S. Baas and A.O. Ali
Stephan Baas, Sustainable Rural Development Officer, Rural Institutions and Participation Service, FAO, Rome, Italy
Ayman Omer Ali, Project Manager, Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme, Oxfam, Yemen
In the last decade, civil society organizations (CSOs), including community-based organizations (CBOs), have played an increasingly important role in rural development. In 2003, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations conducted a study to analyse the formation and institutional aspects of more than 50 CBOs in Yemen that had been initiated with the support of the Community-Based Regional Development Programme. The CBOs are voluntary, membership-based organizations guided by a mission for positive changes determined by their members.
This article summarizes and discusses some of the key factors that, according to the study report, influence the formation and activities of local CBOs in decentralized rural development: (i) the impact of the local setting on the formation of CBOs; (ii) community participation in CBO activities; (iii) governance and the management of CBOs; and (iv) CBO linkages with other institutions.
STUDY CONTEXTS, OBJECTIVES AND METHODOLOGY
The last decade has seen an increasing role of civil society organizations (CSOs), including community-based organizations (CBOs), in rural development. This is partly due to their structural characteristics, which match the distinct shift towards participatory development, but it is also a result of the weak response of governments in developing countries to increasing developmental needs. The evolving role of CSOs has, in turn, led to an escalating concern regarding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of CBOs vis-à-vis their mission statements and functions as catalysts for sustainable development.
In view of this rationale, in 2003 FAO conducted a study to analyse the organizational and institutional aspects of more than 50 CBOs in Yemen that were initiated with the support of the Community-Based Regional Development
Programme (CBRDP). This United Nations Development Programme-funded programme, for which FAO provided technical assistance, has operated in ten districts, representing five ecological zones since 1999. Regional offices are located in: (i) Ghail Bin Yamein (GBY); (ii) Al-Makha; (iii) Khamis Bani Saa'd (KBS); (iv) As-Swadeya; and (v) Aden.
The principal objective of the programme is to strengthen CBOs as key actors and government partners in the contexts of decentralization and poverty alleviation. The programme intervenes in five closely interrelated technical components, namely institution building, human capacity building and training, community-based financial services, gender perspectives and institution-based coordination. The basic criteria used to establish and strengthen CBOs were that they: (i) had emerged from within the targeted communities; (ii) operated as development-oriented organizations; and (iii) were legally registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (MoSAL). The CBOs are voluntary, membership-based organizations guided by a mission for positive changes determined by their members.
The FAO study identified lessons learned from the formation and operation processes of CBOs, recorded examples of good practice and made policy recommendations, which could support the replication of these experiences in Yemen and other countries with similar contexts. The methodology combined the use of primary and secondary data with different participatory learning and action research methods and tools. Data were gathered from CBO Executive Boards (EBs), CBO members, traditional leaders and local councils.
This article summarizes and discusses some of the key factors that, according to the study report, influence the formation and activities of local CBOs in decentralized rural development. These include: (i) the impact of the local setting on the formation of CBOs; (ii) community participation in CBO activities; (iii) governance and the management of CBOs; and (iv) CBO linkages with other institutions.
COUNTRY CONTEXT: CBOs IN YEMEN
The Republic of Yemen was formed in May 1990, following the unification of the Yemen Arab Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. The country covers 527 970 km2, with a total population of 18.4 million (2000 census data). Administratively, the country is composed of 20 governorates comprising 332 districts. The annual population growth rate is 3.4 percent, one of the highest in the world. About 73.5 percent of the population live in rural areas. Yemen is one of the least developed countries in the world and ranked 148 out of 175 countries assessed in Human Development Report 2003 (UNDP, 2003). The latest household budget survey (1998) revealed that 17.6 percent of Yemeni live below the food poverty line and 41.8 percent live below the absolute (upper) poverty line. Poverty in Yemen has a strong rural attribute, with 83 percent of the poor and 87 percent of the food-insecure living in rural areas.
Yemen has had a rich history of both community participation and grassroots-level community-based institutions. The tribe (Qabilah) is the most prominent informal institution in Yemen and is a crucial element of social, economic, cultural and political life. It provides individuals with their social identity and serves as a reference point for cultural values and social behaviours. The tribe is a hierarchy of segmentary structures that place individuals into large concentric circles. Everybody knows his or her role, as defined by well-articulated customary regulations (Hukm or Urf) which, together with religious laws (Sharia), dictate behaviours and attitudes. Tribes are divided into clans, which are composed of lineages. Each tribe has a tribal territory, within which each clan has its own portion of land. Borders between tribes and between clans are well demarcated, and ownership is documented in local contracts. In each tribe, authority is vested in a Sheikh and, under the Sheikh, in an Aqil (often also called Sheikh) as well as in tribal judges (Hakim, pl. Hukam), who have special knowledge of tribal customs. The Sheikh is a sort of primus inter pares, a mediator, in charge of solving disputes between tribe members and of representing the tribe vis-à-vis the other tribal entities, administrative authorities and other groups.
