It is the responsibility of citizen and stakeholders in the agriculture sector to track public resources for agriculture allocated to their communities through ensuring that resources are properly allocated, managed and monitored, this also includes monitoring the performance of cooperatives and agribusiness inputs supply mechanism set by the government.
In light of this, Tunduru Paralegal Centre (TUPACE), a grassroots Civil Society Organisation (CSO) has been working for two years to strengthen the citizens’ involvement and participation in Public Expenditure Tracking Systems (PETS) in the agriculture sector in Tunduru district, in Ruvuma region. The initiative involves working with local Government Authorities (LGAs) and government experts in establishing PETS Committees in Wards and equipping them with the necessary skills and tools to follow up public resources in agriculture. These efforts covered 4 Wards in the district: Nakapanya, Ligoma, Majengo and Mlingoti Mashariki. These wards were selected as a pilot before intervention replication to other areas of the region. TUPACE decided to build the capacity of communities following the lack of accountability and massive misuse of public resources meant for agriculture in the district. The early stages for the interventions began with working together with LGAs to form citizens PETS committees in each ward.
An Internal assessment of TUPACE before the commencement of the project implementation revived that the organisation needed capacity development training, hence, Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) provided TUPACE with a grant and capacity development training. FCS is among the biggest alternative source of funding and capacity development services to CSOs in Tanzania, having worked for 17 strengthening over 5650 CSOs in Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar.
The initial recruitment process to form Ward PETS Committees included the involvement of respective LGAs in each ward where the call to join the committee publicised. Formation of the committee prioritised inclusivity of community members hence Female and male representatives from the community were selected. Then after, TUPACE partnered with experts from the government in the region to provide specialised training and capacity development. The sessions covered all matters in PETS, Social Accountability Monitoring, budgeting and how to undertake monitoring of public resources in their communities.
Volunteerism in community PETS
Habiba Said (24) is a young PETS Committee member of Nakapanya Ward in Tunduru. She lives with her mother and has been saving for nursing school. She explains her motive for joining the committee “I applied to join the committee in our village and later went for TUPACE PETS training in Tunduru town. Our work is basically on volunteer basis. We don’t get paid, but we work hard to make sure our agriculture resources are spent accordingly” she says.
Habiba was among ten founding Nakapanya PETS Committee members. Some of the members dropped out due to challenges of undertaking PETS activities in their villages. Among the challenges was difficulty in reaching remote communities regularly. Despite these challenges, the Ligoma Executive Officer (WEO) Asha Amanzi says that TUPACE has built the confidence of her community and increased their interest and participation in PETS. “Currently, there is increased accountability and tracking in public resources expenditure. There is value for money on construction projects and citizens are aware of every step of implementation of projects. In agriculture, farmers speak up and voice any discrepancy in inputs supply as soon the issue arises. This facilitates our work as civil servants ” says the WEO.
Before TUPACE interventions in Ligoma, the community faced many issues in agriculture – problems in inputs supplies, inadequate number of extension officers and difficulty in reaching remote villages due to lack of transport. The citizens were not interested in public meetings and accessing information through notice boards. They never inquired about any issue in their community and didn’t think their involvement and participation mattered in holding accountability.
“Citizen did not use improved agricultural practices, and I was never sought after. But after the awareness campaigns and training on PETS, now I regularly visit every village in my Ward because of the high demand of farmers seeking my expertise. At times the demand is so high it is overwhelming. This has improved agribusiness in the community” says Zawadi Hassan, the Ward Agriculture Extension Officer (WAEO) in Ligoma.
Dishonest practices by unscrupulous traders in the agricultural inputs supply system had resulted in fertiliser prices skyrocketing to over 100% from TZS 30,000 set by the government. This voucher system was a heavy burden for farmers. Following cooperation between PETS committees and LGAs in the Wards, citizens reported the challenges to the District Council and stern measures being taken, including switching to the bank system where farmers in their cooperatives will sell their produce and receive payment instead of vouchers. Only verified farmers can transact and receive their payments, leaving out unscrupulous middlemen and dishonest traders. TUPACE’s efforts in strengthening community involvement and participation in public expenditure tracking and accountability in their agribusiness are meant to address the issue.
Not only has the community PETS Committees got volunteers to follow up on their village’s agribusiness performance, but they have also moulded young people involved into confident community champions. The young people mobilise their peers and other villagers to participate in meetings, visit notice boards for information, ask questions about issues that matter and access information about their development.
“This opportunity has strengthened me personally as a catalyst for accountability in my village. I have learnt a lot outside school. Part of my responsibility now is educating, mobilising and following up on resource expenditure in my area” says Hassan Njongonda, member of PETS Committee in Makoteni Village, Ligoma. On the other hand, Subira Njaidi, a PETS Committee in Ligoma Village, Ligoma Ward discloses that opportunity to volunteer in PETS initiative has helped her attain more knowledge in accountability. “I have gained new knowledge from many people about leadership, accountability and volunteerism. I can now read and understand budgets and follow up issues that matter to my community” she says.
The Ward Executive Officer of Ligoma strongly believes that TUPACE has brought her additional workforce in the form of PETS community volunteers. “These mostly young people are giving a lot to this community, despite all the challenges. They don’t have transport means yet they go to each village to follow up on accountability in agriculture. They don’t have communication means yet they call my office and other officers to follow up or report on what they find on the ground. We need to make their work easier by whatever means we can”she says.