AYMAN ALI1, STEPHAN BAAS2
1Oxfam (GB), Poverty Reduction, Yemen
2Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Sustainable Development Department, Italy
The increasing importance and recognition of Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) in poverty reduction and decentralisation contexts is self-evident. However major challenges remain related to their capacities to assume key responsibilities at local level and their vertical integration into existing institutional settings. This paper discusses preconditions, good practice and operational lessons learned about organisational capacity development and empowerment processes analysing the set-up and the institutional/organisational aspects of CBOs initiated and/or strengthened with the support of the Community-based Regional Development Program (CBRDP) in five distinct socioeconomic and ecological areas of Yemen. It assesses comparative advantages and potentials of local institutions and CBOs in decentralised rural development.
The study collected and used primary and secondary data applying different Participatory Learning and Actions (PLA) methods and tools. Study findings show that an area-based flexible process approach was suitable to create local confidence in CBO operations and to respond to the dynamic needs of local communities. Moreover, investing simultaneous in institutional and human capacity and productive asset development it proved indispensable for both success and sustainability. At the CBOs levels, the local socio-cultural, institutional and political settings revealed significant in shaping the organisational maturity and mode of interactions within the CBO as well as between the CBO and their environment. Successful CBOs were often those which proved prosperous in (a) practising --internally-- good governance based on clearly defined leadership/advisory functions between traditional leaders and elected representatives of the poor, (b) prioritisation-based selection between productive investment and social initiatives, (c) linking poor to middle income groups using innovative ways building on their indigenous norms and practices and (d) establishing operational horizontal and vertical linkages with other institutions. A legal framework which supports the combination of social self-help initiatives and economic activities appeared as an essential precondition for successful the CBOs operations and sustainability. CBOs showed good potentials to coordinate local poverty reduction initiatives and to contribute, through coalitions with others, to pro-poor policies at the macro-level
Keywords: Community-based organisations, group-based enterprise development, integrated local development planning