Build a Village - Europe Region
Build a Village participants at the Milk Collection Cooperative's cooling station in Bosansko Grahovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Photo: Tatiana Dwyer/CWS
The Church World Service Europe Office launched a multi-year integrated community development program, entitled Build a Village, in the Municipality of Bosansko Grahovo, Canton 10, Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH) in January 2007.
Once the post-war transition from relief to development concluded in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the country entered the development stage, the needs of local communities changed. To help communities to succeed in fighting poverty and social injustice, an integrated community development program strategy is vitally important, responding incrementally to local needs.
The multi-year Build a Village program seeks to improve livelihoods in a sustainable, holistic and participatory manner for targeted rural communities with high concentration of returnees. By concentrating on long-term development objectives, CWS and local partners work alongside organized community groups to identify and prioritize local needs and then design responses that leverage local resources and technical assistance from CWS.
The program targets an economically disadvantaged area of the Bosansko Grahovo municipality located in southwest BiH, with a total population of 3,000. The municipality suffered massive destruction from war activity, nearly 97%. Despite considerable reconstruction, most villages lack electricity, running water, and health services. Employment is virtually non-existent, especially for returnees; more than 90% of returnees in the area are unemployed. Bosansko Grahovo is one of the rare municipalities in BiH where both rural and urban areas were equally destroyed during the war. Despite this overwhelming need, the municipality remains hugely under-served by humanitarian agencies.
In July 2006, CWS and its local partners conducted a participatory needs assessment in the town and twenty villages of the Bosansko Grahovo municipality. More than 160 households and local authorities were interviewed. Additionally, local authorities shared the 2005-2010 Bosansko Grahovo Development Strategic Plans that provided government-led development plans for the region. These plans have significant levels of agreement with needs identified by people in the community, with job creation being prioritized in both urban and rural settings. In addition to a lack of employment opportunities, the community named agricultural development and animal husbandry, health and water, energy and power, as well as transportation as being significant problems hindering the communities’ development.
Danka proudly presents the new entrance door of the central milk station.
Photo: Tatiana Dwyer/CWS
As the overall success of the Build a Village program is embedded in community participation, the local community takes the lead in the program’s development and implementation processes. The quality and relevance of the program can be achieved only if local people are actively involved and engaged in the program’s design and implementation. An open-ended participatory assessment and evaluation processes is used.
The program focuses on local capacity building and job creation as identified in the needs assessment. A key ingredient is the provision of pertinent training to start self-employment or to secure employment, and then continue creating a range of livelihoods through income generation activities. Build a Village advocates for people’s rights and needs through establishing partnerships with various actors engaged in the municipality’s development.
Initial steps focused on organizing community groups and collecting data; when analyzed, the date provided the basis for the design, development and implementation of relevant development projects. The community prioritized two projects: the Initiation of Veterinary Services and The Community Entrepreneur Fund. This fund represents a revolving economic development engine for the whole program.
Hay field in Bosansko Grahovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Photo: Tatiana Dwyer/CWS
Given the multi-year nature of the program, the Build a Village program provides the opportunity for advanced program and financial planning. By seeking integrated funding and leveraging resources, CWS maximizes resource allocations to facilitate the highly focused long-term integrated development program.
Two local partners have been selected to implement the program in its initial stage. The Refugee Return Service (RRS) was founded in 1999 and has been a key CWS partner since that period. RRS implemented more than 30 projects supported by 15 different international donors. Its main goal is assisting reintegration of returnees and regeneration of villages and local communities.
Grahovo Women’s Association (WA) has been a CWS partner for over 5 years. In 2000, CWS assisted a group of ten women to form and register their local association and provided training to build their implementation capacity. Currently, WA has nearly 400 members. WA obtained extensive experience while implementing projects funded by CWS United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), Center for Civil Cooperation (CPCD) and others.
It is anticipated that at a minimum, 3,000 beneficiaries will directly and indirectly benefit from the program. The integrated nature of the program will enable diversified livelihoods, and improved food access in marginalized communities, greater access to health, as well as improved access to education for women and children.
The program is also congruent with the wider global human development efforts encompassed in the Millennium Development Goals, specifically focused on Goal 1 - to reduce and eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
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Related stories: One man's village and Build a Village Milk Collection Cooperative
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