Tanzanian Community Partnership Grant Program

Tanzania held its first democratic elections in 1995, creating a mandate, and new opportunities, for altering that country’s basic political and economic institutions. But the transition to democracy in Tanzania faces difficult challenges – many grounded in the failed “villagization” programs of the 1970s and the abolition of elected district and town councils in 1972.

In an effort to strengthen democracy in Tanzania, the U.S. Government has embarked on an ambitious initiative to build civil society’s capacity to participate in public affairs and assist the government in seeing civil society as a productive partner. The primary focus of these U.S. Government-sponsored programs has been to strengthen the capacity and credibility of non-governmental organizations.

While building such institutions is clearly necessary in Tanzania, such institutions are not sufficient to strengthen civil society. For such institutions to be effective, there must be a vibrant civic society in local communities. A vibrant civic society refers to the features of the community that promote trust, social norms, and citizen networks that facilitate coordinated actions. Therefore, what is needed to strengthen civic society in Tanzania are initiatives that strengthen the ability of individual citizens to participate in their own governance through coordinated and cooperative efforts. One such intervention is what we call the Community Partnership Grant (CPG) programs. Such an intervention has been undertaken on a pilot basis in two communities in Tanzania – Tanga and Dodoma – with support from the Coalition.

CPG programs provide the financial and organizational infrastructure to support citizen-initiated neighborhood projects. The central element of CPG programs is that small groups of citizens are the prime movers in initiating proposals, organizing work plans, competing for small grants, and then carrying out the plan. In this way, citizens begin to make working connections among each other and with municipal officials. As a result they become directly engaged in community governance. These linkages form important building blocks of a strong civil society.

Another central element of CPG programs is that citizens and other stakeholders in the community govern them. Typically, a board composed of representatives from the funding sources, the municipal authority, and the community governs the local CPG program. This board establishes the by-laws and procedures through which the program operates, as well as plays a prominent role in determining which citizen initiated proposals are funded. In this way, citizens have a direct stake in the program and are therefore more likely to respect the grant decisions.

In October 2002, Dr. Charles Adams, Professor Emeritus in the School of Public Policy and Management at Ohio State University, workshopped the CPG concept in various communities in Tanzania, including a 2-day workshop in Tanga. Immediately following the workshop, the citizens of Tanga organized themselves into an oversight board for purposes of exploring the possibility of creating a CPG program in Tanga. The members of the Tanga CPG Board come from the general citizenry and do not represent the municipality or any formal government structure. The Tanga CPG Board reflects broad diversity in terms of gender and religion – the community includes both Christians and Muslims.

Upon returning to the U.S., Dr. Adams coordinated a fund raising effort through the Coalition for Effective Local Democracy, in partnership with the Great Lakes Consortium in Ohio, to provide funding for the first round of citizen-initiated projects in Tanga. To date, we have provided funding for 4 neighborhood pilot CPG projects. Chosen from among six project proposals that were submitted and evaluated on the basis of a transparent and objective review by the citizen-based Tanga CPG Oversight Committee, the 4 pilot CPG projects include:

The Jitambue Daycare Nursery School Project
This project is located in Makorora. The project helped 6 women volunteers construct a playground on the school grounds benefiting the 30 children attending the daycare center. CELD funds were used to purchase materials for the playground while the women volunteered their time to construct the playground. The community supports this nursery school and it has over 30 children attending on a regular basis. The people in the neighborhood work to keep the nursery school open by volunteering at the school and by providing small contributions. They pay a small amount to get porridge for the children to eat, and the parents of each child make a contribution to help pay for the teacher. The teachers make small crafts and food products to help support themselves and the school.
The Ngunumali Area Environmental Project
Twelve men and women volunteers are clearing out and digging roadside ditches and will plant trees. This project will eliminate standing water, which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. All the local workers are volunteers, and they are working very hard. The Coalition, in partnership with the municipal health department, is providing small shovels, rakes, and hoes. The municipal council likes what they have done and they want them to be available for hiring in other areas of the town. When the ditch-work is completed they will use stones and gravel to help repair the road and fill the potholes in their road.
The Pongwe Area Elder Care Project
This project is about 20km west of Tanga. Eight women volunteers are taking care of ten to fifteen old people who do not have family in the community to take care of them. The volunteers engage in a number of small projects to help support this elder care project, i.e., they raise chickens, pigs, and care for a large garden. They supply all the elderly with some maize, beans, and a bar of soap each week. In one case they need to provide daily care because the woman is blind. There is an urgent need to have a reliable and constant water supply at the elder center. There is water to the area from Tanga, but to hook up to the water to the elder center costs about $120. The CPG program will provide the funds to hook water up for the elder center. The water will be used to irrigate the gardens so they can ensure continual crops for the people and for drinking water.
The Raskazone Women’s Group Environmental Project
The Razkazone Women’s Group is a group of about 30 women (mostly business and professional women) who work on projects to improve their community and provide help to each other. They also provide assistance to people in the community who need help. One of their programs is a tree-planting project. They have planted trees and cleaned up some of the community’s streets. They are in need of some tools such as hoses to keep the trees alive during the dry season. The CPG project will provide funding for hoses and other tools to support the women in their tree-planting efforts.

All of these projects will be completed by the end of this year. There are a number of other projects being developed and at least two other communities have expressed interest in the CPG idea.

The CPG pilot projects being conducted in Tanzania have a number of programmatic benefits including:

  • Transferring program management skills to project participants
  • Promoting self-reliance
  • Encouraging citizens to be proactive and take charge of their future
  • Developing personal responsibility for one’s community
  • Demonstrating that citizens have both rights and responsibilities
  • Reinforcing entrepreneurial skills such as taking initiative, risk taking, project management, accountability

Finally, fostering community actions that have specific goals, from cleaning a park to helping the elderly, has the beneficial side effect of building trust among members of the community. Both Christian and Muslim citizens learn from experience that enlightened civic pragmatism means that we advance our own interests by cooperating with our neighbors to advance the common good.