How CODE Grew to Become a Voice for Local Communities

This post was written by Tyo Faeren Jennifer, a Mass Communication Student of the Benue State University, during her Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) with CODE  

Connected Development [CODE] a non-governmental organization [NGO], headquartered in Abuja and formed in 2010, has empowered 9 local communities in Africa through its Transparency and Accountability initiative. And has mobilized 30 million Nigerians and 1 million citizens in 7 other West African countries to take action around Environmental Sustainability in Nigeria.

Through its Follow The Money project that advocates, visualize and track funds meant for local communities, it has helped in providing water to the 15, 000 inhabitants in Kadandani, Kano; Bachaka, Kebbi; and Jeke in Jigawa by tracking and advocating for the 10 billion Naira meant for the Great Green Wall project [GGW].

Follow The Money came to limelight by providing access to healthcare for 1,500 lead poisoned children, and providing hostel for 440 pupils, and providing an overhead tank for 200 pupils in government school in Zamfara State, communities.

At one of its traditional stakeholders meeting on making sure water is provided in three villages – Kadandani, Jeke and Bachaka, the representative from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Mr. S.M.Babarinde said, “Follow The Money is the most objective transparency and accountability initiative I have followed over 2 years now on radio, TV and their online platforms.”

The World Wide Fund [WWF] ‘s Earth Hour , now coordinated by Connected Development [CODE] and the Young Volunteers for Environment, since 2010 has united the people of Nigeria and other Seven countries in West Africa by mobilizing millions of individuals, organizations and government to take action for the environment.  

It’s OpenDataParty [ODP] makes and spread open data. The ODP is where participants from every part of the country come together to learn and share data skills. It’s ODP has taught 430 Nigerians with hands on workshops, which included-Data Analysis using Google Spreadsheet and Microsoft Excel; Data Scraping using Tabula and Import.io; Visualizing data using Maps with CartoDB and Open Street Maps; Visualizing data using Info.gram

“I have learnt where to get budget for environment especially ones related to my state, and how I can analyze it using Excel, I never knew this before coming” said Erdoo Anango of Kwasedoo Foundation International from Benue state.

It’s Sustainaware  project,  an initiative that aims to improve Youth Knowledge, Interest and Leadership on Environmental Health, Green Economy and Social-Environmental Entrepreneurship), initiated by CODE’s European partners in 2014 was  and supported by the European Union connects eight partner countries (Nigeria, U.S.A, India, Slovenia, Argentina, Hungary, Croatia, and Liechtenstein), and now added Zambia and Somalia, as implementing countries of Sustainaware in 2016

CODE seeks global partners committed to a sustainable future and to empowering marginalized communities to make a difference by creating the missing feedback loop between the government and the people by amplifying the voice of these lurked away. Of course, these feat would not have been achieved if not for support from Indigo Trust, Omidyar Network, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation, Code For Africa, European Union and the thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook.

The #OpenDataParty : Enhancing Data Literacy in Nigeria

The #OpenDataParty : Enhancing Data Literacy in Nigeria

“I felt excited like a child learning new stuffs I never knew before. It was hands on learning. Great experience. I’ll attend open data events over in the future.” – Oluwaseyi Akinrotimi, Scientific Officer, Ondo State Ministry of Health

“This was quite a revealing session as  I have had some table data which is in PDF format that I can now extract as Excel spreadsheets, I was used to typing the data out into Excel, this data scraping session is really helpful for me” – Mamman Umar

“I never knew all these characters could be used in depicting data in 10 minutes, that is what I just learnt, and that has made my day” exclaimed Desmond Chieshe of ISPHS Abuja

“This event was very interactive and educative in terms of knowledge acquisition on tools for data journalism. I have started using some of the tools taught.” – Jamiu Akangbe, African Resourceful Leaders Foundation, Team Leader

 

[View the 646 Photos and 15 Videos from this event here]

Connected Development [CODE]’s last event of every year is always a bar camp tagged “the Open Data Party (ODP) where participants from every part of the country come together to learn and share data skills. This year, the ODP was taken to the ancient Benin City, led by our School of Data Fellow and the team lead at Sabi Hub – Nkechi Okwuone, and Friday, December 11 and Saturday, December 12 in 2015 welcomed 117 social workers, civil servants, journalists, academics and other data enthusiast to the Law Lecture Theater Annexe of the Post Graduate School of the Benson Idahosa University in Edo State, with support from the Heinrich Boll FoundationIndigo Trust, Open Knowledge Foundation, and Code for Africa. As at the time of writing this 61.1% of the participants rated the different aspect of the event as excellent, while 33% responded that it was good; 38.9% rated our facilitators as good, 38.9% rated them as excellent.

