Village Governance

The majority of Tanzania’s population lives in villages in rural areas. Every registered village has a legally recognized Village Council with its chief responsibilities to supervise and maintain peace and tranquility, to protect public and private properties in its area of jurisdiction and to promote social and economic development. The village government is democratically elected and is the lowest level of governance in Tanzania. This level forms the a key interface between service delivery and service receipt. Therefore, village councils play an indispensable role in a decentralised governance structure. Concurrently, while responsibilities and powers are devolved to village governments, this development also provides them increasing autonomy and the opportunity to develop into democratic institutions, managing their own affairs. Thus, village governments may plan for their own development, enact and enforce their own bylaws and manage village lands. SULGO has supported some of these processes by providing various forms of assistance, for example participatory planning (O&OD), village office construction, the Public Resources Tracking System (PETS), Access to Information, and the formation of Ward Tribunals in selected wards and villages. Furthermore, SULGO has supported the publication of VEO Reference Books and Bylaws Manuals for villages that are in use in manyvillages throughout the country.

The success of development support depends on the readiness of communities to cooperate. Any effort to involve or seek cooperation with villagers cannot be expected to bear fruit overnight. It requires time and a lot of patience from administrators and facilitators. Some of the main challenges are: non-attendance of villagers at the quarterly Village Assembly Meetings, low capacities of local elected leaders, and local party politics that confuse the villagers. Often, village governments are still seen as an extension of the District Council. In many villages citizens are also dissatisfied with their elected leaders, and they show it by not attending Village Assembly meetings and not participating in joint village development efforts. However, deliberate and concerted efforts to stimulate and persuade villagers to join mainstream development, such as the use of the O&OD process, Public Resources Tracking, training of VEOs and WEOs in their roles and responsibilities, etc., have resulted in success stories, such as improved relationships between LGAs and LLGAs, increased administrative capacities of village governments, more transparency, increased sense of ownership, an invigorated and dynamic O&OD process and increased civic participation in making decisions and demanding accountability.

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