Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beneficiary running a 'restaurant' in the market. She was too busy with clients to chat so we settled for a picture. by CDRD project in Somalia
a photo by CDRD project in Somalia on Flickr.
Beneficiary running a 'restaurant' in the market. She was too busy with clients to chat so we settled for a picture.

Beneficiary's vegetable stall. Not a real stall, just an open space with a barrel cut in half, part used as a table.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sample SMS feedback received from beneficiaries

1 - Translated SMS: "I participated in the business development workshop which DRC implemented in Mogadishu last year. This was very useful and I hope DRC will continue this invaluable work to support small business owners."
Male beneficiary, Small Business Grant project.
Hamar Weyne district, Mogadishu

Original SMS: "Anigoo ka mida barakacayaasha deggana magaalada madaxda muqdisho, gaar ahaana degmada xamar weyne, waaxdiisa hilaac laanta 2aad, waxaaan ka mid ahaa dadkii sabaaarka horumarinta ganacsiga loo qabtay, runtii waxaanu ka faa'iidnay waxwayn oo waxtara, halkaa nooga sii wada oo hana caawiyo, ka timid ganacsatada muqdisho."

2 - Translated SMS: "The cash we have received has helped us a lot. I have used it for school fees and medicine. You have helped us a lot. Thank you."
Female beneficiary, Cash Relief project
Baana Fuusi IDP camp, Hamar Weyne district, Mogadishu

Original SMS: "waaidinsalaameydiicarsii(dumar)kambaanafuutilacagtiwaxaweencynotarteydugsiiskooldaawo.waanoogegaarteenwaamxadsintihiin?"

3 - Translated SMS: "Can DRC engineer get the contract to build toilets while we have independent contractors in the village?"
Male beneficiary, 
CDRD project

Original SMS: Suurto gal miyey tahay in Injineer ka socda DRC uu qaato contractyada qodista Suuliyada, iyadoo ay buuxaan qandaraas layaashii kale ee tuuladu? ka timid qaarka mida bulshada reer salahley.

The first two SMSes are appreciation and do not need follow-up but the last one is being investigated as if those allegation are found to be true, it will have a serious implication for the DRC staff involved. Having said that, we will only know if the allegations are true, once our complaint team have done the investigations and sent us the report. We will publish the findings online and send it to the complainant. 

You can read more uncensored SMSes on our Ushahidi page

Follow-up action: Our complaint team has investigated the complaint above and here are their findings:

The complainant is male, a local laborer and is interested to take part of DRC’s toilets tender. He asked whether a staff engineer can get a contract because he was worried about competition and wanted to find out if independent contractors are eligible to apply for tenders.

DRC staff in Salahley were also interviewed as part of this investigation on tenders. They told our team that there are no tenders at the moment in Salahlay district and last tender was given out in March 2012 for the construction of 45 toilets in an emergency project funded by DANIDA. The tender for this project was won by another local contractor and there has not been any complaints regarding the tender process or the contractor.

In summary, we misunderstood the original SMS and it turned out not to be a complaint, and the project in question is not the CDRD but a DANIDA-funded Emergency project. The feedback sender, local staff and we are satisfied with the findings and have closed the case.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Baana Fuusi IDP camp, built inside the ruins of an old family home.

When SMS meets Somali culture

We get some interesting SMS feedbacks, some of them start with a 3-line greetings in a typical Somali style: "We send greetings to all Muslim people around the world and hope this msg finds you in good health...May God bless your souls and I wish you sons and milk". I get concerned this beneficiary will be taxed for this long greeting and might get put off from sending further SMSes when he sees the cost.

