What am I ACTUALLY doing in Kpandai? Well now, interesting you might ask – I am working on the EWB Governance and Rural Infrastructure team (G&RI for short, which I’ll be using for the rest of this blog, so tuck that tidbit of knowledge away somewhere!). G&RI’s aim is to help district (municipal) level government provide equitable service delivery. Err what does that mean?
Ghana as a country is moving towards decentralization. Decentralization is basically the process of moving decision making power within the government from the national level (in the capital of Accra) to the municipal local level. So for example, instead of Accra deciding where schools would be built, the district level education department would. The theory is that district governments have a way better idea of the priorities of its communities and be able to better allocate resources. Makes sense right? Planning for the district is coordinated at by the District Planning Coordinating Unit (DPCU).
Where G&RI Comes In
G&RI works mostly with district government, working to increase the capacity of the DPCU to make evidence-based decisions with respect to planning. Basically working to help the district better collect and analyze data of the district and then use that data in making annual and longer term district development plans. This is where that concept of ‘equitable service delivery’ comes in… if allocation of resources is done based on data, based on real need, and less on political sway, or gut instinct, then it is more fair and equitable to its citizens.
What I am really, really excited about is that our team is working to improve the capacity and ability of the government, an institution that I think should and will play the largest role in pulling its own Ghana out of poverty. They are the one stakeholder in development that has Ghana’s needs first and is in it for the long haul. Also, spreadsheets and data make me happier than pretty much everything else in this world.
One of my favourite examples to give to try to explain G&RI has to do with donor projects (on which the districts depend on a lot). If I’m a donor with the funds to build say, a borehole, and I walk into the district office and the District Planning Officer is able to say “Yes, thank you – we are in desperate need of a borehole, let me just check my spreadsheet to see which community needs it most…”. Wouldn’t that be AWESOME?! Many times it comes down to donors doing projects wherever is convenient… Maybe near a big road, or where pictures would look nicest (okay, that’s a bit cynical… I admit, but not thaaat far from the truth) and sometimes even without letting local government know.
Kpandai is one of the newer districts in the Northern Region (province) in Ghana. There have been several G&RI EWB volunteers here in the last few years working with Ahmed, the District Planning Officer to co-create an Excel database to help with planning. I will be working here for 3-4 months in my major learning period, trying to get a real grasp of the realities of planning at the district level. Ahmed is great and young and energetic and pretty exciting about getting the database up and running. He was actually one of the African Delegates at the EWB 2011 conference in January. He said he learned how to walk quickly in Canada to keep out of the cold!
There are a lot of challenges ahead of me. Getting reliable and timely data, helping staff understand the value of data and evidence based decision making, shifting behaviours around the planning process to include data and monitoring, designing with technical skills in mind, lack of performance incentives or pressure and dealing with major staff absenteeism are just a few that I have identified so far. It should be a frustrating and exciting few months full of learning!
I hope that makes some sense. Let me know if you have any questions! Stayed tuned.
Up Next: Life in Kpandai