Tag Archives: local government

Running a hybrid – NGO and media cultures combine

A little while ago, I posted an old op-ed column by Rakesh Rajani, in which he asked “What if NGOs were newspapers?” And I promised to follow it up with some thoughts on our situation here at Daraja, where we are an NGO that runs newspapers, to see how accurate Rakesh’s ideas were. Well, here goes.

Rakesh’s main point was that NGOs are not subject to the strict deadlines that rule newspapers’ work, or to the same kind of pressure that newspapers face to give readers what they want. A reporter who misses a deadline finds that their story isn’t published. A newspaper that comes out late risks missing out on sales and undermining their readers’ trust. And if a newspaper writes about things that don’t interest their readers then that paper won’t get bought again. The nearest equivalent pressures on NGOs have often very little to do with the community – their “beneficiaries” – and more to do with keeping their donors happy.

In other words, NGOs aren’t as strongly accountable to the community as newspapers for doing their work on time or for doing it well. Continue reading

The politics of water supply are coming to the boil

This blog has long argued that the major challenges in the water sector are more political than technical. We have also highlighted the fact that the political nature of the challenges has not been matched by political attention. Water supply was largely ignored in the 2010 election campaigns, for example, not featuring in the major campaign promises of any of the big three parties’ presidential candidates nor gaining much attention in election media coverage (here and here).

Now, four separate developments in the past few weeks point to a change in the politics of water supply in Tanzania. So what are the new developments, and what is the change that they point to? Continue reading

Are our children learning?

Let’s start with the good news. If you are a final year (St 7) Primary School student in Bukoba Urban, with parents who completed secondary education and who are not very poor, you went to pre-school and your family speaks Swahili at home, then you have a 95% chance of being able to completed Standard 2 level tests in Numeracy, Swahili and English.

And the bad news: If you are a St 7 student in Kibondo District, with parents who didn’t themselves attend school and are poor, the chance of you being able to complete the same tests is only 9%. Continue reading

Suits, diplomatic ignorance and HakiElimu: More US cables on Tanzania released by Wikileaks

After my post last week on Wikileaks release of US Embassy Cables, it seems that the rather chaotic internal politics of Wikileaks led to a release of the final batch of cables over the weekend. So a brief update is in order.

Around 230 more cables relating to Tanzania were released over the weekend, bringing the total to over 700. And just to make things complicated, the most recent batch are not separated from the previously released cables, so looking through the new ones requires that you also look through all the old ones.

But let’s get to the point. And there are three more points of particular interest that I have found in the new releases, as follows.

First up, the one cable that has attracted the most headlines and an emphatic denial – the claim by a former US Ambassador to Tanzania than the Kempinsky Hotel chain paid for President Kikwete to travel to London and to buy five tailor-made Saville Row suits. Continue reading

Mfuko wa Majimbo – Unconstitutional, or going with the grain?

A few days ago, a group of seven civil society organisations, including Policy Forum and the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) filed a case with the High Court of Tanzania, arguing that the act establishing the Constituency Development Catalyst Fund, or Mfuka wa Majimbo, is unconstitutional. In doing so, they are following the lead of other organisations raising challenges to similar constituency-based development funds in other countries.

But this move is far from being universally popular. MPs from all major parties supported the CDCF bill. One MP – Dr Faustine from Kinondoni – used his personal blog to criticise the CSOs’ case, arguing that the CDCF has been a very effective way of quickly solving problems in his constituency. 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

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