You know how the saying goes “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” Well in Tanzania if you teach a man to fish not only will he master it, but he will also find new and innovative ways of improving his craft. We’d love to share with you some of the unique ideas coming from some innovative people that we’ve had the chance to work with over the past two months.
Let’s start with something that is near and dear to both Cheyenne and Angie’s hearts, wildlife preservation. Over the years, human-wildlife conflict has drastically decreased wildlife population in Africa, especially in the Rungwe region. Farming lands has resulted in encroachment on wildlife habitats which increased human-wildlife conflict. For example more monkeys steal farmers’ crops. While visiting Mbeya we met Sylvanos Kimiti, who informed us that the Wildlife Conservation Society of Southern Tanzania has been working to resolve monkey-human conflict in a very innovative way: chili dung. That’s right, by mixing chili peppers and cow dung, and then smearing it over their crops monkeys are deterred from eating farmer crops. Less crop loss means a happy farmer and a safer monkey.
Yellow baboons, like this one, are just one of the many species of monkeys who can live to close to farmlands and steal farmers’ crops. Along with the chili-dung method farmers can also plant garlic or avocados. Both of these are alternative crops that monkeys don’t like to eat.
Sticking to the topic of crops, we have had the privilege of ‘training the trainers’ about the “Millenials” favorite food, the glorious avocado, locally known as the parachichi. Avocados take 3 years to mature from seedling into a fruit bearing tree. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that young tree gets appropriate care, including weeding at least 2x a month. To help reduce weed overgrowth, Tanzanian farmers have also discovered that they can plant short season crops such as beans in between their trees. This helps reduce the need to weed and acts as an excellent source of food.
Angie teaching at Iponjola village and discussing the benefit of plant beans (maharage) in between lines of avocado trees to prevent weed overgrowth as well as provide extra nutrient to soil. As you can see Cheyenne and Angie added their own flair to the avocado lesson with hand drawn visuals to keep the farmers engaged.
Next on our list is the most innovative of them all: the chicken farmer. Aside from disease prevention, management, and nutrition, we also teach farmers about proper housing for their chickens. We are always amazed at how creative they get with the materials they have available. When visiting Mpunga village we were amazed to see a chick brooder complete with lights to keep the chicks warm. Frequent power outages can be a big problem in rural Tanzania but don’t worry this farmer has it covered, he also has a backup clay pot that can be filled with charcoal to provide extra heat. The difference this makes? Zero chick mortality from this flock.
No cold chicks here. The chairman for the most vulnerable children committee has been attending all of Africa Bridge’s training sessions and used this information to go above and beyond in his brooder, complete with heat emitting lights as well as a backup heat source (the charcoal filled clay pot in the corner).
We also cannot help but notice innovation even during our days off. Whilst in Iringa for a Safari we had the privilege of getting to know the staff and story of Neema Crafts. Neema is a local organization working to change the way society views those with disabilities. Employing over 100 workers, all with disabilities, Neema had an especially innovative start in 2003 when they started making elephant dung paper. That’s right, by drying, dying and flattening elephant dung Neema has made beautiful paper that can be used for everything from post cards to journal covers.
Here we see Raheri, who is working on making boxes which will later be covered in the dung paper. The different sheets of paper can be seen behind her to the right. The sheets can be dyed different colours and used for a variety of products.
One of the beautiful elephants Angie and Cheyenne got to see on their Safari to Ruaha. All of Neema’s elephant dung is sourced from Ruaha national park. It is collected by volunteers, dried and then brought into the workshop.
Since coming to Tanzania we have spent a lot of time training farmers in livestock and crop management. However, as much as we have been acting as teachers, we have also learned a lot. We hope that through sharing these stories you also see that when faced with a challenge, Tanzanians will change it into an opportunity.