargely beenbecause the removal of someof these of constraintsand the development reliable markets(for exampleby B.A.T., British American Tobacco).ratherthan as a direct result of the SRDPand its extensionefforts. l5

Otherwiseagricultural productionin Mbeere,and especiallyin the lower and more arid threat of zones,is gearedmore to coping with this environmentand the ever-present droughtthan to producingfor the market. The outcomeof farmers' risk-aversion is strategies considerable diversity of crop choice, and not the tendencytowardsthe monocultureof cashcropsfound in more high potentialareas.

of O,theraspects the SRDPalso met with limited success.One of thesewas the atempt to improve water suppliesby meansof a complexnetwork of plpes. In Riley and judgement 'this project hasneverworked properly. Water is often not Brokensha's by because PVC...pipes havebeenbroken, or damaged the availableat the stand-pipes for road machinery,or there is no dieselor no spares the pump, or the intake on the can Ena river is silted or broken" (1988: 299). Similar assessments be madeof other in SRDPinterventions,as well astlose undertaken the framework of other and more projects. This doesnot meanthat development,understood in recentdevelopment to terms of improvedtechnologyand infrastrucfure,and greateraccess services,hasnot takenplace. As indicatedat the start of this sectionit very clearly has. One of the of most successfrrl components the SRDPwas the constructionof new roadsand improvementof existing ones,leaving Mbeerewith an unusuallygood network of mainly all-weatherroads. The nation-wideRural AccessRoadsProgrammeof the to access 1980ssawthe constructionof 210 km of roadsand significantly increased marketsin remoteareasof Mbeere, while the constructionof a tarmacroad running from Kiamberethrough Kamburuand Kiritiri to Embu in the mid-1980shashad a impact on the economyof the whole of southernMbeereand (what is considerable now) GachokaDivision (this road being a spin-off from the constructionof Kiambere Dam, which also displacedmany peopleand provided employmentfor othersin Mbeere).


Other wide-ranginginterventionshavehad similarly mixed rezultsin Mbeere. These include the government'sprogrammeof land reform and registrationof individual freehold title, whosefar reachingeffectswe havedescribedelsewhere,and the various interventionsmadeby the British/ODA-fundedEMI ASAL Programme,which will be of a discussed below. It would not be difficult to generate catalogue project successes and failures, though we do not intend to do so here. It is perhapsmore important to considerthe wider implicationsof the top-down, project-oriented,approachto practice development. This approachhasbecomeso well integratedinto development it that it is often to difficult to assess from any other framework than the one which its own practicesand practitionersprovide. While it is tempting to view development by solely in terms of projectsand interventions,evaluated their technical, economicand invites us to take a upon communitydevelopment social impacts,the current emphasis wider perspective;wider, even, than the normal definition of communitydevelopment and participationwould allow. We attemptto do this in the sectionswhich follow.

2.1,2 T\e Institutionalisation of Communit5rDevelopment

In the first part of this paper(section1.2 above)we saw how communitydevelopment in Kenya has, throughoutits history, beensubjectto definition and manipulationby the for enthusiasm community state. This history is rarely mentionedin the contemporary upon local development. According to current orthodoxy, this new emphasis process evolved in direct response its former to participation in the development has failure of projectswhich havenot sufficiently involved the absence the widespread and communitiesthey affect. However, knowledgeof the pasthistory of community and the continuity of this with the present,might lead us to questionthe development, orthodox account.
1'f The District Focusfor Rural Development

(in As noted 2.1.1), ofthe aims in was above section one ofthe SRDP the 1970s to planning.Thisaspect the SRDP promote decentralisation integrated and of administrative failed, primarilybecause of in ofthe lack of commitment senioradministrators the sectoral (ODI 1992: E.l). In the early1980s, ministries decentralised to decision-making radicalstrategydesigned however,the government embarked upon a new andapparently from the to shift the responsibility planningandimplementing for rural development headquarters ministries the districts.Thisis the policyknownasthe District Focus of to "BlueBook") in whichit (the for RuralDevelopment', title of the document so-called the (first issued 1982andrevised 1987).Thenewpolicybecame in is codified in officially in ooerational 1983.

TheDistrictFocus focuses uponthe creation operation hierarchy and ofa ofDevelopment proposals which is supposed transmitdevelopment upwardsfrom subCommittees to planningbeginsat the local level locationalto district level. In theory,then,development (LDCsandSLDCs). As in theLocational SubJocational Development Committees and stipulated the DistrictFocustslueBook' (Republic Kenya1987)eachSLDCis to be in of Chief andits members to includethe local KANU chairman, are chairedby the Assistant councillors, departmental officers and headmasters primary schoolsin the subof location. The core compositionof the LDC is basicallythe same,exceptat a higher are level. It is chairedby the Chief of the location and its members to include the relevantAssistantChiefs, the KANU locationalchairman,councillors, departmental officers, local representatives parastatals headmasters secondary of and of schoolsin the area. Both LDCs and SLDCs are also to include cooptedlocal leadersand groups. The'Blue Book'further representatives cooperatives, of NGOsandself-help


represented the LDCs and in mustbe adequately states that women's organisations SLDCS.

proposalsare, in theory, passed from the SLDCs and LDCs and vetted Development up Committees at eachstep, through the similarly constitutedDivisional Development (DvDCs) and on to the District Development Committee(DDC). The DDC is the most is important ofthe institutions throughwhichthe DistrictFocusstrategy applied.It is a largebody chairedby the District Commissioner, the District Development with Officer as Membersof its secretary, otherwisecomprisingall district heads department, and of (who are local authoritychairmen, DvDC chairmen Parliament, district KANU chairmen, parastatals, the invited of and the District Officers),representatives development-related representatives ofNGOs andself-helpgroups. The DDC meetsquarterlyandis assisted by by theDistrictExecutive Committee @EC), alsochaired the DistrictCommissioner, but limited in membership government to officials. The DEC in turn is servedby the District Planning Unit (DP[D, led by the Distria Development Officer andincludingthe District StatisticalOfficer andAssistant District Development Officers. Oneof the principal five-yearly DistrictDevelopment bodies to produce is tasksofthesedistrict-level Plans@DPs), linkedto annualbudgetsby an annually updatedDistrict Annex: this is ofthe DDP during the year to supposed provideboth a work planfor the implementation provisionrequired(for a more detailedaccountseeODI anddetailsofthe budgetary 1992:8.5-6).

This looks all very well on paper,but doesit work in practice?Althoughthe District focusedattentionon the districtsasplanningand Focusstrategyhadundoubtedly relativelylittle in the way of decentralising administrative units, it hasachieved planning. Gven the prevailingscarcityof public sectorresources, DDCs the development teamnotes, havealmostno firndsto disburse therefore,asthe ODI consultancy and 19

to districts "continuewith routinesof planning that areintended influenceline ministry that do districtprojects allocation offunds at districtlevel(butbarely so) andto prepare (1992:E 8). At the same timethe relationship of havevery little hopeof beingfunded" is uneasy: theirrepresentation both localauthorities NGOsto theDDCsremains and frequentlylimited andthey often seethe DDCs asattemptingto control themandthereby is mandates.This impression confirmedby the fact that subverttheir own, independent, by and the DDCs arealmostwholly managed the administration other seniorgovernment ofthe DECsandasa resultoftheir own composition. officials, boththrough influence the

flawed: "Despite for is As a mechanism participatoryplanning, DDC system seriously the planning, essence and the ofthe theBlueBook'sespousal ofparticipatory bottom-up is with decisionsbeingtransmitted to systemit describes for requests travel up the system, The modelis oneof centralisation control"(ODI 1992: and downwards... implicitplanning E8)

that Even if the systemdid work in the oppositedirection, tlere are no guarantees it a would meetthe participatoryideal. While the District Focusprescribes mechanism for communityparticipation, it doesnot ensurethat suchparticipationwill be a regular are and integral part of the planning process. LDC and SLDC members left free to decidehow and when and who is cooptedonto their committees. This leadsto to considerable variation in practice, ranging from adequate minimal community and women'sparticipationin the LDCs and SLDCs. To give but one examplefrom including the Assisant Chief, but Mbeere: in 1992Mbita SLDC had nine members noneof thesewere women, althoughsomeof the men did represent variety of a community interests. This SLDC only met irregularly at the requestof its chairman, for and then it was, asone memberdescribed,to draw up requests moneywhich were rarely granted.

