Stakeholders: don’t ignore the little ones

By Taye Alemayehu
May 18, 2021

Who are our stakeholders that we are discussing with when we are implementing projects – elders, women, youth group, officials?  Along the age ladder, we never consider children, even in areas where they are crucially important. Children are curious, quick to learn, approachable, easy to communicate with, don’t ask for payments, and are very transparent. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me; don’t hinder them….’.  My experience on the need to consider children during project implementation came from two recent striking experiences, below.

My first experience came from Afar lowlands, Ethiopia. Three groundwater monitoring devices were installed on deep wells found in three different locations. They were locked using the strong, state-of-the-art lockers and left to do their work. When a team came to retrieve data, after one year, all wells were left open, filled with stone and the monitoring devices were gone.  People in the vicinity told the team that children were able to break the locks using stones similar to the one next to the well in the picture below; and took out the device to play with them. Not only the devices but the wells themselves–worth thousands of dollars– were left useless.

Recently, while installing a new monitoring device in the same area, children came to see what we were doing. Two boys with the same name, Yahya, were among them. One of the Yahyas was calm and kept asking questions. The other, restless Yahya kept picking up and trying tools and instruments we had carried there.

Among the questions asked by Yahya, the wise was: ‘Why are you doing this?’

We told him, in a way that he would understand, that the device would help to see the change in groundwater level and quality.

‘The water inside there is already bad,’ he responded.

We asked him how he knew that and why that happened.

He then told us the secret: the children, while playing around the well, used to pee through a small opening on top of the cap, just for the thrill and adventure of it. This small but important information made us aware of what was going-on and decided to weld and close that opening (Figure b).

(Left) One of the three vandalized monitoring deep wells, left open and filled with stones after the monitoring device was knicked and broken by children. (Right) A well into which village boys peed, through a tiny opening (red arrow) on the cap.

I’m sure there were children around, during the installation of the lost device. Engaging them in simple and proper orientation and discussion; giving them a responsibility in their own way, may have helped to save the devices and the expensive deep wells. If not for Yahya’s information, we could have ended measuring urine in our monitoring well. Let’s not forget the little ones, wherever and whenever they are important.

May 18, 2021  
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