|Water Sanitation Case Studies and Analyses (Peace Corps)|
|Yemen Arab Republic case study and analysis|
|History of Peace Corps water/sanitation activities|
Project 045 (1980-84)
Collaborating Agencies: Peace Corps, CYDA, LDAs, Chemonics International Consulting Division, USAID
The goals of this project are to strengthen the capacities of CYDA, the Hodeida and Hajja Coordinating Councils, and the LDAs in Hodeida and Hajja provinces to plan, implement, manage, and finance development projects; to test technologies appropriate to Yemen; to initiate a wide range of training projects; and to conduct research into the social context in which development takes place in Yemen.
Project 045 is not simply a water sector project. Rather, it is a complicated, integrated rural development project which provides technical assistance of various kinds at various levels. This technical assistance ranges from the development of a computer-based rural information system at CYDA headquarters to the provision of a survey and a standard design to a village wanting to put in a water project or school. The project focuses on the LDA system (see page 43), which has been viewed as the only grass roots, genuinely representative organization in Yemen. (Carter, May 1983, p. 9.)
Although preliminary design for the project began in 1976 along with Project 044, negotiations between Peace Corps and USAID with reference to Peace Corps participation began in 1978. The Project Paper called for a technical PCV to discuss individual projects and a health/nutrition PCV to begin women's activities at each of six LDAs. By the time 045 actually began, the health PCV roles had been dropped and the technical PCVs were assigned at the Coordinating Council level rather than the LDA. The role of the PCVs came to be one of providing technical assistance. The Peace Corps Director (PCD) agreed initially to recruit six PCVs: two construction supervisors, one diesel mechanic, one architect; and two road surveyors.
Carter notes that the positions that these six were to occupy in the project were not well defined and both PC/Yemen and USAID/Yemen personnel expressed some concern about their fuzziness. Nevertheless, recruitment proceeded. However, in March 1979, CYDA formally requested Peace Corps -to recruit 13 PCVs at very high skill levels, including three agricultural engineers. In a compromise, the PCD submitted eight requests -to PC/W the following month: two architects, two surveyors, two mechanics, two engineers. The project agreement was shortly thereafter signed by USAID, CYDA, and the YARG CPO. USAID had not then named a contractor to manage the project or even solicited bids from candidates.
The Carter report (May, p. 10) chronicles the early stages of the project in the autumn of 1979, USAID invited bids for a four-year contract. In early 1980, Chemonics won the contract, and their chief of party and a partial staff arrived in April. During the interim, six Volunteers had been recruited and were scheduled to arrive in November 1979. Delays in acquiring the necessary approvals and visas held the group up until January 1980. One PCT terminated early ("ETed") during training and a second was evacuated and later terminated for medical reasons. This left four PCVs who began work in March-before Chemonics staff came to Yemen, before the project was properly set up, before equipment arrived, and before there was any means of Supporting them in, their work. The Volunteers were sent to Hodeida and Hajja Provinces before the Coordinating Councils had been properly briefed about what they should do with the Volunteers; accordingly, the Councils found the presence of the PCVs, somewhat perplexing. When the PCD made a site visit to Hajja in mid-May, he learned that the Secretary-General of the Coordinating Council did not even know that he had two Peace Corps Volunteers assigned to his office. One of the Secretary's employees had taken charge of the two, but he seemed unsure of their assignment. There was no office for the Volunteers, perhaps an unimportant consideration since there was no work to do in an office. They had spent the six weeks from the date of their arrival in driving around to meet several Local Development Associations. The employee was going to have them do this until they had met all 33 LDAs.
Chemonics only began to get set up during the summer of 1980, when more staff and some equipment arrived. The months from April until summer constituted a pre-implementation stage for the project, and Volunteers had no work during most of that time. PC/Yemen agreed to bring in more Volunteers for a summer training cycle. Four PCTs arrived in July and began work in September. And the same time, Peace Corps recruited two additional well diggers and the rural development administrators.
According to Carter, the result of this poor timing was that Volunteers in the first two groups lived through months of relative idleness and some became so demoralized that even when the project particularly in Hodeida, picked up speed, they had trouble adjusting their attitude toward the project per se and toward their contribution to development generally. A few dissatisfied Volunteers created a management problem for chemonics and PC/Yemer staff, even though Chemonics staff were particularly understanding and accommodating.
