Most development projects in Tanzania especially those which are community based are donor dependent. Even where the national policies and laws indicate the willingness of the government to support community based projects; nothing is implemented in the national budget by using government revenue. For example generally, all community based wildlife and forest management projects area funded by donor agencies like Africare, African Wildlife foundation (AWF), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Danish Hunters Association (DHA) and Frunkfut Zoological Society (FZS) among others. Others are supported by local NGOs like TFCG, WCST and MJUMITA, which depend entirely on donor funded projects. This provides evidence that if our policies and laws are not made by donors (former colonialists), the government formulate them, and sit down or sleep fo-fo-fo… and wait for Wazungus/Wakoloni to come to implement them. Such tendency has built a general nonsensical policy of dependency among most Tanzanians that ‘we can’t’.
However, the community of Ngarenaro has proved it wrong as YETs lent during their field visit in Ngarenaro ward, April 2010. A small group called Set life of willing, intelligent, active and highly energetic people united and work together to rehabilitate the polluted Ngarenaro River, which provides water for domestic use to the residents. Before the initiative was started the river was dirty such that its water and the surroundings were not useful and habitable. The group volunteered to clean the environment, practice re-forestation and mobilized their colleagues and local authority to organize sustainable sanitation and re-forestation in the area. They managed to educate their colleagues to stop to pollute the river and instead to contribute for volunteers to find a truck that can collect the garbage from their homes.
The group is facing challenges of lack of active support of government especially at district and municipal level (including their Member of parliament), lack of effective support from their neighbors and some residents and inefficiencies in the law enforcement system of the country where the criminals arrested polluting the river (e.g. by discharging sewage system into the river) and taken to police with all evidences are released with shocking, scandalous and very disappointing reasons.
Despite those challenges, the programme has arrived at great achievements. There is already a strong unity among members with well organized and committed leaders who never afraid of challenges and therefore they are always looking forward. There is also a mechanism of collecting the garbage from people’s home and way of preventing discharge of sewage to the water. The environment has been cleaned and there is intensive tree planting activities. The entire ecosystem of Ngarenaro River is expected to regain its natural status in the near future, where one can feel it’s thrilling and breathtaking taste. Moreover, the Set life group sounds to have good viable entrepreneurship and self-reliance ideas such that in the future they might have developed their communal income generating projects.
There are very good lessons we can take home from Ngarenaro community.
The most important is autonomy and self-reliance and respect to our own ideas. All ideas of cleaning and conserving the river came from the residents. Nobody developed proposals and send it to Wazungu for funding. Their project has all characteristics of self ownership. This is quite contrary to most community based wildlife and forest management projects in Tanzania (WMA, CBFM and JFM) where the proposals have been developed in air conditioned rooms in Dar es Salaam, Oslo, London, Copenhagen, Washington, D.C, Helsinki city or Oxford University, and implemented to the poor illiterate rural communities of Ukutu, Namtumbo, Kilosa, Sikonge, Uyumbu, Makami, Loliondo, Wami mbiki or Twatwatwa. It is extremely awful to defraud such communities that, the projects have come from themselves, while the ideas and proposals have been developed in America and Scandinavia or from few elites in Tanzania.
There is a great assurance of sustainability of self-reliant projects like that of Ngarenaro contrary to donor funded projects. The Set life group and community appear to be well committed and highly courageous. They are not frustrated even by difficult challenges of lack of fund, poor cooperation and inefficiencies in the law enforcement system of the country. Even where some members and government officials show resistance to cooperate, the rest always say “Let us go ahead”. The sustainability of donor dependent projects is very uncertain. Most of them are likely to die as soon as the donors go back home. Most Wazungu are not tolerant to stiff resistances from some member communities which still exist despite the multibillion donors’ investments on communities’ mobilization and awareness. The failed projects like those of Twatwatwa in Klilosa (H Nilsel, 2009) and Loliondo are evidences.
In Ngarenaro project benefits are directly felt by the owners of the project (communities). Community of Ngarenaro is directly feeling the restoration of attractive environment of Ngarenaro ecosystem. This is contrary to Wazungu funded project where benefits are only felt by few elites or project designers. In most of wildlife donor funded projects for example, the benefits are felt by project designers, wildlife and wildlife lovers (mostly Wazungu). For example, in donor funded WMAs, where increased wildlife population has been demonstrated, it has been accompanied by increase in human-wildlife conflicts. The evidences are Idodi-Pawaga, Tunduru and Wami – Mbiki WMAs which were among very few WMAs that proved increased wildlife population in 2007, but with increased human- wildlife conflicts (Institute of Resource Assessment, 2007). This means in those WMAs there was high level of Wildlife protection (perhaps quite similar to National Parks) but still there were intensive poaching and human, livestock and crop destruction by wildlife. It should be remembered that in 2007 many WMAs were about a decade old.
Therefore in self reliant project there is sense of self ownership and autonomy which brings satisfaction to owner communities. The owners get the accrued benefits directly regardless of how little they are. There is promising future and sustainability of the projects like that of Ngarenaro. Most donor dependent projects are colonial in nature. They are exploitative, unfair and sometimes abusive. They are on one hand propagating colonial ideas (colonial education) and on the other side suppress indigenous best knowledge. In most cases, the donors fund and projects’ benefits are going back to Wazungu and very few local elites in the corrupt systems of governance. Donor dependent projects have a very unpredictable future and their sustainability is mostly uncertain.
Therefore for YETs and CSOs, Ngarenaro is one of the nicest starting points. We need changes that will take us into self-reliance. Yes we can. “Together we triumph, lonely we fatigue”