TASAF, did you say? Well, for Gawd’s sake

The other day, I read a most inspiring article in a local ki-Swahili Daily that sounded too good to be true...

Reported by one Beatrice Bandawe in the Nipashe of December 11, 2021, the article’s mouthful title was “MNUFAIKA TASAF: Kutoka kulima vibarua hadi mageuzi ya kumiliki mifugo. Ashauri wanaofanyia anasa fedha za TASAF…”

The author – or is it ‘authoress,’ to be politically correct? – narrates the story of 74-year old Alice Abakuki Mtunga of Msaranga Ward in the New Moshi Urban District on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest stand-alone mountain.

For starters, circumstances forced Bibi Mtunga to adopt her grandson, Clinton Gabriel, who was abandoned by his natural parents at two months young.

Today, Clinton Gabriel is 20 years old, brought up by his Bibi who struggled to make a living (of sorts) for the two of them by tilling subsistence farms for paltry earnings.

Then TASAF descended upon the scene and smartly stepped in the breach, classifying Bibi Mtunga and her grandson as deserving of its cash… What with one thing leading to another, TASAF started giving bi-monthly handouts to Bibi Mtunga: Sh20,000.

TASAF (Tanzania Social Action Fund) was formed by the government in year-2000, to enable poor households increase their incomes and opportunities, while improving their consumption.

TASAF’s avowed mission is to “build the capacities of key stakeholders involved in poverty reduction initiatives, with emphasis on community-driven development, accountability, transparency and full participation in social and economic development aspects”.

With a view “to empowering poor households to graduate (?) out of poverty – and have sustainable socioeconomic development” – TASAF is based on the same principles and ideals as the Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF), from whose book Tanzania took a leaf in 1998….

Pardon for this digression … But, suffice it here to say that Bibi Mtunga used the TASAF handouts to establish a ducks-breeding project in her backyard, starting with three birds! Today, that number has risen to 30 ducks.

She also now breeds a few pigs and goats – and has taken up maize-farming, producing 10x100-kilo bags of the crop every harvesting season.

The TASAF-funded mini-projects enabled Bibi Mtunga to finance her grandson’s vocational training, and he is now earning pay.

[Another TASAF beneficiary in Msaranga, Bibi Jolenice Bahati Ngowi (70), has a more-or-less similar experience, as she struggles to bring up several grandchildren…]

Asked for comments, Bibi Mtunga expressed deep gratitude to the government for the TASAF programme that has transformed her life.

She also deplored TASAF beneficiaries who spend the cash on boozing and other misguided spree-spending, instead of investing it in mini-projects for sustainable returns.

Only a small percentage of TASAF-funded Tanzanians wisely spend the handouts the way Bibi Mtunga is doing.

After reading the Mtunga narration, I have vainly been trying to collate TASAF data.

These include – but are not limited to – the amount that TASAF has disbursed since it was established, and how many people/families/households have directly benefited from the programme.

Also, I’m told much of the TASAF funds are filched and otherwise embezzled not only by scammers, but also by some TASAF workers of dubious probity.

On the other hand, many of the intended beneficiaries never really benefit from the money.

More education is also needed here, I think. Tears…