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Sustainable Farming in Tanzania: A Look Ahead

February 23, 2015

What will our students and teachers in Tanzania be working on in their second week in Africa? Mrs. Williams shares more details.

From Mrs. Williams:
"I have just left a meeting on the Lake Natron project and all I can say is wow!  When I first spoke to Nord Anglia Education back in August about lengthening the duration of BISB’s expedition, primarily looking at service with clear sustainable goals, and then started exploring options through the fall, I never dreamt we would be involved in such a profound and cutting edge development.  
The Lake Natron area is true Maasai territory, stretching across the Kenyan border. Historically  pastoralists, the Maasai are slowly moving towards more fixed bomas (homesteads) with lengthy ‘away trips’ with their cattle.  In the Natron area this switch seems to be triggered by improved water supply and the desire for education.
The ultimate aim of the project is to provide a range of sustainable farming practices and permaculture techniques as exemplars for the local community.  Through this teaching resource, it is hoped that families will then adopt the practices that suit their particular needs.  
The school children receive one meal a day (often their only meal) which it is purely maize and is provided by central government.  Not only is the meal nutritionally poor, the stock quickly runs out and does not last the school year.  The Maasai mums are pushing for better nutrition, primarily through increased fruit and vegetables.  The arid, dusty soil makes this near impossible without some intervention.  
The Destiny Foundation / SimGas / BISB project will start a small community allotment attached to the school which will provide fully nutritional variety by growing tomatoes, fruit trees, beans, etc.  The plot is fairly experimental as nothing of this sort has been done in this area.  It is likely that different crops will be tried to find those that suit the locale best.  The SimGas biogas container will turn cow poo into fertilizer to help the allotment and a small amount of cooking gas for the school lunch.
Rather than just being extra helpers, which is what I had imagined would be our main contribution, the team here have some great ideas about how to actually use our students’ skills well and give them a true educational experience.  Our five students will be paired with five local students.  The local students have already effectively created an EcoClub at school and are looking to get involved with the project long term.  As well as working alongside the host students on the allotment project, our students are also likely to spend a morning in their partner students’ boma …  including collecting cow poo!
It is hoped that our students can also share good scientific methodology with the host students and hence ensure good ongoing controlled experiments. Looking ahead the local students will contribute to the ongoing care of the allotment and will undertake their own investigations on what works best in the particular conditions. An allotment manager is already in place and will oversee the project through at least the first year.  
I have been incredibly impressed with the prep work done here … soil samples off to Nairobi for checks, working with the village executive (including bringing the village elder to Arusha to see a successful biogas unit), lots of site visits and dialogue and genuine involvement of the school and villagers.
Our fundraising has effectively covered the hardware elements of the project and contributed to the wages of the allotment manager.  Local experts, such as Molly the permaculture expert, are donating their time for free and have had a long term involvement in the project development.  
As you can see we have an extraordinary experience ahead of us in an amazning and challenging part of the world.  We can’t wait!"