| Pastoral associations in Chad |
|4 The activities of the Ishtirak project|
4.1.1 Creation of pastoral associations
The project team at that time consisting of two persons (Oxfam co-ordinator and government animal production technician) started in June, 1987 with an animation campaign in all the areas of the OumHadjer Sous-Prefecture where agro-pastoralists were to be found. This resulted in the formation of the first eight PAs of agro-pastoralists; five in Koundjar, mainly as a result of the positive attitude of their Chef de canton, one in the region south of Oum-Hadjer, through the efforts of an educated young herder (who later became one of the animators), and two to the north of Ad-Djop, without any visible initiator.
Over the years, as experience was gained and the project team enlarged, a systematic approach was adopted for the creation of new PAs which consisted of the following:
- in a new zone, explanation of the project objectives to traditional and administrative authorities;
- discussions with groups of agro-pastoralists at watering points and markets. Discussions should be very general and informal, dealing with their specific problems, the season, the reason for the project talking with them, objectives of the project, examples of existing groups;
- the project then waits to see if there are any groups that are interested; these groups can communicate through local authorities or straight to the project and, of course, through the animator if there is one already in the region;
- once a group is interested they are visited three to four times during a period of four months. Discussions are held about organisational aspects, contributions, and possible activities;
- after this period the PA should have chosen their committee, and two persons to be trained as pare-vets;
- the next two discussion sessions will be under the responsibility of the project's veterinary technician and cover animal health, the project's pare-vet programme, the composition and use of the veterinary kit and the obligation to buy a kit in order to participate in the programme (as the pare-vet programme had become an obligatory activity for all PAs);
- the members of the group decide on the level of the initial contribution in order to buy the veterinary kit and to start their first group activities;
- as soon as there are several new PAs in one zone a training course for the chosen pare-vets is organised. The veterinary kit has to be bought at the beginning of the first training session;
- the new PA will be visited by the animator of the region on a regular basis once a month. The animator has an animation programme resulting from regular project team meetings. The animator is also often contacted by the PA on market days, and can be asked to visit the group in order to attend meetings;
- the local technical assistant from the Ministry of Livestock will visit the pare-vets from
- each group once a month in order to train them in relevant subjects, to check on their veterinary and to help them with special cases;
- the respective members of the project team also visit the PA regularly.
Once there is an animator in a region there is a short cut in the above approach, as groups become interested because they have heard about the experiences of nearby PAs, and they had already talked with the animator. Eventually, the demand becomes higher than the capacity of the project to start new groups. The problem then arises as to whom does the project start with; who are real agropastoralists, who form real social units, are people interested in the approach or only to the access to cheap credit?
For these questions there were no proper answers, only observations; and the selection of new groups has been based on their location relative to other groups, so that several groups can come together in time to form a union. The workload of the local animators and veterinary technicians was another important selection criterion. It can readily be imagined that this open approach is very demanding for project staff. They have to be open-minded, have a broad experience, be mature, flexible, motivated, hard-working, inventive and objective.
The strict description of the features of a PA in the project document (number of members, committee, etc.) and the very limited practical and theoretical background of the project staff prevented the project team, in the beginning, really listening to the priorities of the agropastoralists and designing a structure which would fit within their existing social institutions. In the first two years, the tendency of the project team was to stress the requirements of becoming a PA and the advantages. At the end of the first meeting they would simply ask the interested group to submit a list with a maximum of 30 members if they wanted to become a PA Over time, through training sessions and staff meetings, the team changed its approach and took more time in open discussion of all sorts of issues in the course of several meetings with interested groups.
4.1.2 Creation of the women's pastoral associations
In the original project document it was planned to create 50 PAs. In theory these PAs should aim at agro-pastoralist men and women, and the family be represented in the PA by the men of the family. A survey in 1989 of agro-pastoralist women whose husbands were members of a PA showed that the women did not consider the PA as something that concerned them. After this survey it was realised that, taking into account the importance of agro-pastoralist women in the production system, and the inability of the existing PAs to reach the women, women should be given the opportunity of creating their own PA with the same assistance from the project as the original PA. An 'animatrice/coordinatrice ' was attached to the project (September 1989) in order to start working with interested women's groups which had already been identified during the survey. Initially she was responsible for the animation of the groups, but in future local animatrices will be employed, although it might be difficult to find women in the area able and willing to work as animatrices.
