TASH Develops Shabwa [Archives:1998/37/Business & Economy]

September 14 1998

Mr. Richard Boni is the team leader of the Shabwa Basic Development Program (SBDP), which was put into operation in October 1997. Known by its Arabic abbreviation – Tash, this three-year program is funded by the Dutch government with approximately 9.3 million Dutch gilders ($5 million).
Mr. Matooq Ghaleb, Yemen Times correspondent in Shabwa, talked to Mr. Boni about the SBDP and its future impact on the region. He filed the following interview.
Q: What are the activities of this program?
A: As its name indicates, it’s a basic development program. We’re working primarily on infrastructure activities. There are four or five basic components in the program: health, girls education, water and sanitation, and agriculture (land and water conservation). We also have a community development program.
So, in the health sector we’re remodeling some hospitals, health units and health centers. This year we’re building a couple of health units and health centers, and the construction program will continue into next year. As far as female education is concerned, we’re building girls’ schools and additional classrooms for girls. Our primary goal is to help the government in Yemen to keep girls in school. There is a high drop-out rate of girls from around the 4th level in Shabwa, and we would like to see them continue their education at least through the 9th level.
Q: What about the water projects?
A: We’re building a water project in an area called Wadi Jirdan, which will eventually serve about 10,000 individuals. Sewage disposal projects are being implemented in three or four different villages this year and the same number next year.
In the field of land and water conservation, we’re working on protecting agricultural land from future floods and helping improve the irrigation systems in different areas.
Q: How do you select the regions, and what government bodies are involved?
A: We work as closely as possible with the government agencies concerned. We have very good cooperation with the Ministries of Health, Education and Agriculture. SBDP is helping the General Authority for Rural Water and Electricity Supply establish its operations down here. Projects and priority areas are always selected by working closely with the government. So in the first year we developed a three-district approach. We work through districts in the first instance and then expand the program afterwards. This program has already been expanded into other districts.
Q: What are the problems encountered by Tash?
A: There are always problems. Unfortunately our number one problem here is communication. It is very difficult down here, and that’s a drag on the program.
In the villages, we experienced some problems with villagers. It’s difficult to reach or discuss the projects with all the villagers, giving rise to misunderstandings. We’re trying our best to correct these problems through continuing contact with villagers. SBDP is also closely working with the local authorities to help them help us inform people about what’s going on.
Q: What has been achieved so in the female sector?
A: It is difficult. Shabwa is a lot more conservative than other governorates. But firstly, the education program is completely targeted towards young women. Part of the effort to work with women is to start with the young girls.
We are working closely with the Shabwa Women’s Development Association. SBDP helped them establish an office, and they have since conducted a sewing training course for women around the town and the area in general. We’re planning to continue doing that, but it is very difficult to have interaction with women here. There is a female community development specialist from Holland working on the project as part of the management team, and the community development coordinator is a woman from Aden. Also, one of our community development assistants is a woman.
Q: What kind of training courses are provided by Tash?
A: We have had one computer training course in Sanaa which lasted for 10 days. The participants were selected by Tash and the relevant government offices. Secondly, two English language training courses were conducted, with the help of two teachers from Sanaa. Another course is in the pipeline.
Q: Who benefited from the English courses?
A: A lot of people just came along and the teachers were kind enough to allow them to sit in the classes at no extra charge to the project. So I would like to thank the teachers for that. We had a great response and demand for the English language computer training programs.
Q: What does SBDP provide by way of equipment?
A: In our project we have items and money available for support to certain offices. We basically provided some furniture and some copiers, printers and computer software to the Ministry of Education and the education office in Shabwa. For the agriculture office we bought some field equipment like tree pruning shears. We are planning to purchase some items for the Minister of Health office, and we will also do the same for the rural water authority.
Q: Any last comments?
A: I would like everyone to know that this project is understood as the beginning of a long-term cooperation and development program between the Dutch and the Yemeni governments. As we all know, when the Dutch decide to start a project, they’re in for the long haul of helping people.
I would like people to recognize that development is always a long-term process. We can’t accomplish everything in two or three years. What we look for, from a donor’s point of view, is cooperation by the beneficiaries and contribution by both governments concerned.
We also work on the philosophy that people should, as much as possible, contribute to their own development. We want to help people who are ready to cooperate and contribute.
We’ve found quite a bit of cooperation and had some contributions by beneficiaries. For instance, in our land and water conservation program in Wadi Hada’a, the villagers contributed nearly 40% to the construction of the project. I’m happy about that and we continue to work in that area. So really we just want people to be patient, and we want them to know that we are here for the long term. We believe that what we’re now laying down is the ground work for assisting the people and the government in Shabwa.