Members’ Voices

July 2023

Members' Voices

Hibak Kalfan
Executive Director


Putting communities and community leadership at the core of their programming ensures local and national NGOs strengthen the local ecosystem. 

Dear NEAR members and partners

This month's Members Voices edition brings you news in brief on our Collaborative Dialogue in Nairobi, co-hosted by NEAR, CIVICUS and Global Alliance for Communities. This was an innovative and participatory gathering which brought together local leaders from all over the Global South and created a space for open and honest communication with funders.

The dialogue was fruitful in many ways, not least for the depth and richness of the engagement and interactions. We will bring you a full report on the Dialogue in the next edition of NEAR Secretariat news.

This edition also focuses on the efforts of two NEAR members that have been working both in development and humanitarian response in Ethiopia for decades. We are excited to share these stories with you which demonstrate how members involve communities and ensure sustainability.

Putting communities and community leadership at the core of their programming ensures local and national NGOs strengthen the local ecosystem. 

We will continue to bring you stories which highlight the wonderful work of our members, their capacities and achievements, and the very real and lasting impact they have on communities.

Until next time




Local leaders from 15 countries across the Global South, donors and partners recently came together for a fruitful and insightful collaboration in Nairobi.

The collaborative dialogue on locally-led development highlighted innovative approaches, and built new connections and partnerships to address challenges in affected communities.

For NEAR members who participated, it was an opportunity to create new networks and reinforce existing relationships.


Alliance building among networks is crucial for us to succeed.
I really appreciated that this convening brought together networks from across the Global South.
– Dr Ehsanur Rahman of NAHAB, Bangladesh

Today donors and leaders had a chance to come together, to dialogue and get clarity and a shared understanding of what locally led development means.
– Loreine Dela Cruz of Center for Disaster Preparedness, Philippines.

For more information and media from the Dialogue, stay tuned for our next Secretariat News edition.


We spoke with Guyo Denge, Executive Director of Community Initiatives Facilitation and Assistance (CIFA – Ethiopia) on how they build resilience by tapping into community knowledge and history.

Construction of an underground water tank at Ejersa village in Moyale District @CIFA

“We were registered in Ethiopia in 2005 but we have a sister organisation which we were registered out of, working in northern Kenya which itself was registered in 2000.
We work in a pastoral context which mainly is related to the management of rangelands but also with human aspects. We work mainly on peace building and conflict resolution interventions, and also responding to the recurrent droughts. Currently we are active in Oromia region, specifically in Borana zone that lies directly across the Ethiopia – Kenya border, and we also work in East Hararge zone.
The Borana has a rich and well-preserved oral history. As the Borana are pastoralist and it is a very strongly traditional context, we also involve the traditional institutions like the Gada leaders who are the topmost of the hierarchy of the community. We also involve leaders who are in charge of rangelands at every village, at every location called Abba Dedhas and people in charge of water called Abba Heregas. Communities are the ones that lead us.

We are able to gather a history of the disasters that have struck over decades, how communities have been able to respond to these disasters, also maybe how the government has supported them and other development. We rank these disasters, particularly those that have impact on their livelihoods. Then we identify who specifically is vulnerable whenever these disasters occur.
They also identify which livestock are most at risk. Once we have identified the vulnerabilities together, we look at existing capacities. We identify required capacities and then the gaps between what is existing and what is required.  Using all of this information we work with the community to formulate the appropriate disaster reduction strategy for them.

The long-term impact of this work has been sustainable livelihoods and saving lives and livelihoods in humanitarian situations.

We then co-create a community action plan and also a community contingency plan, for when disasters strike. These two plans are then adopted at the community level. We also link and harmonise it with the government plans that are there at community level and then we move forward to implement it. As they implement the plans, they also monitor the progress of the plans adjusting them whenever necessary. The plans are documented and kept at the level of Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) and can easily be shared with any relevant development actors – NGOs and the government. 
The long-term impact of this work has been sustainable livelihoods and saving lives and livelihoods in humanitarian situations. Communities have been able to activate their contingency plans and respond to emergencies. A good case is the Bokola community in Moyale district in the 2017 drought
In humanitarian emergencies – mainly droughts and conflicts – we’ve been the first responders in saving lives and livelihoods through interventions such as cash transfer programs, livestock feed and health interventions and water trucking. 
Whenever a development stakeholder comes into the community, we do ensure that these plans are shared with them, as well as other relevant government line departments. We've been doing it since 2013. It's quite innovative and it’s quite wonderful!"
ABOUT CIFA Ethiopia 
Our vision is peaceful, healthy, enlightened and self-reliant communities in Ethiopia.
To learn more about CIFA go to

We spoke to Abdissa Bekele, Programme Manager for Afro Ethiopian Integrated Development Association about building community resilience through community participation.

Community members assisting with offloading project supplies. ©AEID

“AEID was established in December 2003, so as you can see, we have been doing this for 20 years and have reached 3.7 million community members directly. This does not include the indirect impact. We are able to do this because we ensure impact through sustainability.
We work both in development and humanitarian response mostly in WASH, with Orphans and Vulnerable Children, protection, Emergency Shelter/Non-Food Items, Health, Education, Social Accountability, Multipurpose cash, and agriculture programs across four regions in Ethiopia: Oromia, Amara, Tigray and the new Southwestern Ethiopian People’s region.
We have been able to build community resilience by encouraging community participation at every step of the way. We involve them from project development to project implementation. Communities are involved in the project launching and all the workshops, and during the monitoring and reporting stages, we usually form a joint monitoring team with them.  If at any stage they have a question or a complaint or want to know if implementation is on track, they can ask for and receive the information.
Involving the community during project design means that we can understand their interests and feelings as well as their fears. This develops a sense of ownership amongst the community if the project is based on their interests, they perceive it as their property.  And most importantly this ensures the sustainability of the project for lasting impact.
As an example of a community that has built its own resilience, in 2018/19 we worked in Oromia (West Gujji) to implement an Emergency WASH Response project with ECHO for communities that had been displaced by conflict between the Gujji and Gedeo people. 

Involving the community during project design means that we can understand their interests and feelings as well as their fears. This develops a sense of ownership amongst the community

We rehabilitated water schemes, the electro-mechanical system, pipelines, and water points. We created separate latrines and shower spaces for men and women and also ensured the design could accommodate people with disabilities.

And then we trained technicians from the community to maintain the generators and solar power we use for some boreholes, and the generators we use for others.
In that project, the community was involved in each step of the activity. When we laid pipelines, they supported us in digging the ground. When we handed over the project, we also shared skills with them on how to use the pilot and ensure that the project continues to run successfully.
Until today that project is running successfully and delivering impact.
AEID aspires to see Ethiopia that creates healthy and productive citizens 
To learn more visit