I can’t believe it is already the fourth week that we are in Tanzania. I hope everyone is having a great summer either working, studying (hi sophomore summer!), or relaxing! Last weekend, we kept ourselves quite busy.
Allow me to start from the beginning. On Saturday, we headed into Arusha town to do mzungu stuff. First thing in the morning, we met with Zainab or Mama Mpishi (the mama who cooks) to take a Tanzania cooking class. While she was going on with a list of the food we could make, we pretty much said that we wanted to cook everything. Zainab took us to a market near her home where we picked out ingredients for our meal, and the butcher’s shop to buy some meat. Then we went to her kitchen. She lives in a courtyard with four other families. A variety of activities including cooking, washing, playing, and socializing all happen in the small courtyard. The four of us proceeded to take out our notebooks and prepared to be good students.
The first item on the menu was chapati. It is a thin pan-fried pancake that is usually made on special occasions such as Christmas and Sundays. Basically, the main idea is that you make a dough with flour, water, oil, and salt, then layer more oil, and cook it on a frying pan. It reminds me of a very similar food my mom cooks. The steps are almost identical. It really amazes me that cooking is such a universal experience.
Last post, James talked about the meeting between us and EMORG. We were able to learn a lot more on Monday from visiting EMORG at Kisongo. Kisongo is a small village about 30 minutes from Arusha. A lot of children attending schools have no textbooks or a place to study after school. With a background in teaching, Didas started EMORG as a community library. Earlier this year, EMORG moved from a rented house to this new location that we visited. When we arrived, some teenagers were studying and discussing questions inside, while the carpenters worked on new tables and benches for the library.
We painted the wall two times in a white base paint, and once in another white paint. Afterwards, the building looked shiny with its new coat. While we were laboring away at painting the wall, we also got a sense of Didas’ dream for EMORG. There was a half-finished building behind the library which Didas wanted to build into a vocational center with computers. Then, he wants to open up his own school for about 20-30 children, implementing an activity based teaching methodology.
Tuesday was a busy day for us with two meetings lined up. In the morning, the V4Y group came over to learn about our briquetting operation. Like we planned, we conducted a short survey asking the potential producers what they knew about briquetting and what their incomes were. Some members of the group knew more about briquetting than other members, so the survey quickly became a discussion amongst the group for sharing answers. Next time, we need to conduct individual surveys and explain that explicitly. Then, we introduced our four steps to a briquetting operation: biomass collection and drying, running a kiln, processing the mixture, and pressing. We involved all the participants in hands on demonstrations. Everyone had charcoal on them by the end. They seemed to really enjoy doing it. For us, this was the first time our group was actively involved in capacity building. It felt wonderful to have a group so eager to learn! We will be meeting with them on Friday to see their space for their business and go from there.
In the afternoon, we visited Sossy in Moivaro village, on the outskirt of Arusha city. Sossy is the pastor of the local church which he helped built. We met with a group of women who got together and started a briquetting operation last year which DHE helped with last summer. We were intent on finding out how the operation went. The women told us that it did not go well because the briquettes did not burn well. They felt like they spent a lot of time making the briquettes, yet what they made was not good enough to cook a meal without supplementing with charcoal. Most people in Moivaro could not afford to cook with charcoal regularly. Nowadays, even the firewood is hard to come by. The villagers either have to send their children into the forbidden forest with snakes to collect firewood or wait for outsiders to come by and sell firewood to them. The women abandoned their briquetting operation after the first unsuccessful attempt. They wanted to know if DHE was bringing in new technologies this time. We explained our process of turning biomass into charcoal and making charcoal briquettes. Sossy and the women did not seem to get how our new technology differs from the original technology. Needless to say, they were not too convinced. So the plan is we are going to make a lot of briquettes and bring the briquettes to Moivaro for them to try. If they like the new charcoal briquettes (which I think they will), only then will we be talking about a new round of capacity building. Later, Sossy invited us to his house for coffee. We learned about his vision for the people of Moivaro. I feel really inspired and humbled by people like Sossy and Didas who devote their entire career on helping people around them.
Wednesday night, we welcomed the arrival of our new housemates from the Netherlands who will be staying with us for the next five weeks. Mero, Gerrianne, Tim, and Dennis study at University College Utrecht. They will be interning at EARD-CI as part of a course on development. Specifically, Gerrianne and Tim will work on microfinance of the VICOBAs; Mero and Dennis will work on cultural tourism. They told us about their adventures travelling on a safari truck in the last four weeks in Tanzania and Kenya. I think we will have a lot of fun living together. Between all this work, we have been running our kiln, making modifications on it, and pressing a lot of briquettes. We are going to turn into a briquette factory if we want to live up to the expectations of Sossy.
Until next time, bye!