As a result there is considerable dissatisfaction somelocal communitieswith the in existing system,which relies heavily upon the characterand actionsof individual chiefs in the absence any formal mechanism communityrepresentation involvement. of for or The revisededition of the District Focus 'Blue Book' (Republicof Kenya 1987) recognises the LDCs and SLDCs are not sufficiently active in all districts. It that ascribesthis to the fact that their personnelare not equippedwith basic skills in project planning, monitoring, and the preparationof detailedrninutesso that they can communicate effectively with the DvDCs and DDCs. The suggested remedyis appropriatetraining. However, in the absence funds and with their requests of generallymeetingno or only negativeresponses from above,it is unlikely that this would remedymuch(compare Walsh 1992:3). Political Agendas

The District Focusstrategyand its implementation,indeedthe development processas a whole, is bestunderstood its wider political context (seeBarkanand Chege1989). in Different actorsacting at different levels havedifferent, sometimes conflicting, political agendas, we will not attemptto describeall of thesehere. A few main points can, and however,be made.

So far we havereferred to the Kenyanstateas a monolithic entity, and implied that planning is virtually the solepreserveof the governmentand ministries in development Nairobi. The reality is somewhat more complicated. Although political power is wielded from the centre- by the President,his chief ministers,and other close associates the ethnic fragmentation Kenyaand the absence a strong and allof of pervasiveapparatus coercion(Kenyais not a military state,nor doesit rely heavily of 21

upon a secretpolice force) hasproduceda much finer political balance. The key actors in this balanceare regional power-brokers,operatingat district or wider level (as determined the ethnic compositionand alliancesin a particular region) to deliver by political supportand legitimacy (most obviously in the form of votes)to the cenfe. In return they are awardedpostsof varying importancein the government- hencethe burgeoningnumberof ministriesand parastatals recentyears- while they in turn are in (including other, intermediary,power-brokers)to expected their local supporters by projectsand interventionsin their home translatetheir influenceinto development regions.

This processis active tlroughout Kenya. It is evident, for example,in Meru District, where the seniorpolitician for many yearshasbeenknown nation-wideas "the King of Meru". It is also evidentin Embu District, wherepower haslikewise beenbrokered for many yearsby a singlepolitician, servingas a senior Minister in a succession of different ministriesuntil his retirementat the 1992election. He hasremained, however, district KANU chairman,while his son, althougha memberof anotherparty (the DemocraticParty, DP), has succeeded as a Memberof Parliament. His role him in bringing development different pars of Embu District, including Mbeere(where to his family originally camefrom), is legendary: particular interventionsbeing often linked to whicheverministry he happened be in chargeof at the time. Storiesof his to attempts,usually successfrrl, frustratethe development to initiatives of his rivals are projectsthereforebecomegifts in the handsof politicians, also legion. Development gifts to their supporters reward or return for their support. in

This systemprovidesthe District Focusstrategywith its political logic. From this point of view the decentralisation development planning, or at leastsomeaspects of of it, to the districts was not primarily intendedto foster communityparticipation and

makethe processmore efFrcient, was an attemptto rationalisethe systemin which but political power and development projectsare regularly tradedfor one another. It is not surprising, therefore,that the DDCs are the District Focus,that the lower levels in the chain of committees(the so-calledsub-DDCs)are largely ineffective, and community participationin the whole process empty promise. an

The District Focusstrategyalso hasother benefitsfor the government. The rhetoric of decenhalisation participationhasattractedthe attentionand approvalof Kenya's and donors, and to this extent madethem more willing to provide financial assistance and supportthan they might havedoneotherwise(especiallyin an era when the catchwords are good-governance, democratisation accountability). The ODA's funding of and consultancies draw up proposalsfor District Supportprogrammesin Isiolo to (separately) and Embu, Meru and Tharaka-NithiDistricts can be interpretedas one of the preliminary fruits of this. The District Focusalso providesthe governmentwith a meansof monitoring and to someextentcontrolling the development activities of NGos. All throughthe 1980sthe governmentexpressed increasingconcernabout the proliferation of NGOs and its lack of control over them, accusingsomeNGOs of possessing political objectivesin conflict with its own. This concernintensifiedduring the campaigl for a multi-party system- a campaignwhich directly involved a number of churchorganisations and generated numberof attemptsto regulateand monitor a the NGO community, for examplethroughthe introductionof strict registration requirements. The District Focussystemgives the govemmentan opporhrnityto monitor and channelthe activities of NGOs at district and local levels, though any attemptat exercisinggreatercontrol is ineviAbly underminedby the willingnessof local politicians and power-brokersto contracttheir own allianceswith NGOs.

ZJ The Emperor'sNew Clothes

Kenya'sbilateraldonorshavea very differentinterestin the District Focusstrategyandthe waysin which it is implemented.While awareof the fact that the system subjectto is political manipulation, donor agencies the tend to view this asa form ofunwarrantedand unwantedinterference which detractsfrom the properobjectives ofthe strategyand renders system efficient the less thanit couldbe. These objectives of course, are, those whicharestated theDistrictFocustslueBook' andotherpolicydocuments section in (see 2.1-2.1above), objectives whichechothe overtpurposes colonial of community policy- Justastherewasmoreto colonial development policythanwasgivenpublic expression, the modernagencies so carrytheir own political agendas, couchedin the rhetoricofthe "New World Order". Theirprincipal underlying objective arguably, is, to recreate Kenya(and other countrieslike it) in our own image,so that the development process be controlledandmarketsopened without the needfor continuedlargeand can up (to us) economically inefficientpay-offsto nationalpoliticiansandlocal power-brokers_

On this interpretation, then,the grandsubtextof development policy is a strugglebetween differentinterests, Kenyanversusintemational, a greatersliceofthe economiccake. for Thesupreme ironyofthis situation that both sides is should dress their struggle the in language communitydevelopment, of when,if it takesplaceat all, suchdevelopment no is morethana by-product ofthe widercontest.

Thisis not to saythat these the conscious are intentions all or evenmostofthe of individualactorsinvolved. As a description ofthe outcomeof individualactionsit does, however,providean alternative the orthodoxaccountwhich accepts to policy statements at theirfacevalue. According this account, to whichis particularly articulated the well in donor community,the currentfashionfor communitydevelopment local participation and

in the development process evolved response the widespread has in to failureof technically-oriented projectswhich havepaid relativelyattentionto the statedneeds aid andwishes ofthe people projects these affect, whether beneficiaries asthe subjects as or of other kinds of impact. This provides,for example, statedrationalefor recent the in changes the direction ofBritish aid (proposed well aspast)to Embuand as neighbouring districts.Therestofthis section devoted a discussion is to ofthis case, which affectsMbeeredirectly.

In 1982the British government, working throughODd began implement large to a projectin Embu,Meru.and IsioloDistrictswhichwasdesigned a pilot technical as approach naturalresource to development arid and semi-arid in landareas. the EMI ASAL Project. The projectconsisted five maincomponents of (includingsoil andwater conservation, smallstockbreeding tree planting)which requiredreportingto four and differentministriesin the Kenyangoveflrment.EMI wasmanaged expatriatestaff by working togetherwith Kenyancounterparts lastedthroughtill l99l . and

Despite judged,at leastby ODd to havingsome localised impacts, EMI wasgenerally havebeena failure. The termsofreferencedrawnup for a subsequent projectpreparation mission a wholeseries problems the reasons these: "Whilehighprioritywas list of and for givento achieving betterunderstanding ofthe socio-economic factorsin the ASAL areas, this waslargely neglected duringimplementation...At the beneficial best, impacton ASAL households modest...[the] was objective strengthening institutions of the responsible for planning,implementing facilitatingthe socialandeconomicdevelopment ASAL and of people wasnot realised... was by [poor coordination] exacerbated the failureto perceive the overallneeds offarmersandtheirproduction in systems an integrated (ODI manner..." 1992:L 1-2).


EMI was originallydesigned work from the provinciallevel downwardsand partly asa to resultof this failedto adapt the newlydecentralised to system:"Since EMI wasoriginally conceived, therehasbeena major shift in Govemment policy affectinglocal level development, enshrined theDistrictFocus RuralDevelopment in for Policy...and adopted in 1983. Thispolicyenvisages muchmorelocalparticipation the development in process with local communities beinglargelyresponsible their own development.It is intended for thatthe role ofthe Government should to facilitate process be the ofsocialandeconomic development creatingan enabling by environment whereconstraints development to are removedandopportunities created.EMI projectagreements are were not revisedto take properaccountofthis policy change for the creationofnational research nor institutions...which givenmandates directrelevance the Programme" were (ODI of to 1992:L.2\.

