Hot tip: Working for the United Nations is at least 37% learning acronyms.
Today’s blog is being typed from a guest house in Eenhana, some 12km from the border of Angola. Joined by a colleague from UNDP Energy and Environment, our Communications Officer, and our driver, we just completed a Monitoring and Evaluation trip for a project called SCORE. SCORE stands for “Scaling up community resilience to climate variability and climate change in Northern Namibia, with a special focus on women and children.” See what I mean about acronyms?
The SCORE project is partially funded by UNDP Namibia and implemented through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Specifically, our mission took place in the Oshikoto and Ohangwena regions. These constituencies feel light years away from the modern delights of Windhoek, but the people seem friendlier to me at least. The schedule was jam-packed with visits to farms, schools, villages and earth dams, guided by our trusty Project Coordinator, Aron. He is a skilled farmer and hardworking coordinator, responsible for training and supporting the beneficiaries of the project. It is clear he has built strong relationships with these people and cares deeply about their success. For my part, the days consisted of detailed qualitative interviews preceded by my fumbled attempts to greet the beneficiaries in the proper dialect, each one derivative of Oshiwambo and changing ever so slightly along the way. Oshiwambo is the most widely spoken indigenous language in Namibia spoken by 1.5 million people in 8 dialects.
The SCORE project aims to provide greater information on resilience and coping strategies for climate-smart farming. Farmers with pre-existing gardens and schoolteachers are trained on innovative agricultural techniques, and SCORE funds the installation of micro-drip irrigation systems at their homes and schools. Climate-smart farming is crucial since rain variability in the area presents a tremendous challenge to crop production and food security. These problems carry implications for nutrition and health, as well as the overall well-being for these communities. With the SCORE program, the family farms and school gardens are able to provide for their households and students, and bring their products to market. In 2018, they individually or collectively as a school or support group garden earned anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 NAD (roughly $375 to $940 CAD).
SCORE also works to rehabilitate ground wells and create earth dams at different sites. Each site serves as a main or secondary water source for up to 100 households and their livestock. However, many of well covers have been damaged due to overuse and flooding during rainy season. This is something SCORE is trying to fix.
When asked about their perception of the SCORE program, the results were overwhelmingly positive. In one case, the entire community applauded. Farmers were thrilled to receive us and show us their crops. One head farmer baked us a delicious traditional bread called oshingome, another community served us endless cups of a traditional sweet beverage called oshikundu. Personally, being in the field was an invaluable experience. It is easy to become jaded in the air-conditioned offices of the United Nations building in the big city. Conducting this evaluation brought me down to Earth.
SCORE will close in 2019, and one of the criteria of the evaluation is whether its various elements can be sustained past its closing date. We had to determine if the beneficiaries are committed to maintaining the wells, dams, and farms/gardens once the project ends. Fortunately, they were all eager to do so. More importantly, they feel ownership over the project. This was the result we hoped for, as the intention for UNDP projects is not simply to provide resources to Namibians, but opportunities for them to become (and continue to be) empowered. We are hopeful that SCORE can act as a beacon of success, and a model for other communities.