Centering Local Resources and Knowledge: MCLD at the Regional Knowledge Sharing Meeting in Food Security Contexts

May 9  – 11 2023

Reflections By Taremwa Albert – MCLD-Uganda and EDLOSCO

A strong delegation from the Movement for Community-led Development (MCLD) was invited by USAID  to share insights and organize a workshop on centering local knowledge and resources in HDP practice at a recent Regional Knowledge Sharing Meeting for the Greater Horn of Africa. 

Mr. Taremwa Albert (EDLOSCO), Ms. Sophie Kange (International Development Consultant), Mr. Baluku Isaya (YAGANET), and Mr. Matte Jokas (Wilmat Development Foundation) represented MCLD-Uganda. We were joined by Gunjan Veda from the MCLD Global Secretariat and Zipporah Wambua from the Government of Makueni County Kenya who has been an active MCLD member and oversees the first School for CLD.

L-R: Baluku Isaya, Sophie Kange, Taremwa Albert, Matte Jockas

The conference focused on Humanitarian-Development-Peace (HDP) Coherence in Food Crisis Contexts. It was organized by USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance, Bureau of Resilience and Food Security, Kenya and East Africa Mission, and IGAD, in collaboration with the Implementer-Led Design, Evidence, Analysis and Learning (IDEAL) and the Resilience Learning Activity (RLA), was convened to discuss how to work towards HDP coherence to address the food crisis. 

This in-person event took place in Naivasha, Kenya from 9-11 May 2023 and included participants from six countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda. 

The Regional Knowledge Sharing Meeting (RKSM)

Throughout the event, participants touched on a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Some examples of this include: 

  • Local Knowledge supports inclusive industrialization, sustainable urban transport, and resilient infrastructure, contributing to SDG11 and targeting 9.1 of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which focuses on strengthening resilience to disasters.
  • Innovative food technologies address SDG2 by improving access to nutritious and safe food and reducing food waste (SDG12). 
  • Biomedical technologies improve healthcare access (SDG3) and contribute to SDG5 for women and girls. 
  • Collaboration among businesses, governments, and civil society, as promoted in SDG17, facilitates knowledge sharing and resource utilization for common goals. It also has indirect benefits to SDG6, by improving the efficient use of water resources and reducing water pollution, and SDG8 by generating jobs in agriculture and improving its efficiency.

The Meeting also facilitated the learning of innovative ways to shift power back to communities when deciding how assistance should be effectively sequenced, layered, and integrated into programming. Participants were empowered in determining the most productive strategies and greatest barriers for centering local knowledge in intervention design and implementation across humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding assistance and strategies to overcome the most pressing challenges.

One question that I posed related to challenges to Ugandan trade and business:

Challenges to Ugandan trade and business in Southern Sudan include concerns over corruption and discrimination, poor road conditions, and language barriers. Recently, Ugandan Traders were killed in Southern Sudan, Ugandan goods were stopped at Busia Border to Kenya, Nonpayment for Ugandan merchandise in South Sudan and slow interventions seem to be done in response thus debilitating Development, where do you see the growth in trade in the borderareas in the next decade? 

Answers to my question included Harmonisation of Policies, Inter country trade strategies, leveraging the local level context and institutions, Inter Africa Trade and Policy Development and implementation.” 

Community-led Development is a development approach where local community members work together to identify goals important to them; develop and implement plans to achieve those goals; and create collaborative relationships internally and with external actors —all while building on community strengths and local leadership. 

USAID tends to build its partnerships around the more established organizations and government agencies and more funds are spent on staff than usually what reaches the ground to do local Interventions. Increasing funding to Country Based Pooled Funds (CBPFs) is a common way for funding organizations and partners to meet their Localization commitments. Operationally, these funding mechanisms provide some clear advantages within a local context. This would change the process to realize more potential and partnerships.

Centering Local Knowledge

MCLD Uganda facilitated a five-hour workshop on Centering Local Knowledge and Resources in HDP practice along with Gunjan Veda. We began by co-creating the workshop agenda and undertaking a sense-making exercise on CLD, LLD, and local knowledge and resources. 