In linewith this critiqueEMI waswounddownin mid-1991.In late l99l a teamof consultants despatched IsioloDistrictto drawup, among was to otherthings,proposals for a newdistrictsupport programme there. In 1992a second teamwascommissioned to do the samefor Embu,Meru andthe newly-created Tharaka-NithiDistricts. The termsof reference this second for consultancy markeda definiteshift ofapproachconsistent with the stated objectives ofthe DistrictFocusstrategy:"Thestudywill design approaches to strengthen District and sub-Districtcapacities resource planningandmanagement in in EmbuandMeru. The aim will be to developreplicable modelswhich focus on increasing the efficiency ofuse ofthe resources for available economic social and in development the Districts. Proposals be madein the contextof a process-project will with participatory planningasa key objective. To promoteandencourage initiativesaimedat achieving the foregoingmodestcapitalaid maybe madeavailable.Particularattentionwill be givento meeting needs the ofthe poorest, special ofwomen,andthe conservation the role ofthe (ODI 1992:L l). naturalenvironment"

proposals Theresulting markaninteresting returnto the policies adopted theBritish by colonial administration morethan40 years ago,although fact is not made this explicit,and perhaps evenrecognised manyofthe consultants ODA personnel not by and involved (thereis, however,a real link, in that somesenioradvisors were onceemployed the by colonialadministration Kenya,andalsoretainedby the govemment in after independence in 1963). Alongwith various recommendations improving planning for process the at district level, particularattentionis paidto strengthening increasing involvement and the of thelocalauthorities theMunicipal, Town andCountyCouncils (CCs)- andespecially the CommunityDevelopment Departments within the latter. At present,andasa legacy period, CCsareresponsible palng the salaries Social from the colonial the for of Development (SDAs), but not for their management supervision, Assistants and which are the tasksof the Department SocialServices the Ministry of Cultureand Social of in Services. is proposed shiftall of these It to responsibilities the Community to Development Departments an experimental period,aswell asmakingother provisions for (suchasa grantto the CCsfor the purchase ofbicycles motorcycles) improve and to the efficiency oftheir work. It is alsoproposed givea grantto the CCsto enable to themto groupstkough a SmallProjectsFund. assistwomen'sand self-help

Th€ SDASare normally recruitedfrom the communitiesin which they work- They are expectedto work closely with local leadersin the identification, planning, monitoring projectsfrom the sub-locational to divisional levels. and evaluationof development up They are also expected act as secretaries the different local development to to committeesand sub-committees (specificallyWomen's and Social DevelopmentSubcommittees)and one of their major tasksin this contextis to ensurethe coordinationof development activities to avoid duplication. However, SDAs rarely havethe resources or the necessary fraining to carry out all of theseactivities effectively. The ODI report thereforealsoproposedthat they shouldbe given training appropriateto their roles and

new responsibilities,including assistingin the administrationof the Small projects Fund.

proposals These reproduce manyaspects ofcolonialcommunity development policyand practice. In commonwith existingpracticethe basicapproach recommended still from is the top down, the major difference beinga proposedshift in institutionalresponsibility for communitydevelopment awayfrom the administration govemment and ministries (especially Ministryof culture andSocialServices) towards elected the and the councilsA similarshift took placein colonialpracticewhenthe responsibility community for development transferred was from District Officersto officialsappointed employed and by the DistrictCouncils (these were,of course, forerunners today's the of SDAs). Fromthis point of view, communitydevelopment Kenyawould seem be movingin a circle. in to Moreover,the new proposals hardlyto recognise seem what haschanged the in intervening years: not only havepolitical agendas the distributionofpower 40 and changed, alsotherehavebeenmanydevelopments grassroots but at level, includingthe proliferationofinitiatives which the stateandits agents only partiallybeenableto has control. These initiatives the subject are ofthe remainder ofthis paper.

2.2 Grassrootslnitiatives

one striking featureofthe official andorthodoxrhetoricof communitydwelopmentis its failure to recognise existence the ofgrassrootsinitiativesexceptin so far asthesehave beencaptured the stateandincorporated by into the development process.Women's groupsare recognised only because if ofthe strenuous efforts by the govemment local and politiciansto usethemfor their own purposes, thoughtheseeforts havenot entirely succeeded women's groupsare currentlyaccorded significance and less than they once

were. Othergrassroots initiatives almost are entirely ignored:this applies particular in to rotatingsavings creditassociations some and and ofthe activities whicharelinkedto the localchurches schools.Indeed and thereis some distrust oftheseactivities because of politicalconnections, this is especially case their presumed and the where NGOsare involved.

2.2.1 Women'sGroups

The women's group movementin Kenyatracesa variety of origins, but its true history beganin the mid- 1960swith the formation of large numbersof groupsby Kikuyu womenin Cenfal Province. Many of thesebeganas mabai groups,functioning like rotating savingsand credit associations (ROSCAs)with the aim of enablingtheir members buy nmbai, iron roofing sheets,or to afford other homeimprovements. to The local contextin which groupswere formed placeda high premium upon mutual assistance amongwomen: land and malelabour (because labour migration to the of towns) were becomingincreasinglyscarce,while women's agricultural and domestic responsibilitieshad increased their access cashincomeremainedrestricted. This and to was againsta backgroundof political supportfor self-helpinitiatives (Harambee) in building the newly-independent state(seesection1.2.2 above).

with official encouragement, similar groupsbeganto appearelsewhere the country. in The governmentfust declaredits commitmentto a women's group programmein 1966. In 1975, at the start of the United Nations' InternationalDecadefor Women, it established Women's Bureauto coordinatethe activities of a nation-wideprogramme. a In many respects state'srelationshipto the women's group movementis an the ambivalentone, and its assistance alsobe interpretedas an attemptto control and can

makebestuseof what are, essentially,grassroots organisations. This was particularly evidentin the late 1980s,when the governmentintervenedto take over Maendeleo ya ("Women'sProgress') Wanawake andincorporate within the women'swing of it KANU, then the only political party (Maendeleo hitherto beenan NG0, especially had active in women'sdevelopment during the late colonial period, thoughrather less important for tlte women's group movementby the time it was takenover). In different parts of the country women's group members were then told that they would haveto join and subscribe the new Maendeleo they were to receiveany support to if llom the government. Ultimately, however,this attemptto gain further control over the women's group movementand its resources including the funds allocatedto groupsby outsideagencies NGOs - failed when KANU was forced to diseneage and itself from Maendeleo following tlle legalisationof other political parties.

The majority of women's groupsreceivelittle or no assistance exceptthat provided by the government. They are requiredto registerwith the Departmentof Social Services and are subjectto the various attentionsof its extensionagents,along with agricultural ofFrcers, chiefs and other officials in the local administration. Women's groupsare usedin a numberof ways to promotethe government'sdevelopment policies. groupsare eligible to receivegrantstowardstheir projects, though the Registered demandfor theseis much greaterthan the supply. Groupsare also encouraged hold to fund-raisingharambees the samepurpose. Otherwisethey typically raise for subscriptions shares or from their members,and engage a wide rangeof economic in activities, including collective farm labour for payment,in order to gatler seed-money for their projects. As a nrle it is difficult for groupsto obtain commercialcredit or establishlarger enterprises without externalassistance.While most groupsaim to developcommunity servicesor profitable enterprises, they alsoperform a variety of


welfare and other functionsfor their own members: for example' by exchanging labour or by operatingROSCAS'

an women,sgroupshaveto possess electedchairwoman,tfeasufer, secretary Registered and committee. within this framework actualdistributionsof authority and procedures may vary considerably. Groupsalso differ considerablyin organisational size and composition,both from one anotherand as they developover time' Men may they are excluded. also belongto women's groups,though in the majority of cases haveto registeras self-help, not women's, Groupswith more than five male members groups. In generalzuchgroups,including thoseformed exclusivelyby men, are few and far between.

figures for numbefsof women's goups and their It is difficult to obtain accurate for membership. Thereare a numberof reasons this. while socialdevelopment record the numberof registeredgtoupsin their reports, it is lesscommonfor assistants are them (and not really in their interests)to deleteor draw attentionto groupswhich nolongeroperative.Tothisextentofficialfigurestendtobeinflated,thoughthe and of existence unregistered unreportedgroupsmay redressthe balancesomewhat. figures Meanwhile, for thosegroupswhich are registered,it is unusualfor membership to be updatedfrom thosereportedat the time of registration. In somecases will only will havegrown considefably,in othersthe active membership membership be the be a portion of the total recorded. For thesereasons reportedfigures haveto treatedwith somecaution.