The history of semi-formal community institutions, however, is relatively new. They began in Aden under British rule as charitable societies; they later expanded to Taiz and, from there, spread to other areas in the north. The first law governing associations was approved in 1963 (Law No. 11/1963) and revised in 2001 (Law No. 1/2001). The revised cooperatives law was approved in 1998 (Law No. 39/1998).
According to the Yemen Human Development Report 2000/2001 (MoPIC and UNDP, 2001), the number of officially registered CSOs in Yemen in 2001 was 2 786, with an average of 1.5 CSOs per 10 000 people. According to an informal source from the MoSAL, the current number of registered CSOs is 4 142 (both figures should be read with caution). However, only 18 percent of these are considered active. This is attributed to: (i) a low level of institutionalization of structures; mechanisms and practices; (ii) inadequate technical capacities; (iii) fragile adherence to internal good governance mechanisms; (iv) ambiguity of visions, procedures and tools for the achievement of objectives; (v) high vulnerability to tribal and area-based affiliations; and (vi) inadequate financial resources.
The establishment of CBOs under the CBRDP as well as their capacity building and empowerment were intended to improve this situation by encouraging active, sustainable actors and partners in development at the local level.
IMPACT OF LOCAL SETTINGS ON CBO FORMATION
Several local conditions were major determining factors in the CBO formation process.
The MoSAL Law No. 1/2001, under which CBOs are registered, obliges each CBO to specify a well-defined geographical zone for its operations and membership. The local communities' response to this law varied according to their sociocultural context. In the strong tribal contexts of As-Swadeya and KBS, CBOs were formed on a purely tribal basis, which also corresponded to the geographical element of the law. In other cases, this legal restriction led to the establishment of CBOs with geographical boundaries that were too large to be covered effectively. CBO territoriality had significant impacts on its capacity for inclusiveness and equitable representation. In Al-Makha and Aden, where the tribal system is relatively fragile, CBOs were formed on the basis of social homogeneity and geographical proximity.
Dominance of traditional power structures
The dominance of local elites, traditional leaders and powerful groups within the community is a big challenge faced by CBOs in Yemen. Owing to their comparative advantages, these groups often lead and dictate the formation of CBOs without paying adequate attention to the involvement of other community members. In situations where strong tribalism prevails, the exclusion of tribal leaders from CBOs can create deep conflicts and block CBO operations. Moreover, it can be difficult to isolate a CBO as a development-oriented organization from the tribe as a social institution. Therefore, CBO formation and operations are highly vulnerable to tribal conflicts. The level of interaction between traditional power structures and CBOs varies depending on the local setting. While traditional power structures are included and/or represented in the EBs of some CBOs, the majority of organizations assigned honourable positions to tribal leaders.
Socioculturally marginalized groups
The ethnic composition of Yemeni society is characterized by the existence of marginalized and socially excluded groups (Akhdam). In the study areas, they were found in KBS, GBY and Aden. Their existence alongside the strong tribal system in KBS led to their exclusion from the social system and, in turn, from participation in CBO formation (fewer than 20 percent of them are members of CBOs, and they are without any representation in the EBs). The situation is different in Aden and GBY. In Aden, marginalized groups are actively involved in the formation as well as the operations of CBOs, which might be explained by Aden's multiracial character as well as its ideological and political history. In GBY, the sociopolitical effects of the former governing socialist party strengthened the concepts of equality.
Purpose and ownership of CBOs
The general challenges facing CBOs at their formation stage include the need to respond to critical local gaps and to attract membership on that basis. A common risk during their formation is that local organizations often establish themselves either to respond to an outside demand or to an opportunity to tap available financial resources. The CBOs studied were not an exception in this regard. It was crucial that CBRDP was aware of this phenomenon and designed appropriate strategies that strengthened local ownership, community commitment and shared responsibility.
Good practices and lessons learned
The formation process of CBOs proved to be essential since it influenced their operations and sustainability. At this stage, the following were among the prerequisites shown to be crucial:
- a clear mission and vision based on genuine local needs;
- wide participation of all community members and groups (especially the poor and women) in order to reach a joint agreement on CBO objectives and activities. CBO membership should jointly devise clear and transparent plans to attain tangible benefits for its members (such as access to credit, training, etc.);
- precise participatory development of the CBO's constitution and bylaws;
- committed leadership (people who are ready to invest time and energy for the collective good) that has the trust of and is supported by community members. In addition, there should be an active group ready to support the leaders. However, experience has highlighted that this combination of leadership and drivers can be a potential risk element during later stages if not carefully monitored. Thus, the specific roles, responsibilities and rights of leaders, the EB and the general assembly (GA) should be clearly developed, agreed upon and documented in the CBO constitution and bylaws.
