The Kuru Family of Organizations
Starting in 1986, Kuru developed a strategy of empowering the San through a holistic approach to development. The Trust’s initial input was directed at income generation and training programs to support groups coping with the difficulties facing hunter-gatherer societies entering a capitalist environment. Along with an adult education program, a preschool program was established to assist young children entering a formal educational environment. The training of teachers later became a focus of the Bokamoso preschool program.
To avoid excessive Westernization, San must understand development in culturally relevant terms. To encourage pride in San cultural values, an art project was developed as part of a larger cultural program that organizes an annual cultural festival well-known in Botswana. And the San cultural center in D’Kar now operates a museum as well as a library.
With the establishment of the training center, cultural programs, and a preschool, it became clear that Kuru should make its services available to the wider San community of Botswana. By 1995, a formal outreach program (with extension services) was established, and in 1996 a new field office was opened in Ngamiland, northwest Botswana. By the beginning of 1999, Kuru employed about 80 staff members and worked in nine communities in the Ghanzi district and 16 in Ngamiland. An innovative micro-finance program was added to assist the people in handling the demands of a capitalist environment.
Kuru’s organizational complexity and sophisticated management/financial systems increasingly came into conflict with the need for transparency and for the participation of the communities it served. In 2000 and 2001, prompted by both external and internal evaluations, Kuru went through the delicate process of reorganization that saw the birth of a number of smaller organizations. True empowerment and localization called for smaller organizations that would be easier for the San and other marginalized groups to manage. Increased transparency in a smaller environment would help settle issues of ownership and lead to a better understanding of the development process. And with smaller organizations, more San could be employed in senior positions, reducing San dependence on permanent outside specialists. The unbundling process produced the following organizations (boards now oversee each of these):
1. The Bokamoso Preschool program.
2. Komku, a rural development organization working in the Ghanzi District of Botswana.
3. TOCADI, a trust promoting cultural and rural development community initiatives in the northwestern part of Botswana.
4. The Savings and Loans program, which works in the field of micro-finance with communities where Komku and TOCADI are active.
5. Kalahari Craft, which supports rural communities by marketing their products.
6. D’Kar Kuru Trust, which concentrates on the community of D’Kar, but administers regional projects through its art project and cultural center.
In addition to these six smaller organizations in Botswana, a need was felt for a seventh organization to provide short-term consulting and training services as needed. This need gave birth to Letloa, which serves as a networking and service organization. In cooperation with other support organizations in the region, Letloa also handles publicity and public relations in Botswana, promoting community development work through regular publications and news coverage.
This network of organizations is now known as the Kuru Family of Organizations, or KFO. Two other NGOs, Ghanzi Craft and WIMSA Botswana, applied to join the KFO, and nine NGOs now work with San in three districts and more than 30 communities.