The downslide of funding has made the sustainability discussion more topical than ever as the CSOs are facing the challenge of finding alternative sources for funding. For partners of Tanzanian CSOs it is also crucial to understand the opportunities and obstacles that the Tanzanian civil society is facing in terms of sustaining their work for development.
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The small office room of HIMWA in Morogoro is full when all visitors and staff members are seated down. We have been here before, but last time the atmosphere was much more hopeful and excited. Now there’s a worry that floats in the air and between the lines spoken by the civil society actors present in the meeting.
HIMWA, who focuses on gender and land rights as well as improving economic justice and livelihood in pastoralist villages in Morogoro region, is one of the organizations who faces sudden cuts of funding due Finland’s decision to cut ODA channeled to CSOs with 43 percent.
HIMWA’s work has been supported solely by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) who is now receiving 38 percent less support from the Foreign Ministry of Finland (MFA) like all other MFA’s partner organizations.
Like many other Finnish CSOs, FELM was forced to adjust its budget within a short time frame – as the cuts came into effect in the beginning of 2016 – and this time the decision was to half HIMWA’s support for 2016, and to terminate the last project year of 2017.
“I don’t think that HIMWA will die, but these projects we have been implementing in cooperation with FELM will not have the impact that was planned and it is hard to explain to people in communities, why we cannot deliver interventions that were expected”, summarizes the Director of HIMWA, Dr. Andrew Mollel.
Situation of FELM and HIMWA is not unique as many other Tanzanian organizations with Finnish partners are facing the same challenges. And Finland is not the only DAC-country who is reducing ODA. According to Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) 2/3 of Sub-Saharan African countries will receive less aid in the future.
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On the other hand the discussion over sustainability of Tanzanian civil society has continued for several years and has now become even more topical as the development cooperation scene is changing.
Tanzanian civil society is diverse and polarized. Majority of about 10 000 civil society organizations are non-registered community level actors. There are several, diverse sources of funding available for civil society, but on the other hand giant share of available funding is centralized to a relatively small share of CSOs.
Competition for funding is many times tight and difficult to access, especially for smaller CSOs operating outside the main cities.
What is also very evident and at the same time problematic, is the fact that Tanzanian civil society organizations receive majority of their funding from international donors, and are also highly dependent on external funding.
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According to a study made by the EU in average 42 percent of funding for civil society in Tanzania comes from foreign donors.
Most dependent are organizations doing advocacy e.g. trying to influence policies and decision making or to defend human rights, as 84 percent of funding of these so called change-seeking organizations comes from foreign sources.
One reason for this has been the fact that public funding for civil society is very scarce and access to existing instruments limited. It is hard to find information on available government funding and it is only available for certain sectors.
For this reason it has been natural for example to human rights organizations or organizations defending rights of pastoralists like HIMWA, to find out supporters abroad, as it was also brought up during discussions Kepa held with CSOs in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro and Arusha in late 2015.
And this has become a big challenge linked together reduced ODA flows as many governments are willing to allow CSOs who share official development goals and work according to authorities wishes in providing services to operate but at the same time seek to limit, or even close, the space for change seeking CSOs.
In Tanzania there’s still lack of trust between CSOs and government which hinders development of public funding for civil society. This has been well acknowledged as worries over shrinking space for civil society are increasing. Many CSO actors are motivated to change the situation, to find ways for better dialogue and to lobby the government to acknowledge the different roles of civil society.
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Another challenge for Tanzanian CSOs is that there isn’t any strong tradition for fundraising. Many of the CSOs lack ideas and means for fundraising ̶ except for proposal writing. Lack of trust is one of the issues that hinders developing such culture. People may be suspicious of CSOs activities and question the fundraising efforts. On the other hand there’s potential to collect donations from individual people as the middle-class is steadily growing.
CSOs who participated in Kepa’s discussions also identified a hindering mind-set when it comes to sustainability of CSOs. This mind-set was named as “culture of being passive citizens”, referring to general attitude of development being something that is delivered to people rather than made by the people. Something that keeps the general activity level low instead of searching answers proactively for challenges like e.g. lack of funding.
This culture was however also linked to arguments saying that many times development interventions are in fact brought from outside – from international actors but also from cities to rural areas, from well-up actors to people living in poverty, i.e. in most cases from top to down – and people, or let’s say beneficiaries in the end of this chain, do not necessarily have a say. Which leads into conclusion that this in fact also a challenge for many Tanzanian CSOs themselves.
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During discussions held by Kepa, CSOs themselves identified a need for exposure, change of ideas and peer-support, and wish that foreign partners could also support the efforts for fundraising.
Currently the main fundraising efforts are small business activities and many ideas, e.g. selling services, hiring venues, and establishing shops or restaurants were presented during the discussions. However most of CSOs lack funds for making necessary investments as their self-financing base is normally very thin.
Interestingly enough CSOs see running business better option for raising funds for social causes than seeking support or cooperation with the private sector. Especially change seeking organizations who are most challenged when it comes to securing funding, don’t see actors of private sector funding advocacy or accountability interventions.
On the other hand there’s a rising discussion on CSOs forming social entreprises which may well be supported by different private sector actors as well through e.g. mentoring or sponsorship.
The operating environment stands for political, social, legislative, economic, cultural and environmental factors that significantly affect the implementation of any cooperation.
This blog text is part of series introducing different viewpoints, tips and guidance for analyzing operating environment for development cooperation. All blog texts are also linked to Kepa’s free online self-study package for managing development cooperation projects.
Kepa’s working paper: Greatest need for transparency, sustainability and stronger ownership