Every so often, many NGOs are on the look out for invitation for proposals from donors who are keen on funding programmes that fall in line with their missions in Kenya, or their lack of it. When such calls are made, many people invite experts who know their way with the donors to help make their proposals. Many are very creative. They imagine all sorts of things and develop winning proposals online about programmes that do not exist.
Such groups in most cases end up winning the donor confidence; not because they are doing something on the ground, but because they are creative enough and know how to capture donor imaginations. As such, they have the confidence of the donors.
Many groups who are actually on the ground struggling to make a difference in peoples' lives are often given regret letters. Donors end up funding phantoms at the cost of reality. They are given very nice reports which document the kind of progress that would have made Kenya be amongst the League of Nations in the 1st world.
Not all donors are Phantom Driven Enterprises. We have some who actually engage with the people for sustainable and measurable results. They will engage with you and understand what you are doing, what challenges you are facing and help you offer solutions that will take you to the next level. I salute this category of donors.
But for the vast majority who fund hotel workshops where reality is never lived, it is time we also took stock and asked ourselves; what is the driving motive for calling in proposals when a list to be funded has already been made? Why must you call for proposals when you only want to steal the intellectual inputs from the many brilliant Kenyans who make very nice and moving proposals, when you already have someone in mind to fund?
We (Kenyans) know how we have been taken for a ride by donors. We have been given aid that ends up serving the interests of the donors and political elites rather than that of Kenya and Kenyans. Forty six years down the road, Kenya is in monstrous debt owed to foreign bodies, yet, in the same period, we have received a lot of aid and grants that we see nothing to be proud of as Kenyans.
It was only when the Narc Government came to power did we start seeing some semblance of order. We could talk of the acclaimed Free Primary Education, which was largely funded by the high taxes our Government imposes on Kenyans. This was subsidized to a small extent by the donor community. When they realized that this was going to become a success story, they created phantoms and threw spanners in the works, alleging that some moneys had been stolen. And promptly, some donor driven NGOs came on board to support, not because of facts on the ground, but because there was donor money to be spent.
We saw a lot of donor talk, studies and hotel workshops about cleaning the Nairobi River, and nothing was hapenning until Hon John Michuki moved on the ground and dispensed with studies, workshops and theories. Only then has work been done on the Nairobi River.
We saw a lot of studies, workshops and theoris about the destruction of Mau and nothing was being done until Hon Raila walked on the red carpet to plant trees there.
We saw a lot of donor support for Peace Building initiatives in hotels and workshops as Kenya was burning. And nothing was done until Kenyans of goodwill moved in and started engaging with each other. In the meantime, donors were still funding workshops and party making.
Can this inform us of who these people are and what they stand for? Nothing will move until we move to the ground. Donors will largely remain comfortable addressing seminars and dining and going to the Mara every weekend to watch animals as Kenyans die of dire need.
We have seen massive progress with the expansion of the road networks across Kenya thanks to partnerships with some donors. At the same time, some big chunk of this donor support is funding their own expatriates; people who know very little compared to our own Kenyans. A junior officer from the donor community seconded to the same project is being paid 5 times his Kenyan colleague who knows what is being done. Yet, because it is donor money, we must dance and play to their tunes on the fear of reprisals.
This is the kind of fear donors have instilled on the local CSO sector in Kenya. We are being made to dance to foreign tunes, to music we do not understand, just to secure donor funding. While the elite from the CSO sector, people who do nothing, are being funded to make merry and host workshops where people talk to each other about what all of them know.
I think time has come when we must ask ourselves some heard question. When I have a garden and I want a bumper harvest, do I wait for a donor to come on board before I start tilling my land? NO. Donor or no donor, I will wake up every morning and go to my garden. I will clear the bush in readiness of the planting season. I will plant in time for the rains.
I will weed my crops and God willing, some will bear fruits and some will not.Some seedlings will fall on hard rock and will be eaten by the birds,Some will fall on thorns and will dry up. But some will fall on moist land and will bear fruit. Anybody who wants to help me better join me in my farm.
But one thing I am sure about; I will not become creative to win donor support and confidence.
By Odhiambo T Oketch,
CEO KCDN Nairobi. Email; firstname.lastname@example.org
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