Monday, October 18, 2010

Independency Vs Dependency; ‘Setlife’ Vs ‘Sisitiza Mazingira’ Groups. Lesson from YETs Field Visits.

Most Tanzania’s community development projects are entirely left on the brains of foreign donors (our former colonialists). This starts from researching and analyzing the problems, developing solutions and funds for implementing them. Almost all infrastructure development projects, health and other social development projects and natural resources and environmental conservation projects are dependent on foreign donors. Does it mean that Tanzanians (including elites from universities) cannot even identify their own problems? What about simple problems like soil erosion and water pollution along the river in our towns and municipalities?
In April and September, the group of Young Environmentalists Trainees (YETs), made their field visits to Setlife and Sisitiza Mazingira groups respectively, both in Arusha Municipality. The Setlife group is an independent group initiated by few innovative residents around Ngarenero River with the aim of rehabilitating the polluted ecosystem of the river, through cleaning, reforestations, restricting further pollution and setting mechanism of collecting garbage from homes to the municipal dumping site. Sisitiza Mazingira group was initiated by a donor dependent NGO called COMECA (Community Environmental Conservation Association) perhaps with the same aim as Setlife group around River Ngaura.
It’s interesting to compare the two groups!!
The Setlife group recognized and analyzed the problem themselves. Nobody sat in any of the air conditioned, project proposal sites, neither in Dar es Salaam nor in New York, to identify the problem of pollution in Ngarenaro ecosystem. This is quite contrary to Sisitiza Mazingira group, since the problem was identified in collaboration of donors (the Republic of Denmark), Municipal council of Arusha and COMECA. None of the residents bothered about the polluted ecosystem along River Ngaura. The goal of Setlife group can be identified from what they are doing. They want to rehabilitate the polluted ecosystem of Ngarenaro River, and conserve it. The goal of Sisitiza Mazingira group is very uncertain, even among group members. May be their purpose is to generate income from their small vegetable gardens, which were said to be integrated with tree planting. The response of the surrounding communities along River Ngaura is not directly notable. The fate of Sisitiza Mazingira project is very uncertain. Although the ecosystem is said to be cleaner than before the project, one can still describe it as polluted and soil erosion is still a prominent problem.
It is not clearly certain that Sisitiza Mazingira group is dealing with the actual or core problem facing the ecosystem in a right way. The basic problem in that ecosystem is soil erosion and pollution caused by malpractices of the communities living in and adjacent to that ecosystem. The types of planted trees do not come into sight that they will be able to control the soil erosion along the river. The Sisitiza Mazingira group is not the actual representative of the communities who are responsible for pollution of the area. The group cannot enforce the by laws that restrict people from damping garbage and sewage systems at the project area. Therefore, neither the reforestation practices nor by laws will successfully restore the polluted, eroded ecosystem of the River Ngaura.
However, the two groups are dealing with the same problem of pollution of rivers in Arusha Municipality. It is therefore evident that, the environmental institutions in the Municipal are weak and irresponsible; or perhaps they are waiting for Wazungus and/or NGOs to take it as an opportunity for developing and funding project proposals. The two groups held that poor law enforcement system of the country is one of the challenges facing them. The cooperation from neighbor communities is generally poor in both groups. The only difference is that the Setlife group had a vision written in their mind; that they are always looking for the thrilling taste of the restored Ngarenaro ecosystem, and they normally say “Let us go ahead” regardless of the challenges.
It is therefore necessary to realize that there is greater viability of victory for self reliant projects than Wazungu funded ones. We should always fight for changes that will respect our indigenous knowledge, cultural and beliefs, instead of waiting or hunting for a Mzungu who can give us fund for solving our problems. We need changes that will take us into self reliance and autonomy of our own capacity. Sometimes Wazungus will rather weaken than capacitating us.
Aklei Albert.

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