People in Palestine endure conflict and hardship constantly, and it is hard to engage them in safeguarding access to clean water, energy and other resources. Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation's course Evaluating and managing for sustainable development impact brought Amal Said Hudhud the tools to engage people even when there are continuous safety threats.
The city of Nablus in Palestine is in a continuous state of emergency due to the occupation and political tension with Israel, says Amal Said Hudhud. There is also an economic crisis, people lack income as salaries are often not paid. 'There is little environmental awareness, it is no priority for people. Yet we need to ensure access to clean water, energy and other resources.' Amal Hudhud holds a PhD in environmental engineering and works at the municipality of Nablus since 1996, heading the department for strategic planning and economic development. 'Lack of water is a serious threat at the moment. Due to the occupation, we have no access to water resources. And the amount of water decreased due to climate change in recent years. We have to treat and reuse the water we use.'
To ensure access to water, electricity and sound management of waste, a city plan was made in Nablus, which runs from 2018 till 2022. 'We need to engage people in that plan. We must cooperate, for example with representatives of ministries, youth organisations, or civil defence. Also, the people in the street need to be engaged, because we need them to participate in saving water and energy, to keep the street and public places clean from domestic waste.' To train herself in engaging stakeholders, Said Hudhud went to the Netherlands to follow a course at Wageningen Centre for Development. The capacities she developed in this course help her find new ways of engaging stakeholders and inhabitants in action plans.
One of the things she learned in the course in Wageningen is how to use monitoring and evaluation tools in the management of the city plan. 'Through continuous monitoring and evaluation, we get information about the results and impact of what we do. We disseminate that and that helps to engage more people. By showing them that it matters to them as well.' Or learning how to do it better. For example, when a new wastewater treatment plant was planned in the east of the city, Hudhud had a meeting with people living in the neighbourhood, explaning about the importance of the project and seeking their opinion. People disliked the smell of the plant, and in the end the plant was located further away from residents.
Face to face
Her new knowledge is fresh, and it is too early to say how it impacts the city plan. 'But I am adapting the way I work. I now try to see people face to face and hope to involve them by showing impact. I also learned to approach and communicate with different people in different ways. For example, you must talk about technical issues in simple words for most people. On the other hand, to engage people you have to understand people and see how they could gain. You should have something to offer and build their capacities. For example, on how to raise funds for their own projects. There should be a win-win for all.'