Monday, July 16, 2007

Development Works

July 11th, 2007

The white van speeds down the roadway at a break neck speed, honking at pedestrians along the road side to warn them of impending danger. This is orientation week for myself and two other IDMers, Cailin and Rebecca; a time for us to meet and greet AKF-Tanzania’s partner organizations and beneficiaries in Zanzibar.

Yesterday we visited three projects in the North that focused on income generating activities supported by the NGO Resource Centre (NGORC), a non-profit group mandated to strengthen the capacity of civil society based organizations (CBOs) on the island. Since it’s inception in 1996, the NGORC is one of many larger groups that receive financial support by AKF-Tanzania, which in turn receives its support from the Aha Khan Development Network, who receive financial support from international donors at the bilateral, multilateral and individual levels.

Six full time staff members work at the NGORC and help organize workshops that teach community leaders the essentials in organizational management. Courses include monitoring and evaluation, leadership, organizational management, and communications. Also, the staff maintain a resource library from which registered CBOs can borrow materials on issues ranging from HIV/AIDS to democracy in Tanzania.

Apart from offering courses, the NGORC offer counselling services to smaller CBOs, like Tusife Moyo (a women’s co-operative group that makes soap products out of local spices), Labayka (a Pro-Poor Tourism and Youth Group that trains local youth for jobs in Zanzibar’s populated hospitality sector and to attract charity from large hotels) and the Mnari Natural Aquarium (another income generating project that sells tourists the chance to see numerous sea turtles dine on sea week in a large pond). All have consulted with the NGORC and as a result, improved the impact of their programmes. For example, the women at Tusife Moyo tell us how taking NGORC courses helped them improve their marketing and production techniques for the herb soaps they sell to hotels and tourists to make a living. They tell us the extra money allows them to pay school tuition fees for their children (only primary schooling in Tanzania is free), and acquire greater autonomy in their households, specifically from their husbands.

A similar story for Labayka, where after consulting with NGORC expertise, a garbage collection programme was established that now keeps the community clean and overall healthier. They also established a conflict management service to offer quarrelsome couples third party mediation over relationship issues, and a hospitality training program, where the un/underemployed can learn the skills in demand to service Zanzibar’s numerous hotels and resorts that dot the northern coastline. And finally there is the Aquarium project at Mnamari, which after working with NGORC upgraded its facilities so it could show off Zanzibar marine life by protecting it, specifically endangered sea turtles. Also being offered are sunset cruises and snorkelling excursions – all activities that help the youth who run this group make a living and subsequently gain opportunities in a sustainable (read independent) manner. Here the beneficiaries tell us that development, as defined by the enhancement of local capabilities, is working.

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