Posts Tagged ‘Tanzania’

Quotes to ponder

If this seems pie in the sky, [Kanayo] Nwanze [the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad)] cites a number of countries that are seeing success by focusing on agriculture – Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana – whose governments, helped by the private sector, have made a big commitment to farming. "The potential is huge," said Nwanze. "With a little investment, Africa can feed itself and it has the potential to feed the world."

(Guardian 27 July 2011 – Africa can feed the world)

So far, Kilimo Kwanza [Tanzania’s big new agricultural initiative] has not brought much new under the sun. It focuses on promoting mechanisation and large-scale investments in agriculture.

NGOs have pointed out that unless Kilimo Kwanza starts addressing the need of small-scale farmers, who make up the vast majority of farmers in Tanzania, the initiative is unlikely to bring much development.

(Land Affairs 03 Aug 2011 – Secrecy in Law Making)

Is this another case of publicity out-running the reality on the ground?


Serengeti dodges the bullet

Good news over the weekend. The trunk road that the Tanzanian government proposed to push through the northern part of the world famous Serengeti National Park will not now go ahead as originally planned.


The road that wasn’t and the wildebeest migration (map by FZS).

I had refrained from commenting on this whilst it was a live issue for two reasons: (a) because I didn’t understand the details and heard enough contrasting tales about it that I felt it would be inappropriate to comment, and (b) lest I inadvertently make things worse. Alas, some wildlife ecologists did not feel able to bite their tongue:

"[President] Kikwete’s spiteful attitude towards the World Heritage site and his strange determination to drive a road through Serengeti make him look increasingly old-fashioned and vindictive." (Prof Andrew Dobson, quoted here)

Now I personally much like the practice in science to call a spade a spade, but I fail to detect what is scientific about describing the President of a country you want to change direction as spiteful, old-fashioned and vindictive. Putting my best scientific hat on, I might describe that as stupid. From what I understand, the underlying motivations for the proposed road were all political, involving different factions within Tanzania’s ruling party, so a political savvy response was required, not something that smacked of neo-colonialism in an ex-colony where sensitivities, are, not surprisingly, sensitive!

What behind-the-scenes lobbying went on, I do not know, but it seems to have been rather more effective than Dobson’s bone-headed intervention. Unfortunately, that is not the end of it. I hear from reliable sources that the whole episode has left a rather sour taste in the mouth of President Kikwete. (Who’d have guessed it?) A president who was reportedly once an enthusiastic supporter of conservation is now far from well-disposed to the sector. One immediate consequence: Kikwete demanded the last minute withdrawal of an application for World Heritage Site for the forests in Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountains (a global biodiversity hotspot), an application that had been 14 years in the making (see here).

If it really was a case of exchanging a paper park designation for an actual road then it would seem to be an all round good deal, but I’m not aware of anyone who has suggested this was a ‘trade’, and a more carefully designed campaign might have headed off the road without losing the WHS application.

Decentralisation Doubled Over

Community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) is often positioned within the broader development theme of decentralisation, although I think it is as much a marriage of convenience in which two separate strands of thinking (one bottom up, one more top down) were unified. Decentralisation seems mostly to have played out within the development sector – I don’t see much mention of it any more – whereas community-led initiatives are still alive and kicking: testimony to the greater staying power of bottom up thinking.

However, CBNRM is by no means a universal success story. Governments are loathe to give up control of important sources of patronage which includes many natural resources. There is a lot of superficial community engagement which gets official blessing – always good to keep the mob on side – but less genuine negotiation. A particular trap which can be hard to avoid is that the government will make apparently quite reasonable statements about the need to retain some oversight / governmental control, to which it seems unreasonable to object … Until one remembers that one of the main reasons for having this discussion in the first place is the failure of the government hitherto to carry out its responsibilities in a fair, efficient and incorrupt way.

Recently I was discussing with friends from Tanzania the contrasting stories of CBNRM in the wildlife and forestry sectors in that country. Apparently the two systems used: Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and Participatory Forest Management (PFM) are incompatible, which would appear to be a spectacular failure of the donor-supported policy-making process in the late 1990s. Did they never talk to each other?

