10 Feb 2011

Revolution in Magoda? Citizens' agency in practice, but not quite as expected

"Magoda Wafanya Mapinduzi" (Revolution in Magoda) was the front page headline on the very first issue of Daraja's Kwanza Jamii Njombe newspaper when it was launched last year. (See below for the full article as it was published). Residents of Magoda village, 20km from Njombe town, grew tired of waiting for a government-funded water project and decided to go it alone, paying for the project and doing all the work themselves. At the time it felt a little bit like we were over-hyping the story with that headline, but some more recent developments suggests that it might have been just right. We'll come to that in a moment, but first some background.

Magoda villagers told us how they had been repeatedly requesting a water project for years from the district council, without success. And then, four years ago, they were told Magoda had been selected as one of ten villages to benefit from a "World Bank" project - it's actually part of the multi-donor Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) - and that a piped water scheme would be constructed to serve the village. But that was four years ago. They waited, then waited some more. And then they gave up waiting and decided to do it themselves. D-I-Y (do it yourself) development.

Each household that's part of the project has contributed over 200,000/- (around $140), either in cash or in materials and labour. The money was used to construct a small dam in a spring-fed stream a few kilometers from the village, and then to lay pipes from the source to a storage tank, and from there to peoples houses around the village. They didn't have much engineering expertise locally, but just used what knowledge they had, plus a little advice from friends and relatives outside the village. When asked why they didn't ask the District Water Department for technical support, the secretary of the water committee just laughed and said there was no point since they wouldn't get any help.

To be fair to the district council, the delays in implementing projects under the WSDP is mainly out of their control - problems with planning and procurement at national level have slowed things down considerably. But the claim that the village had been asking for a project for years suggests that the planning process is not responding to local demand. And the villagers' low expectations of what the water department could offer are hardly a vote of confidence in the council. And though they probably don't realise, they have good reason to be sceptical of the WSDP, since it may well be the case that as many as 60% of villages selected for WSDP projects will not get them.

Neither is the project perfect. Households that did not contribute financially or in kind are excluded from accessing water from the scheme, with the exception of a waterpoint constructed at the Primary School, so the poorest households are probably no better off than they were previously. The Jua-Kali technology works for the moment, but might not last as long as a more professionally engineered project. In bypassing local government, the scheme hasn't gone through the usual checks for water quality, environmental impact, etc. Nor has it been registered or been granted a water use permit, leaving it legally unprotected against pollution of over-extraction by other water users - and there is a commercial flower farm not far from the village. But even government-funded water projects are not guaranteed to avoid these problems. Magoda also appears to be something of a special case. Income from potato farming and proximity to town means it's a relatively wealthy village, and the relatively easy access to a water source is also unusual.

But despite those caveats, around 100 households in the village now have excellent access to water. Add in the Primary School and the likelihood of neighbours sharing access to taps, and probably three quarters of the village is benefitting from the project.

There are two aspects of this case that are particularly interesting. First, the decision to effectively give up on the district water department and the WSDP and to go it alone demonstrates how low expectations of government in general, and local government in particular, have sunk. This is not the space to debate public vs private service delivery, nor even to discuss the Big Society nature of this project, but it is worth noting the conclusion drawn by Magoda villagers from years of getting nothing from local government: it's not worth the effort of trying.

Following on from that, the idea of citizens' agency, the underlying principle behind the Twaweza initiative (one of Daraja's major donors), is usually imagined as citizens taking action that presses government to improve its performance. In this case, which is undoubtedly a clear case of citizens' agency in practice, the citizens' have taken a short cut, bypassing local government altogether.

Second, since our article was published, at least three villages in Njombe have taken Magoda's story to heart and started their own self-funded water projects - so perhaps calling the Magoda case a revolution was simply premature rather than over-hype? Residents of these three villages all contacted Magoda for more details after our article was published, making it pretty clear where the idea stemmed from.

This apparently positive outcome is not what the paper was intended and designed to deliver. It was set up with the explicit objective of making local government more responsive, but here we've instead convinced citizens that they can achieve more by doing it themselves than by waiting for local government. We've played host to a conversation about local development, giving strength to the view that engaging with local government is a waste of time.

