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About the Author

Ahmed ElAmin
Journalist (Brussels, Belgium)

I started my life as a hack covering development projects for street children in Brazil; ended up teaching at a high school in Botswana; barged around the Kalahari reporting on local development projects for a magazine and also covered business stories for AFP; wandered around Southern Africa, Europe, and India; worked for a newspaper on the health and Native Canadian beat in Canada before heading off to Bermuda to cover finance and the reinsurance market; co-founded an online publication on offshore finance while living in a village of 700 people in Languedoc; drank a lot of wine; moved to Montpellier to cover the food and drink industry when the dot.com boom and the publication collapsed; drank a lot more wine covering that sector in France and Spain; and somehow ended up in Brussels working for a private communications company. At least the beer is good.

Post

Media commitment: focus on the particular

Published 06th July 2010 - 7 comments - 1529 views -

Media advocacy around a cause seems to have mostly died the death of traditional journalism, but at least the UK's Guardian has shown its commitment with its backing of Uganda’s Katine project.

“Katine: it starts with a village” is The Guardian contribution to helping the world’s poor in the form of an ongoing tracking of a three-year development project, led by the African Medical and Research Foundation (Amref), in partnership with Barclays, to improve the lives of the 25,000 people in Katine sub-county in Uganda.

By committing resources in the form of space, time and staff, The Guardian aims to “explain where donations go, how aid works, and how lives are changed”.

As explained on the dedicated project site, the three-year commitment began in October 2007, when the Guardian and Observer decided to support development work carried out by Amref and Farm-Africa in Katine. The project was launched by the editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger.

The £2.5m (€3m) project is funded through donations from Guardian and Observer readers and Barclays, which initially gave £500,000 to the project and is matching donations up to £1m.

The project focuses on five key areas: education, health, water, governance and livelihoods.

“An important part of the Katine project is listening to its residents – finding out about their lives and giving them a forum to express their views, not only on the work of Amref and Farm-Africa in their communities, but also on the decisions made by Ugandan politicians in Kampala that could impact their lives,” says the newspaper.

Screenshot of Guardian Katine project page

It tracks the project by:

  • Sending Guardian and Observer journalists to visit Uganda to report on progress;
  • Employing a senior staff writer from the Weekly Observer newspaper in Kampala, Richard Kavuma, to spend two weeks each month in Katine to write regular news reports;
  • Contracting an independent moderator, Rick Davies, to visit Katine to see if the work being carried out by Amref and Farm-Africa on the ground corresponds to the project plans;
  • Publishing regular reports on the project;
  • Encouraging schools to get involved in the project through a school resource section, which contains ideas for raising money, videos and lesson plans that can be downloaded.

“We believe the Katine project can offer a unique insight into the world of international development, so tell us what you think, says the Guardian on its ‘Katine Chronicles’ blog. The project was supposed to end in October this year, but the African Medical and Research Foundation has decided to extend its development work in Katine for an extra year. The organisation’s explanation is a list of the challenges of development work in a rural area.

“Perhaps as a lesson, we all need to consider the contextual realities of working in hard to reach areas and with marginalised communities,” says Amref. “We should factor in enough time to change deeply held cultural attitudes, behaviour, knowledge and practice. Time is needed to build the capacity of government and civil society, to ensure planning reflects the priorities of communities and that people know how to advocate for their rights to essential services. We also need to continue to inform our donors and other partners of the importance of longer term programming to see sustainable change, while managing expectations of what can realistically be achieved.

The Katine project is not only a good example of how the media can get involved in development it is also an example of the relevancy of Tolstoy's 'What then must we do?', a call to take action in helping one fellow's man by focusing on the particular rather than the general, which can be overwhelming.

Many of us just don't give because we feel the small amounts we can contribute will not make a difference in helping overcome a huge problem. Tolstoy's answer was to just pick someone in need, and help them directly. It has been my inspiration.

More information:  

Katine Projec: It starts with a village (http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine)

Malaria still major problem in Katine (Latest article, 5 July 2010)
Katine health centre records rise in number of malaria cases, reflecting an increase in prevalence across Uganda.

Amref: Why we need a fourth year in Katine

Leo Tolstoy: What then must we do? (PDF)

 


Category: Media | Tags:


Comments

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 06th July 2010:

    I like the mission very much - to “explain where donations go, how aid works, and how lives are changed”. It’s importnat for every modern media to realise that this is the media responsibility to make a discussion about aid.


  • Daniel Nylin Nilsson on 07th July 2010:

    It’s a great idea smile


  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 07th July 2010:

    This is very inspiring Ahmed. Thanks for this!


  • Iwona Frydryszak on 07th July 2010:

    just one thing that sounds warming for me: “We should factor in enough time to change deeply held cultural attitudes”... I don’t think that cultural attitudes should be deeply changed…. and this factor shouldn’t be mantioned firts.


  • Ahmed ElAmin on 07th July 2010:

    Iwona, I agree the statement sounds slightly off if it is read in the most general way, but I kinda know what they mean having lived in a few villages in Botswana and Sudan. They of course do not mean culture in general. They are being circumspect (coded language) about mentioning traditional medicine and the belief in witchcraft I think, so you have to read between the lines. Medical doctors, whether local or foreign, have to learn to work around and/or with traditional witch doctors.


  • Ahmed ElAmin on 07th July 2010:

    As a second take on the cultural issue, you will see that there is a lot of discussion about what that means and lots of criticism of the statement (see “blame the people instead of the government”).
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine/2010/feb/18/amref-year-four-explainer


  • Ahmed ElAmin on 07th July 2010:

    Here is another look at the “culture” issue:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine/2008/jun/30/livelihoods.projectgoals


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