Leonie Hipkins returned from Sudan a few days ago, where she spent a month monitoring the rehabilitation of an existing hafir (lake) as well as the construction of a new hafir, carried out thanks to the COOPI Suisse donors and the AIL.
She tells us: “The best part of my trip to Sudan without doubt was visiting the projects, the construction sites and above all meeting the people who were able to benefit from the work of COOPI Suisse. These visits did not consist only in observing the progress of the projects, funded by COOPI Suisse and foreseen by the COOPI network program, including a nursery, a solar-powered water point, or other activities, but also in understanding how the intervention was perceived by the population: have there been benefits or have there even been undesirable side effects? Who will benefit from these interventions in the long run?
To answer these questions, influenced by my education as a social and cultural psychologist and with the task of contributing to the projects monitoring and evaluation activities, I assisted my colleagues on site during the meetings with the beneficiaries.
One morning we conducted a focus group discussion with the members of a VSLA (Village Saving and Loan Association), created to save money, so as to support each other by granting loans to those who need it during the most difficult periods, a simple system but with a powerful result. Among the members of the association, there were also farmers supported by the rehabilitation of the hafir.
Thanks to the possibility of borrowing money, some women told how they had been able to buy the material to make hats and bags that they had then sold on the market.
During these sessions the locals shared their doubts and ideas, as well as suggestions for the future. This is what I imagined to be development cooperation: to reach a mutual understanding of the situation and to find a culturally appropriate solution to people's needs and desires.
I go home aware of the amount of work that is still to be done, but happy to know that the people in need of yesterday will be in a better situation tomorrow".