Connected Development Open Data Party in Benin City

70% of registered participants for this year were male while 30% were female (a 70% increase from last year female participants). 48% were civil society representative; 29.4% were entrepreneurs; 20% were student; 12.5% were media professional (a 40% decrease to last year); 28% were designers and data wranglers (an 40% decrease); 16.3% were academics; 6.9% were government official (a 40% decrease); 82.5% of Participants say they want to learn more about Understanding Data Pipelines, Using Data Analysis, Data Reporting and Visualization. Only 45% of the participants were good at presenting data, 66% of the participants were not good at collecting data and 41.3% of the participants were good at Data Analysis.

“So far, outside the United States and a few other major Western democracies, we have really seen open data being something happening at the national level. When we try to solve problems for citizens, problems are local. People need data to know about what is happening to them locally and often that is managed by sub-national governments” – These were the words of Katelyn Rogers of the Open Knowledge Foundation while giving opening remarks at the event. One important session introduced at this years ODP was the ideation session which allows participants to proffer solutions to a pressing waste management challenge in Benin City, a session that was introduced through the Code for Africa partnership.

Connected Development Open Data Party in Benin City

Adam Talsman of Reboot training participants on how to use FormHub for surveys

The introduction to Data Pipelines that always opened sessions at the Open Data Party was immediately followed by three ignite talks to ignite participants on how organizations are using the data pipelines in working around data. The Open Data Companion (ODC) was presented by Osahon Okungbowa showing how they have compiled all open data portals around the world into one platform. Abdul Ganiyu Rufai from the Center for Information, Technology and Development (CITAD) explained how they aggregated hate speech for the just concluded general elections in Nigeria, while Blaise Aboh from Orodata shared how they are visualizing available government data, and creating simple information products that citizens can understand, in order to hold the government accountable.

Connected Development Open Data Party in Benin City

Blaise Aboh training participants on how to create infographics from data sets

As a follow up to the maiden Open Data Party in Abuja, and owing to feedback’s from last year event , this year’s event had nine hours of hands – on – training (skill share) embedded in the two days event. The hands – on workshops included Data Analysis using Google Spreadsheet and Microsoft Excel; Data Scraping using Tabula and import.io; Ground Truthing using Mobile apps such as FormHub and Textit; Visualizing data using maps with CartoDB and Open Street Maps; Visualizing data using infographics with specifics on infogr.am; and writing effective Freedom of information (FOI) letter. “The Data Analysis session is one of the most educative sessions I have attended amongst the sessions. “I have learnt where to get budget for environment especially ones related to my state, and how I can analyze it using Excel, I never knew this before coming” said Erdoo Anango of Kwasedoo Foundation International from Benue state.

Connected Development Open Data Party in Benin City

Oluwamayowa Oshindero training participants on Google Drive collaboration tools

Because the Open Data Party was meant for participants, and we really want them to participate, and make decisions on what they would like to teach, three hours was dedicated to an un – conference session on the second day which included a Follow The Money session where participants were exposed to how they can track funds meant for their local communities, and an opportunity for them as well to engage Follow The Money Nigeria as a state monitor. “We are aware of the Great Green Wall project, however it remains unclear how the funds budgeted for this have been spent, and we think we should be part of this team to track the funds in Yobe” explained Mohammed Garba Musa. Another intersesting session was the Funding your projects/Ideas and using Google Drive for Collaboration and Web Analytics.

Connected Development Open Data Party in Benin City

From left: Hamzat Lawal of CODE, Nanso Jideofor of Reboot, Temi Adeoye of Code For Nigeria, Katelyn rogers of open knowledge, and Destiny Frederick of EcoFuture during a Panel Discussions on Open Data, Waste Management and Internet Governance

The Open Data Party was concluded by ideation session which had 14 participants presenting their ideas on how they can help to reduce waste in Benin City. The ideation participants presented ideas ranging from advocacy strategies, development of applications to help create situation awareness,development of applications that waste managers can also use in tracking waste in municipalities.Abdul Ganiyu Rufai who presented an idea of creating a platform for the Waste Management Board in Kano that can help them track where new dump-site are located, and also create awareness by sending SMS to Kano citizens was paired with Emmanuel Odianosen who presented the prototype of an app called Clyn that can be used in sending messages to Waste Managers, letting them know of waste available to pick up. They both won the ideation sessions, and will be supported by Connected Development [CODE] and Sabi Hub to develop their idea to reduce waste and improve waste management in Kano and Edo state.