If the creation of a CBO has been proposed by an external programme, the decision to establish it (or not) should be made solely by the local community, with the role of the external programme limited to consultation, awareness raising and provision of technical support.
The term "community-based organization" explicitly indicates its remit, that is, the community as a holistic concept implying the people and their relationships as well as their association with the place. This notion emphasizes both the social "people and relations" and the physical "place and resources" dimensions. Therefore, in rural areas, a CBO's territory should be determined by a combination of factors, including social homogeneity, common interests and geographical proximity, instead of focusing exclusively on tribal geographical boundaries and/or geographical proximity.
In the urban context, CBO formation could be based on the smallest possible geographical zones (e.g. Hara [neighbourhood]) that would ensure a reasonable level of social homogeneity. Moreover, the establishment and strengthening of the specialized local associations on an occupational/vocational basis can be recommended.
CBO activities should be kept separate from political activities.
COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION IN ACTIVITIES
As membership-based organizations, CBOs are judged not only by how their results compare with their objectives, but also in relation to the processes that they adopt to produce these results. Consequently, they face common challenges in responding to the critical demands of their members and in keeping them interested and engaged in activities.
Community participation is understood here as "a social process in which specific groups with shared needs living in a defined geographical area take an active part in the process of planning and implementing development activities as well as enjoying their benefits" (Beatty, al-Thawr and Bagash, 2002). This definition implies the concepts of community and participation.
A community is defined, first, geographically and, second, in terms of social factors and the sharing of specific resources and needs. In the context of Yemen, this strongly implies that the concept of community is not synonymous with the concept of a village as a geographical term. Participation, on the other hand, refers to the active involvement of groups and individuals. In this sense, participation can range from simple information sharing to extensive consultation, joint decision-making and situations where the relevant stakeholders take on responsibility for monitoring the process and evaluating its success.
General findings and examples of good practice
The study revealed that all CBOs give high importance to the participation and direct benefit of the poor. To this effect, all CBOs successfully apply a participatory targeting mechanism known as the revolving labour pool (RLP). In the process of establishing an RLP, community members identify simple community-driven indicators reflecting their perception of poverty (e.g. income, number of livestock, house structure and furniture) and use these indicators to develop specific well-being categories (e.g. destitute, poor, middle-income, rich). Thereafter, all households within the community are classified according to the specified categories. The primary target groups for CBO assistance are members or households classified as poor. The destitute are supported by the CBOs in gaining access to the social welfare fund and other relevant direct cash support mechanisms including the Zakat (Islamic religious tax destined for the poor). Middle-income community members only benefit directly from CBO-managed credit interventions under restricted conditions such as the creation of employment opportunities for the poor. Project data prove that poor CBO members benefited directly from CBO credit activities. They constitute 61 percent of direct credit beneficiaries, compared with middle-income (30 percent) and rich community members (9 percent).
Representation of women
Women represent 36.8 percent of the membership of the CBOs studied. This figure is low in absolute terms, but higher compared with the average figure of women's representation in other CBOs in Yemen, which is 29 percent (MoPIC and UNDP, 2001). The relatively slow speed in moving towards higher participation of women in CBO activities is partially attributable to sociocultural factors. It also stems from the fact that the CBRDP initially adopted a unified gender strategy for all action areas without sufficiently acknowledging the location-specific differences that women face in different areas. In this regard, the programme unit in Al-Makha developed a simple implementation approach that capitalizes on awareness raising of both men and women as an entry point to changing attitudes and increasing women's participation and, ultimately, women's economic empowerment. This approach appears appropriate and consistent within the local setting.
Scope and diversity of CBO services
The extent to which CBOs addressed the concerns of various community groups was related to the size of their membership and the success of their activities. In addition to their basic service portfolio promoted by CBRDP (mainly institutional building, training and capacity building, provision of credit to groups for productive income generation activities and mediating for provision of basic services), most CBOs also provided additional services to make their activities more attractive to community members. Most of these additional priority services addressed the poor and, to a lesser extent, middle-income groups. While this gave the CBOs an additional pro-poor focus, it limited the level of involvement of other community wealth groups in some cases. Nevertheless, it can be concluded that those CBOs that kept their interventions limited to the above-mentioned basic service portfolio experienced a lower level of community involvement in their activities.
