A BOMA business in the village of Ngurunit

Over a breakfast of njera, a Somali pancake, and dark, rich coffee, Kura told us about the meeting he’d had with the Ngurunit community the night before we arrived. They told him they were pleased with BOMA’s work. Mostly, they said, because you asked us what we need.

What followed was a litany of complaints about aid organizations that were arriving in the area because of the drought. One organization showed up and proposed that the community build a greenhouse to grow vegetables.

“And where do we get water for the greenhouse?” the residents asked.

Another organization arrived with desks and chairs for the local primary boarding school.

“But we have desks and chairs,” the residents told them. “We need beds and mattresses for the dormitory so the children do not sleep on the ground.”

There was more discussion of the BOMA businesses – how they are helping the very poorest survive the drought, how they are teaching people important skills, how they are helping to keep children in school.

The community also had a suggestion for us. In each settled village, we have one to two BOMA Village Mentors who cover the settled village as well as the nomadic villages in the surrounding area. Using standard of living indicators – mostly household assets and nutritional information – the Mentors select the “poorest of the poor,” residents who are also enterprising and willing to work. That selection process, Kura was told, is at risk of nepotism or favoritism. Wouldn’t it be better, they suggested, if a committee of community members was established to review the applicants proposed by the Mentor? Kura agreed that this was a terrific suggestion. Our only requirement, he told them, was that the committee must have a membership of more than 50% women.

Kura and I discussed how a committee system could be implemented in each village. What we were most encouraged about, however, was the support we are receiving from so many village leaders. Our organization, through Kura, will always welcome creative thinking that will strengthen the future for communities facing recurrent drought.

All of it came back to one of our founding principles — locals must lead.