A cash for work programme in Uganda

Summary of a mid-term review

Oxfam have recently completed a mid-term review of a cash for work programme implemented in Eastern Kitgum in Uganda. The micro-projects involved construction of roads and houses as well as the de-silting of dams. The Acholi people (target population) were victims of recurring raids and displacement at the hands of the Karamajong and Lords Resistance Army (LRA). Constant looting led to the loss of productive assets over a prolonged period of time. The cash injection was believed to be an appropriate and necessary response enabling beneficiaries to choose the means of their own recovery.

Benefits of the programme

Participating households used cash to buy food, pay school fees, purchase school uniforms and productive assets like goats. It is too early to gauge the effect on local traders, however there are indications that business is starting to benefit from the cash injection. There are no signs of micro-inflation in local markets although it is still too early to make conclusive statements.

The roads were reported to be of benefit to the community in terms of improving access to markets, schools and hospitals, bringing traders to villages, and for security reasons. Improvements in water resources (dams and wells) had the obvious impact of increasing quality and quantity of water sources close to villages. Despite some shortcomings, the shelter component of the programme has helped vulnerable families re-establish themselves and benefited others engaged in brick making.

The projects have strongly encouraged participation of women and communities have reported empowerment through their earning of cash. The negative impact is the increased workload on women especially for those types of work which men do not assist with because of the traditional division of roles. There was no resistance to women maintaining control of the cash earned during the programme from the men.

Programme weaknesses

The number of person-days (on average 11 days per household) allocated to vulnerable households is not sufficient to enable full recovery of livelihoods. An increased number of earning days would considerably increase the impact of the project.

While programme implementation is progressing well, planning prior to the proposal was not very thorough. Consequently some of the original targets will not be met. Choice of micro-projects was not based on a full community consultation. For example, the road construction proposal underestimated the number of person days required. Thus important aspects of the work like ditching and sloping had to be omitted in order to ensure others along the planned route benefit from the project. Even so, the original target of 240 km of community road will not be reached (120-150 km is the revised projected target).

The project planned for 500 mabati houses (rectangular houses with roofs of corrugated iron sheeting) to be built for the most vulnerable families whose houses were destroyed during the raids. The justification being that the Karamajong would not be able to burn them down in subsequent raids. The reality is that the budget for iron sheets, together with transport, consumes over 50% of the budget for this programme component. Subsequently, the benefits for those working on the shelter programme is marginal in terms of the cash for work they receive and the number of houses actually built is minimal. The construction of traditional housing with thatched roofs would have increased the number of houses for rebuilding and more cash would have remained in the local area. A significant cause for concern is that the mabati houses would be directly targeted for looting by the Karamajong as only the wealthy build this type of house. This may negate part of the original programme rationale.

Targeting

In general the targeting worked well in terms of identifying the most vulnerable members of the affected communities. There were few instances of vulnerable families being left out or of manipulation/corruption of the system. However, targeting did create tensions between those households and areas that were included and those left out. As all communities were affected to some degree it was concluded that the tensions created outweighed the benefits of targeting (distinguishing need) between parishes and villages.

'Facilitating' an improved outcome

The review team found incidences of communities trying to exploit the system of payment for attendance (daily payment) by appearing at the work site without putting in any serious work. This relates to the ownership of the project and their initial selection by Oxfam rather than the communities, but also relates to confusion over the payment system and its link to achievement, i.e. quality and quantity of output. An agreement on payment for a given amount and quality of work needs to be made with the communities with payment made on work completion rather than on number of days worked. This would also give communities flexibility to organise their labour force for a task that would ultimately benefit all, especially women.

Greater collaboration with the district authorities could improve impact, through technical advice and provision of materials. The other major achievement would be to enable the local authorities to incorporate these works into their ongoing plans, thereby conferring some responsibility for maintenance.

The long-term sustainability of these micro-projects has not been sufficiently thought through. A combination of ensuring adequate quality, more community ownership and greater collaboration with the District and Local Council would enhance the final output considerably.

The communities are learning from exposure to the programme but have not benefited from a more strategic approach with emphasis on building their capacity to manage projects from inception to reporting. If the project is to devolve more responsibility to the community, as is recommended, then a clear analysis of the competencies required to manage the micro-projects is needed. A skills audit would then elucidate the capacity needs and a capacity building plan can be developed.

Show footnotes

McLean C. et al. Oxfam Mid-Term Review of Eastern Kitgum Emergencies Livelihoods Protection Project (Cash for Work). This evaluation can be obtained from Graham Carrington at G-Carrington@dfid.gov.uk or Oxfam GB at Oxfam House, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 7DZ. Phone +44 (0)1865 312610.

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Reference this page

A cash for work programme in Uganda. Field Exchange 13, August 2001. p20. www.ennonline.net/fex/13/cashfor