Perhaps the effect of these cases will be to shame the water department into action. But if the response of one senior local government official in a letter to the editor is anything to go by, that seems unlikely - the official praised Magoda for reducing the burden on local government. So perhaps we've instead contributed to lowering of expectations still further, and therefore made it less likely that citizens will press local government to improve its performance?

Which leaves us with a question: should we focus on citizens' agency as a means of pressing for improved governance, or should we be encouraging more citizens to go it alone? They're not entirely mutually exclusive options, but we've seen here that promoting a D-I-Y approach can undermine expectations of local government. My sense is that Magoda residents deserve praise for having taken the initiative in such an impressive way. But in the water sector at least, there are not many villages in Tanzania where the Magoda approach is financially possible, so pressing for more responsive government is still critical.

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Magoda Wafanya Mapinduzi

 - Waanzisha mradi wa maji kijijini
 - Kila mwanachama achangia Shs 182,000/-

Na Robert Zephania

Wananchi wa kijiji cha Magoda wameamua kujikomboa kwa juhudi zao wenyewe kwa kuzindua mradi wa maji ambao unasambaza maji katika makazi ya wanakijiji. Mradi huo umegharimu shilingi milioni 18 za kitanzania fedha ambazo zimechangwa na wananchi wenyewe wakishirikiana na uongozi wa kijiji bila msaada wowote kutoka nje ya kijiji hicho.

“Kila mwanachama alichangia kiasi cha shilingi 182,000 ili kufikisha  gharama za mradi huu na wananchi walionyesha ushirikiano mkubwa kufanikisha zoezi hili,” anasema Peter Mgaya, Mwenyekiti wa kijiji cha Magoda.

Mradi huo ulianza na wanachama wachache lakini baada ya muda waliongezeka na hivyo kuongeza kipato kwa ajili ya mradi. “Mwanzo tulikuwa na wanachama 55 ila baadae waliongezeka na mpaka sasa tuko wanachama 86,” alisema Francisca Mbilinyi, mwenyekiti wa mradi huo wa maji.

Kijiji cha Magoda chenye wakazi zaidi ya 1200 na kaya 300 kimekuwa na matatizo mbalimbali ya huduma za kijamii hasa ukosefu wa maji ambayo ni muhimu kwa shughuli zao kama kilimo na ufugaji ambavyo ndo wanavitegemea kiuchumi. “Tunajishughulisha na ufugaji na kilimo cha umwagiliaji kama vile nyanya, viazi na bustani ambavyo vinahitaji maji yakutosha,” anasema Samson Mgaya, Katibu wa Mradi wa maji.

Magoda ndo kijiji ambapo kinapatikana chanzo kikubwa cha maji yanayosambazwa katika mji wa Njombe na maeneo jirani lakini wenyeji hawa hawapati huduma hii ya maji! “Mabomba ya maji haya yanayotoka katika kitongoji cha Lunyanyu yamepita hapa hapa kijijini wakati sisi hatuna maji,” anasema Ambroz Mlelwa, Mwenyekiti wa kitongoji cha Lunyanyu, kijiji cha Magoda.

Mradi huo wa maji unaotumia chanzo cha Masachi umekamilishwa kwa nguvu za wananchi wenyewe baada ya kusubiria ahadi ya serikali ya kuwaletea maji hapo kijijini bila mafanikio.
“Tuliahidiwa kwamba hadi ifikapo mwezi wa pili mwaka 2010 kijiji chetu kitakuwa na maji lakini hakuna dalili zozote za hili kufanikiwa!” anaelezea Denis Fute, Mwenyekiti wa Kitongoji A, kijiji cha Magoda.  Mnamo mwezi wa sita wanakijiji walikusanyika na kuamua kufanya mambo wenyewe kwa kuanzisha mradi huu wa maji kuhakikisha kila familia ya Magoda inapata maji safi na salama.

“Tuliunda kamati maalumu kwa ajili ya kushughulikia mradi huu wa maji ambapo pia ilihamasishaji wananchi kutoa mchango ili kufanikisha lengo letu,” anasema katibu wa mradi huo. “Wananchi wengi walitoa mchango huo na baada ya muda mfupi tulianza mradi kwa kuagiza mabomba na kuanza kichimba mitalo.”

