seeing stones

“Once you have seen a stone, it cannot harm you.” ~paraphrase of Rwandese proverb

Today was spent with a Rwandese colleague and friend discussing monitoring and evaluation. Not exactly most people’s idea of a grand day. Given the choice, my workday would have been filled with visiting projects because being in the field fills me up and reminds me why I love my job. Instead, today was a reminder of why hours spent in meetings, days spent in the office, and seemingly weeks creating plans are worth it.

In the midst of a seven hour conversation, my friend told me of a Rwandese proverb. Farmers spend hours working their fields with hoes. To turn the soil, they grasp their hoe with both arms and use the strength of their body to lift their hoe high and push it deep into the soil. When the hoe comes down on an unseen rock, the shock of the hoe hitting the rock reverberates through their entire body, hurting to the core. But, if the rock is seen, the farmer can avoid the rock and the ensuing pain.

Most of the time I tell stories about partners doing amazing work and communities being transformed. Stories and images that inspire. But we spend a lot of time looking for stones that could cause roadblocks and pain along the way – stories that are untold. Weeks, months, and years invested in the details and in communities. Stones mean that a water project takes longer to implement, a latrine is not constructed quite right, communities are not transformed, expansion happens faster than is sustainable, or that needed funds are not raised. Monitoring and evaluation plans are about looking for stones. It is not glamorous but is critical to success. And so tomorrow will be spent just like today: seven hours of conversation looking for stones.

This entry was written for Blood:Water Mission. Check them out at

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