ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all.

Empowering local actors to make decisions on priorities

The challenges facing poor and marginalised communities in today’s society are multiple and complex increasing vulnerability to securing  livelihoods. Climate changes exacerbate the problem further by creating an additional layer of uncertainty and risk for vulnerable communities to deal with, increasing the severity and frequency of disasters.

Humanitarian organizations are increasingly saving lives and alleviating human suffering. Nonetheless, there still are considerable gaps in the ability of the humanitarian system to respond adequately to all humanitarian crises.

Therefore, there is need to shift the power to national Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that are locally owned to delivering quality, relevant and effective humanitarian response mechanisms to disaster affected communities.

Shifting the Power, a 3 year project is one of the projects under Start Network portfolio a consortium of six organizations namely; ActionAid, CAFOD, and Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Oxfam and Tear Fund. The project aims to support National NGO’s to strengthen their humanitarian skills so that they are better represented and have a stronger voice in humanitarian platforms and networks.

 During an interview with the director of Caritas Maralal, a local NGO based in Kenya where the project is set to be implemented, Mr. Evans Onyiego highlights views of how local organization capacity building skills can be developed. Caritas is the development arm of the Catholic church that supports humanitarian response, health, education, governance, gender, food security, livelihoods and disaster risk reduction practices across various countries.

What is your vision for shifting the power project in Kenya?

My vision is to have more empowered communities who can make informed decisions when faced with emergencies, promote ownership and make it sustainable. There is a lot of untapped capacity within the communities that should be utilized for example in Maralal, we have experienced drought for the past two years but households have been able to withstand the harsh climatic conditions. Communities should be able to voice what they feel is priority while engaging with policy makers.

How will your organization position itself to influence better coordination of humanitarian actors in your country?

Caritas Maralal is a trusted entity that sits in the county steering group. We have advocacy structures up to the villages. Through these grassroots structures we empower communities to influence actions. We attend meetings with other stakeholders that influence policy and coordination.

What do you think needs to be done to strengthen the voice and participation of communities in the humanitarian sector in Kenya?

  • Paradigm shift in terms of thinking and attitude .We see community as helpless and don’t know anything. We need to appreciate and embrace the local capacity that can be tapped and be used  for example  indigenous knowledge and intelligence on conflicts ,weather prediction among many others

  • Build and empower structures within the community .Capacity development has been there without making a difference. We need to build structures and let everything be community led.

  • We should minimize a lot of funding brokerage and bureaucratic process since by the time it reaches the beneficiaries there is nothing much that can be done.

  • Enhance proper coordination and collaboration among actors. There is a lot of competition and duplication of efforts.

  • There is need to enhance knowledge sharing and put in place effective dissemination tools through local radio stations for communities to be aware and act.

Interview was conducted by Getrude Lung’ahi