During 2015, the Millennium Development Goals meet their deadline. Fontes Foundation Uganda’s Regional Coordinator seizes the opportunity to evaluate Fontes’ contribution within the framework of global development goals.
(Caption above: Inhabitants of Katunguru-Kasese, Uganda filling up their jerry cans with safe drinking water. The inhabitants have to pay a small fee for the water, which will go to the local water committee for managing the water system. Fontes believes that when the beneficiaries have a sense of ownership of the water system, the project will be sustainable in the long run.)
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), defined by the United Nations in year 2000, were an ambitious attempt to reduce poverty in the world. Now, fifteen years later, the MDG-deadline is approaching and while some MDGs have already been met, others have been missed by miles. As the international community has to decide on new development goals for the next 15 years, it is time to evaluate how Fontes Foundation has contributed towards the MDGs and how Fontes’ approach can be implemented within the soon to be defined Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Fontes Foundation is making a small but reasonable contribution towards several Millennium Development Goals through its water, education and youth projects. What characterizes the Fontes approach is the long-term commitment the organization has towards its projects. For example, instead of establishing as many new safe drinking water projects as possible in order to reach the MDGs, Fontes Foundation is focusing on a limited number of water projects and the provision of technical and managerial training and continuous follow-ups to increase the feeling of ownership among the local population. Studies made by the Rural Water Supply Network and WaterScan Consulting have shown that the average life span of a drinking water project in Africa is 2-3 years due to the lack of locally available resources and technical and managerial knowledge of the beneficiaries. Given the fact that Fontes Foundation’s water projects have been running successfully since 2004, we feel confident that our approach is a successful way to reach sustainable development, meaning to one day achieve the total independence of the water projects from the organization. The current Millennium Development Goals seem to give wrong incentives for development organizations: Instead of a long-term commitment in a limited amount of projects, the focus lies on the installation of new safe water projects on a large scale combined with a short-term exit strategy for the development organization. This leads to an increased safe water coverage in the short run, but will have a very limited – if any at all – effect on the access to drinking water in the middle and long run.
Fontes Foundation’s long-term approach is not only reserved for the organization’s water projects. At Potentiam Youth Development Centre, vulnerable youth is trained in ICT, Business Skills, English and Personal Development. Even though the original idea was to establish a vocational skills training centre, an extensive assessment study including the community, the youth, as well as employers from the neighbouring areas, revealed that it would make more sense to provide the youth with the skills necessary to run their own business or simply being a good and reliable employee. Hence, the programme was adapted accordingly.
Fontes follows up every student with a two-year mentorship programme, which continues long after they have completed the Core Course. This follow-up is essential in order to make sure that the youth actually finds employment or successfully starts up a business. Again, Fontes Foundation’s long-term commitment is evident.
As with the MDGs, we at Fontes Foundation are convinced that we can play a small but impactful role in the successful implementation of the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals by sticking to our long-term approach. “Help to Self- Help” is the buzzword, including capacity building, constant follow-up and establishing a sense of ownership among the beneficiaries of our projects. The final goal is not to give Fontes Foundation a “raison d’eÌ‚tre”, but to empower the communities supported in a way that they one day can operate the projects independent of the organization. Only like this can a development project be considered truly sustainable. Even though there already is a lot of criticism towards the SDGs, as they seem to be even more ambitious and much broader than the MDGs, we will have to wait until September 2015 to see if those goals are formulated in a way where development really can be considered sustainable.