For the creation of the women's PAs part of the approach as described in 3.2 for the men's PAs was adopted. However, it was clear from the observations of the existing PAs that from the start the approach should be open, that is to say, without strict guidelines on membership, organisational structure, or activities. The main message to the women is that if they are interested the project can discus their lives and problems with them and try to see where and how, with or without the project's help, they can work together to improve their standard of living. The women's PAs were initially planned in those areas where there were existing PAs. The advantage of this is that the men are less reluctant - and most of them are even very keen - to let their wives join a PA The project tries to involve the men in the initial phase by organising a meeting with them on the subject of the women's PA. The women often ask the men to assist them with such things as book-keeping, so quite often some men are present curing the meetings with the women's PA Contrary to expectations the presence of men during the meetings did not prevent the women from participating in the discussions. However, it was observed that over time the involvement of the men lessened. Probably they felt (or the women made them feel) no longer needed.
In the initial phase discussions around membership with the women are very lively. They want answers to questions like: can only wives of members of the PA become members, what happens when they divorce, what about mothers or sisters who live in the same community? The approach of the project was to leave these questions to the groups themselves to sort out. This worked out well, the result being that PAs of 30-50 women were created of which some two-thirds were the wives of members.
The activities the women are interested in are improving the sales of their produce (butter oil and mats) and in the commercialisation of household necessities like onions, garlic, pepper, etc. Although their household economy depends heavily on animal and agricultural production, they see little scope for increasing production. The improvement of the livestock production side they consider to be the men's responsibility.
4.1.3 Number of pastoral associations created
At the beginning of 1991, there were 36 male PAs and 7 female PAs. The objective of 50 PAs in four years will not be reached, even though the project team has become much larger than originally planned. The follow up needed by the groups was much more time-consuming and intensive than planned, especially as the project became more flexible and open, but also because of the initial inexperience of the project team.
4.1.4 The structure of the PA committees
In the project proposal it was laid down that the PA should have an administrative and a technical committee. The objective of this structure was to give responsibility to as many members as possible. The composition of the committee (president, secretary, treasurer and four advisers) is clearly modelled on Western organisational structure and not based on the traditional organisation of agro-pastoralists. But on the other hand it is also the standard organisational structure for all rural organisation 'groupements' in Chad. More often than not the traditional leaders are chosen for the positions of president, secretary or treasurer. In the field one can then observe that one of these three is the real leader and will act as such. The function of the advisers is not at all clear and in reality it is soon forgotten by both the PAs and the project team that they are part of the committee.
The only functional members of the technical committee are generally the two pare-vets. The other committee members are chosen but in reality the responsibilities are divided differently. For example, to buy and sell animals for the commercial herd several people (four to seven) were chosen, often including the president, secretary and treasurer. For the Cereal Bank the logistics were often entrusted to the watchman as he guarded the stock and was paid accordingly. For the trade in sugar, the bags were sold at a reasonable profit under certain conditions (fixed price for members), to an interested experienced member who then sold the sugar to members and nonmembers in the area.
For the women's PAs the preliminary survey amongst the women (Ishtirak, 1989b) had already highlighted the fact that the women also had their own traditional organisational structures. From the experience with the men's PAs and the discussions with the women it had become clear that the rigid structure of the committee was very unfamiliar and hardly functional in the agro-pastoral situation. Therefore with the women's groups the organisational structure was left open for discussion and it emerged that the women's groups wanted to have several women to share the responsibilities. For example, two presidents were chosen, and for the other functional posts there was a principal and an assistant. Quite often the traditional leading women were chosen for the committee. When it eventually came to activities, some of the groups found that it was better to have an assistant responsible for the activity in each camp, with one person responsible overall. At the end of 1990 there were seven women's groups, each with a different organisational structure.
Generally speaking the women's groups were much more dynamic and involved in the development, build-up, and management of their organisation than the men's groups, who were from the beginning much more restricted by the project definitions in their organisational build-up and membership.
In the project plan it was also emphasised that none of the group members would be rewarded for their input to the PA as each member would be called to do so at one time or another. But of course it is quite clear that a pare-vet does more for the PA than for example the adviser. And what about the members that accompany the PA commercial herd to market to N'Djamena, which involves an absence of at least three weeks? They have to be paid by the PA, just as they would have been if working for a cattle trader. We will see later how the sugar trader was paid for his input and have seen how the cereal bank was trusted in the hands of a non-member.