Mbeya has for a very long time been among regions constituting the bread-basket of Tanzania due to its prowess in agricultural production. She is endowed with vast swathes of fertile arable land, many water sources, hard-working people and the weather that allows farming throughout the year. This rich profile leaves Mbeya’s Youth with no excuse to not tap into the wealth of their region to improve their lives. Fortunately, there is more self-awareness among the Youth nowadays. And a thirst of participating and getting involved in development processes, resulting from work of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the region.
In Bujingijila, Mbeya, thousands of kilometres from Tanzania’s Business Capital Dar es Salaam, right on top of the Southern Highlands you meet a group of Youth engaged in fish farming. The weather here is similar to the sensation you get when you open a fridge. It is really cold but surrounded with that enviable Mbeya greenery with a lot of water sipping through gullies and fertile farms. This is where these Youths decided to centre their fish rearing project, backed with proper agribusiness support from government agricultural extension and social development officers in the district council.
CSOs and Local Government Authorities
Before initiating efforts to reach the Youth in this district, a Kyela-based Civil Society Organisation (CSO) with a focus on providing community paralegal services, assessed the situation and mapped the key stakeholders. They also linked up with relevant departments at the District Council. Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) provided them with funding and Capacity Building on how to manage the grant. FCS is among the biggest grant-making facility for Civil Societies in Tanzania and has been doing this for over 18 years reaching over 5,700 CSOs in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar.
Bujingijila is one of the highest locations in the cold Busokelo area. But this is where you find the fish ponds managed by the Busokelo Youth group from the Kandete Youth Forum, one of the four forums in the District Council. Others are in Lwangwa, Itete and Lufilyo Wards. These Youth have three fish ponds here with sizes ranging from a quarter to a whole acre. The place is surrounded by beautiful water streams sipping through gullies finding their way downhill.
Challenges facing Youth and the community
There is a multitude of challenges facing the Youth in almost all development sectors here. Not all get a chance for further education and when they finish basic schooling they lack the necessary trade and life skills to prepare them for the job market. In agriculture, there are problems in accessing inputs and necessary farming skills. And with the mostly subsistence farming in this fertile area, the communities face the lack of good markets for their harvests in a place where they produce a lot of milk, grow bananas, maize, cocoa, coffee and other food crops. Despite all this potential, PPJ found that the Youth face many challenges that hinder their ability to fully participate in development processes to lift their households out of poverty.
The government works hard to address these challenges but at times their scale and depth overwhelm it due to limited resources. This is when Civil Society Organisations’ contribution in supporting the government becomes more meaningful. The CSOs interface the citizens’ participation and involvement in solving their own development challenges. In this particular report PPJ is focusing on Youth empowerment.
The geographical profile and terrain of this area makes it very difficult to reach the Youth and communities. “Its quite an arduous task traversing this terrain to meet and engage with the Youth due to the challenges of the infrastructure. The hilly nature of the communities here makes it impossible to reach all the Youth regularly in one location for discussions and dialogues” says Mr Guardian Noah, the Social Development Officer for Kandete Ward, who joined this field visit with his government allocated motorcycle.
Reaching the Youth in their communities is just one hurdle. Most are not self-aware and do not recognise their place and responsibilities in society. They don’t know their worth to the nation. This, according to PPJ’s baseline assessment, contributes to the current gap between rural and urban Youths. “The Youth face many social challenges. They are hardly aware of their environment, available resources and opportunities allocated to them by the government through LGAs. We decided this was the first barrier to break, so we facilitated bringing all the Youth in their communities together for dialogues, discussions, training sessions and self-awareness meetings. Our belief is they have to take charge of their destiny” adds Gabriel John, PPJ Coordinator.
Impact of CSOs – LGAs collaboration in Busokelo
The first joint effort by PPJ and the LGAs was bringing the Youth together in their communities through Youth Forums in the four Wards of Kandete, Lwangwa, Itete and Lufilyo. By July 2019, these Forums had a total of 204 members (M=130, F=74). Working alongside the LGAs allowed seamless coordination of the exercise and also resulted into these forums getting registration by the District Council at Ward level.
These Forums enabled PPJ and LGAs to reach the youth with education and awareness campaigns on many issues, particularly the National Youth Development Policy. They afforded them access to training sessions on social accountability and their role and responsibility. This increased their participation and involvement in public meetings and gave them confidence to capitalise on community leadership opportunities allocated per government policy. Now there are Youth representatives in a number of leadership committees at each Ward.
One major impact of these forums has been the establishment of Youth Groups engaging in entrepreneurship. The increasing success and interest of Youth on these groups necessitated the district council to formally register them in order to properly manage the initiative and how beneficiaries access the government allocated Youth loans of 4% from the council. This added value to the youth empowerment efforts as the Youth and their households accessed banking and financial services and learn the culture of savings and how to manage their monies.
|Groups||Ward||Business||Registered||Amount of Govt. Loan (mil)|
|Busokelo Fish Farming Youth||Kandete||They have three fish ponds with 3 thousand, 15 thousand and 45 chicks, respectively. They expect to harvest on 1stSeptember||Yes||4|
|BUKYE||Lwangwa||They are into food processing and soap making, producing fruits, vegetables and spice preservatives
“In Busokelo we lose a lot of fresh produce every season. After training we decided to add value to our agricultural produce by producing wines and preservatives”says Ahazi Mwanyombole, the group’s Marketing Officer
|JUHUDI||Kandete||They engage in vegetables farming and have one acre. They expect to harvest 400 crates of tomatoes this September, with an estimated value of Tzs 20,000 per crate (about Tzs 8 mil, income estimate)||Yes||4|
In the period from September 2017 to December 2018, the Busokelo District Council had recognised and registered 67 Youth Groups, with members from the four Ward Youth Forums. Among these groups, 30 have already benefited from loans allocated for Youth totalling Tzs 78mil out of Tzs 85mil. On leadership, four youths (F=2, M=2) have been selected to join various Ward Leadership Committees in their communities.
PPJ success in its youth empowerment initiatives is attributed to close support and collaboration with the District Council in Busokelo. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg as there is massive demand outside the project area for similar efforts. The District Executive Director for Busokelo Mr. Paul Ngilangwa calls on PPJ and others stakeholders to replicate the initiative so as to reach more Youth. He believes these help the Youth with self-awareness and understanding many policy issues regarding their welfare, including the loan opportunities from the government in every district council.
“Your efforts have tremendous impact on the Youth. It is very important that you note this. At the moment my council is working to make sure the fish farming group is getting a Customary Certificate of Right of Occupancy (CCRO) for their farm. This will enable them to work seamlessly” adds Mr. Ngilangwa. During the field research for this report, the Bujingijila Fish Farming Youth were preparing to host the government’s Freedom Torch (Mwenge wa Uhuru) on a stop for to launch their project. PPJ believes that this is a result of close collaboration with the LGAs and is a challenge for them to find ways to reach even more Youth outside the project area.
More challenges persist
Despite the success and more collaboration amongst stakeholders in Busokelo, many youths in the district council are still faced with many social challenges. And their demand for empowerment overwhelms PPJ as the CSO has limited resources. As for the youth in Busokelo, they need more training on life skills and entrepreneurship. They also cited the lack of markets for their products hinders their efforts to expand their groups operations. They still have dreams to start more projects after training but they lack seed money.