 

 

The Border Town, Casted Away in the Sahara Desert – Jeke!

The Border Town, Casted Away in the Sahara Desert – Jeke!

Have you wondered how communities in the Sahara get water? to use for personal purposes, and their livestock? To be candid, it can be a whole tussle, and frustration. But with recent innovations in Wind and Solar Energy, it should be a thing of the pass, but in Jeke, a border town with Niger Republic (On your cell-phone, an Airtel Subscriber will be switched to the One-Airtel roaming plan on receiving a welcome message from Airtel Niger), it is still the case, as the estimated 7,000 that inhabits Jeke wait every 3 days to have access to Water.

IMAG0972

Inhabitants of Jeke lining up their Jerrycan while in search of Water

 

Jeke located in Sule Tankarkar LGA of Jigawa has 14 shelter belts, and most are predominantly farmers involved in dry crops.”You can get those big water melons here for 20 Naira, and when you get back to Abuja, maybe you will buy it for 600 Naira” explained Husseini, the Motor Bicycle Rider that took us through the sandy path that took us to Jeke. This community reminds me of Bagega in Zamfara State, with a wind propeller that powers the water points lightening up the village, and embedded within the orchard and nursery set out for the village to use in sustaining their tree plantations.

 

“This wind powered water tank provides water 3 times in a week only when the wind speed is high, but when it is not we cannot get water, and this could have been an alternative to the MDG solar powered tank we have in the community, which cannot serve all of us.The MDG powered solar tank constructed 2 years ago only gives water between 9am and 2pm, that’s why you see so many people carrying kegs around” explained Yakubu Magaji, a spokesperson for Jeke

The wind powered water tank in Jeke that supplies water to the orchard - The tank gets filled up only at high wind speed

The wind powered water tank in Jeke that supplies water to the orchard – The tank gets filled up only at high wind speed

 

Jeke alone, due to its border line with Niger enjoins most of the shelter belt line that the GGW initiated, but the continuation and sustainability of the project still lives many inhabitants of Jeke in the dark. “As you must have seen, the shelter belts are only growing on their own, without nurturing, and some are already getting dried up, as their are no forest guards around, we only took up the initiative in the hope that their will be continual support from the government” said Muhammad Hussaini the leader of the Men’s Development Association who also went for a training in Kano on sustaining the GGW project.

 

A noteworthy plan for the GGW was the cash transfer system which will allow these association or cooperatives of farmers to have direct access to cash in their bank accounts to use in sustaining and localizing the GGW but the beneficiaries haven’t seen the plan grow into implementation. “We have submitted our bank accounts to the government since this started a year ago, but no amount has been transferred to the account, and so how do we trust the government if all this promises are failing” lamented Hussaini as he explained further.

Muhammad Husseini sharing his experiences on the GGW  with the FTM team

                                  Muhammad Husseini sharing his experiences on the GGW with the FTM team

 

While one wonders what will happen to the 5 – 20 hectares of land that was used for this project, the locals claimed it was their land, and that although the government paid tokens for some of the land used, it still has some pending cases of land acquisition for this project in Jeke to be settled. “Aside the issue of Water which remains pertinent for our people to survive, it should be noted that there are three people in our community that have not been duly compensated for their farmlands that was used for the orchard, it will be pleasing for the government to fulfill their promises”. Adiu Hassan exclaimed

 

When the Follow The Money team embarks on community outreaches like this, we endeavour to meet with policy makers as well to get insights into some of this projects, but at times, you get some shocking response, just like in Jigawa state.”We will not be able to entertain any question fro your team, as we do not have directives from the Federal Ministry of Environment to talk to you, and also we advise you do not visit the communities, as you might be instigating them” cautioned Hilary Ammani, Director, Desertification and Forestry for the Federal Ministry of Environment. But as much as we get disturbing responses like this, so also do we have comforting ones “We have attached a representative who will take you around the shelter belts in Gumel and Jeke, but we can inform you that the GGW has made its little progress in that it is only a year old, and for some months now, there has not been follow up, because of the change in government, but we assure you of our cooperation” Hamisu Ahmed representing the State Forestry Services Department.

