The story of Shambob
enabled the training and capacity building of the Shambob Brick Producers Co-operative
(SBPC) members to acquire the skills to produce better bricks, to market their product, to
manage the co-operative, and to negotiate with local authorities, the bank and other funders.
People had to learn about co-operative law, costing, bookkeeping and marketing. This support
was provided by staff members from Practical Action Sudan, Kassala Rural Council and the
Department of Co-operatives.
Linking with institutions
In discussions with SBPC members, the institutional connections which they highlighted as
important included Practical Action, their own co-operative and the government department
which supports co-operatives. The next in importance were identified as the financial
institutions, investment bank and ACORD, and some felt that the Planning and Development
Department were equally important. Other institutions mentioned were Oxfam and Plan
International, as consumers of their products. The Planning Department participated in early
project studies. The benefits accruing from these partnerships are assistance in supervision,
marketing, co-ordination and communication, technical training, and access to finances.
Scarce natural assets: land and water Problems arose over access to land; it became apparent
that the plot initially rented was only licensed for agricultural use, so production had to be
interrupted and a new plot acquired.
The lack of local access to water, for domestic and productive consumption, was a
considerable constraint on local livelihoods. Several attempts to sink boreholes were
unsuccessful and Practical Action turned its attention to improving transportation methods
and thereby reducing the ‘cost’ of water carried from traditional, more distant, sources.
Creating institutional linkages and access to urban markets
Supporting social networks and building political power
To assist in building people’s ability to work their way out of poverty you need to be able to
link what happens at the local level with the broader environment. The social and political
context is critical in creating or constraining livelihood options. Linkages with other
institutions such as Plan International have provided market opportunities, giving co-operative
members experience in negotiating supply contracts and fulfilling them.
Accessing financial resources and influencing lenders
In financial terms, the investment in research and capacity building is currently considered as
a cost which cannot be recovered. The project is making a case to banks that it is possible to
provide loans to producer co-operatives and achieve full and timely repayment. Gaining
access to credit required substantial lobbying with the support of Practical Action staff, plus
an institutional guarantee. The loan repayment period imposed by the bank was too short in
comparison to the brick-making season. Still, the SBPC managed to repay in time, and is now
eligible for further credit. In due course, it is hoped that the banks’ interest in micro-credit
will increase and that subsequently they will not require an NGO to guarantee the loans. In
the meantime, an international NGO called ACORD, has changed its practices based on its
experience of working with the SBPC and provides loans to collectives rather than just to
The need for research will diminish over time. The need for capacity building will remain as
long as workers’ co-operatives keep emerging; there already is some support given by the local
authorities. The project will need to consider how other elements of support can be provided
in the long run, for example by peer group exchange.
Locally, creating collective working arrangements has developed social capital. These
exploratory arrangements have grown into multi-faceted partnerships that link individuals,
communities and institutions through various formal and informal processes. ‘Bridging
capital’ has also been created through new connections with local blacksmiths and