23 March 2019

Tanzania: NGO Outlines Priorities to Stem the Tide of Poverty

Last year, ActionAid, a non-profit organisation that started operating in the country in 1998 started implementing the Country Strategic Plan IV (CSP 2018-2022) after the end of Country Strategic Plan III (CSP 2014-2018).

Among other issues, the organisation advocates poverty alleviation and ensures the rights of women, youth and children are promoted and protected.

In this interview, Action Aid country director Yaekob Matena speaks to The Citizen's reporter, Louis Kolumbia, outlining achievements in poverty eradication. He explains, however, that more efforts are still required to address poverty in the country

Question: Tanzania's economy is said to grow significantly. As the leader of an organization that has an objective of reducing poverty, do you see relationship between economic growth and poverty among individual citizens?

Answer: Actually, the broad national figures indicate that Tanzania is among the fastest growing economies and figures now show that between 29 and 30 per cent of citizens are living below the poverty line.

Some years back, these figures were somehow higher. However, there is a general improvement because of witnessed government development projects.

Despite improvements in the country's economy and social services, still there is a big number of the population living in abject poverty. There is a big number of children who are out of school who re-quire attention of the government and other actors.

Generally, there is improvement, but the number of people living in poverty is higher, that is why we interact with the community and the government in order to contribute to development of the country.

How much was spent during the implementation of Country Strategic Plan III and the amount intended to be spent for the Country Strategic Plan IV?

I don't have actual figures here, but taking an example of 2018 alone, we were able to raise about Sh7 billion and utilize 98 per cent of the funds.

Annually, we get funds from two sources; the first is individual supporters from the UK, Greece, Italy and Sweden, who are humbled individuals releasing money from their pockets to support development of Tanzania.

The second source of funding is through marketing and sale of project proposals to donors. So, review our plans and raise additional funds.

For 2019 plans, we expect to get confirmation of funds equivalent to what we raised last year. We are still striving to raise more funds.

The organisation started the implementation of the Country Strategic Plan IV (2018-2022) after completion of Country Strategic Plan III (2014-2018). What achievements were recorded during the implementation of Strategic Plan III?

One of our main achievement is success in advancing women rights in the country. Under this category, we were able to raise awareness of women rights about legal issues and means of demanding for their rights.

So, as a result of successive sensitisation and capacity building, the women are now more conversant about their rights.

This achievement is followed by institutionalisation whereby various women groups were established in the villages, culminating in district level women rights associations.

Currently, we have women associations in six districts that are capable of de-signing a programme, holding its members and working around member's rights.

We have also done a lot around women economic empowerment. There are women income generating groups and as a result of our engagement, they have improved their livelihood.

The other achievement is civic participation and education where we have built capacity of the youth in leadership. The youth can now come in groups and initiate programmes that address their needs.

In education programmes and civic participation, we were able to respond to community needs around school infra-structures where we supported construction several classrooms.

We also enhanced capacity building, roles and responsibilities of school management committees.

Above all, we were able to mobilize children at schools to know their rights and aspire for quality education including echoing their voice at the school and among their communi-ties in protection for children rights against violence and abuse.

Moving to agriculture and livelihood, we worked around agro-ecological agricultural systems especially around Singida Region where we have several projects.

So, smallholder farmers are being brought into groups and develop capacities for agro-ecological adaptations.

At the same time, we develop the village women groups that are now very vibrant at engaging in agricultural activities and demand for increased allocation of budgets in agricultural sector. Now, they are occupying space at the national and international levels.

For instance, women from Singida and Chamwino recently attended regional forums in Addis Ababa, Kigali and Washington DC in the US bringing together the voice of the women in demanding for land rights and active involvement in agriculture. These are some of the major achievements recorded so far.

What challenges were recorded during the implementation of the plan that commenced in 2014?

Recorded achievements did not come out without challenges. One of the challenges was the cultural resistance due to the society's failure to recognize roles of the women in agriculture and leadership. However, we have tried to involve men in changing the situation.

Another challenge we have faced is weak capacity of local partners working with us. Though at some stages we made efforts to develop their capacities, they were still unable to come up, so we had to devise alternative approaches to build their capacities.

How do you rate achievements versus targets for Country Strategy Plan IV, which you have just started to implement?

Drawing lessons from what we have done in implementing Country Strategic Plan III, we have analysed the context and our capacity before revising our tar-gets in Country's Strategic Plan IV.

So, we have identified that we need to make more investment in building capacities of local partners, document and sharing of excellence found in small are-as so that they are replicated, hence replicating the experience.

We have also identified the need to closely work with government institutions because since institutions are familiar and close to communities, so there is a need to bring in the various government actors.

The organisation's vision and mission is also advocating freedom and rights of the women, youth and children. How do you make the advocacy amid state restrictions and shrinking political space?

We are aware of the country's political and legal environment. We have been operating under this environment. Even as there are elements of restrictions, they haven't reached the level of prohibiting us from implementing our duties.

Our ultimate goal is poverty alleviation and we know that this is also the ultimate goal of the government.

So, we make ourselves much cleaner and constructively engage with actors without forgetting to listen to their views. So far, we our objectives are in line with the government's initiatives

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