Crossing the River in Anderacha Woreda

Baseline situation

Before the inception of the SA project, only 24% of targeted community members were aware of the fact that it was their entitlement as a citizen to demand for proper provision of services, while the remaining 76% sensed it was the responsibility of government officials and service providers to make service delivery better. Participation and awareness regarding rural roads development was at an infant stage, and there was no access road constructed in any of the three kebeles targeted by the SA project.

Due to the absence of bridges and an all-weather road, vulnerable segments of the community, such as pregnant women, children, elders, bedridden patients and low income farmers were facing problems to reach health centers, markets, schools, towns and courts. Not many people would go across the rivers for social events like mourning and ritual programs. As the regular roads became swamped, conflicts would arise, because large numbers of people would destroy crops in their search for alternative paths.

The rural roads unit in the woreda was virtually non- existent. The sector had not fulfilled any of the minimum requirements in terms of manpower, office standard, office materials and equipment, budget allocation, and construction machinery. Only 3 staffs with irrelevant backgrounds and careers were there, though the standard requires 27, including a senior engineer. Construction of access roads was low on the priority list of the woreda government plans.

All the targeted kebeles have experienced real service improvements in terms of access roads and bridges. A total  of  9.6  kilometers  of  access  road have been constructed in Chegecha and Chicha kebeles, and 12 kilometers were cleared for road construction in Modi kebele. The budget requested for construction works was estimated at 8.6 million Birr on the part of government, and the community contribution in terms of money, labor and local materials is a match of 25%. Other successes were the assignment of three additional technical staffs, which par tially addressed the human resource limitation of the sector; the allocation of additional budget; and the procurement of a new office for the sector, including necessary materials.

The significance of the improvements for various stakeholders

The construction of access roads and bridges has great significance for the local community. Pregnant women and bedridden patients can now easily access the health facilities. People with disability, elderly people and school children are relieved from the frustration of floods caused by unexpected heavy rainfall. Traders of consumption goods have taken roads as an opportunity to sell inside the villages. More farmers are now taking high value agricultural produce, such as pure honey, coffee, spices, fruits, cereal crops and forest products to potential markets.

According to Gezehagn Aderaro, Kebele Access Roads Monitoring Officer, the new access roads have economic importance for the local community and the government, because these will facilitate tourism to the Sheka Biosphere Reserve, which is registered by UNESCO. The access roads have also attracted investors (e.g. Lutha Agro Industry) and Civil Society Organisations (e.g. OVOP) to Chegecha Kebele. Andenet Abebe, a disabled service user from Chicha kebele observes: “Due to the absence of connecting roads, the work of most NGOs operating in the woreda was limited to serving communities in the town and around the main road. Deprived people who live in rural remote areas used to have no priority, and this opposed the principle of fair resource sharing.”

How the service improvements happened

The changes registered can be attributed to different factors, including capacity building for SA (e.g. trainings, experience sharing, ongoing sensitization, review meetings, and service improvement monitoring and evaluation meetings based on the Joint Action Plan), as well as the motivation of SA Committee (SAC) members, the dedication of the SA Implementing Partners, and the commitment of service providers and woreda authorities.

According to Zerehin Ayasho, Woreda Financial Transparency and Accountability (FTA) officer, the SA project has empowered the grassroots community and service providers to jointly develop the rural roads. “SA shares FTA’s burden in creating awareness for the community on planning, budgeting, implementation and monitoring of development interventions. Because communities understand their entitlements, they have been involved in the construction process, starting from planning up to the monitoring phase.”

Gezehagn Aderaro from the Rural Roads office appreciates the SAC motivation. “They have been mobilizing the community to demand for quality services, and this inspired service providers and officials to be more responsible and transparent. The kebele SAC has been for warding community complaints on accessibility and quality issues to the sector and the woreda administration.”

 

Masroom Mejjeto, service user and SAC member from Modi kebele underlines: “Through SA events, SAC and Community Based Organisations (CBO) have learned that the community could demand more if they know the service standards, which serve as a benchmark to measure the scale of provision. Therefore, we [SAC] have asked contractor and woreda rural roads sector to enable the community to obtain road service standards for construction, including design and specifications. We also urged the contractor not to commence the work before submitting the project document to the woreda rural roads office. Our determination not only addressed the communities’ needs for better services but also improved the capacity of local government. Before SA practices, the contractor used to receive payment from region experts who did not consult the woreda road sector or the community. As a result there was no transparency locally about the contractor procurement, the amount of budget allocated, the type of road to be constructed, and the supervision of construction. With the influence of the SAC, a new agreement was reached during the development of the service reform agenda. The woreda roads unit is now responsible to check whether the construction works proceed as per the standard, and to write a payment recommendation letter to the contractor for the volume of work done. In addition to creating transparency between woreda, where the construction is conducted, and the region, where the resource comes from, this has strengthened the sense of ownership and the power of the woreda rural roads sector.”

How Social Accountability will continue

SA has become an integral part of both citizens and government structures, which stakeholders believe is the lasting impact from ESAP2 implementation. Replication of SA practices into non-targeted kebeles and sectors has already begun following the establishment of the Assembly of Social Accountability (ASA), which is overseeing the functioning of kebele and woreda SAC through a quarterly SA Forum (SAF). ASA consists 26 members, including 16 service receivers from all kebeles in the woreda, 2 councilors (speaker and vice), 2 officials from the woreda administration (chief administrator and vice), 1 official from the good governance and complaint hearing office, and 5 ser vice providers, 1 each from the five basic ser vice sec tors. Tigist Gelito, vice speaker of the woreda council explains: “the members of the SAC and the ASA have free seats at the woreda council meeting to voice needs and priorities of deprived communities. A meeting of ASA is conducted along with the quarterly council meeting to facilitate sharing of SA ideas. With this new SA structure, woreda level SAC represents all kebeles in the woreda and the five sectors.” All stakeholders underlined that the project implementation has created a strong system, and it is now the responsibility of the woreda government and the community to sustain the achievements, and make improvements in other sectors too.

The woreda administration is fully committed to suppor t the SAC, because ESAP2 is relevant to the government polic y of ensuring good governance. The administration has given legal accreditation and recognition to the SAC and ASA, and has approved the SA sustainability plan. The SAC has obtained an office, equipped with necessar y materials, and the administration has proposed to allocate budget for SAC, which is in process to get the council’s approval. In addition, the SAC has planned to conduct resource mobilization, like membership fee collection and fund raising. The woreda administration is covering the costs of printing the vouchers required for such resource mobilization.

Finally, to make SA a way of life, a consensus was reached to establish a Social Accountability Centre at the woreda, which will serve as a place of documentation, and learning about SA by current and coming generations. The woreda administration will provide the land free of charge, the SAC will mobilize the community to contribute labor and local materials, and the SAIP will provide manufacturing materials, furniture and equipment.