Beneficiary SMS roll out to Mogadishu - Part 2

Waaberi and Hamar Weyne Districts
22-29 April, 2012

We started with market trading beneficiaries at ‘Beerta’ market. This used to be a public park converted into a market and one of the poorest markets in Mogadishu. As with our previous meetings in Wadajir district, my colleagues in Mogadishu have notified beneficiaries and local authorities of our visit. We walked thorough the market and met beneficiaries at their stalls and later met them in one of the beneficiaries house near the market. In total 56 female and 4 male beneficiaries attended the meeting and we had a long chat about the project, how the SMS feedback works, the purpose of the project and they had few questions to ask. This particular group of Waaberi market traders seemed to be less curious and asked fewer questions. It could have been because we have taken them out of their stalls and they were eager to get back to work.

During the stall visits, we have noticed some beneficiaries have used the grants to fix their stalls and improve their working environment. Others have used to it to buy more stock and fill their small stands. Most of the traders are women and in most cases, they are sole breadwinners for their families and support a partner and few children.

About a mile from the market, we went on to our second meeting with beneficiaries from Jeyte IDP camp. The camp was named after a local family, who have provided the space for the camp and whose son is very active in helping the camp residents. We met 25 beneficiaries of a mixed gender. In contrast to beneficiaries we have met in Somaliland and Puntland, majority of the beneficiaries in Mogadishu are women and this was the only camp with almost an equal number of male and female beneficiaries we have met.

Following day, we visited Hamar Weyne district and met with beneficiaries at the local municipal building. Again, we first walked around the market and met beneficiaries at their stalls, with a local government official who works closely with the DRC to implement the projects. It helped that he knew the beneficiaries and took the time to walk with us and inform the beneficiaries to come to the meeting. 

The municipal building is also where wet feeding is organized and by the time we got back from the visits, we found the place chaotic with so many people queuing up for food and some of them kept wondering into our meeting. Both the Cash Relief and Small Business Grant beneficiaries arrived at the same time, it was a bit tricky to get the information out clearly in the middle of all the distraction.

The local official advised us to meet with Cash Relief beneficiaries from the major IDP camps and not focus only on 1 so we met with beneficiaries from 5 IDP camps: Torabora, Shaleemo Misioni, Jaamacada, Somali airlines and Baana Fuusi. Typically, IDP camps are set up in deserted buildings, some belong to the government and some to private individuals. Shaleemo Misioni was once a cinema, Jaamcada is literally university and Somali airlines old offices have been turned into IDP camps. Each camp sent between 5 and 7 people so they could share the information with the rest of the beneficiaries in their camps.

In total, I met with 70 beneficiaries from both projects, majority women with about 15 male beneficiaries. Hamar Weyne residents are traditionally very mixed ethnically but like the 2 IDP camps in Waaberi and Wadajir, majority of the Cash Relief beneficiaries in Hamar Weyne were also of Bantu-Somali origin.

Hamar weyne beneficiaries were more engaged and asked more questions compare to the other 2 districts and some of them even seemed a bit aggressive in demanding more cash and asking why they haven’t been paid for the last 2 months. I have taken this information back to the Mogadishu office and it was explained that some beneficiaries, who come from the south of Somalia, have gone back to their places of origin and were absent when the payments were issued. Now they have returned and have to wait for the next round of payments.

We have started to receive a lot of SMSes from these beneficiaries and most of them are expressing a concern that their 6-month planned payment is not completed. We are sharing the information with the Cash Relief team and urging them to complete the payments.

From this short visit, it seems Mogadishu beneficiaries are making more use of the SMS feedback compare to Somaliland and Puntland beneficiaries. We are receiving SMSes daily even though the rate of SMS is very high due to the Somaliland based SIM card. It costs them 10 cents USD to send a single SMS compare to 01 cent within Somaliland yet we are receiving more SMS from Mogadishu.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beneficiary SMS roll out to Mogadishu: Wadajir District. 22-29 April, 2012

Some of DRC’s biggest operations are based in Mogadishu involving beneficiaries who have lost their livelihood and became Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Mogadishu due to the droughts in 2011. It was my first visit to Mogadishu with this particular project so we decided for security reasons to limit the trip to a week and spend this time familiarizing with the complex Cash Relief project (with 20,850 families receiving cash) and identify other suitable projects for the SMS feedback.

