Achieving Its Targets for Self-Reliance: Akotekrom Epicenter
Throughout Africa, The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy mobilizes the population of a cluster of villages within a 10km radius to create an “epicenter,” or a dynamic center where communities are mobilized for action to meet their basic needs. Through this fully integrated community-led development strategy, community members establish and manage their own programs to address areas such as gender equality, food security, nutrition, health, education, microfinance, water and sanitation.
Akotekrom Epicenter serves 16 villages with a total population of 5,240 women, men and children in the Birim South district in the Eastern Region of Ghana. The Eastern Region is the sixth largest region in the country with a population of 2.1 million. Out of 26 districts in the region, 11 have poverty rates higher than the regional average of 22%. Birim South district has a poverty rate between 20 – 29%.
The Hunger Project began its partnership in Akotekrom Epicenter in 2006, and as of the end of 2015, Akotekrom Epicenter achieved its targets set for self-reliance. This means that community members have demonstrated the confidence, capacity and skills to act as agents of their own development, as evidenced by the presence of:
- Mobilized rural communities that continuously set and achieve their own development goals;
- Empowered women and girls in rural communities;
- Improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities in rural communities;
- Improved literacy and education in rural communities;
- Reduced prevalence of hunger and malnutrition in rural communities, especially for women and children;
- Improved access to and use of health resources in rural communities;
- Reduced incidence of poverty in rural communities; and
- Improved land productivity and climate resilience of smallholder farmers.
Targets set through The Hunger Project’s robust Participatory Monitoring & Evaluation methodology empower community members to be drivers of their own change, identifying concrete objectives that are transparently tracked. These targets are tracked through quarterly data collection, evaluation studies that include household surveys, and annual operational assessments (“snapshots”), which together serve to provide an understanding of the community’s progress towards self-reliance.
As a self-reliant epicenter, the community members of Akotekrom Epicenter have affirmed multiple local partnerships, created funding streams from revenue-generating activities and established gender-balanced leadership structures to support sustainable growth.
A Closer Look at Akotekrom Epicenter
Akotekrom Epicenter is now legally recognized as a community development organization, has democratic operations led by an elected epicenter committee, a land deed and meeting hall. Akotekrom Epicenter has two income generating activities –charging rental fees for meeting space and crop sales–that directly contribute revenue to the epicenter to support its own costs. Women make up 43% of executive positions on committees.
There is a preschool within the epicenter radius, an operational health unit staffed by government-provided health workers that provide services such as supervised deliveries, child welfare clinics, antenatal and postnatal care, immunization exercises, sexual and reproductive health services and HIV testing, especially for pregnant women. In addition, there is a well-stocked library, which attracts adults and students from nearby schools.
Vision, Commitment and Action (VCA) Workshops are the main tool for mobilizing partners and their communities into action. In the third quarter of 2015, for example, 10 VCA educational sessions were organized with 434 partners participating. A major focus before graduating to self-reliance was placed on leadership training for epicenter committee members, community animators and chiefs. The training sessions supported equipping participants with the requisite leadership skills to support their understanding of their roles as leaders.
Akotekrom Epicenter food security initiatives are robust. As the result of farmer education sessions on modern farming techniques, farming for business has grown significantly. A focus on training farmers on farming techniques has resulted in overall increased yields from community members.
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