Last week the project conducted an annual review of progress. No, we have not been working for a year, but the money was officially announced a year ago. This date is the start date we are held to by the Asian Development Bank, our primary funding source.
It took nearly a year to gather the team of national and international experts. Actually, we still lack experts on local community building and rural market diversification (contact me, if you are an expert who could volunteer ASAP). Yes, if professionals were paid, this could have sped things up, but gaining the funding needed for the project itself is hard enough. Nationals began searching for donor funding more than 3 years ago and the pasture has become much further degraded in this time.
Here is the real issue:
Early announcement of international funding also put a start date in the heads of locals. Then a year rolls by…contracts between donors, government, and the developing team result in paperwork, personnel, and equipment lags. Contact with rural herders is limited. Now locals suspect that the project or government is eating the money, because they see little happening on the ground.
Our mission is to engage in sustainable development of water and social/agricultural extension services. Just dropping wells and buildings on the landscape is not a sustainable approach to rural development. Some feel that numbers of wells and buildings constructed is key to truly delivering services to the locals. Waiting a year for water or community services means more herders will go bankrupt and will be forced to abandon their practices. Others feel that the environmental planning and community development must be done first and raw numbers should no be the end goal. Spending thousands of dollars to drill wells without environmental data may mean that new wells run dry in few years. I expect this experience is shared by most relief agencies. I suspect the money is always coming much later then needed.
Time keeps pushing on in spite of it all.
Much has changed since the original grant was written. Both herder groups and the pasture have changed. Our whole team (those based in the capital and the countryside) has scheduled a large-scale workshop and feedback session with herders December 21-24th (Mongolians don’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th). The goal is to spark local community involvement and reassess our priorities.
**Again, if you are an expert in rural income diversification or rural community building, please contact me about volunteering short or long term.