Skip to main content
Submitted by Web Master on 24 March 2014

In early 2013, SDC, a core funder of Policy Forum (PF), set up a Social Accountability Small Grants Fund (SASG) aimed at supporting CSOs working at the local level to complement advocacy efforts of national level organisations such as PF and reinforcing links between work at the national and local levels. The central hypothesis behind this is to draw out experiences at local level and use them to impact national level policy processes.

To this end, MIICO as selected by SDC to receive the SASG and work under the continued guidance of PF to implement a number of defined monitoring activities for one year in Ludewa District Council which began in May 2013 under signed tripartite agreement with SDC and PF. The areas to be covered in the implementation were Mawanga, Ludewa, Mawengi, Mlangali and Mundindi villages.

To this end, SDC who fund MIICO joined the implementers and PF to travel to Ludewa, Njombe region to see the impact and challenges of the intervention.  The visit, from March 9th to 12th, 2014 and this is a brief account of what transpired including some of the key issues that came across during discussions in Ludewa.

Mlangali: Jukwaa la Wakulima (Farmers’ Forum)

On March 10th 2014, MIICO organised for the visiting team to meet the Farmers’ Forum at Mlangali village that brings together farmers from the area as well as surrounding villages. The group of 30 members presented their work and highlighted some of their challenges which included the reluctance of village elders to accept Farmers’ Forum Development Initiatives, the distance some members have to walk to participate inFamers Forum meetings. One mentioned that they have to travel 11 kms for meetings and this affected consistent attendance, although at least ¾ of the group still managed to meet regularly. They noted successes which included being well informed about their rights and demanding accountability with confidence as they interact with leaders. The forum was also useful as an information dissemination mechanism enabling villagers far away from Mlangali to get important messages about how the ward is governed and news on the agriculture sector. The other benefit is the opportunity to interact with officials at council level, better understanding of the budget process and effective ways to track development projects. Another notable thing mentioned by the members of the forum is that they genuinely felt that the group was owned by members and that MIICO was playing a facilitative role which meant they considered themselves as mobilising and driving the advocacy agendas on food and agriculture that affected their areas.

When asked on concrete changes that they saw in the time the forum has been active, they mentioned a godown being repaired and is now in use, education on farming techniques now properly reaches the villages, irrigation schemes are now better than they used to be and transplanters are accessible and working.

Going forward, they anticipate that they will need to obtain some skills in book-keeping so that not only can they keep track of their finances, but be in a better position to help improve the services of credit groups. They also envision that the new young employees trained in agriculture will get more experience of how their local contexts are like in order to better employ the theoretical knowledge they have from college. Other issues they envisage are:

- Having a secure credits & savings bank with professional accounting in place.

- Each having 15 acres of planted trees

- Being able to design and implement their own projects. They felt most projects are devised externally without much involvement from communities within the area.

- More participation from the youth.

The District Commissioner and other officials

The visit to the District Commissioner’s (DC) office on March the 10th, 2014 assisted the visiting group to better grasp the Ludewa context and many other issues from the LGA’s standpoint. The DC, who was formerly based at the Prime Minister’s Office – Regional and Local Authorities (PMO-RALG) as Principle Economist, had a wholesome feel of local level challenges. He discussed local level transparency and the implementation of the circular on budget-related documents and said Ludewa would strive to implement this and other previous circulars such as the one by the former President Mkapa on budgets being posted on village noticeboards.  

On the challenge of late disbursements from central government,  he said they try best to deal with it by focusing on their own sources of revenues, though not adequate, the funds help implement some small development projects in the district. He commended the Epicor system and how it enabled improvement in financial accounting for the district. He said, for instance, in a cash budget system, if a budget line does not have money, the Epicor system will not let you make deferrals, hence improving financial management of council officials.  He said that even the reduction in number of audit queries over the years indicated improved financial management and they undertook payroll audits in that if one moved from the council or passed away, we take note and the funds are returned to the RAS.

Asked on his views of how the public and civic actors are engaged in the development agenda, he said groups like MIICO helped sensitize the people on their responsibility as citizens, to know their rights and hold their leaders to account to the extent the council authorities wished they were involved in a few more sectors beyond agriculture. Overall, he said it would help the council a lot if we knew what NGOs plan for Ludewa so that we join forces and avoid duplication of efforts, suggesting that a joint planning approach would mean NGOs would not be appearing in between implementation.

On Human Resources, he said the staff recruitment was not such a big problem although there were instances staff members left the council for lack of amenities that are commonplace in cities (hair salons, electricity).  He did stress, however, that Ludewa District Council was labouring at providing housing for newly-appointed staff and receiving them well including ensuring their benefits such as relocation allowances and salaries are paid on time.