The following were found to be the most significant among the self-selected, additional services.
1. Implementing communal investment projects with a social dimension (e.g. water tanks, telecommunications, pharmacies, small shops, bakeries). By responding to pressing community needs, these projects increased CBO membership and, simultaneously, promoted interactions between the EB and GA members. Additionally, they provided good mechanisms for the expansion of the benefits from the CBOs to all socio-economic strata, including the poor and non-members.
2. Provision of consumption credit to the poorest CBO members on a seasonal basis.
3. Implementing self-help initiatives within the larger community context (practised by 67 percent of the CBOs). These initiatives covered a wide and diverse range of activities, including cash support to destitute community members; liaising with government departments to establish pro-poor policies and procedures; vocational training and literacy education for women; environmental activities; cultural, health, sport and religious activities; support to public facilities; and community-driven informal agreements to organize communal issues and mediation to reduce harmful/negative behaviour.
Analysis of these self-help initiatives revealed that there are positive correlations between the level of the CBO's self-help initiatives and both its organizational maturity and the level of participation at the GA.
Spatial analysis disclosed that:
(i) Aden's CBOs were most advanced with regard to self-help initiatives. This is partly explained by Aden's rich experience with CBOs, as well as by the competition among CBOs to intensify and diversify self-help initiatives in order to attract membership. In addition, the high level of awareness of Aden's CBOs enabled them to realize that waiting for government response to all their needs might not be the correct approach.
(ii) The local settings had a strong impact on the scope of CBO self-help initiatives. For instance, in rural areas CBOs gave the highest emphasis to different cash support mechanisms for destitute families, the provision of basic community needs and, to a lesser extent, vocational training and literacy education for women. In the urban area of Aden, CBOs liaise with different government departments to lobby for pro-poor policies and procedures and for cultural and sport initiatives. Although it is too early to conclude, the apparent success of this approach indicates the potential future role CBO influence may play in government policies and practices,
(iii) Particularly in rural areas, CBOs successfully attracted financial assistance from local wealthy and/or charitable people in support of CBO self-help initiatives,
(iv) In rural areas, the highest level of self-help initiatives was found where the indigenous local culture of solidarity among the tribes' members was strongest.
Economically heterogeneous groups for income-generating activities
The experiment of CBOs linking poor with middle-income community members for joint group-based income-generating activities (IGAs) yielded interesting results. Successful, good practice examples include labour-intensive activities in the agriculture and fishery sectors. For example, the Kheyol Al-Badeya CBO (Al-Makha) financed a group of 72 middle-income small-scale farmers (after environmental studies indicated a sustainable production basis) for the purchase of certified onion seeds and other production inputs for four production seasons. On average, per production season, 208 poor agricultural labourers directly benefited from the job opportunities created. Before credit, each middle-income farmer employed 1.63 labourers per season; the number increased by 78 percent, i.e. an additional 1.3 jobs per onion farmer per season, as a result of the increased area under cultivation. The same intervention also boosted the local transportation sector, and benefited water pump owners (who provided water to farmers in need against certain fees) as well as agricultural traders and marketing agents (Table 1).
A second example was where CBOs financed fishing boats for mixed groups of poor and middle-income fishers. Each boat was owned by three families and created permanent employment opportunities for a further three poor labourer fishers.
Another positive benefit from linking poor community members with better-skilled members through group-based financing was that unskilled poor households obtained access to and learned about responsible credit operations. "In Al-Makha, about 30.3 percent of the members of groups funded had no previous experiences with credit. Currently, this group is acquiring these experiences through knowledge transfer of their group colleagues" (CBRDP, 2003).
Effects of support to onion farmers from Kheyol Al-Badeya CBO (Al-Makha)
Number of middle-income farmers
Number of agricultural labourers employed
Job opportunities created per farmer
Number of water pump owners benefiting
Number of loading trucks involved
Number of intermediaries and marketing agents
The best representation of different social groups within CBOs revealed a correlation between reasonable geographical coverage, high degree of social homogeneity, high level of awareness and sensitivity regarding communal issues, and appropriate mechanisms that ensure equitable representation of all socio-economic groups in the EB.
Approaches to increasing women's participation in CBO operations should be location- and situation-specific and developed on the basis of a comprehensive analysis.
Generally, the CBOs should not limit their focus solely to activities assisted by outside agencies. Instead, they should initiate, even at a very small scale, complementary activities that address all segments and age groups of the community. The promotion of self-help activities identified within the CBOs showed a strong propensity to: (mobilize and rationalize the use of community resources; induce and foster self-reliance; contribute significantly to the social and economic development of the communities; (make the CBOs very attractive to the community and GA members; have a pro-poor focus; and respond to the various interests of different socio-economic and age groups. CBOs should emphasize the implementation of such initiatives based on their sociocultural particularities and settings.
