Participatory Planning approach improves livelihood of Dragash/š Municipality 27 December 2012

Trainig of municipal servants in Dragas municipality
Trainig of municipal servants in Dragas municipality

More than 70 representatives of Dragash/š  Municipal Assembly, Municipal Working Group and Local/Village  Working Groups (L/VWG), both men and women, participated in a one day workshop organized by   UNDP ART Gold Programme and the Municipality of Dragash/Dragaš in late December. The overall objective was to promote the ownership of municipality and communities towards Municipal Development Plan and participatory planning process results as well as to share the recommendations resulting from planning process on actions that will contribute to build improved governance. Specific objectives were to emphasize the community engagement in the planning process, enable exchange of experiences among communities and learning on best practices, and therefore introduce the idea of institutionalizing the Local Working Groups as formal partners of municipal leadership. During the workshop representatives of the Local/Village Working Groups from Bresane , Kuk , Shajne , Zlipotok and Rapča made a detailed presentation on the overall situation in their villages, including resources and needs/priorities of the community for improving their life conditions.
After the presentations a long discussion ensued. It was concluded that the LWG representatives understood the importance of participatory planning approach and its impact on community development. The Municipality acknowledged the function as well and committed to include at least one priority project per village in the capital investments plan of the Municipality in the coming two years.
"Never before have we heard about Participatory Planning approach as it has never been introduced to our community. But, after establishing the VWG by UNDP  ART Gold Programme in our village (Bresane) and working closely for about four months with the UNDP team I found it very useful and helpful for overall development of the village" says Ajet Reshiti, VWG Coordinator of Bresane village in Opoja region.
Jusuf Hodža, member of Restelica VWG, expressed his satisfaction that UNDP ART GOLD Programme supported by the Municipality has established the Local Working Group in his village because, according to him, after establishment of the VWG things started to positively move in the village. He explained that, financially supported by UNDP ART GOLD Programme and Municipality, last year eight illegal dumpsites have been cleaned in Restelica. Furthermore, again supported by UNDP ART GOLD Programme and Municipality, just after implementation of the cleanup activities the village has been included in regular waste collection system, which never existed before. "Now our village looks much better, more beautiful and more healthy as there are no more illegal dumpsites in the village and we can from now on promote and develop rural tourism which was not possible before due to the dumpsites in the village" said Hodža. The village didn't have organized leading bodies before. Establishment of the VWG by UNDP and Municipality was a very good sign that one day the village will establish the Village Council. "Thanks to efforts and involvement of UNDP and Municipality last year we established the Village Council, and now life in our village is more organised as we have our legal bodies" declared Hodža.
Since 2010 the UNDP Art (Articulation of Territorial Networks) Kosovo project is implementing in Dragash/Dragaš Municipality the framework of the UNDP Project "Conservation of Biodiversity and Sustainable land use Management". It aims to support the Municipality of Dragash/Dragaš in integrating the ART Participatory Planning approach and methodology into Municipal planning processes, and identifying and facilitating the implementation process of Quick Impact Projects and establishing decentralized cooperation networks with international interested partners in developing various types of cooperation  in order to contribute to the improvement of living conditions of Dragash/Dragaš citizens.
The participatory planning process is implemented in the 10 largest and strategically important villages of the Municipality: Bellobrad, Brrut, Blac, Brod, Restelica, Bresane, Kuk, Shajne, Zlipotok and Rapča) through the established infrastructure: Local Working Groups and the Municipal Working Group.
As a result of this process, started initially with five villages (Bellobrad, Brrut, Blac, Brod and Restelica) in June 2010 and subsequently expanded to include five other villages (Bresane, Kuk, Shajne, Zlipotok and Rapča) under the second phase of ART in 2012, the existing resources, risks and possible solutions to local problems were identified.
The community has also worked in identifying how to mobilize the existing resources in order to address their challenges for development and improve their livelihoods. All data gathered and elaborated with the Working Groups are included in the published document, “The Municipal Guidelines for Decentralized Cooperation”.
In addition to the strategic guidelines, the UNDP Dragash/Dragaš project works in the production of a broader Municipal Development Plan which integrates the work of these local communities, including the provision of local economic development strategies. At the same time the UNDP/ART project in cooperation with Dragash/Dragaš Municipality has implemented five quick-win projects identified at the village level (rehabilitation of village library; improvement of road infrastructure; construction of school play garden; cleaning of illegal dumpsites and inclusion in waste collection service; and school laboratory equipment) and is currently facilitating the procurement  process of six new quick-win projects (training for woman for factory work, modernization of school environment, improvement of road infrastructure, improvement of water supply system and promotion of agriculture activities).
The Art Gold initiative is implemented in Dragash/Dragaš Municipality as a complementary action to the process of developing the Municipal Development Plan, and as a new practice of a better engagement of communities in raising their voice to solve the problems that they are facing in their daily life with the aim of ensuring better life conditions for the future.