Out of sight and out of mind? Are marginalised communities overlooked in decision making

Out of sight and out of mind? was Tanzania’s second annual water sector equity report, published in September 2009. I wrote most of the report, with the exception of the section on water resource management.

This time, the most interesting analysis was qualitative, looking to explain why district’s were targeting most of their water sector funding at relatively well-served communities. (This had been a major finding of the previous year’s report.) In particular, we looked at two wards in Nzega district, Mwakashanhala and Itobo, asking why Itobo, which already had reasonably good access to clean and safe water, continued to benefit from new funding, while Mwakashanhala, which had no improved waterpoints, didn’t get any funding. 

“Leaders in [Mwakashanhala] felt that the bottom-up planning process was ineffective and had only a minor influence on budget decisions; that the real decisions were made by district officials, influential councillors and MPs. The water department suggested that ward leaders in Mwakashanhala were not very dynamic or persuasive. Further, Mwakashanhala’s remoteness from Nzega could well result in the ward’s problems being effectively hidden from decision makers. Itobo’s WEO and councillor were both at the council offices … the day after seeing them in Itobo – it’s unlikely that Mwakashanhala’s representatives have similarly easy and regular contact with district officials.”

In other words, funding went to the well connected areas – those with political influence, or greater visibility – rather than to those who needed it most.