Embraced by the mountains of Sharess district, the village of Al-Qaranat, is a typical countryside that is beautiful, quiet and remote, but like most Yemeni villages, it lacked necessary basic services, until its people took matters into their own hands.
The people of Al-Qaranat had suffered a lot because of the difficult terrain of their home village and had waited for external assistance for some time “… until the Social Fund officers came in, met with the villagers, educated them, helped them form the Village Cooperative Council (VCC) and empowered them with the necessary skill and will” said Mohammed Al-Jawbi, the school headmaster.
“We were trained on how to logically identify and prioritize our needs as a community, make use of our local resources and motivate the community members to step in themselves and not wait for external assistance”, said Mujammal Al-Jawbi, a school teacher and member of the Village Cooperative Council.
Al-Qaranat village was targeted by “Tamkeen”, a capacity building program implemented by the Social Fund for Development (SFD) as part of the EU-funded Social Protection for Community Resilience (SPCRP) and in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to empower affected communities overcome their vulnerabilities.
"People have never had any elections whatsoever before in our village until they had to select the members of our Village Cooperative Council”, said Ms. Yasmeen Mohammed, a female member of the elected VCC. She continues, “everyone had the right to nominate themselves and then the VCC was formed equally of both men and women and we, women, are involved”.
As a mountainous village, the community’s first priority was access to clean drinking water, as they used to fetch drinking water once or twice a day on the donkeys from the spring at the bottom of the valley; a 5-hour journey. “We looked carefully at our needs and priorities and decided to launch a self-help initiative and improving access to drinking water. The issue was raised to the community along with an action plan, and everybody was excited to put an end to this suffering. They all participated; some with money, some with effort and some others with assets”, said Hizam Yahya, the VCC coordinator. “The community built three water tanks in three different locations, bought a water pump and installed a piping network to deliver water to every house in the village benefiting around 2000 people. Something we never believed we could do on our own”, he added. “If it wasn’t for this water project, half of villagers could’ve left to other locations because of the costs and efforts continuously required to fetch water in difficult conditions”, the school headmaster added.
Miss Kawkab Hajjar, a member of the VCC, praised the role women played saying; “women worked side by side with men on waste collection, improving roads condition and raising the awareness of housewives on prevention of cholera. They even went further and decided on doing literacy lessons for illiterate housewives”.
“Another hurdle addressed by the VCC was the rough access roads to the village especially in the rainy season. People had to go back and rely on donkeys to deliver their goods as cars cannot make it to the village anymore. We used to wait for help to come, but no more! Now we all get out and work on it (the access road) as one and the problem is over in no time. Now we all realize the enormous difference between team effort and individual effort!”, said Ali Saleh.
37 Village Cooperative Councils were formed in Sharess district alone serving 95 villages under The Social Protection for Community Resilience Project (SPCRP), empowering 21,592 people and building on their self-reliance to overcome community problems.
The Social Protection for Community Resilience Project (SPCRP) is funded and supported by the European Union (EU) and implemented in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and The Social Fund for Development (SFD). The USD$28 million SPCRP aims to enhance the purchasing capacity of vulnerable communities while restoring community infrastructure and improving access to and delivery of key services through short-term employment, provision of solar energy equipment, rehabilitating healthcare facilities, and building the capacities of communities and local authorities.