Last Updated on: 17th March 2023, 05:47 pm
Two rural women in Kole District, Lango sub-region are standing tall for their roles in mobilizing community members to participate in the periodic repairs and maintenance of community access roads (CARs).
Most of these CARs are in poor states and affect the development and education of their children who fear walking on bushy roads.
Ms. Vicky Akello Vicky, 38, and mother of four children is a resident of Akaidebe B village in Akwirididi parish, Aboke town council.
Her colleague, Ms. Sharon Adero, 28, is a resident of Baraliro village in Akalo Town Council, Kole District.
The pair are now greatly admired by the community as change agents for their roles in championing development because of their efforts in mobilizing their community members for communal work.
Ms. Akello had undergone a significant transformation since being selected as a change agent by the community.
Before this task, she lacked confidence and was unable to speak confidently to large groups of people.
However, after completing the participatory action research training, she has become a more confident individual. She is now able to mobilize community members to participate in communal activities and work together with them to solve community problems.
One such problem faced by their community was the poor state of the access road from Akaidebe to Acoo, a two-kilometer road that was so bushy and used to scare pupils of Wigwa primary school yet this is the only road to access the school.
Because of the problem, farmers were also selling their produce very cheaply because the road was in a poor state and full of huge potholes making it impossible for trucks to access farmers’ stores in the villages.
Ms. Akello played an active role in mobilizing community members to clear the road, as agreed upon during the generation of the community action plan.
This effort resulted in the road being maintained three times since its clearing. Her efforts have earned her a place on the committee for the Parish Development Model (PDM) where she’s a secretary.
Despite her initial lack of confidence, Ms. Akello has now become an active and confident member of her community, playing an important role in its development.
Ms. Akello said that in most cases, communities wait for the local government to repair for them the bad road, but when she mobilized the community they identified three main issues which were affecting them and these were the problem of water, bad road, and high cases of domestic violence as a result of high consumption of alcohol and drug abuse.
“So among these three problems, we had to find out, which one can the community do by themselves. So we found out that the problem of water we cannot solve, but for the community access road we can do it by ourselves,” Ms. Akello said in an interview last weekend.
She said that as the name indicates, the community access roads are for the community of that particular area, therefore, it is their responsibility to maintain them instead of waiting for the government which has other priority areas to inject the limited funds into them.
“..this is one thing that the community came out with, we as the community can maintain. So we should not sit down and wait for the government to come and maintain this road for us. This is what we can do,” Ms. Akello added.
She said that this community road which runs from Akaidebe B’ village to Acoo connects the two districts of Kole and Oyam, adding that they could not allow its poor state to hinder the development of their areas.
“This is an access road that is supposed to be supported by the community. So this road was in a very poor state full of potholes and very bushy. So we sat down after being taught by a local community-based organization called Amacod and Twaweza Uganda on how we can do it ourselves as a community.”
Since last year when she mobilized the community to repair that road, they have been maintaining it after every three months to ensure that it does not return to its original poor state which was affecting development.
“This is a road that caters to pupils of Wigwa primary school and there is a Church and farmers use the same road. So before this road was poor, farmers could not use this road, pupils could not use this road because it was bushy. So pupils had to look for another road to get to school so this used to make them get to school late and farmers were complaining that their produce was being bought at a low price because of the poor road,” she explains.
“Now farmers are using the same road, pupils are also using the same road and it’s the same road that caters to people who are going to the church. So we are making sure that this road is being maintained by the community and it’s still in good status,” she added.
Mr. Samuel Peter Oruk, the LC1 chairman of Akaidebe B, said that every Tuesday afternoon they hold community meetings to discuss issues that are affecting the community and they come out with an action plan.
“Our weekly meetings are always on Tuesdays at 2 pm. So we sit down with the community to plan what we can do. So we first find out what we can do, when we can do it, and who will do it, so this is how we are doing it,” Mr. Oruk said.
He said that for the roads, they sit down and identify bad spots where the community can repair them and set a date when the community would be required to arm themselves with tools like panga, slashers, spades, and axes to repair the roads.
Just like Ms. Akello, another 26-year-old housewife, Ms. Sharon Adero is a mother of three and a resident of Baraliro village, Adyang parish in Akalo Town Council. She has also transformed into a change agent.
Through this role, she has developed the necessary skills to communicate with the community and has gained their trust as a leader.
One of her community’s biggest challenges was the poor state of the 2 km access road from Baraliro to Opira which made it difficult for pupils to access Adyang primary school and Good Hope Nursery and Primary School, especially during the rainy season.
As a change agent, Ms. Adero took the initiative to reach out to the town council leadership. And with the assistance of the chairman LC3 of Akalo Town Council, Mr. Ezekel Awira, who provided 8 culverts, oversaw their installation and grading of the road taking a clear path.
Easy access to the schools by the pupils has made Sharon delighted.
Adero’s transformation has also had a positive impact on her family life. Her husband now respects her more because she has become more constructive in the community change efforts.
Her work as a change agent has made her an effective communicator and leader in her community, and her efforts have resulted in tangible improvements in the community infrastructure.
“There is a big swamp called Alidin which used to flood during the rainy season cutting off the road between Baraliro and Opira and pupils were no longer going to schools because they feared drowning in waters,” Ms. Adero recalled.
Ms. Adero said when she mobilized the community to work on the road, many of them were willing and they contributed construction materials like sand, stones, marrum as well as labour.
“Since we could not afford enough money needed to buy the culverts we wanted to erect in the swamp, I contacted the LC3 chairman of Akalo Town Council who accepted our request and gave us eight culverts which we installed in this swamp,” Ms. Adero said.
She said that pupils now have easy access to the schools and the community members have taken it upon themselves to regularly clear the bushes along the road and its maintenance after every three months.
“As the rainy season has started I have already mobilized the community next Saturday (March 19), we are going to work on bad spots and repair them since this is our road and it is our responsibility to maintain it,” Ms. Adero said.
Mr. Geoffrey Opio, a resident of Baraliro village, said the poor status of their road was not only affecting the education of their children but even other developments because they could not take their produce for better markets in Akalo town council and Lira City.
“The situation of this road is not poor now, though if it rains potholes start coming up because this is a road now being used by heavy trucks to go and pick produce from farmer’s stores in the villages,” Mr. Opio said.
Ms. Martha Chemutai, Twaweza Uganda Advocacy Manager, said their organization is in partnership with a local Nongovernmental Organisation called AMACOD which is working in Kole to sensitize the community about their roles to participate in communal work.
She said that these women were empowered as a result of a Participatory Action Research model which Twaweza is implementing in partnership with the AMACOD in Kole District.
The purpose is to facilitate communities to collectively solve problems that affect them and participate in key local government decision-making processes.
“We seek to demonstrate how citizens can be enabled to come together to address problems that concern them and together with the government find solutions to those issues,” Ms. Chemutai said.
By Patrick Ebong