More to the point, PFM is widely viewed as having been more successful than WMAs. Why? Well one possible explanation is that the central government controls the allocation hunting concessions through a notoriously opaque process. (Hunters are rumoured to be generous donors to the ruling party.) Wildlife is widely perceived as highly valuable, and the government is not keen on giving away to communities a share (25%) of the income they receive. In contrast, forestry has historically been viewed as far less important, and so the government was happy to agree to communities to get up to 100% of the value of timber on their land! More significantly, responsibility for managing the forests had been devolved to district councils during the 1990s decentralisation drive. Thus, while organisations and projects working on WMAs must contend directly with the central government if they are to succeed, a forestry project, when faced with uncooperative district officials, can appeal over their heads to the central government. It’s a tactic with limited impact, but the fact that it exists at all might make the difference in some cases.

What, in effect, has happened is that responsibility for forest management had been devolved twice: once to district councils, and then again to rural communities through PFM. If anyone involved in the Tanzanian forestry policy making process back then had their eyes on this kind of political economy and anticipated such effects then I take my hat off to them; that’s seriously cunning! More likely it is just happy coincidence, but we can learn two important lessons. Firstly, that the political economy is always critical (we’re not supposed to ever forget that, but sometimes it slips), and, secondly, if you’re trying to engineer a similar kind of result in a different context, then setting up future allies within central government like this could pay dividends in the long run.

Democracy, Authoritarianism and Development

So the surprise winner of the Rwandan presidential election is … Paul Kagame! Who would have thought it? The Economist epitomises the dominant view in the Western media as Paul Kagame has gone from aid darling to the flawed leader we’re stuck with. Texas in Africa has a much more nuanced discussion. I note striking parallels with how everyone viewed Museveni ten years ago. The sad thing is that these are often popular leaders who could win a fair election by a country mile, so resorting to the strong-arm tactics seems awfully short-sighted.

The interesting comparisons are with the more contested polities in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania. Some Tanzanians (admittedly a rather small sample size) would seem to prefer a strong man who would stamp out corruption and bring much faster economic development.

“Is Africa ready for democracy?” is one of those horrendously patronising debates which comes around every now and then. My response is usually to suggest that I am not about to tell any disenfranchised African keen for their voice to be heard that their society is just too immature for democracy. However, there are some interesting observations that can be made in relation to this.

Firstly, strong men such as Museveni and Kagame have become popular precisely by maintaining a strong hand on the tiller, part of which involves taking a hard line against official corruption. News stories of coups often report initially a high level of public support for the intervention because ordinary citizens are fed up with corruption and hope this new broom will be different. (Such support, e.g. in Guinea, often fades pretty quickly.) Reducing corruption and increasing efficiency of government (as Museveni, Kagame and Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia have done to different degrees) also greatly increases the efficacy of development aid, and is one of the oft quoted reasons why the donors continue to hold their noses and deal with such leaders.*

Secondly, many outcomes of economic development are viewed as important to a well functioning democracy, e.g. a large middle class, an educated population, and a strong civil society including diverse independent media. The Chinese government have long argued that their citizens are far more interested in economic development than airy-fairy human rights. Indeed I have noticed international commentary gradually becoming more intrigued as to when the tipping point in favour of democracy in China will come – the implication being that the pressure which is building up cannot be held off forever. Is there a greater good to be found in that argument? Development first, then (properly functioning) democracy later?

Apart from the obvious moral issues, there are two big flaws that I can see in this argument. Firstly that as a big man stays in power for longer and longer, they have to subvert the system more and more, and patronage politics returns in force. Thus initial gains in eliminating corruption are in time reversed, albeit with possibly a different crowd whose “turn it is to eat”. The second argument surrounds long term stability and the succession, e.g. as recently elucidated by Chris Blattman with respect to Ethiopia.

If civil society etc are strong enough, and the strong man himself can perhaps be persuaded of the error of his ways, then it might in the long run be worth suffering the authoritarianism. But the example of Zimbabwe also shows us what can happen when a strong man (and the patronage system which supports him) is determined to hold on to power whatever the costs.

In conclusion, I am not sure what is the optimal approach. Since my opinion doesn’t matter much that seems just fine. Most bilateral aid agencies also seem caught between two stools, berating sham democracy when they see it, but making minimal adjustments to the flow of  funds. As a British citizen I do have a right to an opinion as to whether this is the right way for DFID to act, but as for the governments in Africa … (alert! platitude ahead) … well that surely has to be for their own citizens to decide.

* In the various indicators does this come out as good or bad governance? Single index measures always cover up more than they reveal.

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