He touched on the Liganga and Mchuchuma mining projects which he believed will help transform Ludewa district. 6.8bn/- is soon to be invested in upgrading the road to Ludewa to gravel, widening it to allow for heavy machinery for the mines to be transported in, they anticipate the service levy to boost the council’s own sources of revenue. He also hoped for a Participatory Appraisal for Competitive Advantage (PACA) that would enable communities to take up the opportunities that come with the two mining projects. These include exporting processed iron and not iron ore, establishing a vocational training centre so that local content is enhanced and value-addition on agricultural produce like apples and other fruits.

Ludewa town

Like during the previous meeting with the famers’ forum, at the meeting with Ludewa Town Farmers’ Group including beekeepers On March 10th, 2014, the visitors heard of the benefits SAM training has brought including awareness of rights and responsibilities of duty-bearers in bringing development at the community level. What was different about this group, however, was the issue of the impact that future iron mining will bring to the community. They claimed to have been told numerous times that they will all benefit economically but there is a sense in the air that they are not being told the entire story especially with regards to the environmental and health effects that the venture potentially could bring (e.g. water sources being polluted and skin damage, etc).  What reinforces their suspicion, they claim, is the continuous comment from authorities that surveys and exploration is still underway but in their opinion much heavier work is being undertaken.  There was also a comment that there was no real local content enhancement happening as those involved in the mining activities were not really buying any agricultural produce from them. In fact, a strong claim was made that they do not even consume water from Ludewa. Lastly, they hoped for an initiative that would enable them to learn from other regions in Tanzania where mining activities were at advanced stages.

Mawengi village: Coffee processing project

In this village, the visiting team heard from its farmers’ forum how in 2010, a proposal for a coffee processing facility was put forward. For the financial year 2011-12 budget, 41m/= for construction of the building to house the coffee processing machine was disbursed and for FY 2012-13 29m/= was made available for installation of the fence, electrical wiring, and other minor installations. To-date, Mawengi still do not process coffee because the machine was wrongly installed by the contractor who needs to be tracked to correct the fault. None of the villagers have been trained to operate the machine and they do not yet have a godown (warehouse) to store the coffee before and after processing. So even if they correct the engineering fault and get trained, they cannot begin operations until the godown is built. The facility is intended to process coffee (not sure what stage) and to be sent to Makambako for further processing and, thereafter, transportation to Moshi where they villagers have been told they will get the most for their coffee as that is where access to the 'international market' is obtained. They could not explain well why transporting to Mbeya was not an option. The facility was to serve several other villages apart from Mawengi. It was opened by Prime Minister Pinda last year.

Mawanga village: Cow project

In this village we were told of a novel scheme by the Department of Agriculture of the district of loaning out an inseminated female cow to a group and it is the group’s obligation to care for it until it bears a female calf which after six-months is given to another group. Once the calf is ‘repaid’, further female or male calves born are the group’s profit and so is the milk. The problem with the group that the team visited in Mawanga is that the cow was not inseminated and numerous attempts to get it to conceive were not successful. It was a sore reminder how sometimes well-meaning schemes can fail due to unforeseen challenges. Since this scheme relies on the birth of a calf to be raised and benefit another group, such drawbacks mean that they can sometimes be unsustainable. The group in Mawanga is still contemplating what to do next.


The field visit offered participants a better understanding of the SAM activities undertaken by MIICO in Ludewa and the achievements attained so far as well as the challenges encountered. More specifically, it gave the visitors a snapshot of the agricultural sector challenges including how the bureaucratic bottlenecks can slow the speed of achieving some development outcomes in the district and how communities are coping with them.

Ludewa is observably a very remote area with many locales cut off from modern communications and electricity and hence this hampers contact between the actors in the district as well as with MIICO who are offering mentorship. The distances between villages were also mentioned as limiting more frequent interaction between groups. Despite this, the energy for undertaking accountability work from the demand side is visibly prominent and hence as MIICO, SDC and PF believe, SAM is an important tool in helping change the way things are done in LGAs especially when it comes participating citizens in the development plans.

During this trip, like with previous ones, the sustainability of SAM activities in Ludewa and beyond again came under sharp focus. The visiting team recognised that it was important to enable the civic actors on the ground to continue once the support from MIICO and SDC end it was mentioned that the farmers’ forums were very encouraging and should be looked into as a model for sustaining the demand-side of accountability in the long term. The groups were voluntarily self-organising, did not require much resources beyond facilitation and capacity-building and were organically in-built rather than being imposed from outside.

It was also noted that the culture of simply complaining about problems and not contributing much to the solutions was not constructive in helping communities come up with alternatives in the long term. This is, however, a stark reminder of the general education needs of communities in such remote areas.  Also Pushing too hard could risk antagonising the leaders at council and village level which in turn could hurt collaboration between the demand and supply-side of accountability.

Acknowledgements:Appropriate thanks to Ludewa DC, Juma Solomon Madaha, Council staff and villagers of Mawanga, Ludewa, Mawengi, Mlangali and Mundindi.