A Yemeni lad.

Aqaba Old Town Residents Transform their Neighborhood

Several new retail businesses have recently opened in Aqaba's Old Town neighborhood, including a scooter sales and repair shop. Last year, this business would have been impossible to run here due to the properties' decrepit conditions and the surrounding debris. However, due to the commendable efforts of local resi-dents to clean up their neighborhood, led by the Old Town Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET), Old Town is beginning to see positive results with concrete economic improvements.

The Neighborhood Development Activity of USAID’s Aqaba Community and Economic Development (ACED) Program works to empower Aqaba residents to participate in decision-making in their community. A key component of community mobilization efforts is the formation of NETs, which ensure active participation by a broad range of citizens, identify neighborhood prioritized projects, and oversee the implementation of those projects work-ing with residents and other partners, such as local government.

In August 2008, Old Town residents selected members of their first NET. Through consultation with the residents, the NET pri-oritized their needs and identified projects that could best utilize existing resources to resolve them. An urgent problem that the residents agreed on was Old Town's poor environmental and health situation, including decrepit and unused buildings, excessive debris, poor waste collection, and inadequate water systems. Led by the NET, the residents took action and organized a massive clean-up campaign to remove trash and repaint unsightly buildings. The NET also secured partnerships with the Aqaba Special Eco-nomic Zone Authority's directorate of municipal services, a pri-vate sanitation company, and the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, and Education to support their efforts. 

The residents’ hard work to transform their neighborhood has had a significant impact on the conditions in Old Town. It has helped to facilitate economic activity, as retail operations will gen-erate employment and help to raise the property value. More im-portantly, it has demonstrated to Old Town residents the power they have to improve their own lives when they are organized and work together.