Contributed by: Kamwania Jafari
Nalolo District in the western province of Zambia is a dry and sandy area where people face challenges of food security due to prolonged drought and accessibility to clean and safe water inputs for agriculture. The rural residents have very limited access to service delivery and have not been involved in the planning and budgeting processes. They lack effective community social structures, and platforms for members to demand accountability from public servants. In the lexicon of get more information the film industry, the cutting-room floor refers to the discarded strips of film literally cut from the reel! However, Action Aid Zambia has helped restore hope by empowering local communities in social accountability, participatory approaches and reflective action, lobbying and advocacy, women rights and mobilization. The aim is to empower all to influence planning and decision making processes to ensure that service delivery is people-centered. In the Nalolo District intervention area Action Aid has provided some vital social services that have mobilized women into forming clubs. The clubs provide a platform to discuss issues affecting them and to identify possible interventions. These include the establishment of citizen action groups to influence decision-making among the local leaders, promote income generating activities, promote rights in schools and address gender-based violence. Village savings and lending schemes have been introduced to the clubs, enabling women to save and borrow money at low interest rates. These village savings have helped many women engage in and finance small income-generating activities. They have also created entry points to access ownership and control over productive resources. The trainings and awareness programs stimulated the formation of a people-owned platform, the Citizen Action Group (CAG). The CAG established a community social service and brought on board the agency of the people to influence government in providing better social services, be accountable to the community, and to ensure that the management and provision of clean and safe water and other social services are effective and people-centered. Additionally, construction of piped water was achieved, providing Nalolo Township and neighboring wards with clean and safe water. Access to clean and safe water and basic hygiene has steadily increased to 50%, reducing rates of water born and hygiene related diseases in the community. CAG is now working with the local government to provide alternative solutions to people living along and in the plains, since water quality there is poor and the wells dry up fast. Water accessibility, especially for women and children, is being tackled in partnership with local and district councils.