The experience of CBOs with regard to the development and use of the participatory targeting mechanisms of the RLP showed that, in addition to being a relevant methodology to strengthen community solidarity, its application facilitated transparent community-owned decisions to promote the interests of the poor and the linking of poor community members with middle-income, better-skilled community members for joint group-based productive IGAs.
Labour-intensive IGAs were an appropriate mechanism for facilitating group-based collaboration between poor and middle-income community members through which the poor could tap employment opportunities. The group-based financing provided good opportunities for skills transfer and experience-sharing within the groups and was favoured by poor and less-skilled community members.
GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT OF CBOS
Governance can be defined as the process by which stakeholders articulate their interests, their input is absorbed, decisions are taken and decision-makers are held accountable. One goal of good governance is to enable an organization to do its work effectively. However, good governance entails more than "getting the job done". The "process" is as important as the product, particularly in the context of CBOs, where values typically play an important role in determining both organizational purpose and style of operation. Good governance is therefore about both achieving the desired results and achieving them in the right way. As the "right way" is largely shaped by cultural norms and values, there can be no universal template for good governance. Nonetheless, some common characteristics of good governance include participation, transparency, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity, effectiveness and efficiency, accountability and strategic vision (UNDP, 1997). The study applied two main indicators in assessing CBO governance: (i) EB operations and response to the above-mentioned characteristics; and (ii) the interaction between the EB and GA. However, because integration of traditional power structures into CBO structures had a significant influence on governance, the study also assessed this variable.
General findings and examples of good practice
Operations of CBO EBs
The basic rules of CBO operations state that their EBs must be democratically elected by the GA and must adhere to the CBO's constitution and bylaws and adopt accountability and transparency measures. The EBs maintained a division of labour via specialized technical committees. In view of the above-mentioned characteristics of good governance and the EBs' tasks, the study showed that the decision-making process within the EBs followed participatory patterns with a reasonable participation of all members. Consensus building was the most common approach. For decision-making, EBs rarely resorted to voting as a decision-making mechanism (limited to only 8 percent of the EBs' decisions). EB members attributed this to the clarity of the implementation systems adopted. Nevertheless, in some EBs that included Sheikhs, the participatory interactions within the EB were directly or indirectly hampered by the Sheikh. In these cases voting was more appropriate.
In some CBOs, the EBs consulted some of their constituencies before deciding on crucial issues, often done in an informal manner and seldom through exceptional GAs. In some CBOs, GA members were invited to attend the EB meetings as observers. While consensus orientation is considered high within EBs, equity measures were not followed in the majority of CBOs. This was caused by the low involvement of women in decision-making within the EBs, with the exception of Aden and a few CBOs in Al-Makha.
Most EBs communicated their decisions to the GAs through informal channels and a few, mainly in Aden, used signboards and other formal means.
Financial accountability was significant, which can be attributed to the use of simple and clear financial systems.
On the other hand, it was obvious in some CBOs that the number of active members in the EBs was rather limited and that, as a result, a few members were handling most of the executive work. The following causes were highlighted by the EBs:
1. EB members worked on a purely voluntary basis. Under pressing economic conditions, it was difficult for the majority of them to allocate enough time to CBO operations.
2. Some EB members lacked essential skills such as the ability to read and write, which are prerequisites for executive work. This disqualified them for some of the executive tasks (such as accounting and bookkeeping). Hence, local communities need to be informed in advance of the responsibilities of the EBs and the necessary selection criteria in order to assist them in making informed selection decisions.
3. The division of labour within the EB was not properly allocated and rationalized. For instance, members of the Sanduq (fund) committee were usually very busy, while other committees had less work. This high workload of some tasks created a reluctance to participate among the underutilized members. Therefore, it is extremely important to define the size of EBs and their subcommittees in accordance with their duties.
Interactions between EBs and GAs
The nature and strength of linkages between the EBs and the communities were important for sustainable CBO operations. The study identified the following key factors in this respect:
Electing appropriate EB members at the outset is crucial. They must be trustworthy and of good repute. Much time and many cumbersome processes can be necessary at a later stage to replace people initially chosen as "place holders".
Frequency of formal meetings between the EB and the GA. Regular GA meetings (both formal and informal) were critical. However, this was not a common practice among CBOs. The reason for this is largely attributed to the MoSAL Law No. 1/2001, which links mandatory G A meetings with the re-election of the EB every three years. Exceptional G A meetings upon request from either the EB or the GA are allowed by law under restricted conditions. However, this issue was not addressed in the constitutions of some CBOs, although legally permitted. In addition, in some CBOs, the GA was not fully acquainted with the CBO bylaws, either because of the poor level of GA participation in preparations or because documents were presented in a formal, technical language that was too complex for illiterate members to understand.
