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Almost immediately after President John F. Kennedy established USAID by executive order under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, USAID began work in the newly independent Tanganyika. A new nation with enormous potential, Tanganyika partnered with USAID to build human capacity in the public service sector. To achieve this, education became a high priority. 

USAID helped to establish:

  • Morogoro Agricultural College (now Sokoine University of Agriculture)
  • The Institute of Public Administration
  • Teacher training colleges in both Iringa and Dar es Salaam   

In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar unified to create the country now known as Tanzania. While focusing primarily on education, USAID also invested in community development, conservation and infrastructure projects in order to transport food and water to rural areas.  Most notably, in 1966 on behalf of USAID, the Stanford Research Institute studied the potential of a Tanzania-Zambia Highway. Food assistance also began in this decade when, in 1962, Catholic Relief Services began administering the Food for Peace program (created under U.S. Public Law 480) as a response to food shortages. Food assistance continues today through a school feeding program.

The U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1973 sought to refocus aid in an effort to improve the lives of the poorest majority. For Tanzania, this was the rural farming population, roughly 90 percent of the population. USAID’s mission in Tanzania began to recognize the importance of programs specific to each site, region and even the country that addressed cultural, political and economic conditions in the field.  The USAID mission in Tanzania used this strategy to continue developing Tanzania’s institutional strength and to increase food production. 

The 1970s were marked by an increased focus on large-scale agricultural projects with the goal of increasing small farm outputs.  Programs included increasing credit available to farmers, bolstering the extension service within the Ministry of Agriculture, including seed multiplication and distribution. In 1973, the Tanzania-Zambia (TanZam) Highway was completed, linking Tanzania to international markets and increasing accessibility to its own southwestern region. The mission sought to strengthen rural health centers and train health care workers; family planning and maternal health programs also emerged during this decade. 

Building on successes from the previous decade, the 1980s began with USAID supporting policies that met Tanzania’s goal of decentralization. USAID fought to empower rural areas to govern themselves well in order to maximize agricultural advances of the time.   

Despite progress, a foreign exchange crisis was looming in Tanzania. In 1982, in response to non-repayment of loans, the United States invoked the Brooke Amendment of the Foreign Assistance Act. As a result, no new funds were allocated to the mission, resulting in a phase out plan over a four-year time period. Through negotiations and debt restructuring, the Brooke Amendment was lifted in 1987, breathing new life into the mission.

When USAID began to scale up again in the late 1980s, it was with a new focus. Transportation in rural areas remained a core objective; however, HIV/AIDS was beginning to surface as an important global issue. In 1983, the first AIDS case was diagnosed. By the late 1980s HIV rates were as high as 40 percent in certain sectors of the Tanzanian population. USAID supported the development of the National AIDS Control Program and began to distribute and promote the use of condoms. 

Tanzania’s Economic Recovery Program (1986) in conjunction with assistance programs finally gave way to growth in the agricultural sector. With the saturation of agricultural aid, the U.S. mission shifted its attention to employment and reproductive health. 

New objectives emerged for the first time in the mid-1990s: 

  • Previously, USAID engaged in limited conservation projects, but launched Participation in Environmental Resource Management to assist Tanzania’s Wildlife Division in creating plans to protect natural resources. 
  • In order to safeguard publically used resources at the village level, USAID partnered with the Peace Corps to install trained volunteers across the country. 
  • Democracy and governance also became a core objective for the first time and in 1995 USAID provided election observers to ensure fair voting practices. 
  • Additionally, the mission assisted in revenue collection and helped Tanzania recover lost income from tax evasion. 

In the 2000s, health initiatives characterized USAID’s biggest accomplishments in the new millennium:

In 2003, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was created, a program that funds 95 percent of USAID’s HIV/AIDS programming in Tanzania. As the largest HIV/AIDS donor in Tanzania, USAID’s program has become increasingly dynamic. While emphasizing treatment and prevention, the response has broadened to include a comprehensive strategy for counseling and testing, vulnerable populations, tuberculosis and male circumcision. 

Success is most striking in the area of malaria prevention. Another executive proposal, the President’s Malaria Initiative arrived in Tanzania in 2005. USAID worked with the National Malaria Control Program, the Zanzibar Malaria Control Program, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to distribute over three million mosquito nets and spray indoor residences. 

  • The result was a 28 percent decrease in child mortality in the last half of the 2000s. 
  • The malaria infection rate in Zanzibar is now less than 1 percent. 

As USAID moves ahead, Tanzania is a major focus for presidential initiatives including Feed the Future, the Global Health Initiative, and the Global Climate Change Initiative. It has also been selected to participate in the Partnership for Growth, a USAID effort aimed at accelerating and sustaining broad-based economic growth among countries with a proven track record in policy and development. 

Last updated: November 17, 2016

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