Category Archives: Daraja

Maji Matone hasn’t delivered. Time to embrace failure, learn, and move on

It is no secret that Daraja’s Maji Matone programme has not lived up to expectations. In particular, despite considerable resources spent on promotional work – printing and distributing posters and leaflets, as well as extensive broadcasts on local radio – we haven’t had the response from the community that we had hoped for.  A six month pilot in three districts resulted in only 53 SMS messages received and forwarded to district water departments (compared to an initial target of 3,000). So we’ve made a decision – to embrace failure, learn and share lessons from the experience, and to fundamentally redesign the programme.

Admitting failure in this way is easy to support in theory, but much harder to do in practice. It may be accepted practice in the for-profit world, but it’s uncomfortable for a donor-dependent NGO. Would it be easier to continue half-heartedly with a programme that isn’t working or close it down quietly and hope that nobody notices? Of course it would. But those approaches would not benefit anyone, wasting money and missing out on valuable opportunities to learn. So we’re taking a different tack, embracing and publicising our failures, and trying to make sure we (and others) learn as much as possible from the experience. Continue reading

“Undertaking” Tanzania’s Water Sector Development Programme?

I spent two days last week at the annual Joint Water Sector Review meeting – the so-called “highlight” of the annual calendar of “dialogue”. This was the sixth such meeting to be held – and I have the “distinction” of having attended all of them. But as you can probably guess from the profusion of “inverted commas” in this paragraph, I’m having serious doubts about the whole exercise. Before I come to that, though, let me give you some background.

Around 250 people from the Ministry of Water, other related government ministries and agencies, the “development partners” and civil society all attended, in the workshop factory that is Ubungo Plaza. All the main stakeholders were there. Apart from water consumers that is, who are only represented in the sense that everyone consumes water. And those consumers (or perhaps I should call them citizens) weren’t represented by their official representatives either – no MPs or local councillors attend, with the exception of the Ministers officiating at the formal opening and closing sessions. We civil society folks had to take on that role. Continue reading

What would “free” distribution mean for Tanzanian newspapers?

The (UK) Guardian published an article this week on it’s Global Development website about @Verdade, a weekly newspaper in Mozambique that’s distributed completely free of charge. The same paper has been the focus of articles in Time magazine and Think Africa Press as well. They give away 50,000 copies a week, and estimate their weekly readership to be around 400,000 people, making it the most read newspaper in Mozambique.

I’m not aware of any Tanzanian newspapers that are distributed free of charge. There are plenty of newsletters and the like, some of which are made to look like newspapers, but there’s a big difference between a company, government department or organisation publishing a newsletter to promote its own work and a genuine newspaper trying to be profitable using without charging a cover price. Even Femina, publishers of Fema and Si Mchezo magazines, for which the vast majority of copies are distributed free of charge is not really using a free model as it’s usually understood since it is funded by donors. Nor are they really news magazines. Continue reading

Sungura na Kobe – Up-country internet speeds in “ICT-Hub” Tanzania

An old Greek fairytale tells of the hare (sungura) and the tortoise (kobe) having a race. The hare runs back and forth, teasing the tortoise about how easy the win will be. Eventually the hare is so far ahead that it stops for a rest and falls asleep. When the hare wakes up, it finds that the tortoise has already finished.

I often have this story in mind when trying to connect to the internet here in Njombe. We have 2 main options – TTCL “broadband” and Vodacom “mobile broadband” (there are other mobile networks providing internet access as well, but Voda stands out well above the others). Continue reading

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. Continue reading

What Kwanza Jamii Njombe can learn from Arusha Times

Daraja’s Kwanza Jamii Njombe newspaper is one of very few genuinely local newspapers in Tanzania. The vast majority of papers cover stories from the whole country (though with a big bias for stories from Dar es Salaam and Dodoma), and aim to distribute across the most cities and towns nationwide.

One of the few examples of a well established local paper is the Arusha Times, published weekly in English by F.M Arusha Ltd established by William Lobulu and available online with the most-read newspaper website in Tanzania. I had the opportunity this week to visit Arusha Times’s office, to introduce Kwanza Jamii Njombe and to see what lessons Daraja can learn from Arusha Times’s experience. Continue reading

Reflections on the elections through a Daraja window

A few weeks have passed, (most of) the dust has settled and life is beginning to get back to normal. So it seems an opportune time to look back and reflect on what was a very interesting election period.

If you find yourself thinking, “oh no, not another election reflection,” rest assured we won’t be going over the same ground that has been very ably covered elsewhere (Pambazuka; Vijana FM; The Mikocheni Report – all of which are highly recommended.) Instead we will be looking at the election through a “Daraja window”, thinking about how the election affected core Daraja themes of water supply, local government, the media and civil society.

Let’s start with water supply. As this blog has previously highlighted, this was a non-issue in the campaigns, particularly at national level and despite consistently ranking very high in citizens’ priorities. Continue reading