Adaptive Program Design Through Community Visioning In Zimbabwe
The “top-down" approach is a mode of inducing economic, social, political, and technological change in developing countries. The approach was first applied by Western governments and international institutions in the 1950s. Consequently, it was adopted by development agencies working with marginal communities. In rural Zimbabwe, the approach has been in use for over 30 years with significant investments of resources and time to improve food and nutrition security, but with little to show for it. While adverse climatic conditions, inflation, and low purchasing power are hindrances to food and nutrition security; the top-down approach is compounding the situation, as it fails to understand local contexts, engage communities in collaborative ways, and place monitoring and evaluation in the hands of development agencies. Ultimately, the top-down approach is failing to promote community learning and adaptive management. The top-down approach is criticized for not nurturing community ownership, and for perpetuating donor-dependency syndrome. USAID Takunda, a Resilience and Food Security Activity (RFSA) implemented in the Manicaland and Masvingo provinces of Zimbabwe, is promoting community-visioning (CV), a bottom-up, community-engagement approach, to identify context-specific priorities and solutions to food and nutrition security challenges and opportunities facing rural communities of different genders, ages, and socio-economic groups. CV allows communities to continuously learn through reviews, to adapt to changing situations, and to work collectively with accountability. The main outcome of CV is an empowered and self-reliant community that develops, implements, monitors, and evaluates inclusive action plans in collaboration with public and private stakeholders.
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