Civil Society Collaboration: the Key to Long-Term Success

Photo By: Yevhen Samuchenko

On October 12 the French Embassy, the Society for International Development, and SOS Sahel hosted a panel discussion on cultivating natural resources for more sustainable agriculture in the Sahel region of Africa. Though the Sahel is one of the poorest and most undeveloped regions of the world, the panel noted that partnering with the local civil society development actors is key to effective development and sustainable programs.

Engaging partnerships between international organizations and civil society is not only essential for effective aid, but also long-term development. Jessica Lenz, InterAction’s senior program manager for protection, elaborated this in her article, “Rethinking support for communities’ self-protection strategies: a case study from Uganda.” In this piece, Lenz asserted that participatory problem-solving methods are the most effective. This is further emphasized by InterAction’s Results-Based Protection Program, which frequently seeks guidance from civil society to better provide protection and aid.

InterAction stresses this collaboration between local and international actors because affected populations are experts on their issues and may already have preliminary programs in place that can be built upon to become more effective. It is also essential to involve the local community in building and maintaining programs because the population will be responsible for continuing the programs when it comes time for the international community to exit the region.

The Sahel panel highlighted one program in particular that effectively engaged with local actors to strengthen the region. Gum Arabic is a natural and underdeveloped resource that grows naturally in the Sahel. It is been cultivated and harvested for years, yet the process of harvesting was ineffective and affected the quality of the product, and, ultimately, the price of the good.  Though observing the harvest, SOS Sahel determined that the actors needed better tools to collect and sift the Gum Arabic. SOS Sahel provided these tools and, technical advice, and completely transformed the process of harvesting and, therefore, the quality and price of the good.

By listening to local actors, evaluating the issue, and providing resources and technical advice, humanitarian aid can be more effective and long-lasting than without the help of local actors. Collaboration is essential to efficient development today, and tomorrow.