AccordingtotheWomen'sBureau,in1988therewere26,92|women,sgloupsinthe (1,053,391). Mbeereaccountsfor country with a total of over one million members just a small fraction of this total. The information compiledin the following table 3l

showsthat in 1982there were 140registefedwomen's groupsin the whole of lower Embu (Siakagoand Gachokadivisions), I 11 in the Mbeerearea(lower Embu of excluding Mwea). The registeredmembership 91 of thesegroupstotalled 2,692 per persons,a meanof 29.6 memb€rs group. By 1990the numberof groupsin lower and an overall mean 200 with a total of 7,517 members Embu had risen to an estimated per of 37.6 members group. While thesefigures offer no more than a rough that as many as one third, possibly more, of all adult approximation,they suggest women(aged20andover)inlowerEmbubelongtowomen'sgroups.Givensucha level of involvementit is probablethat the majority of womenhavebelongedto a registeredwomen's group at sometime in their lives, evenif they do not do so now.

Welbourn(1990)speculatesthatsocialatrdeconomicchange,includingtheimpactsof landreform,haveplacedalargerburdenuponwomenandthuscfeatedfavourable "More wives havehusbands conditionsfor the spreadof women's groupsin Mbeere: workingaway,theirchildrenareatschool,andtheynolongerhavethemutual farm and of traditional sup'port closekin living nearbyto help them. All the effort of rather than being sharedwith the labour now falls on their own shoulders household and rest of the family...This I believeis an importantreasonfor the rapid emergence growthofwomen'sgfoupsinMbeereaselsewhere"(Welbourn1990:38).Reference shouldalsobe madeto the role playedby ROSCAsin the formation of women's groups: indicative, in part, of a demandfor new conzumergods on the part of This to women and theif limited access incomeand/or other forms of saving. groupsin Central explanationmirrors that given abovefor the rapid qrad of mabati Provinceafterindependence,thoughitdoesnotmentiontheroleofofficialsupport' given to women's groupsas part of the SpecialRural including the encouragement DevelopmentProgramme(SRDP) in Mbeere'


Women's Groups and Their Membership in I-ower Embu' l9E2 and 1990 214) sources: Mwaniki 1d1986: and ODI (1992: l'3)

Administrative Area




Siakago Division numberof groups numberof members meanper group

53 1430 27.0

84 2542 30.3

Gachoka Division numberof groups numberof members meanper group

87 N/A N/A

116 4975 42.9

TOTAL LOWEREMBU numberof groups numberof members meanper group

140 N/A N/A

2N 7517 37.6

TOTALMBEERE numbef of groups numberof members meanper group lll N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A


Despitethe evidentimportanceof women's gtoupsin terms of the large numbersof of women who join them, many assessments the women'sgroup movementand the groupsthemselves havebeennegative. This conclusionhasbeenreachedin studiesof in women's groupsin Mbeereas well as elsewhere Kenya. Following a surveyof 25 in women's groupsconducted 1982in three locationsin Mbeere, Mwaniki (1986:22G of 225) listed a whole catalogue internal and externalconstraintsupon their effectiveness. Theseincludedwomen'sheavydomesticand agricultural responsibilities water (restricting their contributionsof time and moneyto groups); food shortages, nutrition (especiallyduring periodsof drought); poor scarcity and inadequate organisationand weak leadership(eading to internal disputesand allegationsof the the of misappropriation funds); lack of zupportfrom members'husbands; failure to practices,including booknumagement identifu viable projects; lack of adequate keepingskills; lack of capital; lack of goodroadsand isolation from markets;the lack of marketsin any eventfor someproducts;lack of trained extensionworkers (Social DevelopmentAssisans) and tlerefore appropriateadvice; and, last but not least, the to generalproblem of women's subordination men (which is at the root of someof the constraintsmentionedabove). Given sucha long fist it is surprisingthat anyonewould that he only saw one want to belongto a woman'sgroup at all. Mwaniki asserts project that had demonstrated sornepotentialfor generatingincome: a multi-purpose hall built and ownedby the Union of Kithunthiri Women's Groups, one of two zuch unions includedin his survey.

that and Welbourn(1990:45-a8)is equallypessimistic, alsoasserts mostwomen's she groupsare not successful. The reasons gives do not add muchto Mwaniki's list, and by and include resistance husbands the exclusionof singleor otherwise lack of and a consequent women; lack of educationamonggroup members troublesome stronggfoup leadersand groupswith clear objectives;failure to identiry viable

projects; and women's lack of time and money. According to Welbourn tlis last poorer womenwill not be able to join groups, constraintsuggests in somecases that althoughMwaniki doesnot provide any supportfor this conclusion(which in some ways contradictsWelbourn's own thesisaboutthe formation of groupsand the type of women likely to form them).

havebeenproducedin virtually every study of women's groupsin Similar analyses Kenya (seeMcCormacket al. 1986:.10-17for an overview). The pattern is: a catalogue constraints,longer or shorteras the casemay be, and the conclusionthat of the potential for further developingwomen's groups,and especiallytheir capacityfor is running successful income-generating enterprises, limited. Mwaniki concludes: '...there are no easyor immediatesolutionsfor manyproblemsfacing Mbeere women's groupsbecause underlying them are broad structuralfactors...In light of these problemsMbeerewomen's groupswould perhaps better off if they concentrated be on that some their mutual assistance activities. . . " (1986: 225), althoughhe conceded projectsmight work. Welbourn is similarly cautiousin income-generating recommending that the (former) EMI Programmeshouldwork with women's groups: 'Working with women's groupsaloneis not necessarily going to give womenaccess to going to lighten women's physical long-term, sustainable income; it is not necessarily and psychologicalburdens;nor will it ensurewomenan opportunity to speakout about responsive audience' (1990: 48). These their problemsand needsto a sympathetic in conclusions alsoechoed the ODI reporrQ992: 1.2-3). are

the It is not difficult to reachsuchconclusions after scanning historiesof individual groups. We collecteddetailedhistoriesof 2l women's groupsin Mavuria Location, formed from 1974onwards(and only a sampleof all the groupsfonned during this period: Mwaniki, for example,cites the existence 38 women's groupsin this of 35

locationin 1982(1986:214)). 15 of the 2l goups in our sample havesincecollapsed or haveotherwisebecomedormant, for reasons which can all be found in Mwaniki's list. KamacaciWomen's Group, for example,which was formed in Gatakavillage in 1979, disintegrated 1984following the failure of its plansto constructa rental in premises(the building stoneshad alreadybeenpurchased). building / business According to someformer members this wasbecause group's officials had the misappropriated funds for the project: on anotheraccountownershipof the plot on the which the premiseswere to be built was asserted the sonsof the man who had by donatedit, following which mernbers accused group's officials of incompetence the for failing to ensurethat no suchproblemswould arise.

What suchaccounts lack, however, is a broaderperspective group formation and on memb€rship over time in any one area, as well as an understanding the underlying of reasons group success well as failure. The formation, development decline for as and of groupsis a dynamicprocess. The fact that groupscontinueto be formed, and that many women, despitehaving belongedto failed groups,continueto experimentwith others, suggests womendo gain something that from group membership. One of these gains may well be the experience which leadsto later success: it is not unusualto and find that the members and officials of successful groupshavecomefrom groupswhich havenot survived. ln any eventthe survival rate of women's groupsis probably not much worse than that of other small enterprises.

A rather different picture emerges groupsare analysed. In their study when successful of women's groupsin CoastProvince, McCormacket al.(1986) found that the initial success groupsrestson the extentof their access the labour of membersand to the of to cashprovided by members their households.The amountof incomewhich these or (and womenas household households members) preparedto invest in groupsis are

conditionedby the sum of demands upon them, their ability to meetthesedemands, and the returnsthey can expectfrom this as opposed other investments. Under these to circumstances is not easyfor groupsworking aloneto establishviable enterprises. In it order to overcometheseobstacles, groupsneedallies, and the major allies availableto them are the government(in the shape the Departmentof Social Services)and of various NGOs. Although there is often a price to be paid for its assisrrnce, the governmentcan provide grantsto capitalisenew enterprises, while the NGOs can also provide valuabletechnicalassistance the planning and operationof enterprises. in Considerable importancealso attaches the choiceof enterprise: thosewhich are new to to a community, particularly thosewhich are capital and labour intensive, are diffrcult for groupsto operatesuccessfully.

