This new year, the Community-Driven Development (CDD) Global Solutions Group (GSG) series “CDD Voices” highlights how CDD approaches are used throughout the world to benefit poor communities. As part of this series, we’re interviewing seasoned task team leaders about their insights and experiences from working on CDD programs.
This month, we’re speaking with Foluso Okunmadewa, Lead Specialist with the Social Protection and Labor Global Practice (GSPDR) and TTL of the Nigeria Community and Social Development Project (CSDP). Started in 2009, this project increases access by the poor to improved social services throughout Nigeria, mobilizing approximately US$237 million in community-driven investments.
An economist by training, Foluso has been with the Bank for more than 20 years and has worked primarily on Africa, social protection, and human development. He has graciously volunteered to chat with us about his experience on CDD programs. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What got you started on CDD work?
I first started in 1995 as a short-term consultant with the World Bank working on a qualitative poverty assessment, meant to complement the quantitative data published by the government’s statistics office. From the assessment team’s discussions, one reason why poverty reduction often failed was because the community was not involved in program design and implementation. We realized there was a need for an integrated and participatory approach to poverty reduction effort in the country going forward. So that was the major recommendation in the poverty assessment report.
Returning to the World Bank in 1999, I began my first CDD operational work—the Community-Based Poverty Reduction Project. Since then I’ve been a member of every CDD project from the country office, including the Local Empowerment and Environmental Management Project and the National Fadama Development Project, which all looked at how we can help communities identify, design, implement, and even monitor subprojects to improve their livelihoods. Having progressed through several models to CSDP, we’ve arrived at a model that’s working well for Nigeria and really helps improve basic and productive services for its citizens.
Looking back, my training, interest in CDD, and work with the Bank were what got me started on CDD.
What are some of CSDP’s achievements that you're most proud of?
Through CSDP, we’ve been able to improve the social capital of communities. The CDD approach of CSDP brings communities together by providing resources around which they can plan their work and offers a way for the government and communities to work with each other. Because of CSDP and other CDD programs, participatory planning is no longer a new approach in Nigeria and is becoming more widespread, finding use in almost every other area of intervention and improving social capital for communities.
We’ve also been able to build better partnerships between community groups and state and local governments. As a result of the CSDP’s CDD approach, some local governments are beginning to recognize community groups as a “fourth tier of government”—besides the federal, state, and local levels—and will provide resources and tap into these groups’ capabilities.
Finally, CDSP has improved the well-being and welfare of people through improved access to schools, health services, rural mobility, rural enterprises, and better management of natural resources.
What are the challenges facing CSDP and how have you managed them?
One challenge is the slow integration of CDD into Nigerian government systems; progress also varies from state to state. Our hope is that the government will increasingly allocate resources to these programs, reducing program dependence on World Bank contributions. To this end, we continue to engage in dialogue and advocacy with the government, showcasing CDD mechanisms and results to encourage administrators to integrate CDD more fully into their systems.
Another challenge we face is declining government funding for these programs, which reduces our ability to do more work with community groups. This propels the World Bank to consider additional financing to mitigate these effects.
Finally, Nigeria continues to lack a national CDD policy framework despite a long history of such programs. The federal government, which is responsible for policy and resourcing, needs to issue an integrated CDD framework to help standardize principles and the way states and local governments implement CDD programs or address problems. Such a CDD framework would be of great value now that the federal government is faced with resettlement and recovery of households in northeastern Nigeria’s conflict-affected areas.
What’s your favorite personal story from CSDP?
One story I like to tell whenever I have the opportunity:
A community put together a rural electrification program, so they bought poles and electrical strings, wired their houses, and put a transformer in the village. Everyone had lights and small-scale businesses were doing very well.
One day, a lorry passing through knocked down two of the electrical poles before driving off, cutting off the village’s electricity. The villagers had to sleep in darkness when they returned from the fields in the evening. The next day, they called a village meeting to decide what to do – since the community owned the project, they had to put together money for repairs. One old woman at the meeting said, “Wait a moment!” before pulling out a paper from her pocket – she had written down the vehicle number. Eventually they tracked down the lorry’s owner, who agreed to pay for repairs.
Without seeking outside help, the villagers restored their power supply within a week.
This is a story that speaks to how when people build their own facilities, their deep sense of ownership creates monitoring, restoration, and sustainability systems that you cannot find anywhere else. These systems are established by the fact that the project is owned by the people themselves.
Based on your CSDP and CDD experience, what advice would you give to a new CDD TTL or other new CDD team members?
First, focus on social capital. Where is the social capital? What is it that brings people together more easily? What kind of culture, mechanisms, or dynamics do they have? You can build some of project’s systems around these answers.
Second, build mechanisms around existing government structures. While some people may feel that a particular government structure is corrupt or inefficient, there is always a part where you can link the CDD program, opening the door for gradually integrating whatever mechanism you are using for CDD into the government system. Building a CDD system completely outside the government is a recipe for them to shut it down completely.
Third, avoid elite capture at all costs. Micro-projects, not mega-projects, are the best way to start. Small projects within what the community can manage are generally not attractive for rent-seekers, while larger grants often invite elite capture. As the communities become more familiar with the project, you can always increase the size of the envelope.