Back in September 2011 the Indigo Trust made a grant of £10,000 to ActionAid to support a project they were undertaking to map instances of rural land-grabbing in Tanzania.
The project was one of two halves. The first part required the creation of an online platform that would allow both the reporting and visualisation of land-grabbing. Equally important however would be the follow-up work done after the reporting – the verification of the claim and then the fight to have it recognised using the media and courts. For this project to work, people needed to be aware of the tool and of its potential to bring about effective change.
ActionAid have recently reported back to us about the challenges and successes they had whilst carrying out this project and we thought we would share with you all how they got on. We ask all our grantees to report back to us at the end of a project in an honest and frank manner – it is vital for us as grant-makers to give our money ever-more wisely and we sincerely hope that the reporting process helps both sides to learn and grow.
ActionAid have put together an excellent Ushahidi page to record land-grabbing. The graphics work well, case description is thorough and the reporting channels are simple and easy to find. The page has also been relatively popular. It has attracted significant international attention with 278 unique viewers in ten months from countries as varied as the USA, Germany, Uganda, Britain, South Africa and more. This international attention is great; land-grabbing is a vicious practice that can result in significant harm to families in many countries across the world.
With the technology in place, looking great and working smoothly ActionAid had hoped that raising awareness and encouraging local people to use the system would be relatively easy but this has not been so. In the ten months of operation, just 18 unique users from Tanzania have visited the site and only two instances of land-grabbing have been recorded. Now, if these two claims are legitimate and the communities concerned receive the help and media attention they need to secure their land this project will have had a really meaningful success. Being able to stay on your land is a big part of controlling your own destiny. Indigo and ActionAid will have managed to do this for the small sum of £5,000 a family. This might not be a particularly sustainable outcome but it is still a worthy one that we should welcome.
We must consider why the project failed to attract more reporting. All the statistics and reports show that land-grabbing is a real problem in some parts of Tanzania so we don’t think it is wise to assume it simply isn’t as a big a problem as we thought. It could be argued that the technological vehicle chosen for reporting was not appropriate but the platform allows reporting by SMS, Android, iPhone and email. Mobile phone penetration is high in Tanzania and we are confident that the Ushahidi platform is suited to the job at hand.
Raising public awareness of the platform is probably one of the key reasons behind its limited success. It comes down to simple advertising. Neither the Indigo Trust nor ActionAid had given this enough thought or resources. Tanzanians may have needed a lot more convincing that the platform could make a difference after having experiencing years of land-grabbing going unpunished. It is our hope that with these first two cases in the pipeline a steady stream of positive publicity can be generated and perhaps over time this fantastic tool will live up to its potential.