Mafundi na wataalamu wa kupima maji hayo walitoka hapo hapo kijijini badala ya kugharamia wataalamu kutoka nje kama ilivyo kwa miradi mingi ya maendeleo. “Hatujaajili mtaalam yeyote kutoka nje ya kijiji ila tumefanya sisi wenyewe kwa kushirikiana na mafundi wetu ambao tunao hapa hapa kijijini,” anasema Mwenyekiti wa kijiji.

Kazi hii kubwa imefanywa na wananchi wote ambao wamekuwa wakiacha shughuli zao zingine kama vile mashamba yao na kwenda kuchimba mitalo na kutengeneza bwalo la maji katika chanzo.

Katika kamati hiyo kuna viongozi wa nidhamu ambao wanahakikisha kila mwanachama anafika kwenye kazi yeyote inayofanyika na kikundi na kuna faini kwa anayechelewa au kutofika kabisa. “Ukichelewa kwa muda wa nusu saa unalipa faini ya shilingi 500 na 1000 kwa saa moja na usipofika kabisa bila kutoa taarifa unatozwa faini ya shilingi 10,000,” anafafanua Geofrey Mkongwe, kiongozi wa nidhamu katika kamati hiyo.

Kwa ushirikiano wanakijiji walichimba mitalo ya mabomba ya maji kwa umbali wa karibu kilomita 5 kutoka kwenye chanzo cha maji, Masachi, mpaka eneo la tenki kubwa la maji. “Tumetumia mabomba makubwa ya inchi 2 kutoka kwenye chanzo na ya inchi moja kusambazia kwenye nyumba za wanachama,” anasema Samson Mgaya, katibu. Hatua iliyochukuliwa na wananchi wa Magoda ni mfano wa kuigwa katika harakati za kujikwamua katika wimbi hili la umaskini. Kitendo cha kujichangisha pesa kijiji kizima kwa ajili ya kujipatia maji safi na salama kinahitaji pongezi kubwa kwa wana-Magoda.

Tanzania ikiwa kati ya nchi maskini duniani ina changamoto nyingi za maendeleo hasa katika maeneo ya vijijini. Maendeleo katika jamii yeyote huanzia kwa wananchi wenyewe kwa kuchukua hatua kama wananchi wa Magoda walivyofanya.

Ingawa pia ni wazi kwamba changamoto zingine zinapaswa kuanzishwa na serikali zikiwa nje ya uwezo wa wananchi wa eneo husika. “Tunaomba serikali itusaidie kutuletea umeme katika kijiji chetu hata kama ikibidi tuchagie gharama tuko tayari,” anasema Samson. Huduma za umeme zipo kama kilomita 7 hivi kutoka kijiji cha Magoda.

Huduma za miundombinu kama barabara na huduma za afya ni tatizo lingine katika kijiji cha Magoda. “Barabara zetu ni mbaya sana hasa wakati wa kipindi cha mvua na hii inaathiri bei za mazao yetu ambapo tunalipwa pesa kidogo na wananunuzi wa jumla wakidai gharama za usafiri zinapanda,” anasema Fred Mgani, mkulima wa Magoda.

Katika huduma za afya, kijiji kina muugizi mmoja tu anaehudumia vijiji viwili vyenye wakazi zaidi ya elfu mbili! “Zanahati tunayotumia iko mbali katika kijiji jirani (Kilenzi) na haina vifaa vyakutosha,” anasema Wilbert Mwalongo, mkazi wa Magoda. 

Hii inamaanisha kwamba kijiji cha Magoda hakina zahanati hali ambayo inahatarisha maisha ya wakazi hawa hasa kinamama wajawazito wanaolazimika kutembea umbali mrefu kupata huduma za afya.

Haya ndugu msomaji, hao ni Magoda na mapambano yao dhidi ya adui mkubwa ‘umaskini’. Je, nyinyi mmechukua hatua zipi kuhusu tatizo linalowakumba katika eneo lenu?

Bado haujachelewa, chukua hatua sasa. Tuwe na uthubutu wa kuhoji kuhusu mambo yanahusiana na maendeleo katika jamii yetu. Sisi kama wananchi tuna haki ya kujua kuhusu mradi, mikakati, na shughuli mbalimbali zinavyoendelea ama kukwama katika jamii yetu.

“Ni haki yako kujua haki zako”. Tujaribu kuwa na uhusiano wa karibu na viongozi wetu ili tushirikiane vizuri kuleta maendeleo yetu kwa pamoja.