On the basisof thesefindings, the two NGOs working with thesegroups, Tototo Home Industies (of Mombasa)and World EducationInc. (of Boston), designed programme a of training and other assistance which firrther increased profitability and the sustainabilityof women's group enterprises (seeKane et al. l99l\. The wider

significanceof this work was that it arguedthat a lot more could be doneto increase the viability of women's groupsand their enterprises. For the most part, however, women's groupshavereceivedlessattentionfrom NGOs and other agencies than they did in the nid-1980s. one reasonfor this hasbeenthe negativeassessment offered in most reportsaboutwomen's groups, many of them, it mustbe said, basedupon quick and impressionisticresearch. A second reasonhasbeenthe generalshift in favour of micro-enterprise credit, especiallyon a group-lendingmodel (the loansbeing madeto individuals), as a more cost-effectiveway of increasingincomesand employment, fostering economicdevelopment,and alleviating poverty in both rural and urban communities.


A third reasonfor the relative lack of interestin women's groupson the part of practitionersin both the public and private sectorslies, in a sense,behind development the two reasons alreadygiven. While the stateand other agencies havebeenkeento captureand usewomen'sgroupsfor their own purposes,both political and economic, they havebeenlessthan willing to engage groupson their own terms. As a result most research women's groupshasbeensuperficial, and hasled to the conclusionthat on groupsare not worth any significant investment. Micro-enterprisecredit, on the other hand, offers a numberof advantages.It requiresminimal interactionwith the clients, and development again, managed is, from the centre,b€ing reducedto the circulation of funds and the simple monitoring of repayment rates.

2.2.2 Rotating Savings and Credit Associetions

The nabai groupswhich gaverise to the women's group movementin Kenya were, in effect, rotating savingsand credit associations (ROSCAs)formed in part for the purposeof financing homeimprovements. Even today the majority of registered women's groupsin Mbeerehavegrown up aroundROSCAsof one kind or another, and it is unusualto find a group which doesnot continueto operatea ROSCA in addition to its other activities. ROSCAsare in fact ubiquitousin Mbeere: there are very many more ROSCAsthan registeredwomen's groups,including associations which are in transition betweenthe two and are sometimes describedds unregistered women's groups. From this point of view ROSCAS and the "informal' groupswhich developout of them are part of an extensiveand fertile substratum voluntaristic of organisationin local communitieswhich the stateand other agencies have not beenable to manage otherwisetake advantage exceptin so far as they havecaptured,or or of,


aftempted capture,the women's group movementat the most developed to end of the ROSCA-women's groupcontinuum.

ROSCAsin Kenya are usually relegated a footnotein the development to literature, and we do not know of any concertedattemptsto mobilise their development potential or evenunderstand their existing impacts. There is, however, somecomparativeliterature on the phenomenon ROSCAsworld-wide, in which debatehasfocusedupon of establishing typologiesof ROSCAsand understanding their functionsin societyas a whole. In a seminalpaperGeertzdescribed ROSCA as "essentiallya deviceby the meansof which traditionalistic forms of socialrelationshipare mobilized so as to fulfil non-traditionalisticeconomicfunctions...[t is] an 'intermediate'institution growing up within peasant social strucfure,to harmonizeagrarianeconomicpatternswith commercialones,to act as a bridge betweenpeasant trader attitudestoward money and and its uses"Q9A: 242). Following a more extensivesurveyof the literature, Geertz'sconclusionwas questioned Ardener, pointing to the persistence ROSCAs by of alongsideformal financial institutionsand their absence many societies in without commercialinstitutions (19&:221-222). Ardener arguedthat ROSCAs,including someof the most "developed"ones,cannotbe understood termsof economicmotive in alone,although their "mostobviousfunction...isthat they assist small-scale in capitalformation, or more simply, they createsavings"(196/:217).

Subsequent analyses havenot addedsignificantly to theseconclusions(see,for example,Kurtz 1973; Schraderl99l; and Brusley al. 1992). As hasoften turned out et to be the cas€in the comparativestudy of institutions, the searchfor a simple typology and globally applicablefunction or functionsis probably doomedfrom the start. Within MbeerealoneROSCAsperform a variety of functions, both social and economic,and evenwhen they evolve into multi-activity women's groupswe cannot 39

say that one set of functions (for example,the economic)hasbecomemore important than the other. "An association formed Ardener providesthe most succinctdefinition ofa ROSCA as upon a core of participantswho agreeto makeregular contributionsto a fund which is given, in whole or in part, to eachcontributor in rotation" (196/.:2Ol). The two criteria, accordingto Ardener, are rotation and regularity, to distinguish essential undertakings. In Mbeere ROSCAsfrom other mutual benefit clubs and cooperative to this definition might b€ stretched include cooperativeweedingby women (sometimes helpedby men) when it is performedon a rotational and regular basis(a common pattem is every Saturdayat one of the member'sfarms). This kind of cooperationis quite commonin Mbeereand also often performedas one of the activities of women's by groups,though it may also be undertaken groupsof peoplewho meetsolely for this difference, of course,is that the input to thesework groupsis purpose. The essential and defined the labour, whereas primary input to RoSCAs (as normally understood to here) are cashcontributions. Needless say a full accountof RoscAs and their origins in Mbeerewould haveto considerboth typesof association.

ROSCAsin Mbeereare formed by women, men, and mixed groupsof men and women, though as in the caseof registeredgroupswomen-onlyRoSCAs seemto be by far the most common. sometimesthey are formed by groupsof closely relatedkin, but of the vast majority of RoscAs are composed small groupsof neighbours,someof whom nray be closely relatedbut othersnot. A few ROSCAsare formed on an basis: markettraders,for example,often rather than a neighbourhood occupational of in form their own associations which the object is to assistin the purchase capital inputs (usuallypetty commodities)to their businesses.As notedabove,the proliferation and sheernumbersof RoscAs in Mbeereare striking. Just over half

of (11/20)of a smallsample womenin Kamugu,nearSiakago, wereactivemembers of simultaneously, while of ROSCAs,someof them(2i ll) beingmembers two ROSCAs had belongedto ROSCAsin the other women (3/20) who were not current members past: making a total ofjust underthree-quarters the sample(14i20) who declared of past or presentparticipationin ROSCAs. A much smallerproportion of thesewomen, of one-fifth to be exact, were pastor presentmembers regisGredwomen's groups. of their pastmembership ROSCAs. A Thesewomenmay well haveunderreported smaller sampleof 12 womenin the Ishiaraareashowedthat all of them had belonged to ROSCAsat one time or another(7 of them currently and the remainderin the past). that comparable surveyh 1992suggest Data collectedin the courseofa household for levels of involvementcan be extrapolated Mbeereas a whole.

