Tricia CunninghamWe know that drought and arid land are not the only factors in third world poverty; poor management and a lack of leadership are also at the heart of it. Recently LEAP’s Tricia Cunningham returned from Uganda having spent some time working alongside Self Help Africa. The goal of this Non-Government Organisation (NGO) is long term sustainability for small farmers and to break the cycle of dependency on foreign aid. Despite its potential, Uganda’s natural resources have never been properly utilized and it is still considered a third world nation. Tricia decided to go to Uganda and see for herself the kind of challenges facing agricultural communities there.

Armed with her experience in developing and delivering leadership and management training programmes, this first phase of Tricia’s work was about assessing the requirements of the local farmers and the Self Help Africa team.  Over the coming months she will also visit Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, West Africa and Kenya.  Here, Tricia shares some of her observations about her Uganda trip.

Tricia: ‘Sometimes when working in business we close our eyes to best practices in other disciplines believing they are irrelevant.  We use such expressions as “they don’t understand how we do things here” cutting off the potential for innovative practices that could benefit our organisations.  Many NGOs understand the necessity of determining best practices to maximise limited budgets. At the same time they recognise the importance of development to maintain and enhance the services provided.

Self Help Africa

Self Help Africa is a progressive NGO that demonstrates leadership in its area of expertise as it applies innovative approaches to its work.  A recent trip to its offices in Uganda provided me with the opportunity to see first-hand how this NGO is implementing best practices to develop a robust organisation, how it is working towards a goal of long-term sustainability for smallholder farmers and how it is ensuring inertia and complacency are kept at bay.  Best practices applied include:

  • Determining a long-term goal -sustainable future for smallholder farmers- and ensuring it remains at the core of all activities and strategies
  •  Hiring local experts who understand the needs of their service users (customers)
  • Removing non-essential activities from local offices so they are free to do what they do best – support their service users
  • Providing organisation support centrally for multiple locations thus reducing costs
  • Availing of technology to drive their work, to support local country offices and to reduce costs
  • Collaborating with branches in other countries, sharing insights and addressing blockages to progress

Leadership and Management in Uganda

In a country like Uganda where allegations of corruption have exploded recently the importance of running a highly effective, efficient, transparent and innovative organisation has never been more necessary.  They understand that establishing a great organisation isn’t simply a desire, it’s a necessity.  It really can make the difference between life and death.’