Community Planning: Making Planning Work

Casestudy 20Mozambique
Improving municipal governance in Dondo

  • description
  • further information

This case shows that for decentralization to succeed there is often a need for new institutional structures at the community level to promote dialogue between government and civil society.

© Dondo Programme Team

In 1998, the first municipal elections were held in Mozambique based on a new legal framework for decentralization. Dondo, in Sofala province, was one of 33 municipalities that chose their city council and its president. Despite the government’s intention to involve citizens in municipal development, the institutional framework and mechanisms for community participation and involvement in local development did not exist.

Already in 1996, NGOs in Dondo had expressed the need for an awareness raising and capacity building processes for civil society, since citizens lacked an understanding of their role in urban governance and development. The demand was integrated into the design of a project on civil society participation in municipal governance, for which funding was successfully negotiated with the Austrian Cooperation agency. The project was a pioneer initiative in the country at the time and took place in a legal and political context in which community participation in decision making had not yet been institutionalized and was only accepted reluctantly. It had the purpose of making municipal governance sustainable through actively involving local communities and their stakeholders in the planning and implementation of development measures. This could not have been achieved without the persistent work of the centro deserviço in the region, which was crucial to building people’s capacity to mobilize and participate in the eight bairros (townships) of Dondo.

The first phase of the project began with a training programme for resident activists and a civic education campaign in Dondo’s bairros. About a third of all households were visited and told about the role of citizens in local government. Information on the problems that affected them as well as data on local infrastructure was gathered, then incorporated into the bairros’ profiles and presented at community meetings. It was during these meetings that participants in each bairro elected their representatives and marked the beginning of the township development committees (núcleos de desenvolvimento de bairro – NDBs).

The next step was for each bairro to elaborate a short-, medium- and long-term development plan based on the needs acknowledged in the survey and have it approved by the residents. An important skill transmitted during their elaboration was the capacity to think strategically and to prioritize. Bairro profiles and development plans were presented to the city council, which, at a three-day planning workshop in July 1999, agreed to incorporate the community plans into the municipal development plan.

In the second half of 1999, the development committees started tackling the implementation of different social infrastructure projects based on those plans. In each bairro, there was one project based on the use of local resources and one tapping onto external donor funding but with contributions from the community. This required activists and members of the development committees to mobilize and build motivation among bairro residents. A cycle of three education campaigns (on improving the urban environment, girls’ education and public health) was carried out during 2000 with active community involvement. A third phase of the project started, when the council took ownership of the participatory planning process and invited the development committees and other stakeholders to set up a Municipal Development Committee that was to take an active part in the budgeting of activities for the following years.

The pioneer experience of Dondo’s bairro development committees over the years had a positive impact on the development of local governance on a national scale, as citizen representation (at least consultative) has become mandatory in 120 districts and beyond the 33 municipalities in which the first city councils were elected. The creation and consolidation of a new institutional structure on a community level (similar to the NDBs on Dondo) and the promotion of dialogue between government and civil society brought about positive changes in the government’s attitude towards community-based initiatives. Citizens’ representatives are now included in a consultative process, the use and allocation of technical resources at the local level have become more respectful of communities’ needs and priorities, and the overall coordination between the government and civil society has significantly improved. Through capacity-building activities, citizens’ representatives are increasingly assuming their role to guarantee transparency in the allocation and use of resources at the local level.

People’s attitudes have also changed, as they have learnt how to mobilize their potential and gained confidence, a better sense of ownership and an increased willingness to engage in improving their living environment – which was a crucial motor for the whole initiative. As a result, the quality of life and public health situation in Dondo have improved in a sustainable way.

The regional broadcasting programme of Radio Mozambique in Beira and the local community radios were also important. By spreading information and interacting with the population in their first language, they contributed much to improving participation and transparency in Dondo’s municipal governance.

A key to the success of the initiative thus lies in linking the creation and training of civil society institutions while implementing concrete projects to improve living conditions in the bairros. One danger in Mozambique, however, the distinction made between capacity building for civil society and capacity building for governmental institutions, as it is more promising to coordinate them in a complementary process (such as in Case Study 7 on South African Integrated Development Plans). The future and sustainability of the municipal governance system in Mozambique will depend on efforts to persevere and continuously adapt and improve capacity building on both levels.

Go back to case studies listing

Furhter information

Roque, C. and Tengler, H. (2000) Dondo no Dhondo, Desenvolvimento Municipal Participativo, Beira.

Pampalk, J. (2003) Nzerumbawiri. Proverbios Sena: Dinamizar o Densenvolvimento Comunitário Valorizando a Literatura Oral, Maputo

The experience of Dondo in civil society participation in municipal governance is listed among the UN-Habitat’s best practices in urban governance and presented on the Best Practices website at:


Hemma Tengler (the Dondo programme team)
Josef Pampalk (the Dondo programme team)

Members of the Dondo programme team:
c/o. Projecto DEC/CDS
Rua Major Serpa Pinto Nº2000, 2ºandar
C.P. 69, Beira, Mozambique

Hemma Tengler
Tel: +258-82-6015670

Carlos Roque
Tel: +258-82-4072590

Josef Pampalk
Tel: +43-650-937 0427
Local Government and Civil Society actors involved in the Dondo initiative :

Manuel Cambezo
Presidente do Conselho Municipal do Dondo
Tel: +258-23-950409

José Louis Tesoura
Núcleo de Desenvolvimento da Cidade de Dondo and Núcleos de Desenvolvimento dos Bairros (representatives of the local communities)
Rua 25 de Setembro
Dondo, Mozambique.
Tel/Fax: +258-82-8001890<

Paula Cristina de Oliveira Tavares Morreira
FUMASO (local NGO partner in the implementation of community development projects)
Centro Comunitário no Bairro Macharote
Dondo, Mozambique
Tel: +258-82-5650640

Gimo de Carmo Lourenço
ASVIMO (local NGO partner in the implementation of community development projects)
Centro de Viúvas e Orfaos no Bairro de Mafarinha
Dondo, Mozambique
Tel: +258-82-5502800

Go back to case studies listing

This special feature sponsored by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)


Last updated on:15 April 2009