Two PCV construction supervisors arrived in the autumn of 1981 and were assigned, in January 1982, to Hodeida. One engineer, who arrived at the same time, was assigned to Hajja. Two more PCVs, an architect and a very experienced construction supervisor, were assigned two Hajja in the spring of 1982.
Some of these placements were somewhat ill-advised, given the amount and kind of work available. Providing technical assistance was a legitimate and necessary activity, but it was not without attendant frustrations. Such assistance was not always properly valued-feasibility studies would be ignored and designs abandoned either because of high cost, local inability to see the need for more complicated structures, or inability of private contractors to execute any project that was at all technically complicated. Accordingly, Carter reports (May, p. 11) that PCVs sometimes felt that their efforts were wasted.
Two PCVs from the first group ETed in the early summer of 1980. One from the second group ETed in early 1981. During the course of their tour, several others either considered terminating or asked for transfers.
The first PCV architect assigned to Hajja concluded at the end of his service that he had largely wasted his time. He was replaced by a second PCV in April 1982 despite the fact that an architect's skills were not vital to roads and water projects, the development priorities in Hajja This PCV subsequently left the country in September in the wake of political problems which brought on the collapse of Project 045 in Hajja. A PCV engineer assigned to Hajja in January 1982 felt that the project only produced enough work to keep the more experienced Chemonics staff engineer busy. She too was obliged to leave the country in September 1982. (Carter, May 1983, p. 11.)
Two architects, one engineer, and one construction supervisor were assigned to Hodeida in the autumn of 1982 to replace departing Volunteers. A fifth transfer-extension terminated during training because, according to Carter (p. 12), he did not like the way the project was administered and he felt that he would have less genuine work and less independence than he had had in his previous Peace Corps assignment.
PCVs in 045 were obviously less satisfied than those in 044. One reason may have been that project 045, with its emphasis on institution-building rather than on the construction of visible projects, was a more complicated project than 044. Project 045 attempted to develop the LDAs' capacity to complete development projects. By its nature, 045 was bound to progress more gradually and with fewer tangible results. (CMP, Narrative Update, FY1982, p. 10.)
Some Volunteers assigned prior to September 1982, and particularly those recruited in January and July 1980, voiced resentment of their assignment to a profit making company such as Chemonics. They resented to an even greater extent the fact that they were working alongside highly paid American contract staff. One PCV expressed the cynical belief that it was partly his gift of two years of his professional life that allowed the project to pay such high salaries and generous field per diems to its contract staff. (Carter, May 1983, p. 12.)
According to APCD Carter, the real problem here, however, may have been lack of adequate work. Had these Volunteers had meaningful work from the beginning, they might have been more willing to accept the trade-off of working for an American organization. In Yemen, an American organization offers the advantage of a manageable and well-organized work environment and a structure that PCVs can understand and manipulate. Project 044 PCVs have, for example, Generally recognized the important intermediary role that TransCentury fills vis-a-vis Volunteers and the YARG Ministry of Public Works. In general, therefore, they, have not had the same complaints about working for an American private enterprise.
Project 045 was allocated funds to do several matching grant projects from beginning to end (up to $50,000 from USAID) but, because of both the difficulty of raising matching funds on the Yemen, side and for political reasons, there were long delays in choosing sites for these projects. The first matching grant project was completed in Hodeida two years after 045 began. In Hajja, the first matching grant project did not start for two-and-a-half years. Chemonics has since closed its office in Hajja, but is still trying to fulfill the commitment it made on matching grant projects without a permanent staff or office in the area. (Carter, May 1983, p. 11.) Individual project agreements were always on the verge of being signed, and Chemonics wanted to have enough volunteers to handle this work load once it got under way. Staff were no doubt correct in thinking that when the situation finally did begin to move it would be important for the project's reputation and its future to be able to act quickly and not be caught with work force that was suddenly inadequate to the amount of work.
