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Building capacity to build capacity

To sustain interventions in rural development in Tanzania, Coopibo supports the emergence of local NGOs and assists them to become effective and efficient


01 / 1999

1- To sustain a developent process in rural areas

For more than fifteen years, Coopibo has been involved in rural development projects in some remote districts of Tanzania. They used to send a team of expatriates to live and work among the population. At the same time, they were administratively attached to the local district authorities. In the early 90s, they started to phase out and thought District Authorities who had been involved since the inception of the action, could just take over their activities in rural development. But it rapidly became obvious that the District Council had not the capacity nor the real willingness to continue such activities directed to the alleviation of poverty with the participation of the rual populations. Local Authotities were more avid to grab the material advantages than developing their own programme.

In the same time in Tanzania, due to the political liberalisation, many NGOs emerged with very noble aims but with a total lack of capacity. Coopibo took it as a challenge to build the capacity of the emerging groups for them to play a real role in the civil society.

Coopibo moved from a joint action"foreignNGO-local government"to a training and consultancy centre in organisational development while continuing to have a direct concrete involvement in some rural areas through agricultural or rural housing development projects. In their traditional projects areas, new bodies were formed by local personalities and ordinary citizens who were convinced that a philosophy of action directed to the rural poor will empower them.

Coopibo also changed its focus due to the cultural political Tanzanian context that always primed the goverment bodies leaving other actors on the side ressourceless.

2- A focus on human ressources

Coopibo developped a human resources pool of twenty Tanzanians officers and two expatriates. The presence of expatriates is understood as the search for a balance between the advantage of being exposed to other cultural models and the risk to be dependent on outsiders. The long period spent together allows them all to form a team with a spirit which everyone is adamant to.

3- To have a dual nature

Coopibo recenty launched a training and consultancy center (TRACE)who can contract its services on a commercial basis independently from Coopibo. This task force assists groups and communities to see what kind of legal registration they need and what are the responsibilities of the various bodies instituted.

Theories of organisational development are not sufficient when one faces huge poverty problem in a corruption atmosphere.

Other intervention are still financed through various donors.

By separing consultancy services and financial and monitoring support Coopibo tries to address the unsaid contradiction imposed by donors who wants accountability for their money but does not want to see how to develop this accountability among an emerging civil society that mixed the best and the worst.

4- A national impact

Coopibo is nationally recognised by many NGOs for having assisting them in refining their vision, their identity rather than having equiped them with cars and computers.

It is crucial to develop a team with the sense of criticism and of course self-criticism, and many staff issued from an administration culture need to be exposed and accompagnied to be given a fair choice to become effective and efficient components of the society.

Palabras claves

desarrollo rural, asesoría técnica, ONG, agencia financiadora

, Tanzania, Coopibo Tanzania


The evolution of Coopibo is characteristic of the present evolution linked to the inflation of powerless NGOs in newly liberalised societies. Coopibo ’s added value compard to other organisations is its concrete involvement in rural remote areas and its constant research for an empowerment of the rural poor in a sustainable way. However, it is not always easy to balance the ressources- human and material - to reach both objectives. The centralisation in Dar allowed Coopibo to be in the move as far as national issues are concerned. They are at the fore front of the NGOs to lobby a better regognition of the civil society.

Their long term presence in Tanzania allows them to have pertinent analysis as well as a good practice of the administration. On the other side, the management of their own human ressources remains a little bit difficult. They still fear that the office will be difficult to run without expatriates.

They are too much convinced of the existence of methodology blue-prints such as : ZOPP, problem tree, logical framework.. and forgot the concretisation wich means a lot in a rural society.

The intuition they had to launch a consultancy services centre is very novative and addresses a real need. The challenge they face now is to run this centre without ruining their practical capacity of intervention in the rural areas


Discussion held at the Coopibo Tanzania main office in Dar -es-Salaam. The author and the interviewee personally know each other for ten years. They sometimes participated in common workshops.

[Written for the public debate "Actors and processes of the cooperation", which could feed the next Lome Convention (European Union/ACP countries relations). This debate, animated by the FPH, has been started by the Cooperation and Development Commission of the European Parliament and is supported by the European Commission.]

Interview with BOTTLEBERG, Paul



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