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Our Approach

If you would like to read about Daraja's approach in more detail, please download our 2007 Concept Paper.
Daraja is a newly established NGO, which aims to make local institutions more responsive to the needs of the wider community in rural Tanzania. Our mission is to empower communities and local institutions, and build their capacity to work effectively together to reduce poverty in Tanzania.
We believe in bringing government closer to the people, and that democratic governance offers the best chance for achieving social justice within any particular society. For these reasons we are committed to making democratic decentralised government work for the poor in rural Tanzania.
We will:
  • Work with local government
    , so that officials are better able to respond to communities
  • Work with local communities, so that they are more aware of their rights and better able to hold gov ernment to account
  • Improve links between government and communities, creating opportunities for debate and discussion
What are the problems?
A simple lack of money is no longer the main obstacle to rural development in Tanzania. Economic growth has led to greater tax revenues, while donors have continued pouring money into the country at ever increasing rates. While it is true that most of these funds are not assigned to poor rural areas, there is nevertheless enough money allocated to achieve a significant improvement in rural services and make a substantial dent in rural poverty.
So why have we not seen the changes that everyone has hoped for? Our research has pointed towards a number of obstacles to effective local governance. They include:
  • Communities don't have good ways to ensure local government is accountable. Multi-party elections are only a first step towards local accountability. There is a lack of genuine electoral alternatives, and little by way of public debate. There are very few local media outlets, and civil society is generally weak.
  • Central government officials and donors find it difficult to 'let go' and give local government authorities real decision-making power. Through a range of mechanisms, local government often finds its hands are tied. This recentralisation happens because of concerns over corruption, bureaucracy and capacity, but the effect is to undermine local accountability: who will bother to exert pressure on local government if all the big decisions are being made elsewhere?
  • The culture of local government discourages responsive governance. Traditionally, local government has played an implementing role, acting as local agents for national ministries and departments rather than listening to local priorities. Also, popular perceptions of government discourage scrutiny, and forceful and corrupt practices are expected and even seen as acceptable.
How will Daraja address them?
At village level - we will stimulate local discussion, thus helping the community to clarify its needs and priorities. We will raise awareness of citizens' rights, to make sure the community knows what it can ask for, and we will focus on disadvantaged community groups - such as women and young people - to make sure they can engage effectively with local government. We will also work with village government, building their capacity so that they can productively consult with the community.
At district level - again, we will work with institutions and the community, making sure both are better able to interact with each other, learn from each other, and ultimately reach agreement about future policies and activities. However, at this level the means will be somewhat different. For example, we will use, and on occasion set up, local media outlets, so that elected officials can be brought into contact with large numbers of community members. This might be through a live debate or a radio phone-in programme.
At national level - we will carry out research on the impacts of particular programmes, including our own, and share the knowledge that we gain. Based on this, we will then advocate for changes in policy in other areas, and potentially across Tanzania. One change might be to give local governments more autonomy - once we have successfully fostered local accountability in a given area, that will encourage central government to 'let go' and give local government more responsibility.