To put beneficiaries first and involve them from the start in projects. That was one of the main lessons that Basma Al Quzah from Jordan learned from her course at Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation. It helped her to more effectively support Syrian farmers and food processors, which increases development and stability in the unstable country.
Basma Kamal Ibrahim Al Quzah is from Amman, Jordan, and has a lot of experience in working with refugees from Palestine, Iraq and Syria in her country. Jordan welcomed many refugees and Al Quzah is proud of the hospitality of her country. ‘We open our doors to people in need and we help them. Our government does, and our communities do as well.’ The 47-year-old Al Quzah has worked as a senior project management assistant with the World Food Programme in Amman, and with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
Now she works as a monitoring and evaluation Manager at the Near East Foundation in Jordan. ‘We support remote communities in the North of Syria. By connecting farmers and food processors, who are often women, to markets, and improving their productivity.’ The people in this region suffered hardship due to the ongoing war in Syria. ‘They have nothing left. They need our support. Improving the livelihoods of these people brings more stability through economic development.’
Putting beneficiaries like these people first and involving them in the project is one of the main things Al Quzah learned at the course she undertook at Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation, called Evaluating and managing for sustainable development impact. ‘In the past, in many projects that I know in Jordan, the project would not be discussed with the beneficiaries. Now I learned and realised that the beneficiaries are the main stakeholders. The people whose lives we aim to improve, need to be involved from the start.’
She also learned the tools to do so, she adds. ‘The course was very interactive and practical, using cases of the participants from all over the world. We learned how to involve stakeholders in making a theory of change, a plan for the project. And how to communicate effectively with different stakeholders. You learn how to use evaluation during the operation, in the management of a project. This course helped me to develop capacities, for example in communication, that I now apply in my work.’
Lack of well-trained professionals
It would be very helpful if more professionals like me in the region could get training like this, Al Quzah says. ‘We lack good training. The problem is that local staff of international organisations in Jordan often doesn’t get training and capacity building, because they work on temporary contracts. And we haven’t got such advanced courses in Jordan or the Middle East.’ She continues: ‘I share my experience and insights with colleagues and others here. Knowledge improves our work, and this greatly improves the livelihoods of people. Having more and better trained people would surely increase development and stability in the Middle East.’