Tanzania: Documenting the Clonal Garden Project
The Isangati Agricultural Development Organisation is a local, not for profit non-governmental organisation located in the Mbeya district, in south-west Tanzania. It was legally registered as a trust fund in January 2001, after being a project under VECO since 1992. The organisation has acquired a compliance certificate under the NGO Act No. 24 of 2002 with the name of Isangati Agricultural Development Organization, IADO. Its office is located in the Santilya ward, Isangati division.
IADO works in the Isangati and Usongwe divisions of the Mbeya district. These are part of the Rungwe volcano complex located in the Rift valley between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa. Both divisions have two agroecological zones: the highlands (1800 to 2000 m) and the low lands (1600 to 1800 m). In this area, IADO is committed to support the efforts of small and medium scale farmers of the Mbeya district to increase their agricultural production and income through:
- promoting resource-efficient agriculture
- accessing reliable markets, and
- accessing financial services.
In implementing this mission, IADO ensures the participation of the target group and the collaboration of other stakeholders, taking into account good governance, gender aspects, HIV/AIDS and the environment.
An excercise in documentation
Between the 4th and the 8th of September, 2006, IADO took part in the documentation workshop organised by VECO Tanzania and ILEIA. This meeting took place in Same, bringing together representatives of different projects and organisations in order to exchange ideas on documentation and try the methodology proposed by ILEIA. We all met at the Roman Catholic Centre in Same. The interest of IADO was to document their experience in cloning coffee plants with specific characterisitcs, as part of their Clonal Graden Project. The workshop was thus attended by Richard Mwabulambo as IADO's representative, together with two farmers: Latson Singalanga and Langson Mwamboneke.
How did the process go?
Back in Isangati, Richard presented what they did in Same to the whole team, and they all discussed how to proceed. It was then decided that IADO's Agriculture Department should be responsible for completing the documentation process and presenting the final article, thus also involving Hudson Gabriel Levi and Silvano Mwakinyali. After going through what was done during the workshop, they saw the need of looking for more information. The main advantage was that the process had already started, so it was easier to see what needed still to be done. The disadvantage was that the available information was limited, focusing mostly on technical information (such as the growth of the coffee plants) and not on the opinions of farmers, or on the perceptions of those involved during the experience. The team then realised that they did not have sufficient photos, nor had they recorded, for example, how taking part of the coffee cloning experience had helped farmers economically.
According to the team, “we are always trying to respond to our donors, looking at our goals and at the number of this or that. After the workshop, most of our staff started understanding… Now we are trying to go deeper, and we have included documentation in our plans.” As a result. all staff members are requested to present a small abstract about what they want to write. The process which began in Same was completed, but what was done there was not improved. The tables were not looked at again: “We had no reference; this is something new”; “there was no real discussion, the time allocated was not enough”. They also mentioned IADO’s difficulties for “sitting down and analysing”; and the fact that the results were not shared with farmers nor with other people.
The final draft was sent to VECO after a couple of months, and after adding their comments they sent it to ILEIA. This was edited as one of the articles for issue 23.2. Eventually, they received an edited version, which was accepted. “We sometimes fail to have the attitude of giving feedback. We say thank you, not more…”. IADO's documentation process was completed when an article was published in the LEISA Magazine, in June 2007.
The analysis of the documentation process followed some pre-defined indicators: the process itself, its management, the information gathered, the participation of the different stakeholders, and the final results and impact. The analysis followed an informal conversation between ILEIA and the IADO staff: Justin Ndomba, Richard Mwabulambo, Silvano Mwakinyali and Hudson Gabriel Levi.
According to the IADO team, the methodology used was clear, even to those who did not take part of the initial workshop in Same. It was easy to explain and to share it among them all; the terms used are not new to the staff (and also because the team members know each other very well, so it is easy to understand what they mean or want to say). They all found it was not a problem that it was presented in English, although they also used Swahili words when trying to present an idea or during the process in general. In general, they found the methodology “manageable”, and also easy to follow, and plan to use the same tables in a new process.
However, the analysis was a bit more difficult than the first stages – not because it was not clear what to do, but simply because it is difficult to do it. The great advantage was that the indicators were already defined (during the Same workshop), and that they knew the experience very well. The difficulties they had were reflected in the fact that the team did not challenge the indicators which were chosen during the workshop, but just accepted them. “We didn’t change them. We didn’t see it as our task to change anything, just to try to write an article.” At the same time, “it was the first time we were doing it. We took this as a learning process. We now feel we can change them in a next time, but first we had to get the skills…”. Using these indicators was the hardest part of the process, and the questions which ILEIA sent (as part of the editorial process, having received the final article) made them look at them again.
In general, “we had all the information necessary, the problem was to put it in the right place”. This was not easy: the team felt that they, as most members of NGOs, are not used to analyzing results. “We are good in answering specific questions from donors, but not more than that”. Still, they felt that including the analysis as part of the documentation process was good, and they took it as a challenge.
As for the time available for finishing the documentation process, they considered it was not enough. This is mostly so because the whole team is busy with other activities and commitments, while documenting “is a new skill” which requires special dedication. Nevertheless, the IADO team was the first of the three teams which participated in the Same workshop to finish the whole process. They were able to finish in time, though they would have preferred a longer process. In terms of human resources they had no major problem: as they all mentioned, they are used to working overtime, and to working together.