A February 1983 USAID project evaluation stated that this was an overly ambitious project, designed as a complex integrated rural development effort, with serious problems; prospects for achieving its original purpose were minimal. Assumptions that the CYDA could absorb the technical assistance package and translate it into significant institutional changes, and that LDAs were viable instruments for local development were unrealistic. Difficulties were also caused by socio-political constraints in the Hajja Governorate and poor communication between project staff and local officials. Although the contractor, Chemonics, provided experienced and capable personnel, only half spoke Arabic well. Training activities in particular lagged. (Ponasik, et al., February 1983.)
Additionally, implementation success in Yemen depends on YARG cooperation and its ability to support activities in remote rural areas. Project experience shows that rural projects in Yemen should have easily defined and demonstrated goals which can be readily communicated to local officials. Language skills and technical expertise a e equally important.
Since the autumn of 1982, Project 045 has been operating more smoothly, according to Carter. Volunteers now spend most of their time in the field instead of simply manning the technical office in Hodeida. Lengthy slow periods no longer seem to be a problem. Staff Volunteer relations have improved substantially and now seem to be very cordial.
The newest group of Volunteers in Hodeida is both busy and happy. In an experiment, PC/Yemen recruited, at Chemonics' request, one engineer to be assigned in March 1983 to the Planning Department at CYDA. He provides technical assistance to LDAs in the form of feasibility studies, surveys, and designs. His time seems to he productively employed and although urban-based, he spends a fair amount of time in the field. Currently, this PCV, with the approval of the PCD, is assigned to reenter Hajja to complete the project which came to an abrupt halt in September 1982. (Carter, May 1983, p. 12.)
Carter reports that, to date, one water project, including a hand-dug well designed to serve as the source for the al-Maghraba Central Water Project, has been completed in all Maghraba, Hajja. Much more has been accomplished in Hodeida. Two matching-grant water projects have been completed and five are in progress. All these projects rely on elevated concrete storage tanks. In Khowfan village, site of one of the completed projects, PCVs have encouraged villagers to irrigate a small garden plot next to the water pump in order to take advantage of waste water. They have also shown villagers how to use soapy waste water to irrigate a backyard garden.
In recent months, one Volunteer has been designing latrines. Volunteers have also done surveys, feasibility studies, cost estimates, and designs for other water projects being constructed with 045 technical assistance, but without 045 funds or construction supervision. Since the 045 project is not strictly a water-sector project, Volunteers have been involved in work on schools, clinics, and other kinds of buildings. They have, as noted earlier, been involved in the training of private, commercial contractors who tend not to be very well skilled in working with concrete. Volunteers have also helped compile manuals of standard designs.
PCVs in this project, until recently, did almost no training of Yemenis. They functioned largely as a design staff, with some Volunteers getting to do some construction supervision once matching-grant projects began. Volunteers believed that the technical office's Yemeni counterparts, of whom there were very few, preferred drafting in the office to field work. PCVs felt they had been given no opportunity to pass on their skills to Yemenis and thought they should not be replaced by other PCVs. Some training has, however, been done with private contractors and village labor. Recently the office acquired a new group of counterparts, and the relationships between these men and the Volunteers seem to be better than previous ones.
Recently, a PCV construction supervisor designed and submitted a project proposal to USAID for a solar water pump. Solar technology is very new to Yemen and holds great promise for the future, given Yemen's vast amount of sunshine and the limited maintenance required by solar devices. USAID has approved this $17,500 project for funding. The LDA and village involved have approved the design. The pump will be put together as soon as the necessary parts are imported. (Carter, August 1983.)
As with Project 044, those architects and engineers recruited for Project 045 have tended to be recent university graduates without much formal professional experience. Construction supervisors have ranged from very skilled in at least three cases to relatively unskilled in two cases. PC/Yemen has had a problem supplying these PCVs with adequate technical training, and most of the training that has been done has occurred on-the-job after the Volunteers were sworn in. Four PCVs recruited in the summer of 1982 participated in a water/sanitation SST program, but according to Carter (p. 13), they have been the only group thus far.
Project 045 was scheduled to end the summer of 1984 and it appears unlikely, at this writing, that USAID will extend it. With the exception of the one PCV who is assigned to the Planning Department of CYDA and whose position will remain viable, all PCVS will have COSed by September 1984.