Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hide And Seek In Development

By Ramadhani Kupaza:
The government of Tanzania has been establishing impressive development support systems and services for rural communities over the years. But members of communities do not benefit from the systems or services adequately. It happens partly because those employed in public offices and institutions practice hide and seek between themselves and between community service providers such as NGOs.
Consider the village government system for example. Arguably, Tanzania has one of the best organized village government systems in Africa. Yet, it is difficult for NGOs to work within the system to supplement village development efforts effectively.
The problem occurs because NGOs cannot access baseline information concerning the intervention areas. In particular, NGOs find it difficult to obtain development documents about the intervention areas for reference.
Specifically, it is difficult for NGOs to obtain documents such as strategic plans, action plans, development guidelines or reports concerning activities of other NGOs or institutions that support development efforts in the villages. Ironically, copies of the relevant documents exist particularly at the District Council level.
Some government officials give excuse to deny NGOs access to development information diplomatically. They respond to requests by saying that the documents are still in the draft form. Meanwhile, it is even more difficult to obtain copies of earlier versions of the documents prior to the updates.
Surprisingly, District Council officials also complain that NGOs carry out activities in the villages without considering the development framework established by government. It is surprising because village governments require NGOs to ask for permission from village governments to carry out activities in the communities. Village governments report to District Councils.
As a result of the hide and seek practices NGOs tend to duplicate rather than supplement development efforts in the villages.
Government has been trying to solve the problem by inviting NGO representatives to attend and present activity reports at scheduled government development forums. On their part, NGOs in Arusha have tried to establish networks to represent members in the form of individual NGOs in such scheduled government development forums. Such efforts have largely been ineffective.
Therefore, it might be useful to consider other solutions to the hide and seek problem in development. For example, District Councils, Ministries, government departments and other institutions may consider establishing libraries at their office premises where officials and members of public can easily access documents on development issues in their areas. Alternatively, the Councils and other public institutions may provide development documents for display at the national libraries or the government bookshops. As for now, the government bookshop in Arusha stocks only national policies, Acts and some Ministers’ development speeches that are not specific to the region.
Similar hide and seek is practiced at institution levels. For instance, administrations at schools do not disclose fully say, NGOs that support the schools. NGO staff members get to learn of duplication of efforts accidentally. Sometimes it becomes difficult for an NGO to withdraw from an institution after realizing an act of duplication. It becomes difficult after an NGO commits substantial resources for the purpose.
Like village governments and schools, government owned research and development (R & D) institutions and their intended beneficiaries practice hide and seek as well. For example, only a limited number of individuals or private organizations in the country use the R & D institutions to start or enhance their technical productive initiatives. The beneficiaries do not make deliberate efforts to seek support from the R & D institutions. As a result, the R & D institutions tend to engage in mass production and trade in the technologies they develop. Such acts defeat the government’s purpose for establishing the institutions. The government established R & D institutions primarily to carry out research on appropriate technologies and not to trade on the items. Government expects the institutions to assist private and public institutions to perform better. Particularly trading is reserved to create opportunities for private institutions.
A member of staff of one of the R & D institutions tells a story that a minister was once embarrassed as a result of hide and seek practices. He informs that a former Minister of Agriculture in the country once invited a renewable energy technology institution from Rwanda to develop biogas plants in Tanzania. In response, staff from the institution advised the Minister to contact biogas experts in his own Ministry in Tanzania because they were the ones who introduced and established the biogas technologies in Rwanda.
There are 17 government owned R & D institutions in Tanzania. The institutions represent a wide range of development sectors. The institutions that are based in Arusha or have an office in Arusha municipality include the Center for Agricultural Mechanization and Rural Technologies (CAMARTEC), Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO), Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI).
By the way, the public expect the R & D institutions in Tanzania to be more effective now since the government recently increased their budget. R & D budget now represents 10 % of the national budget. It is advisable for individuals and institutions in the country to demand services from the institutions deliberately. Many of the R & D institutions for rural areas in Tanzania are among the best in Africa.

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