The FTM Team with the Forestry Department Representative at the Shelter Belt in Jeke. Trees here include Neem, Senegal Acacia, and the Doum Palm

The FTM Team with the Forestry Department Representative at the Shelter Belt in Jeke. Trees here include Neem, Senegal Acacia, and the Doum Palm

 

Many times, we intend to create the missing feedback loop between the government and the people, while amplifying the voice of this lurked away communities like Jeke. As the following months will pass by, we will be engaging the people and its government on how to break these barriers that stand between empowering this communities. No doubt, more can still be done on the side of the government to make water available in Jeke!

#Kadandani – Thriving on the heels of economical trees, threatened by unfulfilled promises!

#Kadandani – Thriving on the heels of economical trees, threatened by unfulfilled promises!

How does doing a community outreach in a state where a suicide bomber just killed so many lives sounds like? Yes we were in Kano, when the tragedy struck, but many times this would not distract us like someone said during our radio engagement “I think the Follow The Money team are a group of Nigerians that are never shaken, even in the light of insecurity in the North”.Maybe the next conversation, might be – “How do you manage it?”

 

We are typical Nigerians that follows not only money for good, but our passion pushes us, and so same passion took us to Kadandani in Makoda Local Government of Kano State. Estimated to have a population of 6,000 with one primary and secondary school each, only one source of water that  thrives on an alternative power – the AC generator;and a clinic that has only one midwife attending to patients.

The Shelter Belt initiated by the Kano State Government two decades ago

                                            The Shelter Belt initiated by the Kano State Government two decades ago

 

Kadandani has a long stretch of shelterbelts, which made us think the community might be thriving on economical trees “Each woman in the community has four Date trees she nurtures, hoping that in future years, we will reap from each Date fruit”  affirmed Hajiya Mari the head of the women association in Kadandani who recently attended a 2 days seminar on the importance of the Great Green Wall project and they were directed to submit their registration and bank account details which they did. She mentioned that same project was initiated by the Kano State government and has been in existence 4 years ago. “The huge shelter belts surrounding our community is an initiative of the state government, it started decades ago, but what we hope for now is that the government can now provide processing machines for peanuts harvested by our women, as such we can make kuli-kuli in large scale” explained Mari

 

The Great Green Wall (GGW) project in Kadandani has lived to its expectation with awareness, trainings and shortcomings in unfulfilled promises of water and social projects. “The Kadandani inhabitants are much aware about the benefit of planting trees, owing to awareness and training programmes by the government, but it has had its own challenges, at the beginning of the GGW, we were promised water, an important amenity to us and our livestocks, but looking back, this is not the case if you visit the proposed site for this amenities” explained Adamu Abdullahi, community head of Kadandani

The FTM team with key groups in the community - from top left is Hajiya Mari

                                           The FTM team with key groups in the community – from top left is Hajiya Mari

 

100m away from the fences of their mud – thatched roofs, is located a “drying up” orchard  with a solar powered tank, which was meant to generate 10 water points for the community, and  a livestock water storage trough. “6 months after this was installed, it stopped working, and since then we have written to the federal government, but there has not been any response and the nurseries and orchards are getting dried up” – says Adamu. But one would have thought that the community would have invested or carry on the burden of sustaining the project, “When there was no response, I had to start using sprinklers and trying to raise new orchards, and I encouraged other community members to do as well, but we can only do a little” Shehu Ibrahim, the owner of one of the 5 hectares of land which the community offered to the federal government for this project.

 

Speaking with the Director, Forestry Department of the State Ministry of Environment, he clearly affirmed the situation in not only Kadandani “although we are trying to restore this water source for the plants, livestock and the people, its been challenging getting the contractors to fix the water tanks properly, and this is not peculiar to Kadandani, we have 5 shelter belts in other 3 other communities in Makoda, and we need to provide water at each communities for the GGW  to survive” explained Danusa Ibrahim, Director, Forestry Department.