Even though IADO has been interested in documenting their experiences for a long time, the documentation process was not really planned, nor included as such into their workplans. After their participation in the Same workshop, most of what they did was carried out as a response to an e-mail from ILEIA or from VECO. This was because of many reasons. IADO is normally busy with many different projects, so it is difficult to assign sufficient time or to prioritise one of them in particular. They are also a small team. The last months were particularly hectic: they were busy preparing a new proposal to submit to their donors. Most important, perhaps, is that even though they all recognize the advantages of running a documentation process, it is difficult to give priority to a process which does not deliver immediate and clear benefits.
IADO clearly suffered from the lack of planning. There was, however, a certain distribution of roles and responsibilities among the members of the team: one of them went to the workshop, another was in charge of writing the final document down, etc. Although none of them felt uncomfortable with the tasks assigned, the team recognized that this needs to be better structured for future processes, and as such it needs to be included into the plans (especially if a future process is to involve other actors as well).
The documentation processes benefited from the linkages established with ILEIA, as well as from those already existing with VECO and PELUM Tanzania. This was reflected in the workshop and in the communication which followed. There was no contact, however, with the other organisations which were also involved in the experience itself, namely ARI (the Agricultural Research Institute in Uyole) or TACRI, the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute. There was also no attempt to involve farmers. Looking backwards, the IADO team felt it could have been very interesting to get their opinions and to share the results of the documentation process with them. The lack of contacts was basically because “we thought it was our task, that we had to do it ourselves”. They also acknowledge that meetings and exchanges with these organisations would have required more time, and better planning.
Looking at the information available to complete the documentation process, the IADO team felt they had enough, with no need to look further for additional data. As an on-farm trial, the organisation has accumulated sufficient information about the coffee cloning project and all its activities; this has all be filed and stored. Another advantage was that this project had the support of VECO, who regularly requested information, forcing the team to gather this information and submit it. Yet through the project, as during the documentation process, this referred basically to internal information, and not from the other organisations. It also referred to “hard data” and not to opinions or perceptions. This is one of the reasons why it was difficult to complete the analysis. As they mentioned earlier, looking back, the team should have put more effort in the collection of opinions, perceptions, etc. They should also have collected photographs.
In terms of the time required for going through files or for gathering additional information, a great advantage that IADO has is that its personnel has been involved in this project since it started. This has ensured continuity, and also that “most time I don’t need to go looking for information. It’s all in my head”.
All team members feel that the information they have, and which they have presented during the process, is valid. In general, this is a result of the way the organisation works: with weekly meetings where staff members exchange what they done or found, with field days, with constant talks with farmers, or with visits to other organisations. This is all seen as part of IADO’s “internal controls”. This is all mentioned as a regular activity during the implementation of a project, one of the reasons why the project was successfully implemented.
Once it was decided to document the coffee cloning experience, the team had no difficulty to come to an internal agreement, decide who was going to do what, and ensure the team members’ participation. Another advantage was that “the framework was already there”: the work carried out during the workshop in Same made it easier for them to continue. “It would have been much more difficult without that”. The major problem was that they limited this participation to themselves. Because of time constraints, or because they didn’t see it relevant at the moment, farmers and other stakeholders were not involved in the process.
As only the team was actively involved in the documentation process, it was not difficult to come to an agreement about the positive or negative aspects of the experience, or to decide what to include as part of the final document. The IADO staff is used to work as a team; they feel comfortable with one another, and they all reside in Isangati, so it is easy to share ideas and to discussions. Most important, “it was just the three of us, so it was not difficult to convene”.
Without a doubt , it would have been much better to include other stakeholders, but this did not take place. The main reason, as mentioned before, was that the documentation was seen as a new process, which required additional expertise which the team felt they did not posses yet. Involving other people during the process would have also required better planning, and perhaps more time and resources. “Now that we know how to do it, we see it as a new challenge. There is no reason for segregating or not involving other actors”.
In terms of results and impact of the documentation process, IADO feels that, above all, they have been able to understand the process better. They feel confident with the methodology, and thus eager to try to document other experiences. IADO likes to present itself as a “learning organisation”, and thus wants to motivate its people, and the people with whom they work, to learn from what they do. In that sense, the documentation methodology has helped.
There is still more to do in terms of institutional development. Staff members feel that, in spite of having worked together, what they’ve learned in terms of documentation has largely been as individuals, and not as a group. This is perhaps a result of the poor planning process, or perhaps due to the fact that activities were distributed between the team, but not really carried out by the organisation as one. A greater problem is that the other stakeholders, not having participated, have not really benefited from the documentation process.
Documenting the cloning experience also helped them understand it better. For example, “we see clear linkages in all the steps we went through: from the farm trials to the production and distribution of seedlings. It is easier to see our intervention as one”. It is also easier to draw clear conclusions now, like the importance of working together with TACRI, or the current need to satisfy the demand for seedlings, for which they need to develop a new strategy. After looking at their work in detail, they can define the organisational role which IADO fulfils in a better way. “As an NGO, we are supplementing the work of the government… IADO is a bridge”. The documentation process has also helped them to understand the magnitude of the problem, and also helped to find a way forward.
As mentioned, IADO expects to continue documenting its work. This is easier now that they’ve tried a documentation methodology and that feel confident with it. The documentation process has been incorporated into the annual budget, and also into the plans for 2007-2008. Their interest, however, is not just to repeat what they have already done, but to facilitate other stakeholders do their own documentation. They are particularly interested in helping the farmers they work with do their own documentation. This might need taking part of new workshops, or involving these farmers (and other actors) more actively in future documentation courses or workshops. They also intend to share their results with their donors and with other organisations. The main difficulty they foresee is the staff turnover, a common problem in NGOs. The only way to proceed, however, is to continue trying.
Please write to IADO,
P.O. Box 1687, Mbeya, Tanzania
+255 25 2503033