By Eithne McNulty Overseas, Officer for War On Want Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland, December 27, 2017 (WOWNI) War On Want Northern Ireland (WOWNI) is a small, independent International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) based in Belfast Northern Ireland. WOWNI implements programmes in Uganda and Malawi focusing on supporting local groups of farmers to reduce poverty and promote equitable and sustainable development through building their capacity to produce more food to feed their families and have a surplus to take to market. Fostering entrepreneurship and building income generation are important aspect of how the organization works and special care is taken to target the most vulnerable of the poor such as orphans, women, elderly, child headed households and people living with HIV/Aids. Care for the environment is central to WOWNI’s work ethic as is gender equality.
Joyce Mary’s story is a heartening one. It shows how a little help can go a long way when there are people as enterprising and entrepreneurial as she. And the vast majority of people in poor communities in Africa have this amazing ability to be business people in their own right. Joyce Mary talks about her “business dream coming through” with the help she got from WOWNI. She now has her chicken rearing farm! She talks too about the training she received on business development and agricultural technologies. WOWNI hears this said all the time.
Training is such a key element of the success of the projects (visit Maximpact Advisory for training services).
Joyce Mary references borrowing from her local Village Savings and Loans Scheme (VSLA) – a kind of credit union set up and managed by local people. VSLAs are a lifeline to people and form part of every intervention WOWNI designs with local people. VSLAs provide a safe savings scheme locally, they provide borrowing facilities for business set up and importantly, they become a lifeline when a ‘rainy day’ hits. Ironically, a ‘rainy day’ in the East African context more typically means drought!. This leads to failed crops as does other disasters such as floods and pest invasion like the army worms which are sweeping Sub Saharan Africa at the moment and destroying poor peoples’ livelihoods. So, the challenges are many. Fortunately, the resilience and talent Joyce Mary exudes, as do so many other of the poor, sees communities through the tough times. Ironically too, when you visit these communities what you meet is not despondency and desolation – not at all. It is always song, dance, ceremony and celebration. Always a smile and a welcome.
WOWNI has a deep belief in the capabilities and capacity of local communities in the developing world. They know best how to respond to the needs and challenges they face; how to lift themselves out of the poverty that surrounds them. Their challenges and obstacles are manifold; the structural nature of poverty; did you know that the developed/rich world takes more in taxes from the developing world than it gives to it in aid?. Other major challenges include climate change, lack of resources, education, jobs, land, gender inequality. Because local people and their communities are best placed to plan and implement development projects, WOWNI operates the ‘partnership approach’, meaning it identifies locally based Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and work through them. They become the delivery mechanism for development projects. They invariably know what’s needed by way of planning, budgeting, training, raw materials, tracking, monitoring and much more. They get results. WOWNI is simply the conduit between its Northern Irish donors and its governmental donors, who generously give to the organization, and the farmers groups who, when they receive that assistance, work innovatively, imaginatively, diligently and with unbelievable resourcefulness and resoluteness.