IDEA Makes a Difference for Rural Folk

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William J. Mbangula Oshakati The Institute of Development and Empowerment for Africa (IDEA) has made its mark on the Namibian landscape by directly empowering 3 000 people through training and empowerment processes in rural areas. In an interview with New Era, IDEA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Imms Namaseb said the 3 000 people came from different institutions and households, and they would now be able to use the knowledge and various skills acquired with the assistance of IDEA. Currently IDEA is expanding and establishing more training opportunities and presence in regions such as Kunene, Caprivi, Oshikoto, Ohangwena and Oshana. It has also field-based workers in Windhoek. Explaining the wisdom of having IDEA headquartered in Oshakati instead of Windhoek, Namaseb noted that his organisation’s core work is rural development. For him it does not make sense to be based in Windhoek if rural development is the clarion call. He would rather stay within the critical area of operation and be close to the people rather than assist them through remote control in Windhoek. As many of the stakeholders are interested in the alleviation of the plight of the previously disadvantaged people who are mostly rural people, Namaseb says IDEA’s vision is to respond to the needs of the poverty stricken and vulnerable people. One can only serve them through living with them and understanding them better through ongoing communication and interaction. “In such a way the contribution of IDEA to rural development through training and capacity building is very enormous and is increasing every day as long as the knowledge acquired is being shared and multiplied from one person to another,” said Namaseb. IDEA was established in 2000 as a regional training and consulting firm focusing on advancing skills, and for growth of national economics through human resources development and capacity building. Its main focus is on providing training and consulting services to the economic players in the public and private sectors to achieve meaningful economic potential, productivity, sustaina-bility, efficiency and effectiveness. It has offices in Swaziland, Malawi, Lesotho, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. A pool of experts who are used to many of the multiple services provided by IDEA are based in some of these countries, while others are sourced from outside. “We are a capacity building institution and we take enormous pride in our ability to deliver practical results for our clients by not only serving as their technical advisors, but also through our cherished commitment to develop the productivity for every individual and institution client to successfully achieve results,” said Namaseb. Recently IDEA concluded a two-week training course called Junior Farmer Field Life Schools (JFFLS) funded by the Finnish Embassy and attended by participants from Oshana, Kavango, Oshikoto, Caprivi, Ohangwena, Kunene and Omusati. Most of the participants were agricultural extension officers who are to become trainers in their respective regions. The main focus of this course was on HIV/Aids, as well as orphans and vulnerable children by imparting skills and knowledge to enable them to acquire food and practical skills. According to IDEA-JFFLS Project Manager Kiwan Cato, the overall aim is to develop a national strategy for the delivery of sustainable JFFLS agricultural activities and life skills education to children at school. “Trained extension workers, teachers, community health workers and social animators act as facilitators to deliver agricultural knowledge and life skills to the participating children as well as to mobilise and sensitise the wider community,” Cato said. The first JFFLS project was tested in Namibia at Endola constituency in Ohangwena region. This follows other similar pilot experiments in Mozambique, which were considered successful. Technical support for this pilot project was received from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), who also provided meals to the project participants. In terms of the JFFLS strategy of imparting knowledge and skills, each participating country with orphans and vulnerable children from 12 to 17 years old will offer a 12-month training using a combination of traditional and modern agricultural techniques. “An equal number of boys and girls learn about field preparation, sowing and transplanting, weeding, irrigation, pest control, utilization and conservation of available resources, utilization and processing of food crops, harvesting, storage and entrepreneurship skills.” After the pilot project at Endola, where 30 orphans and 30 women graduated last October, the project has moved to other parts of the Ohangwena region such as Odibo and Ohalushu. A total of N$1,5 million was pledged by the Finnish Embassy to support the continuation of the project. The new intake consisted of 180 orphans and 60 widows. JFFLS is just one of many projects initiated and implemented through the coordination of IDEA. It has also carried out projects on behalf of various stakeholders such as the ministries of Agriculture, Health, Gender Equality and Child Welfare, UNDP, WFP, FAO, Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), USA Peace Corps, Regional Councils, Unam, Meat Board and many others. “People must know that IDEA’s core philosophy is grounded in the belief that the best practices can be replicated around the world and then modified based on the country’s unique characteristics. Thus capacity building and training on the strategies and techniques of IDEA is a key enabling tool to development, ” said Namaseb. He further noted that the flexible and innovative nature of IDEA places it in an ideal position to deliver result oriented and sector specific programmes, which are directly relevant to the current private and public sectors’ transformation needs. On the challenges facing IDEA, Namaseb noted they are twofold, some are internal and others external. The internal challenges are to get more and more people with intellectual capacity who can help in various fields of operation. Another crucial matter is the financial assistance, which inhibits IDEA to carry out its duties to its fullest potential. Most of the external challenges are related to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. “As a result of increasing cases of HIV/AIDS we are also at the same time appealing for financial assistance to fight the disease. It cannot be fought in isolation since it is a global issue, which needs vigorous awareness campaigns.”