30 Mar 2012

"We can't change things" - research on citizens' attitudes to local governance

"We can't change things". This was what focus group participants told us when we conducted a study into citizens' attitudes towards local governance in Njombe, Ludewa and Makete. They were talking particularly about corruption, and expressing the idea that though they don't like corruption, they don't feel there's anything they can do about it. The corrupt go unpunished, the poor feel even more powerless, creating more space for corruption to continue - a vicious circle.

I presented a draft report of this study to the REPOA Annual Research Workshop in Dar es Salaam this week, on behalf of Frank Kaduma and Kapongola Nganyanyuka, the study's main authors. The presentation is enclosed below, and the full draft report can be found here.

28 Mar 2012

A window back in time, Twende Pamoja local newspaper, 1956-1957

Good sources of information on local history in Tanzania are as rare as they are interesting. Which is why I was delighted that after much searching, we have finally found copies of Njombe's Twende Pamoja local newspaper dating from 1956 and 1957.

The paper was published by the Njombe District African Council prior to independence and the Njombe District Council after independence. According to Martin Sturmer's fascinating Media History of Tanzania (pdf), it was published between 1953 and 1964, though the issue numbers of the papers we have found suggest that it started a little later, in 1955. Each issue consists of 8 A4 pages and the paper was published monthly in Swahili.

It's a fascinating glimpse on a past world. I can highly recommend having a look, particularly if you have any interest in Tanzanian history, the lives and concerns of "ordinary" people, outside the world of high politics.There are arguments about high bride prices and discussions on witchcraft as well as how to improve agricultural productivity. There's a surprising amount of news about new initiatives to establish community groups - from the "Domestic and Hotel Workers Union" to the "Mdandu African Traders Association". And there's a huge amount of what would now be called "citizen journalism" - letters to the editor, articles and opinion pieces written by readers.

26 Mar 2012

Change in Samaria Village

Samaria village centre
By Eric Kalunga, Daraja's Monitoring and Research Officer, and a participant on the recent Twaweza immersion exercise in Njombe

Samaria is a village in the new region Njombe and like many such villages in this area and most likely elsewhere in Tanzania it has its problems. Such problems include capitation grant not reaching the school, no electricity, poor roads and some unique ones like thugs who control the potato and wheat trade.

Samaria seems ripe for an NGO intervention. Get in there and start people talking, empower women to ask questions, get local artistes to sing about accountability and pin advocacy posters on every single door… and every single tree and the back of the local daladala too.

22 Mar 2012

Maji Week, World Water Day, what more can we say?

Photo from Tanzania Journalists' Alliance
Over the past two years, this blog has repeatedly looked at Tanzania's water sector. We've looked at survey data on the state of water supply services, at citizens' attitudes to water and sanitation issues, at how the media and politicians engage in the sector, and at how the sector as a whole operates.

Today is World Water Day, the culmination of Maji Week, with the national "celebrations" taking place this year in Iringa. But rather than look for another aspect of the sector to analyse, let's look back at what this blog has said about Tanzania's water sector over the past two years, with 10 interesting facts about rural water supply:

19 Mar 2012

Tunaadhimisha wiki ya maji bila maji!

Na Richard Lucas

Tupo kwenye kuadhimisha wiki ya maji kitaifa ambapo kitaifa maadhimisho haya yanafanyika mkoani Iringa. Kauli mbiu ya mwaka huu ni Maji Safi ya Kunywa kwa Uhakika wa Chakula. Kwa miaka mingi serikali imekuwa ikifanya jitihada mbalimbali kuhakikisha wananchi tunapata maji safi na salama. Maadhimisho ya wiki ya maji ni mojawapo ya jitihada, ambapo kwangu mimi naona inalenga kutoa elimu na fursa kwa wadau mbalimbali weweze kujadili namna ya kuboresha huduma hii hasa kwa maeneo ya vijijini ambapo imendeelea kuwa ndoto. Swali ni kuwa, kwetu sisi wananchi maadhimisho ya maji yanapaswa kutusaidia nini?

13 Mar 2012

On citizens' agency and accountability: Some quick thoughts from Twaweza immersion

Daraja had the pleasure last week of hosting a large group of Twaweza staff and partners for their annual "immersion exercise". On Monday morning they set off from our office, in pairs, to join host households in rural villages around Njombe district, returning on Thursday.

It's not a formal research exercise, but rather an opportunity to get a glimpse of life as lived by people in a different setting - people who Twaweza is trying to reach.

Friday was back in our office, sharing and discussing the exercise to extract some broader learning. A lot of interesting points we raised, but one theme came up several times - is it better to work around a struggling system, or to try to make that system work better?

What if supporting "citizens' agency" involves citizens taking actions that solve problems but which undermine government accountability?

8 Mar 2012

The world is doing well on water supply, but leaving Tanzania behind

Globally, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for water supply has been met. A new report from UN Water, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, launched this week, reported that 89% of the world's population now has access to water from an improved source. This has quite rightly been a cause for celebration and media coverage (see here and here from the (UK) Guardian, and from the BBC), a rare good news story.

But here in Tanzania, we can't share in the celebrations. The official UN estimates of access to clean and safe water in Tanzania, taken from the same new report that produced the MDG headlines, show that in Tanzania access has hardly changed since 1990, or even declined - see table and chart.