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The organisation of rural associations for progress, Zimbabwe: Self-reliance for sustainability

Dumisani Nyoni

Journal, 20 pages

The Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP) has worked in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe, one of the nation’s least developed regions, since 1980. It has sought to address poverty and rebuild this area after the destruction and under-development associated with the fight for independence. It works principally among rural communities—although its focus has expanded to urban areas as well. Its aim is development and poverty reduction through empowerment, participation and self-reliance and it seeks to achieve this through the establishment of various programmes such as micro-finance, education, food security, community grant-making, and water resource management. Rooted in cultural practices—family connections, hard work, music and song—ORAP’s approach has been to address poverty by reconnecting people and rebuilding the social fabric of communities, using the family as the base unit, and uniting these into groups at different levels (family, village, umbrella, association). ORAP sees community groups not only as executing bodies, but also as channels for dialogue on development initiatives, philosophy, and approaches. It also emphasises developing relationships with external agencies, not only as sources of funding, but also for learning, idea-sharing, and partnerships. Among the lessons learnt are the significance of respecting the wisdom and input of local community members, and including them as empowered members of boards, task groups, committees, etc. ORAP’s experience shows how in many cases, having local members lead planning processes can ensure the greatest success.

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