The orchard and nursery site in Kadandani, just behind is the non-functional 10 water points

                           The orchard and nursery site in Kadandani, just behind is the non-functional 10 water points

 

Little wonders, why laudable social projects in local communities gets abandoned at the height of hysteria, perhaps, no thinks about its sustainability, or projects are initiated to gain political integrity. “Although as a lead, I have been more enlightened about the benefits of projects like GGW, as we have seen in Zinder, Niger during one of our field trips, it is more important to consult the local communities first before starting social projects like this, also I will advise stakeholders such as lawmakers from these communities should take the lead in some of these consultations, this can help in the sustainability of the project” Miyaki said
So what happens to Kadandani afterwards? As these kind of stories interests us at FTM, we will be looking at every opportunity to get water to the 5,000 people that inhabits Kadandani; and not just to forget their livestocks and flora that exist in their community. If you are in Kano, and you think you want to join in tracking the 70 million Naira that was meant for Kadandani which might lead to getting back water to the 5,000 inhabitants, join us now!

 

Where the Dry Crops Won’t Grow: A Too – Familiar Story of #Bachaka

Where the Dry Crops Won’t Grow: A Too – Familiar Story of #Bachaka

In Kebbi State, nothing must have mattered to them , other than their dry season crop planting, but there is a community that is doubting how much they can make, off the planting season – Bachaka, with an estimated population of 5,000 with 1 health center, a primary and secondary school, and the community thrives on four water hand pumps.

The FTM Team engages the Deputy Head of Community at Bachaka on prospects and challenges of the GGW

The FTM Team engages the Deputy Head of Community at Bachaka on prospects and challenges of the GGW

 

In November 2014, Bachaka became the first of 200 communities that would benefit from the Great Green Wall (GGW) project. A project that hopes to provide 1,500km of shelter belt from Kebbi to Borno State; provide water and social projects in 200 beneficiary communities. Lurked away from the city center of Kebbi, Birnin Kebbi, and just 40km away from the Republic of Niger in Arewa Local Government Area, there seems to have been an appreciable progress in Bachaka , since the inception of the GGW, a year ago.

 

“We have two representatives from our community that was sent on trainings and site visits to Zinder, Niger; there has been several awareness programmes as well, especially in making an income from planting economic trees, likewise there is a Ministry of Environment representative who visit here monthly” highlighted Abubakar Maiyaki (Mai Yakin Bachaka), Deputy Head of Community in Bachaka

 

The 1km shelterbelt in Bachaka is thriving, and has had its forest guards and security guards in place watching over it, but there are challenges as well. “Since we started about 4 months ago, we have not been paid our salaries and that has been frustrating for us and our families, as such we urge the government to come to our plight.” complained one of the security guards.

In the background is the spoilt solar and wind powered water tank

                                                  In the background is the spoilt solar and wind powered water tank

 

Shelter belts projects cannot survive without the provision of orchards and nurseries, so that other trees can be planted by the community, but their is a setback for this in Bachaka.” We have written the Federal Ministry of Environment times without number, to come and fix the solar wind powered tank since it stopped working , as all the nurseries and orchards are getting dried up.

 

In Bachaka, two solar powered tanks were installed: One that provides water source to the shelter belt, and another one that provide water for the orchard and nursery.The latter was at first a wind powered water tank which broke down some days after it was installed, it was then replaced by a solar source which also stopped working just 3 months ago, because the pump for the water was stolen! “Farmers that rely on the broken down water source cannot plant this dry season, as their crops get dried up, just like the orchards are already drying up, the tank should be fixed as soon as possible” said Ashiru Mohammed, one of the security men in charge of the orchards.

The nursery for the Acacia, Doum Palm and the Date Palm already drying up in Bachaka

                                    The nursery for the Acacia, Doum Palm and the Date Palm already drying up in Bachaka

 

Ashiru Mohammed was not only the security in charge of the orchards, surprisingly, he doubled as the owner of the land, and pleaded with the government to pay him is compensation for acquiring his land. Ashiru made us understand that he was only looking after the place because of the passion after one of the sensitization programme in Bachaka. Umar Musa, the Director of forestry at the Kebbi State Government affirmed some of the plights of other shelter belts in Kebbi, and was really skeptical about the success of the GGW, if their is not a new direction for the laudable project.
So why, who and how was the pump for the solar powered tank stolen, perhaps there was no guard for the orchard before now, and many times we get cases of stolen pumps when solar powered tanks are installed in rural communities, Bachaka isn’t the first and might not be the last. Despite the progress since the GGW was flagged off in Bachaka, there are too many challenges of consolidating gains with local stakeholders, thus posing a challenge to the sustainability of the GGW in Kebbi State as a whole.In the next coming months, we will be catching up on stories from Bachaka, and how the water issues will be solved to allow farmers continue their dry crop farming.