Peter Goodspeed recently shared a powerful article “Nearly 500,000 children waiting for Tanzania’s only surgeon” on the National Post. He tells the story of Dr. Godfrey blazing the trail to provide much needed heart surgeries to children in Tanzania. It’s a touching story about the overwhelming need for healthcare and the increased difficulty to access hospitals in rural communities. It’s a very desperate situation, yet after reading the article, I also felt inspired and grateful that Dr. Godfrey is making giant leaps to save children’s lives in Tanzania. We wanted to share this truley inspirational story with you. Read the full article here.
Happy International Labour Day everyone! As Tanzanians celebrate this special day, we would like to acknowledge the men, women and children that work tirelessly on farms, in shops, in clinics, or within their homes in rural communities everyday. Thank you, it is your endless determination and strength that is helping rural communities thrive.
Sometimes I try to imagine what it’s like to live in one of the villages we work in. It’s a far-away world, so I’m trying to bring it closer by sharing information on current Africa Bridge projects. Take our Avocado Cooperatives. Some serious work is underway in all five of the new villages Africa Bridge is assisting, and it’s exciting to think that our Tanzanian friends are planting trees and thinking about the future that these green stone fruits will help them build.
Some background: as of this writing, all five Mpombo villages have established avocado cooperatives. Every farmer in each co-op received their share of 100 seedlings—high-quality fruit stock that will be able to withstand variable weather conditions while still making lots of avocados. These little guys will take about three years to mature. In the meantime, Africa Bridge (AB) is establishing a partnership with Rungwe Avocado Company (RAC), a medium sized locally-owned corporation, which provided those seedlings, and will offer training for the farmers in planting, irrigation, weed control, pruning and other aspects of agronomy. The cooperatives also receive support in the form of a small capital grant—in other words, money—so they can buy good compost and then pay people (local labor!) to dig and plant all those trees.
About 80% of the avocados exported by this company will be grown by small-scale farmers, including Africa Bridge co-op members. The trees are harvested twice yearly, with a small harvest in November and the main harvest in March or April.
–At age three, a tree will produce about 100 kilos of avocado fruit per tree.
–At age ten, a tree will produce 400 kilos/tree
–The maximum harvest, when the tree is at full maturity, is about 500 kilos a year.
–Trees can produce for about 80 years. If yields begin to slow on a tree, it is pruned back, which allows it to continue to be highly productive.
Meet Eliud. He is twelve years old and lives in Ijoka village in Mpombo ward. He also happens to be Ijoka’s child representative, so you see his smiling face on the home page of our website. He’s in standard five at Lusanje Primary School. When he was ten, Eliud’s parents died from what was most likely malaria. Now, Eliud and his four older brothers live with their grandmother on a small farm in their rural village.
An early riser, Eliud gets up at 6:30 in the morning and walks about an hour to school over in Lusanje, which is another village in Mpombo. He likes math, he says, and wants to be a teacher. A mischievous comedian, he also likes making everyone laugh. A visitor to Ijoka told us that he’s pretty unforgettable—running around, making jokes, always the center of attention. Any time he finds a spare minute, he’s out playing football (the kind we call soccer) with his friends. For him, time at home consists of milking his family’s cows, helping clean and working their small plot of land. Eliud eats his one full meal a day at dinner time. Mostly this is ugali and vegetables. Meat is not a part of his regular diet, as usually his family can only afford it once a year for Christmas. At night, Eliud sleeps on a mat on the ground next to his brothers.
In Eliud’s village, an avocado cooperative is being formed. Eventually, it’ll make money for the village, a boost to the local economy that will help everyone. Eliud shared his idea of a better life in his village with us, and because he’s a kid, his requests are clear and frank. “I wish to see a hospital, maize milling machine, cows, chickens, pigs, pipe water and iron sheet houses,” he said. “In my school, I want to see good classrooms, good teacher’s toilets and desks for pupils.” Eliud and his brothers like school a lot. And see, in the picture– that lovely uniform he’s wearing? That was from an Africa Bridge scholarship.
Welcome, welcome! We wish we could bring you to Tanzania, but for now, this will have to do. We are Africa Bridge. This is our blog. Africa Bridge came to life because, in the rural villages of Tanzania where local economies are slow, there aren’t enough parents and caretakers to look after all of the children, and opportunities are few. Africa Bridge exists to make it better. Kids want to go to school, but they can’t. Their parents die of HIV, or are disabled by other serious illnesses. 88% of the Tanzanian population lives in abject poverty. Those that can work don’t have the resources to start businesses.
This is the cycle of rural poverty, and it’s been this way for awhile—years, decades, generations. There’s not much we can do to fix the past. The future, though, is more within reach. We can give our money, our support and our resources to change the future, one kid, plant, cow, school and cooperative at a time.
In this blog, we want to acknowledge the reality of life in southwest Tanzania. The rural villages there are cool places with vibrant cultures, full stop. However, they’re also really poor. People need help. One ward at a time. (Note: wards are like counties—we’ll mention them a lot here, especially Mpombo, the newest ward we’re working in.) Africa Bridge helps by entering for five years, developing and scaffolding a future for children and grownups alike. Our work is focused on supporting the formation of groups that care for Most Vulnerable Children, and seeding the development of agricultural cooperatives, which pay for the essential services that these Most Vulnerable Children’s Committees provide.
Early on, we award scholarships that allow hundreds of children to go to school. Throughout the five years, our Tanzanian field staff members are in the villages, holding trainings, supporting people as they choose livestock, and helping construction projects become realities. We leave at the end of our time there, because the villages don’t need us anymore. We can then focus our resources to aid the next community.
Let us bring you into the conversation as we work with these incredible people. We hope to connect, inform, thank and inspire you! Visit us here, and learn about Tanzania, its people, its wildness and beauty. Make a comment, ask a question, send us a link. Africa Bridge wants to hear from you!