ROSCAsin Mbeere,as throughoutrural Kenya, conform to the most basicpattern describedin the literature (both Geertz(1962) and Ardener (1964) presentinformation which are organisationallycomplexand extremely on a rangeof associations financially). Most ROSCAson which we haYeinformation havebetween sophisticated l0 and 20 members,usually closerto the lower figure. Membersme€tto contribute fixed amountsof cashweekly or monthly: contributions(calculatedon a montl y basis)uzually fall in the rangeof Kshs 10 to IShs 120per month, this last example give of coming from an association men and womenin Ishiara marketwhosemembers IShs 30 eachper week. The sum of contributionsin any we€k or month is usually this presented just one of the members- In many cases moneyis alreadyearmarked to to for a particular purpose. Women's ROSCAsoften savein order to enablemembers purchase crockery and cutlery for their households.The exampleof market traders has buying inputs for their enterprises alreadybeenmentionedabove. Other recorded goas. of ROSCA objectivesinclude the purchase farm equipmentand (separately)


as ROSCAssuffer from someof the sameconstraints women's groups,though perhaps may haveno option but for not to the samedegree. When hard-pressed cashmembers to drop out, therebyproducingcomplicationsin terms of contributionsowed. When more than one memberdropsout this usually sp€llsinstantdoom for the association, which may colapse in the midst of heatedrecriminations. However, the available and the that evidencesuggests this is not a commonoccurrence: peer group pressure by mutual aid ethosengendered ROSCAstend to insulatethem againstmany stresses, and on a fxed and while unlike women's groupsthey operatewith fewer members relatively short time cycle. ROSCAsare most likely to collapsein times of general and famine, and we havesome stress,for exampleduring periodsof food shortage evidencefor this happening. On the other hand, the facton which makeROSCAsquite resilient, including tieir modestsize, degreeof organisationrequiredand short time cycles, makeit easyfor them to reform following suchcrises, whetherwith a different membership not. or

the statisticsit is difficult to assess overall impact of In the absence comprehensive of ROSCAsin Mbeere, or anywhereelsein Kenya for that matter. We know for certain of that they play a critical role in the development women's groups. It is also evident that they play a very important role in the mobilisationof savings,as well as in tle in elsewhere Kenya of creationof local networksof mutual support. The initial success (the basedupon group guarante€s Grame€nBank micro-enterprise credit programmes and PRIDE) undoubtedly model imported by the Kenya Rural EnterpriseProgramme were introduced owes somethingto the samefactors. Ironically theseprogr:rmmes of without referenceto or evenan understanding existing savingsand credit systems, communitieslike including the ROSCAs,in rural and urban communities. In a sense thosein Mbeerealreadyhavetheir own indigenouscredit programmes,the difference

being that they are not directedfrom aboveand that they are generallytailored to more modestdomesticrequirements.

2,2.3 Schools and Churches

Furtherindication ofthe dyramism ofgrassroots initiatives apparent the development is in anddevelopment activitiesassociated with largerlocal institutions,particularlyschools andchurches. whereas historyof RoSCAsandotherformsof everyday the association is almost invisible, leastfrom the state's a districtpointofview, the historyofthese at and largerandmore permanent institutionsis alsomoretransparent, canbe readilytraced and backto the earlycolonial period. Theinitialestablishment both schools churches of and was,ofcourse,a directconsequence external of interventions duringthe colonial period, interventions boththe administration the case by (in ofschools) missionary and organisations the case (in ofboth churches schools).Thereafter, and however, with and increasing populardemand education(to be translated for into materialwelfare)andthe spiritualwelfareprovidedby the christian churches two were often intimatelylinked), (the manyofthese institutionshavetakenon a life oftheir own, with considerable inputsfrom the communities whichtheyarelocated. in

Primaryresponsibility Kenya'seducation for system includingeducation policy, the school curriculum, provision educational the of facilities, inspection schools the of and payment ofteachers'salaries restswith the government the Ministry ofEducation in and particular. However,the demand educationsinceindependence far outstrippedthe for has state's capacity supply ofthe necessary to all facilities, especially school buildings, classrooms the fittings andmaterialequipment and which they require. As a resultthe govemment morethan welcomed contributions has the madebv local communities to 43

buildingandequipping schools.Thisencouragement self-help of initiatives ledto the has construction manyschools of since independence, including ',Harambee,' the secondary schools well asmoremodest as primary facilities (seesection1.2.2above).Although MbeerehaslaggedbehindupperEmbuandother high potentialareas the demand in for education, therehasbeena considerable proportional increase the number in ofschools constructed the areaover the pasttwo decades more (for an overviewofeducation in and in Mbeere, including earlier its history,see RileyandBrokensha 1988:25,301-308)

The constructionanddevelopment GatakaPrimaryschool, nearKiritiri, providesan of illustrationofthe kind oflocal initiativewhich hasbeenreproduced throughoutMbeere. In 1973a groupof localresidents, ofthem men,formeda committee press all to for permission from the govemment constructa primaryschool. After muchlobbyingand to waiting, a permitto do so was issued following year,in 1974. Thereupon the committee members began difficulttaskof tryingto mobilise the localpeople contribute to cashand their own labourtowardsthe construction the school. In the endcommittee of members beganto build a nurseryclassroom themselves, usinglocal materials (earthandtimbers). This work was intemrptedby shortrains,wheneveryone turnedto the task of cultivating their farms. In early 1975the committee began run a nurseryclassin a nearbychurch to building,the teacher beingpaid from contributions the children's by parents. This still left the problemofwhere they would be taughtwhena second intakewas admittedandthey hadmoveduDto standard one.

Later on in 1975,another groupoflocal men,younger thanthe committee members, seized initiative andcompleted nurseryclassroom the the which hadbeenbegunthe year before. In order to raisethe fundsfor buildinga second classroom they organised discos everyevening, chargingan entrance fee. At the same time they alsobeganto cut timber for the building mobilisingfriendsto helpthemwhenthey could. Incomefrom the disco

paidfor iron roofingsheets the construction and ofthe classroom well asa smaller as buildingto serve a staff-room.Thisgroupofyoung menthenstepped as aside let the to committeecontinuewith its work.

In 1976theMinistryofEducation posted two teachers the school, to whichnow consisted of a nurseryclassandstandard one. Thereafter leastoneclassroom to be built at had everyyearto accommodate school's the annual intakeofpupils. Fromthis point on the heaviest burdenfell upon the pupils'parents, who providedcommunal labour in addition to makingregularcontributionsofmoney to pay for materials the input of and professional builders.Not all of the classrooms werecompleted time,in whichcase on someclasses to be dividedinto morningandaftemoonshifts. The samesolutionwas had alsoappliedduring a periodwhenthe schoolwasunderstaffed waiting for more and teachers be posted to there.

By 1985a complete of eightearth-and-timber-walled sa classrooms beenbuilt. The had school committee thendecided embark the construction stone-wall to on of classrooms to replacethem. Parents thereforecontinuedto contributeto a building fund everytime, and still do so today. In 1988the Embu-based NGO plan Intemationalbuilt two new classrooms the school: parents for contributed Kshs18,000 paythebuilderandalso to dug the foundations carriedwater to the site. plan alsoerecteda largewater tank in and 1990,againassisted the parents.In 1991the schoolwasgivenKshs 175,000 plan by by to build anotherpair of classrooms. The schoolcommitteerequested assistance this andparents raisedKshs24,850to pay the builder. construction ofthe classrooms is still underway,and somearein usealthoughthey do not haveanywindowsyet.

In 1991the school committee decided introduce to compulsory boarding standard for eight students, reasoning they would thereforebe ableto spendmoretime studying that 45

andperformbetterin their final KCPE (Kenyacertificate of primary Education)exams. Boarding began March 1991andthe boarders in wereasked contribute quantities to set of maizeandlegumes, providetheir own beds,mattresses, to blanketsandboxes,andto pay a feeof overKshs100to coverthe salary ofa cookandthe costofvariousingredients. This went well until the next year, 1992,whenthe failure of manyparents' pay these to feesledto the suspension ofthe boarding facility. our latest information that no is decisionhasyet beenmadeaboutits future.

Thishistory,whichcouldbe repeated manyotherschools Mbeere, for in indicates the strength versatility and ofgrassroots initiative.All ofthe majordecisions aboutthe development ofthe schoolhavebeentakenby communitymembers working, after they had startedit, togetherwith the headmaster teachers and (manyofwhom areor have become communitymembers themselves). The schoolcommitteehasalsochanged and developed overtime: whileit began small groupofmen andelders, late 1992it had as in twelve members, third of themwomen,andmost of themlocal farmersand,of course, a parents.

Many churches Mbeereare similarlyfoundedin local initiative andeffort. Unlike in schools, though,they areformally separate from the state,which guarantees freedomof worship in its constitution. In fact this separation so sharpthat the nationalchurches, is especially thoseaffiliatedto the NCCK (Nationalchristian council of Kenya),areoften perceived posinga threatto the government.This hasbeenparticularlyclearin the past as decade, with the NCCK spearheading campaign the introductionof multi-party the for democracy actingin somewaysasthe unofficialoppositionto the KANU and govemm€nt. This doesnot meanthat the local churches activein nationalparty are politics,thoughlike all communityinstitutionsthey arefrequentlysubjectto local political conflictsandmachinations.The separation churchfrom statedoesmearL of however.that

they presenta muchmorevariedanddyramic picturethanthe schools, which all conform to a basicpattern.

