Sorry to have disappeared for the past little while. The evaluation I came to Sudan to complete was due yesterday, and during the past two weeks, it morphed into a much bigger undertaking that I had anticipated, for various reasons. It is more or less complete now, subject to the final revisions of my supervisor in the US. I left the field this morning and am in Juba now, in limbo, left to marvel at the wonders of asphalt, porcelain toilets, full-length mirrors and vegetable stands and mourn the absence of herds of cattle blithely blocking the roadway, of tiny tarpaulin and grass-thatched villages, surrounded by walls of sorhgum, whose names I have come to know, of familiar faces I have come to love. Tomorrow I go to Mombasa, a vacation city on the Indian Ocean, to relax, process the last three months, and prepare mentally and physically for Congo. There are still plenty of logistical details to sort out, so I'll go now, but I'll leave you with the (draft) conclusion of the report I wrote, which should give you a sense of the purpose of my work in southern Sudan.
___'s cash grant-supported IGA project was a pilot project, an attempt to see whether a long-suffering region in the early phases of post-war recovery and redevelopment could support successful small businesses, with some technical and financial support from ____. Human capacity and physical and economic infrastructure are extremely limited in Warrap State. Most project participants lacked formal education or extensive business experience, and all were considered at risk of malnourishment.
This evaluation has shown that many participants in this project were able to not only maintain their businesses over the duration of the programme, but to dramatically improve their livelihoods as well. Gains in income and nutritional status measured during the final follow-up survey, which occurred 20 months after the first cash grant transfer, were substantial. ____'s intervention in the businesses has been extremely minimal since mid-2009, and thus the surviving businesses’ continuing profitability speaks more convincingly about the project’s long-term sustainability than this report can hope to.
As with every pilot project, there is plenty of room for improvement. While many of the original IGA groups persist, many more have disbanded, for a variety of reasons. This report has thoroughly assessed all aspects of the programme’s conception, implementation and follow-through and documented many of the lessons learned, which, if heeded, should ensure more widespread success among beneficiaries of similar projects in the future.
Some organisations or donors may express scepticism that business development projects are appropriate in contexts like Southern Sudan’s, where severe malnutrition is endemic and environmental and political instability is the rule rather than the exception. Certainly, true emergency situations warrant different interventions, focused on immediate needs, such as food distributions. However, in contexts where the potential for recovery and growth exists, IGA projects offer humanitarian organisations a means of fostering that growth.
Five years after the signing of the CPA, Southern Sudan is slowly rebuilding. Its markets, institutions and other infrastructure are developing bit by bit. While the participants in this project are clearly better off in terms of food security and livelihoods now than they were at the time it was launched, some of that change may be linked to the broader changes occurring throughout the region. It is impossible to know how the same people would have fared if they had never received cash grants from ____.
Nonetheless, this report finds that carefully conceived and executed IGA projects have much to offer the vulnerable residents of Warrap State and other regions recovering from extended conflict. Cash grants provide the financial and motivational boost that can kick start small-scale development in places where resources and opportunities are historically scarce. In addition to promoting crucial improvements in beneficiaries’ food security and livelihoods, small business development projects foster the morale, dignity and self-respect necessary for self-determination and self-reliance, the “golden eggs” of the humanitarian world.