Negative effects of creating a CBO on a purely geographical basis. With the exception of Aden with its unique urban setting, the GA-EB gap was wider in those communities that decided to form their CBOs on a purely geographical basis, especially those that covered vast geographical areas.
Differences in political affiliations. Such differences widened the gap between the GAs and EBs, especially in highly politicized areas. EB members should differentiate between their personal political activities and their institutional roles as executive members of non-political entities.
Integration of existing power structures into CBO structures
The predominantly tribal organization of rural Yemen has been challenged by the activities of CBOs, especially the participatory interactions within the EBs. For example, the CBOs' intended shift away from individual Sheikh-centred leadership to institutional/group-based (EB) leadership at the community level put the traditional privileges of Sheikhs at risk. In view of this, the level of involvement of the Sheikhs in CBO structures varied from complete lack of involvement (2 percent), to involvement as GA members (25 percent), as EB members (14 percent) and as honourable members in certain advisory positions (11 percent). Twenty-eight percent of Sheikhs were represented in the EBs by a family member. In addition to the impact of the overall local setting, the leadership style and these variations were induced by personal characteristics of the Sheikhs as well as their understanding of their roles vis-à-vis the CBO. Within the EBs, the interaction pattern of Sheikhs varied from participatory leaders and event-driven Sheikhs who did not have time to interact regularly with the CBOs, to tribe-oriented leaders who constantly mixed tasks and responsibilities between the CBO and the tribe.
Frequent GA meetings proved to be an appropriate mechanism for promoting lively interactions among GA members to increase the GA-EB dialogue and to foster good governance.
Laws are usually developed to provide an overall organizational and regulatory framework. Therefore, they do not necessarily refer to specific locations or thematic foci or other peculiarities of any specific CBO. CBOs should recognize this fact as well as the fact that laws do not prevent a CBO from reflecting its interests and concerns in its own internal regulations and bylaws.
The previous point, however, does not mitigate the serious need in Yemen to adjust the current MoSAL Law No. 1/2001 to respond better to the requirements of all development-oriented CBOs.
The constitutions and bylaws of CBOs, which are established by communities that lack previous experience with formal organizations, are too often simply transcripts of the sample documents offered by the legislative authorities. Each CBO should develop these essential documents in accordance with its interests and specifications with the maximum participation of and consultation with its members and within the overall legal limits. In this regard, Al-Mustagbal CBO (As-Swadeya) offered a good example by translating its constitution and bylaws into the local dialect using simple language.
No overall lesson could be drawn with regard to the inclusion of Sheikhs in EBs; instead, this would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. While Sheikhs in EBs may block democratic decision-making and/or affect EB operations owing to their personal agendas, their exclusion may seriously damage the CBOs' operations. One of the good practices adopted by some CBOs in this regard is to assign Sheikhs certain honourable tasks (e.g. to act as "moral collateral" for credit recipients) and positions (e.g. in advisory bodies). For instance, the intertribal compensation system (Aghram), though it encourages conflicts, could be used to promote community-driven development initiatives. Another good practice, adopted by a CBO in As-Swadeya, is to use the ethics of honour (Sharaf) as an efficient and flexible informal "moral" collateral to guarantee repayment of due credit.
CBO LINKAGES WITH OTHER INSTITUTIONS
Mechanisms to promote horizontal linkages
The fact that all of the CBOs studied were initiated with the assistance of the same external programme implies the following consequences: (i) similarity of structures and systems; (ii) good opportunities for sharing information and experiences among CBOs in the same area through programme-organized activities; and (iii) an increased level of competition among CBOs. The first two factors facilitated good collaboration and coordination among CBOs in the same area. This collaboration manifested itself in several ways: (i) older, established CBOs assisted in the formulation of new ones through participation in the sensitization process; (ii) advanced CBOs organized training programmes, using their trained staff, for the newly established organizations; (iii) exchange visits among CBOs were arranged; and (iv) inter-CBO consultative and coordination meetings were held.
However, the CBOs did not utilize the above-mentioned comparative advantages and initiatives to develop organized coalitions among CBOs in the same area. This might be associated with: competition among CBOs; legislative barriers that hamper the formation of CBO federations into unions; a lack of awareness among CBOs about the potential benefits of coming together in an organized form; and the absence of successful models to emulate. CBOs in the same action area should promote their existing coordination mechanisms into institutionalized networks as a strategic means of fostering their capacities for advocacy and lobbying and of facilitating institutional-based vertical linkages with other institutions.