Kenyais hometo a bewildering varietyof Christian denominations sects, and someof themgrown on its own soil. Mbeereshares someof this diversity. Active churches in in theKiritiri area, example, for include CPK (Church the ofthe province ofKenya,or Anglicanchurch), the Romancatholic church, the East African pentecostal church, the Full Gospel Church, Full Gospel the Anglican (sic),andthe Seventh Church Day Adventists. The mostprominentchurches Mbeere,at leastto an outsideobserver, in are the Anglican(cPK) andRomancatholic churches.This is because they were the first to becomeestablished, part of wider national(andinternational) are congregations, as a and resultare ableto supporta numberof development activities. The cpK doesthis in part througha sisterorganisatioqcompassion Intemational, which hasassisted numberof a schools Siakago in DMsion. TheRoman catholicchurchis particularly activethroughits separate missions, whichinclude Don BoscoSalesians Gachoka the consolata the in and Fathers(and Sisters) Ishiara. The missionin Ishiar4 to give but one example, in has sponsored manylocalprojects, including construction primaryschools the of and classrooms, hospitaland(by bringingin Italian government the Nationalcerealsand a aid) ProduceBoard (NCPB) depotandgrain storagefacility at Ishiara.

At grassroots level, andawayfrom the influenceof foreignmissions, local initiativesare as evidentin churchorganisation activitiesasthey arein the schools. Therearemany and parallels with the building development and ofschools, described our earlierexample. as in church committees (in the caseofthe cPK) parishcouncils canbe asactiveand and innovativeasthe schoolcommittees, ifnot more so. Theymayalsobe evenmore representative local interests:the committee Nguru cpK church in Gatakavillage, of of nearKiritiri, has,for example,I I members, of themwomen,all of themmembers the 5 of 47

local farmingcommunity(a degree representation more impressive far than that on any of committees). localchurches coordinate The also other ofthe localdevelopment include youthclubs, localbranches theMothers' community actMties:these of Union (which function muchlike women's groups)andvariousforms of assistance the poor to andneedy.

2.3 The Role of NGOs

The largerchurchdevelopment organisations projectsreferredto abovefall into the and categoryofNGOs or non-government organisations.The term NGO is a catch-allfor privatevoluntaryorganisations all shapes sizesabovethe local communitylevel, of and rangingin a continuumfrom small,indigenous, bodiesup to large,international, agencies like Oxfam. Kenyahasproveda very fertile groundfor NGOs over the pasttwo decades, andthey haveproliferatedacross country,the vastmajority ofthem operatingfrom the in relation headofficesin Nairobi. TheNGO communityasa whole stands an ambivalent in to the state(compare discussion ODI I 992:G.l). On the onehandNGOshave the projectsthey beenwelcomed the govemment local politiciansfor the innumerable by and and they attract from donor agencies.On the other handthey undertake the resources havebeensuspected from time to time of working to undermine govemment, the a suspicion enhanced knowledgeof the closerelationswhich existbetweensomeNGOs by andthe churches theNCCK. Thegovernment therefore in has actedon a number of its occasions strengthen control over both local andforeignNGOs, andthis, aswe have to 2. I seen, oneofthe objectives was ofthe DistrictFocusstratery(seesection 1.2. above). not Judgingby the government's continuedunease aboutNGO activitiesit would appear to haveachieved degree control which it wishes. At the same the of time it would be fair


to saythat manyNGos, indigenous international, treading and are verywarilyin orderto avoidfallingfoul ofthe government localadministration. and

In addition the churches mission to projects, number and a ofNGOs operate have or operated Mbeere.These in include PlanInternational, CAREKenya, KenyaFreedom the From Hungercampaign,the BelleriveFoundation, Heifer International, namebut a and to few. The mostextensive prograrnme run by PlanInternational is (Fosterparentsplan Internationalin full), an AmericanNGo which hasits Kenyanheadquarters Embutown. in Thedecision siteits officesin Embu,andnot Nairobi,is generally to ascribed successful to lobblng on the part ofEmbu's principalpower-brokerandgovernment minister_ whatever the case,the rangeofactivities pursuedby plan andits staff sincethe early 1980s very impressive. lowerEmbuthese is In activities havebeenconcentrated in Gachoka Division, thoughthereareplansto expandinto Siakago Division. plan'soriginal andcoreactivityis childsponsorship, the basis on ofwhich it hasprovided assistance of differentkindsto schools(hence construction classrooms water storage the of and facilitiesreferredto earlier)andworked in numerous other fields: the improvement of water supplies, nutrition, healthcare,agriculturalpractices (includingpestcontrol and composting), the provision famine and of reliefinthe form ofa "food-for-work', programme (diggingterracesandbunds).

Many NGo interventions, includingsomeof thosementioned above,adoptthe technical, top-dow4 approach which characterises projectsin general. In other respects, aid however,their approach moregenuinely is participatory. This is achieved different in ways. NGos typically employstaff andfieldworkersfrom the communities which they in work: indeedthe bestindigenous NGOs arerun by local people(thoughexamples this of arefew andfar between, therearecertainlynonein Mbeere: for a caseelsewhere and in Kenyaseewalsh 1989) Anotherstrategy to setup localcommittees part ofthe is as 49

frameworkof the NGos operations:Planhasdonethis with the creationof its own sublocational development committees, well asin the contextofparticularprojects as (for example institutinglocal boreholecommittees supervise by to their maintenance). MoreoverNGOs like Planareusuallyvery responsive requests to comingfrom the communities whichtheywork: hence in Plan's positive response the requests to ofthe Gataka PrimarySchool committee assistance building for in newclassrooms. scale The ofNGo activitiesalsomakes themmoreflexible andcapable both experimenting of with newapproaches adapting changing and to circumstances. diversification The ofplan,s programmes GachokaDMsion andtheir rapidresponse local famineconditions in to provideillustrations this. of

while it wouldnot be difficultto produce list of NGo mistakes, pointis that these a the arelesslikely to occur andmore likely to be correctedin the contextofNGo prograrnmes thanin that of otherkindsofaid project. Fromthis pointofview NGOsareideally situatedto mediatebetween grassroots other agencies, the and includingthe govemment and donor organisations.certainly they arein a muchbetterpositionto foster initiatives from the grassroots thanthe formal structures favouredby the government and,in modifiedfonn, in recentproposals the ODA. The ODI report, while acknowledgrng to the role that NGos play in promotingsmall-scale projectsat villagelevel, criticisedthe lack of coordinationbetween NGos andpointedto the presumed limitationsof NGos in handlinglargerprojects: "They do not havethe resources the mandates tackle or to projectswhich crosslocationboundaries, example, for majorwater projects,roads,etc. Engineering resources business and advice areas weakness" are of (1992:G.9). Thisis clearlynonsense: manyNGos, includingPlanInternational, alreadyworking across are location (anddivision,anddistrict) boundaries, manyNGos havewell-developed business programmes; and,giventhat suchjobsareusuallycarriedout by privatecontractors,there is no needto involveNGOs in large-scale engineering works 50

Having presented rather deficient assessment NGO capacity,the ODI report this of concludes follows: 'Apart ilom somehelp if the NGOs decideto form a district as association network, it is not recommended ODA channelproject funds, aimed and that at improvedplanning and management, the NGOs" (192: G.9). The alternative to suggested ODI, as we haveseen,providesevenlessopportunity for the promotion by of grassroots initiatives.

