Strengthening the Local Work Force

A conversation with Maxine Clayton, manager of ACF’s new regional training center
ACF Nutrition Program in Karamoja, Uganda, courtesy: T. Frank.

Last month Action Against Hunger | ACF International began training its national and international staff based in East and Central Africa at a brand-new center in Nairobi, Kenya. Maxine Clayton, the driving force behind the initiative, sat down with us to discuss the center and its impact on ACF’s ability to prevent and treat malnutrition in the region.

What is the rationale behind establishing a regional training center?

We’ve set up this regional center to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ACF’s humanitarian response by ensuring that our staff receives relevant, accessible, and comprehensive training tailored to existing field conditions. Our long-term goal is to strengthen the local work force in the areas where ACF operates. Over 90% of our staff grew up in the countries where they now deliver programs. With the enhanced support provided by the center, they will be able to more effectively address key issues in their regions and keep up-to-date with best practices in the field.

"Even after ACF leaves an area, this labor force should have the knowledge and skills to continually benefit their communities well into the future."

The training center also provides an extraordinary opportunity for staff from different regions and countries to exchange lessons learned, combine research findings, and support one another in the challenging work in which they are all engaged. Even after ACF leaves an area, this labor force should have the knowledge and skills to continually benefit their communities well into the future.

Why in Nairobi, Kenya?

Many of ACF’s largest programs are in Central and East Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Since Nairobi is a central hub for ACF programs in the region, it was a logical choice. By locating it here, we cut down considerably on travel time and can limit our costs. In addition, Nairobi is a central location for the humanitarian sector as a whole, so there is an opportunity to share our facilities and expertise with other agencies, too.

What types of workshops will take place this year?

This year’s trainings will cover new techniques in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition, including new aspects of our food security, nutrition, water, sanitation, and health work. We’ve learned a lot about the fight against hunger in the last 30 years, so it’s critical that our staff have the latest tools and know-how.

We’re also conducting trainings in management, logistics, and security; monitoring and evaluation; key skills in working with communities; and implementing cash-based transfer programs and other innovative interventions during crises. One of the benefits of having a regional training center is that it allows us to standardize our trainings across programs, as well as to share the successes and challenges of the techniques ACF has piloted.

Are these new kinds of trainings new to ACF or is this just a change in location?

We are developing new, cutting-edge curriculum for all of these trainings based on a needs assessment we completed recently. A lot of the curriculum for this year is being developed as we speak!

One of the objectives of the training center is to help local staff assume leadership roles within ACF. Why is this so important?

Although all staff will take part in trainings at the new center, our key targets are the local staff. They truly understand the local context and are instrumental in helping ACF adapt its programs to the needs of each community. They also ensure that our programs are sustainable because we’re helping build their capacity to respond to future outbreaks of malnutrition in their own countries. This is really our legacy, and it’s one we believe will endure.

"This is really our legacy, and it’s one we believe will endure."

How’s it been for you personally?

I’ve been very encouraged by the real sense of energy behind setting up the training center in Nairobi. It’s been something ACF has discussed and planned for a long time, so it’s great to see it all come together. Right from the start, there’s been a palpable sense excitement about this project, and everyone wants to be involved. It’s fun to be right at the center of the action.