Linkages with the local councils
Decentralization began in Yemen in February 2000 and local council (LC) elections were held in April 2001. However, three years after their election, most LCs were not yet functional as foreseen by the law. They neither planned the development of their jurisdictions nor budgeted their resources. Many local people did not see the value added of the LCs vis-à-vis the preexisting traditional authorities.
Because the CBOs were established before the LCs, the initial design of the CBOs did not emphasize coordination between the two entities. While in some areas coordination was initiated positively, LCs in other areas negatively intervened in CBO activities. As of 2003, the coordination had not yet been properly institutionalized and remained attributed mainly to people who were both CBO and LC members. Strikingly, CBO members represented 35 percent of all membership in the ten districts where CBOs operated. A considerable percentage of CBO/LC common members who had evolved as the new local leaders appeared highly qualified for LC elections as a result of their competency in CBO management. In this situation, the common CBO/LC members worked for the benefit of both the CBOs and the LCs in two main ways:
1. They included community priorities identified by CBOs in the LCs' plans, which also strengthened the plans.
2. They added extra value to the LCs' operations owing to their experience in working with communities and the technical skills they had gained through training in their CBOs.
Yemen's new macropolicies further emphasize decentralization processes. In this context, CBOs must strengthen their vertical linkages to increase complementary and institutional sustainability. Thus, it is important for the two entities to institutionalize and strengthen their relationships. The CBOs studied revealed high comparative advantages to operating as competent partners with LCs at the community level, as justified by the following.
Unlike in other similar countries adopting decentralization, the administrative structure in Yemen (before 2001) did not go beyond the district level, that is, none existed at the community level. This traditional gap challenges the transparency and accountability of the LCs' operations especially when considering the unfavourable demographic and topographical factors. However, as the CBOs have been formed democratically and operate at the community level, they could help bridge this critical gap, especially in terms of a two-way information flow.
As shown by the LCs, communities that have CBOs are better organized in comparison with others. Thus, CBOs represent organized communities that can more easily interact with LCs.
Common CBO/LC members often have better skills and richer experience compared with other LC members. This implies that CBOs could offer more competent candidates for LC elections.
CBOs have often tested technical systems for participatory planning and targeting. This experience could be particularly useful for the LCs, which currently lack such systems.
CBOs have collected and updated diversified data at the community level. They could offer data as well as data collection and management expertise to strengthen LC plans.
Despite these comparative advantages, which encourage future institutional linkages between CBOs and LCs, there are two major risk elements that need to be addressed.
1. There are critical legislative gaps and inconsistencies between the MoSAL Law No. 1/2001 and the Local Authority Law No. 4/2000. Both laws claim a supervisory role in CBO activities without a clear definition of the term "supervision". This leads to subjective, individual interpretations of the term by each LC. While some LCs understood their objective to be to monitor CBOs associated with supporting them, the majority saw autocratic control as their objective.
2. The Local Authority Law No. 4/2000 does not as yet describe the legal relationship between LCs and CBOs.
Linkages with other local and national institutions
With CBRDP's assistance, CBOs were prepared to take a proactive role in liaising and coordinating with other relevant actors at local and national levels. As a result, CBOs succeeded in tapping a total of YRl 402 million (US$2.2 million) from 36 agencies in addition to non-cash contributions from 15 other agencies. The tapped financial resources represented 62 percent of the CBOs' total resource portfolio. The interventions implemented through targeted coordination efforts included access to additional capacity-building activities, basic services, agricultural development, livestock development, support to women's activities and cash support for the poor. These activities resulted in improved recognition of CBOs as partners in development; increased complementarity of development interventions among actors; better access by local communities to services; and greater recognition of CBOs by the local communities as active players in the identification and prioritization of community needs and in the implementation of their projects. The fact that there are many development organizations that currently support CBO initiatives in Yemen is mainly attributed to the comparative advantage of CBOs in terms of organizational capacities compared with other CSOs in the area.
However, these are still preliminary results and they lack sustainability, as there are no well-documented institutional coordination mechanisms in place between the CBOs and the other actors. This is an example of how the recommended CBO networks and federations could be very helpful.
The common CBO/LC members demonstrated better skills and a richer experience than other LC members. Thus, strategically, the promotion of CBOs' capacity-building experience could be a good vehicle to ensure qualified people are elected to the LCs.
Initiatives for coordination among CBOs and LCs need to be institutionalized and based on a clear legislative vision that maintains the identity of each institution. To this effect, the comparative strengths of both types of institution should be jointly assessed and the value added maximized. At the same time, legislative inconsistencies as well as the legal relationship between both entities should be addressed urgently.
