Competition as a Tool For Community Development

Tanzania has been the source of a number of our best program innovations. It was where we first began using Village Savings and Loan Associations in 2006. We now incorporate them into all of our programs. More recently it has been the place where our local director, Richard Mhina has been experimenting with friendly competition as an incentive for community change and transformation.

In many parts of the world small subsidies are used to incentivize development projects. If you want trees to be planted, it helps to pay people a small fee. If you want them to come to your training or your conference, it helps to pay a small stipend. (This practice is so rampant in parts of sub-Saharan Africa that I have heard of people who make their living going from one development conference to another.) We have tried very hard to not pay people to plant trees. Instead we work to create a culture in which tree planting makes sense for its own sake as a part of an agroforestry system that brings an economic return to the farmer.

In 2013, though, Richard had the idea to try something radically different. At the time we were working with 140 savings group. Richard wondered what would happen if you staged a friendly competition between the groups to see who could plant the most trees and excel in other areas of the development work.

That year our program went from planting 400,000 trees to planting 1.4 million. In January we held a celebration, attended by thousands of people, in which the winning group won a trophy and got their picture in the local newspaper. This has gone on to be an annual part of the program attended by local dignitaries.

Yesterday we held the 2016 celebration, and Richard reports that more than 5000 people were in attendance.

This photo, one of my favorites shows the groups parading into the celebration that first year.

Competition

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