3 Conclusions

The conclusions reached this paperarerelativelystraightforward, in thoughthey do providea challenge a largebody of received to wisdom. Communitydevelopment its and analogues, currentlypromotedby development as practitioners both insideandoutsidethe aid agencies, at bestpoorly conceived at worst a sham. The claimthat a is and community-based approach evolved has simplyin response the failureoftop-down to projectsis undermined a consideration technically-oriented by ofthe very real continuities prescriptions the communitydevelopment that exist between contemporary and policy of the colonialperiod. In both cases rhetoricworks to maskanothervariationon the topthe down approach the political agendas communitydevelopment's and of different proponents.One ofthe governmentrs agendas, that ofits regionalpower-brokers, and is grassroots to capture initiatives its (andtheir)own politicalpurposes. for Manylocallevel initiatives,however,evadecapture,aremisunderstood, escape or attention altogether. At the same time the presentandpotentialrole of NGOs in promotingthese initiativesis eithertreatedwith suspicion the government) undervalued current (by (in or proposals revive communitydevelopment Embuandneighbouring to in districts) The resultpromises be evenworsethanthe messwhich communitydevelopment the to 5l

orthodoxversion is supposed clearup. We can,however, to pleasure the takesome in probability grassroots that initiatives ofone kind or another continue flourish, will to whethersupported not. or


Ardener, Shirley 1964 'The ComparativeStudyof RotatingCredit Associations', Joumal of the RoyalAnthropologicalInstirute, 94 (l l2), 210-229 . Bahemuka,Judith Mbula and Mary Tiffen 1992 'Akamba Institutionsand Development,1930-90' in Mary Tiffen (ed) Instintional profile @nvironmmtal Changeand Drylnnd Management Machakos in District, KerryaI93GI9W, working paper). London: Overseas Development Institute. Bardhan,P. 1993 'Analytics of the Institutionsof Informal Cooperationin Rural Development', WorldDevelopment, (4), 633-ffi . 2l Barkan, Joel D. 1982 Self-helpOrganizations,Stateand Society: Linkage and paper No.2l, Comparativet-egislative Developmcnt Rural Kenya, Occasional in Research Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City. Barkan, Joel D. and M. Chege 1989 'Decentralizingthe State: District Focusand the Politicsof Reallocation Kenya',Journntof ModemAfican Sndies,27 (3), in


Barkan,JoelD., FrankHolmquis, David GachukiandShemMigot-Adholla lgTg Is Small Beautiful? The Organiutiorml Conditions Efieaive Small-scaleSelffor paper No.15, help Development Projec.ts Rural Kenya, Occasional in Comparativel-egislativeResearch Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City. Besley, Timotly, Stephen coate and Glenn L,oury 1992 TheEconomicsof Rotaing Saings and Credit Associations(revisedversion), Discussionpaper No. 157,


Research Programin DevelopmentStudies,Woodrow Wilson Schoolof Public and InternationalAffairs, PrincetonUniversiW. Feldman,Rayah 1983 'Women'sGroupsandWomen'sSubordination: An Analysis of Policies TowardsRural Women in Kenya', Reiew of Afican Political Econow. 27128. -85. 67 Freire, Paulo 1972 Pedngogy the Oppressed.Harmondsworth: Penguin. of

Gachuki, David 1982 Harambeein Kenya: A Case its Regulntion,Occasional for PaperNo. 19, Comparativel,egislative Research Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City. Geertz, Clifford 1962 'The RotatingCredit Association: A "Middle Rung" in Development', Economic Development Cultural Change,l0 (3),241-263. and Hasseft,Donald 1994 Thc Community-based Approachto Natural Resource Management: Review,working paperpreparedfor the Traditional Management A of Artisanal FisheriesProject, CEMARE, University of Portsmouth. Hill, Martin J. D. l99l TheHarambeeMoyement Kenya: Self-help, in Development Educuion amongthe Kanba of Kirui Distnct. I-ondon and and Atlantic Highlands: The Athlone Press. Holmquist, Frank 1979 'Class Structure,Peasant Participation,and Rural Selfhelp', in JoelBarkanandJohnOkumu(eds)Politicsand hthlic Policy in Kerrya and Tanzania. New York: Praeger. Holmquist, Frank 1982 Stue, Class,Peasants and the Initiation of KenyanSelfhclp, Occasional PaperNo.18, Comparativekgislative Research Center, University of lowa, Iowa City. Holmquist, Frank 1984 'Self-help: The Stateand Peasant l:verage in Kenya', Africa, 54, 72-91. Kaluli, J. W. 1992 'NGOsand Technological Change'in Mary Tiffen (ed) Instintional Profile @nironmenml Change and Dryland Matwgementin MachnkosDistrict , Kenya I 930- 90 , working paper). London: Overseas I DevelopmentInstitute.


Kane,Keviq MartinWalshandCandace Nelson 1991 'A Case Business for Training with Women's Enterprise (l), 13-19. Groups', Small Development,2 McCormack,Jeanne, Martin WalshandCandace Nelson 1986 Women's Group Enlerplises: A Studyof the Structureof Opportunityon theKenyd Coast. Boston: World Education Inc. Mayer,Philip 1951 'Agricultural Co-operation Neighbourhood by Groups among the Gusii in SouthNyanza',in P. Mayer, TwoStudiesin Applied Anthropologt in Kenya. London: Her Majesty'sStationery OfficeMazingira Institute 1992 'The Women's Group Movementin Kenya: An overview' in Women and Development:A KerryaGuide. Natrobi: Mazingira Institute- 6-19. Mbithi, P. M. and R. Rasmussen 1977 Self-reliancein Kenya: The Caseof Harambee. Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies. Mwagiru, Wanjiku 1985 Rural Womcn'sMutual Aid Estems in Kenya: A Case Sndy of Central Proince; Finnl Sndy Reparr, Departmentof Geography, University of Nairobi. Mwaniki, Nyaga 1986 'AgainstMany Odds: The Dilemmas Women'sSelf-help of Groupsin Mbeere,Kenya',Africa, 56 (2),210-227. Ng'ethe, Njuguna 1979 Harambeeand Development Panicipaion in Kenya, unpublished Ph.D dissertation,Carlton University. Njonjo, Apollo L., Anne Kairu, Wariara Mbugua, David Kimenya and Fred Chege 1985 Sndy on the Organizarionof Women'sGroupsin Kerrya: Main Repon (Vol.l). Nairobi: Business Economic and Research Ltd. Co. Nugent, J. B. 1993 'BetweenState,Marketsand Households: A Neoinstitutional Analysis of lncal Organizations Institutions', World Development,2l (4), and 623-632. Odera, Millicent 1980 ltlyeri Women's Development Project: BaselineSumey Repon. Nairobi: Family PlanningAssociationof Kenya. Overseas Development Institute (ODD 1992 Embu, Meru, TharakaNithi District SupponPreparaion Mission: Firwl Repon @raft), repofi to the Overseas DevelopmentAdministration (ODA), l,ondon, July.


Pala,A. O., M. H. Wallis andJ. E. Reynolds 1978 'The Women'sGroup Programmein the SpecialRural Development Programme(SRDP)', in A. O. Pala, T. Awori and A. Krystall (ds) ThePanicipuion of l4romen Kerryan in .tocrery. Nahobi: Kenya Literature Bureau. Republicof Kenya 1987 District Focus Rural Developmenr. Nairobi: Office of for the PresidentRiley, Bernard and David Brokensha 1988 TheMbeerein Kenya(Yol.l: W. ChangingRural Ecology). Lanham: University Pressof America. Shepherd,Andrew 1992 Putting Communities Charge: TheRerurnrc in Development Africa: A CaseSndy and Discussion(Papersin the Community in Administration of DevelopmentNo.zl6), DevelopmentAdministration Group, Schoolof Public Policy, University of Birmingham. Thomas,BarbaraP. 1981 Local Organization,Politics and Panicipation in Rural Develapment:A Studyof HarambeeSelf-helpin Kenya, unpublishedPh.D dissertation,BrandeisUniversity. Thomas,BarbaraP. 1985 Cash, Credit, Cooperationand Communiry: Responses of Womm in ktral Kenya, HIID DiscussionPaperNo.l8l, Harvard Institute for InternationalDevelopment,Cambridge,Mass. Uphoff, N. 1993 'Grassroots Organizations NGOs in Rural Development: and Opportunitieswith Diminishing Statesand ExpandingMarkets', WorA Deve 2l lopment, (4), ffil -622. Wallis, M. 1982 Bureaucra$, Politicians, and Rural Communities Kenya, in Manchester Paperson Development Departmentof Administrative Studies, No.6, University of Manchester,Manchester. Walsh, Martin 1992 'Community Participationin Isiolo District: PastInitiatives and Options for the Future', Annex 4 in TheIsioln District SupponProgrammc, a report subnitted by MASDAR Ltd. to the ODA, London. Wals[ Martin 1989 'Tototo Home Industries: Assistance Strategies the Future',in for C.Mann,M.Grindle andP.Shipton(eds)SeekngSolutions: Fromeworkand Cases Programs. West Flartford: KumarianPress. for SmallEnterpriseDevelopment


Welbourn,Alice 1990 lhe Government Kenya/ODAEMI Programme: of Consultancy GenderResponsive in Plamingfor Phase,I{ report to the EMI Programe, Embu. .Winans,Edgar V. and AngeliqueHdugerud 1977 'Rural Self-helpin Kenya: The Harambee Movement', Hunan Organization,36 (4), 334-351.


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful