As President Julius Maada Bio’s New Direction Agenda focuses on improving the welfare of the “rural poor”, development partners continue to deliberate on issues that would ensure the president’s dream is realized. At the Taia Resort, Taima, Moyamba District, last week end, a two-day Strategic Planning Retreat on the National Framework for Inclusive Governance and Local Development was organised by a Local Non- Governmental Organisation, Fambul Tok International in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, United Nations Development Programme and Catalyst for Peace.
The main thrust of the forum was to offer a deep dive into the Wan Fambul National Framework for the new government leaders, harmonise the framework and emerging national policies and plans, clarify roles and responsibilities among the relevant ministries and the secretariat, operationalise a working relationship between the different ministries and the secretariat and develop a fund raising Action Plan.
Giving his Keynote address at the opening ceremony, the Minster of Local Government and Rural Development, Anthony Brewah said his Ministry's involvement in the process was a demonstration of government’s desire to promote the initiative.
He pledged his Ministry’s continued support to the programme, especially when it is geared towards promoting the welfare of communities as well as putting them in charge of their destiny. He thanked the organizers and donors for the retreat which he said, intends to promote the development of national frame work for inclusive governance and local development and entreated the participants to take the initiative very seriously.
The Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Robert Chakanda described the programe as very important and timely. Giving an overview of his Ministry, Dr. Chakanda disclosed that they are in the process of putting in place a comprehensive development plan under the New Direction Agenda in consultation with relevant stakeholders to promote inclusive governance. “Let’s give initiative the desired strength and determine our own destiny, he told his audience.
Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office, Francess Alghali recalled local authorities recent meeting with the Vice President in Bo, aimed at strengthening local governance in the country . The Retreat, she said will add value to the programme and pledged her office continued support and collaboration.
Paramount Chief of Dasse Chiefdom, Hon. Fatmata Bintu Koroma Mema Kajue, expressed the need for local communities to be involved in the planning and implementation of development projects in their localities and admonished all to support the programme in order to transform the country into “paradise”.
Giving a brief historical sketch about the initiative, the Executive Director, Fambul Tok International, John Caulker said the Wan Fambul Framework has been jointly developed by the Ministry of local government, leaders from three pilot districts, Fambul Tok and Catalyst for Peace. The Frame work, he said is grounded in the belief that until development is taken to the “doorsteps of the citizens”, the nation cannot effectively move forward together. Mr. Caulker said the National Framework will facilitate inclusive, community- centered sustainable development through the creation of transparent, collaborative, inclusive chiefdom and district infrastructures that are ultimately responsible for facilitating a National and International Civil Society Organisations and donors involvement, leading to resilient communities across Sierra Leone. He said Fambul Tok and partners have been working with various local communities on Peace Building activities, saying “the essence of the process is to use local solution to solve local problems”
In her presentation, a Development Consultant, Angi said the framework offers vision of a whole inter-connected Sierra Leone, undivided by region, ethnicity and partisan political affiliation, adding that strengthening social capital with particular reference to the process of trust, collective action, inclusion, local groups, networks, information and communication is relevant for peace and development operations at rural community levels. She said the framework caves space for outsiders to work with in partnership with district, chiefdoms and communities to find their own answers as government and donors do not have all the answers.
Jointly updating participants on the Draft National Rural Development Policy on behalf of the ministry of local government, the Deputy Minister, Philip Tetema Tondoneh, Acting Director of Rural Development, Michael Samai, Deputy Secretary, Ibrahim Sorie Kamara and Development Consultant, Daniel Kaindaneh expressed government’s unwavering commitment to developing the National Rural Development Policy.
They described rural development as a complex and overarching concept, covering nearly all sector and expressed optimism that it will respond to a variety of situations and issues affecting the lives of the rural population, incorporates sectoral programmes and policies, strengthen community- based partnerships through inclusive participation, reduce leakages of funds, build donor confidence and ensure local economic growth, among others. They outlined a number of challenges facing rural development, including missing and inadequate finance and skills for rural development, failure to decentralize decision-making to the community.
The Director of Planning in the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Sheka Bangura underscored the need to manage people’s expectation well and send the right messages. He also expressed the need to develop a communication strategy that would enhance the national development plan and involve Civil Society Oganisations in the development process.
A representative of Fambul Tok Peace Mothers, Madam Combay Kajue thanked Fambul Tok for building their capacity especially in the areas of Small and Medium Enterprise development, rural savings and peace building. The Retreat which attracted a galaxy of stakeholders including opinion leaders, Local Council and MDAS representatives, the media and community members, ended with a number of recommendations including the need for key stakeholders to work with the Minister of local government with a view to promoting rural development, prioritize activities in the development pillars, integrate local councils development plans into the national development plan, ensure the devolution process is accountable and financed, ensure the national frame work is people-driven.