CBOs should emphasize strong vertical relationships with relevant actors. The CBOs studied offered good practical examples of how resources can be obtained from different sources, which was probably due to their comparative advantage and the organized approach adopted for this purpose. However, all CBO coordination activities should be institutionalized (instead of being on a personal basis) to foster sustainability.
Based on the study findings and in view of the general organizational aspects and performance of CBOs in Yemen, the CBOs studied showed fair successes regarding: (i) empowerment of local communities through self-owned and managed community-driven organizations; (ii) responsiveness to the demands and aspirations of local people, particularly the poor, in both processes and results; (iii) pro-poor inclusiveness of structures and mechanisms; (iv) interactions with traditional power structures; and (v) coordination of local poverty alleviation initiatives through various means.
Moreover, CBOs showed good potential and comparative advantages - although some were not yet used - in terms of their institutionalized coordination with LCs and in their tendencies to influence pro-poor policies and to contribute to good governance within the decentralized context. The new orthodoxy of "good governance" has thrust CBOs, including the CBOs under assessment, on to the centre-stage of the development arena, but with a new dual role. In addition to being service providers, through their advocacy activities, CBOs are seen as having a role in local policy development and in holding local governments accountable for their actions. This dual role requires competent CBO coalitions, alliance building and strong advocacy skills.
Beatty, S., al-Thawr, S. & Bagash, T. 2002. Community participation experiences in Yemen: a national review, April 2002. Sana'a, Oxfam.
CBRDP. 2003. Participatory impacts trends assessment: Al-Makha. Community-Based Regional Development Programme (CBRDP), October 2003. Sana'a, United Nations Development Programme.
MoPIC & UNDP. 2001. Yemen Human Development Report 2000/2001. Sana'a, Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and United Nations Development Programme.
UNDP. 1997. Governance and sustainable human development. New York, USA, United Nations Development Programme.
UNDP. 2003. Human Development Report 2003. New York, USA and Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press.
Depuis une dizaine d'années, les organisations de la société civile, et notamment les organisations communautaires, jouent un rôle de plus en plus important dans le développement rural. En 2003, l'Organisation des Nations Unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture a mené une étude sur les questions de formation et les aspects institutionnels d'une cinquantaine d'organisations communautaires au Yémen, qui a été entreprise avec l'appui du Programme pour le développement régional communautaire. Les organisations communautaires reposent sur la participation volontaire des membres et ont pour objectif des changements positifs qui sont déterminés par leurs membres.
Le présent article résume et examine certains facteurs essentiels qui, d'après le rapport de l'étude intitulé Enseignements de l'expérience et bonnes pratiques: organisations communautaires au Yémen, influent sur la formation et les activités des organisations communautaires locales dans le développement rural décentralisé: i) l'influence des conditions locales sur la formation des organisations communautaires; ii) la participation communautaire aux activités des organisations communautaires; iii) la gouvernance et la gestion des organisations communautaires; et iv) les liens entre les organisations communautaires et les autres institutions.
En el último decenio, las organizaciones de la sociedad civil, incluidas las de base comunitaria, han desempeñado una función cada vez más importante en el desarrollo rural. En el año 2003, la FAO realizó un estudio para analizar los aspectos institucionales y relativos a la formación de más de 50 organizaciones de base comunitaria en el Yemen, creadas con el apoyo del Programa de desarrollo regional basado en la comunidad. Las organizaciones de base comunitaria son organizaciones voluntarias de carácter asociativo, cuya misión, encaminada a lograr cambios positivos, es establecida por sus miembros.
En el presente artículo se resumen y analizan algunos de los factores fundamentales que, según el informe analítico titulado Lessons learned and good practice: community-based organizations in Yemen, influyen en la formación y actividades de las organizaciones locales de base comunitaria en materia de desarrollo rural descentralizado: i) la repercusión de las condiciones locales en la formación de organizaciones de base comunitaria; ii) la participación de la comunidad en las actividades de las organizaciones de base comunitaria; iii) el sistema de gobierno y la gestión de las organizaciones de base comunitaria; y iv) los vínculos de las organizaciones de base comunitaria con otras instituciones.
 The full study report
Lessons learned and good practice: community-based organizations in Yemen,
is available at: http://www.fao.org/sd/dim_pe2/docs/pe2_040901d1_en.doc. An
earlier version of this article was submitted to the Deutscher Tropentag
Conference in Berlin, 2004. It is available at
 The effects of local settings on CBOs were not confi ned to their formation; they also affected their internal operations and relationships with the environment.
 People of the same tribe often settle in the same place. The land under the control of the tribe is perceived as one of the most important factors determining the position of a tribe in the overall social hierarchy.