Capacity building support to Partners
Women weavers, village farmers, bee-keepers and volunteers were some of the participants in the Partners’ meeting, which Samdhana held last February 09, 2017 in Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR. They were grantees which Samdhana supported in the last two years. The Partners’ meeting aimed to glean lessons from the experiences of the Partners in implementing their small grants projects. It also aimed to provide opportunities for networking amongst local groups and associations in Laos. The meeting also served as a capacity needs assessment for grantees. Some Partners had a common story to tell: that of a simple life, dependent on the natural resources in their community. But over the years, environmental degradation and the changing climate also brought about difficulties, like annual drought, and the loss of important trees and medicinal plants. The grants supported simple projects, such as the construction of water weir and repair of irrigation systems to help villagers secure a supply of water over the drought period. This year, villagers were able to continue planting even while the dry season has begun. Having better access to water helped them save energy, especially the women from having to haul water a long way off, and increase their production.
Some of the women villagers during a workshop in the Partners’ meeting
There were four women weavers among the Partners. They weave the traditional Lao skirts, sinh, as well as mats. Through the grant support, they were able to organize the women weavers in their villages, to weave and sell their products as a group, and establish a savings mechanism. They gained an opportunity to travel outside of their villages for the first time and learn about the weaving trends and variety of designs. The women villagers also learned from other women weaving groups’ experience on how they self-managed their savings group.
The small grants support is but a point in time in the villagers’ lives. With the very modest amount, it is only able to support a part of their needs. But it is a very good start for villagers to learn new and practical skills, such as making compost and raising earthworms for organic farming, and to organize themselves around a common project, such as adopting community policies for regulating harvesting and hunting, and protecting the local biodiversity.
Identifying capacity needs of Partners
Partners wished to continue learning new skills and gaining more knowledge which they can apply to everyday concerns they face. Many of the Partners expressed that they wish to improve their endeavors, such as improving weaving styles and techology, and increasing their production for honey and organic vegetables. Some of the Partners also wished to continue the initiatives they have started to continue building a movement in Laos, such as the increasing awareness and interest for local environmental conservation and healthy living.
Samdhana aims to provide more capacity building support to Partners, to enable them to carry on the small yet significant achievements from their small grants initiatives. ###