According to MCLD, Community-led Development (CLD) is characterized by 11 attributes: participation and inclusion, voice, community assets, capacity development, sustainability, transformative capacity, collective planning and action, accountability, community leadership, adaptability, and collaboration.                             

At the workshop: Defining Local Knowledge 

MCLD defines Local/ Community knowledge as knowledge embedded in a community. It refers to the intergenerational traditional wisdom, life experiences, artistic expressions, skills, relationships, systems of communication, decision-making and conflict resolution, and understanding of the local context that exists within every community. It encompasses both tacit and explicit knowledge and is locally and collectively produced, applied, and innovated.

Local knowledge can be intergenerational or emergent–new, co-created, curated, and incorporated into the shared wisdom. 

After intense sense-making workshop participants identified local knowledge and resources as: natural resources, land, soil, trees, knowledge that exists internally and one that we bring from outside, spatial knowledge, knowledge of seasons and patterns, available in people’s culture, folk tales, songs, dances, wood carvings, institutions, needs, customs, history, culture, biodiversity, climate-related knowledge, local leadership system, language, indigenous structure, labour, interaction with environment, medicinal knowledge, people, experience, skills and stories, institutions, networks, traditional problem-solving ways, opinion leaders, land, hill, sand, local knowledge systems (communication methods within communities), ways of life.

At the workshop, participants acknowledged that the hardest thing in CLD is INCLUSION. Communities have their own power dynamics and CLD practitioners need to ensure that the local knowledge of all groups in the community, including the most marginalized are recognized, respected, and celebrated. There is also the tension of how some “local knowledge” can be the basis of discrimination against women, people with disabilities, and other historically marginalized groups.

At MCLD Uganda and the Local Sustainability Development organization that I lead, we have found a way to tackle this. Instead of the Expert Model Approach, we suggest the Learning Spiral Model because every community has a starting point. Take advantage of that to start with the Community/ Local Experience, look for patterns, add new Information and theory, practice new strategies, plan for action, and apply in action. This was adopted because “there is nothing for people without people” and every contextual and sustainable intervention has its anchor in the local communities.

As part of the discussion, I shared the following: “Move from talking and listen to the people and their priorities and act: This means that action has to be inclusive and participatory to be sustainable. There is no better person with a better solution than the person facing the problem.

The Adoption of HRBA along the Value Chain with its Principles of Participation, Accountability, Non Discrimination, Empowerment and Links to Human Rights can be more impactful in the process.

The contextualization and localization of global knowledge and resource allocation can help reduce costs related to the implementation of different interventions, staffing, transaction, and management through all stages of response and promote diversity, inclusivity, and innovative and contextual approaches.

This can be done by having Communities engaged in study, planning, design, implementation, monitoring, and Sustainability through Ownership of the solutions. This is because their capacity is already built for their own community’s Sustainable Development. Individuals and CBOs play a complementary role to the Government using the existing structures using a participatory approach anchored on HRBA.

About MCLD-Uganda

At MCLD, our philosophy is based on putting communities at the forefront, building agency, recognizing local voices and resources, and bringing decision-making power to local communities. MCLD-Uganda rejects the top-down development approaches and is pro #ShiftThePower processes as we believe it is the only pathway to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

In Uganda, the Movement has a membership of 92 CSOs including international, national, and local organizations, with the majority being community-based organizations spread across the country. Through the Movement for Community-Led Development, these have more intentionally embraced community-led development knowledge and practices, and explicitly promote CLD approaches in their communities and programs.

Scientists affiliated with Civil Society organizations (CSOs) contribute to the development and evaluation of emerging technologies, such as food and biomedical technologies showcasing their sustainability benefits. CSOs act as watchdogs for transparency and accountability, driving campaigns to promote sustainable practices and behavioral changes. They also engage in revitalization projects, gathering people’s needs and opinions and offering adequate and sustainable solutions for their communities. Additionally, CSOs raise awareness and educate about the importance of sustainable infrastructure and technological innovation for economic and social development, with educators playing a crucial role in promoting science, technology, and engineering careers and fostering cultures of innovation.