I anticipated a chaotic and highly insecure environment and prepared myself for the security restrictions that might hinder my movements. Most of the first day was spent traveling to Mogadishu, going through the disorientating Mogadishu immigration and taking a short breather before meeting staff.  The couple of hours I managed to meet the staff implementing the project was very productive and we decided on Cash Relief and Small Business Grant beneficiaries in 3 districts: Wadajir, Waberi and Hamar Weyne. We aimed to meet 40 to 70 beneficiaries given that I only had 4 days. The visits were swiftly organized to start the following day and local authorities and beneficiaries in Wadajir were informed. This was turning out to be one of the most efficient team we have worked with so far, they are focused, helpful and super efficient.

Following day, however, plans are interrupted as the city is at a standstill due to curfew imposed by the military, apparently, for a celebration.  There is nothing we can do so I spend the day reading on projects and getting to know the Mogadishu staff.

Day 3, we finally start the visits and spend the day in Wadajir. We start with Small Business Grant beneficiaries who are day traders in Buulo Hubey market selling all sorts of things from vegetables, meat to charcoal. I was accompanied by Raaxo, a female staff working with the Small Business Grant beneficiaries and Awale, male staff with Cash Relief beneficiaries. They were very helpful and worked hard to both inform the local authorities, some beneficiaries and active community members in advance and mobilize as many beneficiaries as possible.  They also patiently took me around the market and in the unbearable heat and humidity we managed to visit 20 beneficiaries at their stalls to give them the meeting address and to see their businesses. I didn’t think this was possible, to walk around a market in Mogadishu and chat with beneficiaries in their work environment! I was glad to have the opportunity to visit beneficiaries without armed guards, the relaxed and casual nature of the meetings I feel make it easier to interact with beneficiaries and for them to feel comfortable to send frank feedback. We met around 23 female and 2 male beneficiaries in a house kindly provided by one of the beneficiaries.

Our second meeting was at Djibouti 2 IDP camp for families receiving Cash Relief. This was easier meeting as nearly everyone was in the tiny camp and we only took few minutes to gather 100 beneficiaries out of 198! By the far the largest group we have met. I noticed the beneficiaries were majority from outside Mogadishu and spoke a dialect of Somali am not very familiar with called May May, spoken in the South of Somalia and part of Mogadishu. They were also from an ethnic minority group of Bantu Somalis. The camp supervisor translated for those who couldn’t understand us but a lot of them understood and asked questions. They were a lot keener to hear about the project, asked many questions and interestingly, even though they were in an IDP camp, almost all of them came out with mobile phones and saved the feedback number on their phones, in contrast to all the other beneficiaries we have met who usually ask for the numbers to be written down for them on paper. By the time I got back from the meetings, we had 14 SMSes! Not a particularly high number but the highest we have received after a single day’s meetings and most of them came from the IDP camp.

Before I checked the feedback site I sent an email to our team in Nairobi and Hargeisa with a concern that we might not receive a lot of SMSes from Mogadishu because the number we are using is a Somaliland number and costs 10 cents to send a single SMS from Mogadishu to our SIM card in Hargeisa, whereas it costs 01 cent to send an SMS within Somaliland.  However, after only 3 days meetings with beneficiaries and with the original target of 40 to 70, we met 270 beneficiaries and within a week received 93 SMS from Mogadishu! This is in contrast to our Somaliland and Puntland experiences where beneficiaries take longer to send feedback even though it is much cheaper for them.

It is too early to tell why this is but my first impression is that the greater the need the more likely for beneficiaries to send feedback. Beneficiaries in unstable and poorer region like Mogadishu seem keener to communicate in the hope they will get the help they need compare to beneficiaries in stable regions like Somaliland and Puntland, who seem a bit more ‘relaxed’.