Tanzanian update: Edition 4

We’re almost into the wet season here. An amazing rainstorm last night, precursor to the next month.  Brings back memories of life in Abidjan.  The rains come every morning and evening, starting with a slow rumble in the distance.  At night, it’s about 6pm, just before sunset.  Clouds start darkening and the wind kicks up, then thunder starts grumbling. As the sun sets, it hits.  Full on booming thunder, sounds like bombs dropping, and then a deluge of rain.  It will rain like this for at least an hour, then stay steady for another 1 or 2.  Sometime in the night it stops, only to start up again before sunrise.  Right now it’s about once a week, but understand it will get to being daily by end of March…or so they say, but affirmed by my experiences in Cote d’Ivoire (about the same distance from the equator, there just north, here, just south).  Guess I didn’t pick the best time to be going to the beach, Zanzibar excursion planned for early April.  But days do brighten and get sunny, so hopefully will be the case. 

Made for a quiet week though as serious flooding in “the communities” meant dala-dalas were unable to get through.  So stuck in the office most days. Which turned out to be excruciatingly frustrating.  Internet cuts every 15min, if indeed able to get on.  Power cut for a day, laptop battery dead… soaking wet if you go outside (but I did anyway).  I’ve made a good dent into Tolstoy’s War & Peace, but really, is this what I came here for?  Sorry, in a bad mood. Boredom and frustration are a horrible combo.

Hmm, guess I’ll just write…  

So, the Bike Shop project was started by the Kazi na Sala (KnS) women’s group in 2014 with support of the TATU Project and Global Bike. Seven years later, the project is now self-sustainable and on the path to becoming completely independent. The shop has one manager and an assistant manager, Luice and Susanna (it’s never clear the spelling, but pronounced Luisa and Suzanna) both are full-time and paid employees… and, kick-ass ladies.  Fiveother women take turns working one day per week and are paid a stipend, all are trained mechanics. The shop is now profitable and the managers have developed enough skills to take over operational responsibilities.  A handover of TATU project management is planned for June 2022, with a final phase-out by 2028. It is one of several income-generating projects identified as needs in the community and then developed by TATU.

KnS was formed in 2013 as part of the TATU W.E. Thrive program and is now 60 members strong.  KnS is based in a small village called Msitu we Tembo, but now has members from the neighboring Londoto village.  A second group, called the Serengeti Group, was spontaneously formed late last year. They number 94. There isn’t per se a village as the members are Maasai, a nomadic group of people. But, although they live scattered across the savannah, they are strongly connected by culture and identity. 

The activities developed by KnS include the Bike Shop, a Wholesale Shop and a Money Lending initiative. The Serengeti Group makes and sells jewelry, they manufacture and sell “Kilipads” - reusable/washable menstrual pads, and are starting a business selling solar lamps.  

The goal of TATU is to handover all activities and phase out their support, making the women independent.  This includes not only ensuring they have skills to run a business, but have processes and mechanisms to maintain them.  It even means getting village governments involved.  So, the Bike Shop has gotten to that point, what I am (trying to) help with now.  But, although my initial role was to support the Bike Shop exit plan, I am now supporting all W.E. Thrive projects, mostly thru the capture and posting of activities for communication purposes. In addition, I’m hoping to write the stories of some of the women.  They are using the Bike Shop exit plan as a model for future project exits.  TATU also runs programs in healthcare/education and environmental response.  Each volunteer supports a project manager dependent on their skillset and/or interest.   So, thanks to some of you, I have done that, and although frustrated at the moment, have been able to see the power of what women can do when given the opportunity.  

Speaking of, some of you asked about my GoFundMe site.  I set up a campaign to help fund my trip and donate to TATU.  Thanks to several of you, I raised about $3,000 of which I used $1,200 towards my costs and gave the rest to them.  They used it to restock the Wholesale Shop and initial purchase of solar lamps for resale.  I have since closed my fund, but, if any of you would like to give to TATU, rest assured, 100% will go directly the Women’s Empowerment programs, most to actual needs of the groups (stock, food, water, etc.).  To donate go to https://www.tatuproject.org/donate/, please be sure to say it’s in my name so they know where to allocate it.

So, with little to do, did take a couple of excursions into town in, I’m getting a feel for it and able to navigate myself around. My preferred form of transportation is boda-boda (motorcycle taxi, about 75cents a ride), but often hike it home, 50 minute walk. Hit a club on Thursday night, one of two in town, asked for a Gin & Tonic, was handed a half-liter bottle.  Made a decent dent in it and danced the night away J!

Leopard restingThe, over the weekend went to the Makoa animal rescue farm.  Run by a lovely German and Hungarian couple who opened the farm to rescue wounded/abandoned wild and domestic animals.  At the moment they have quite a few injured birds, two large crane vultures (they are really ugly things), a couple of owls (often harmed by humans because seen as a sign of death… actually it’s because they can smell the rats that are attracted to dying things, including people.  Rats are a preferred owl meal).  About 7 elephants, a few taken from poachers, they others fell in a well and the family had to abandon them.  Although the eldest brother and sister are well enough to be released back into the wild, they are being kept with the younger ones in hopes of them becoming a family.  Elephants are very family oriented, in fact will die if left on their own. The plan seems to be working as big sis was acting very matriarchal, in fact storming at us when we got too close to “her” children!  Some very snooty ostriches and a 205 year old, HUGE tortoise. Several Zebras, a blue-ball monkey (yes, why they are named that) and a gorgeous cheetah.  All there as had been taken as babies and raised as pets, then abandoned.  Now, none will eat their natural diet, and in the case of the cheetah, never developed the muscle strength to run the 60mph they must to chase prey.  Handsome, his name, will now live in captivity all his life, impossible to assimilate into his native habitat, and no way to build a cage big enough to let him truly run.  So, he just paces around…rolling and purring like a kitten when people come near.

On a final note, I have determined that Magpies are the most annoying bird on the planet!!  A kind of crow, they are massive and tons of them here… their constant and incessant squawking is enough to drive any person mad.  They start up first thing in the morning and keep at it the ENTIRE day, finally stopping at nightfall (at least they’ve the decency to sleep J!).  

Next weekend Ngorongo Crater, this is gonna be AMAZING!!

Baa daie,


Read Tanzanian Update: Edition 3

TATU Project is a non-profit organization that facilitates equal and sustainable development for the rural community of Msitu Wa Tembo and Londoto in Northern Tanzania. We address community needs and build effective solutions through active collaboration with villagers in Msitu Wa Tembo and Londoto and relevant stakeholders. 
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