Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Beginning the process of building a sand dam

Above, site of future sand dam at Soweto village.
     The process of building a sand dam begins with MCC developing a partnership with a village group.  After it has been initially agreed upon that the villagers would like a sand dam in the river near their village, and that they are willing to invest time and labor in the process, they must form a Community Based Organization (CBO) and register it with the government.  They then must develop a by-laws document, following the guidelines of the TZ government for CBOs.  This means electing officers such as chairperson, vice-chair, secretary, and treasurer.  Protocols such as ownership and care of common property, regular meeting times election and tenure of officers, are all covered in the by-laws.
     These protocols are one of the strengths of the Tanzanian government, amongst its plethora of weaknesses.  The CBO protocols come from the socialist years of President Julius Nyrere, in which Tanzania was thoroughly organized from top to bottom - on paper at least.  So this process is not something that MCC is "imposing" on the villagers, it is an indigenous development.
     At our first formal meeting with the Soweto sub-village of Zuzu village, after the new group had met and gathered names for the new group, a number of problems came up.  When pressed, individuals in the group said that the chair and vice-chair had both been "elected" in abentia.  The treasurer had been appointed by her mother.  And most people in the group had no understanding of the  by-laws and had not been taken through them.  So the group has "gone back to the drawing board" and will meet to resolve these issues and come up with a document that is signed by all in the group.  After this, a Memorandum of Undersstanding between  MCC and the new group will be developed and signed, in which it is agreed that the building of the sand dam will be a step-by-step process of "deliverables" by each of the two organizations.

     MCC is working to overcome a legacy of "handouts" to villagers, from both the old centrally-controlled socialist government of Julius Nyrere, and later from various international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  These organizations would in the past (and many still do) come in to a village, build something with no or very little requirement for co-investment from villagers, and then leave.  Many Tanzanians have become accustomed to this.  So when MCC comes in and asks that villagers make co-investements of labor and organization in order to have a sand dam built, the process is not always smooth.
      MCC Dodoma is developing a system of self-selection for villages by going to a number of them and asking them to go through certain steps, discussed above.  The villages that carry out these tasks in a timely manner are the ones who get the next sand dam.  Villages that have problems with this process and don't come through with these first initial tasks are not necessarily "dumped" from the sand dam program, but are placed lower on the list.  It takes time to overcome old patterns of dependency.
MCC Sand Dam Program Advisor Albert Wright shakes hands after the meeting.
Future beneficiaries of a sand dam.