Guest blog post by Andrew Benn
After more than a year supporting Seed Change from the comfort of Perth, I was lucky enough to spend December in Kigoma getting my hands dirty. I managed to squeeze in a day of looking at lions in the Serengeti before jumping on the bus to Kigoma in the far west of the country. I made a few friends and also got a look at the state of the main road out to the Western part of the country; this is a huge bottleneck holding back economic development out west and making reliable transport of construction materials quite a drama.
I arrived in sunny Kigoma just in time to help out with the second round of the farmer training program. Seed Change’s first lot of palm seedlings will be distributed to 80 farming families spread across 4 villages in the Kigoma hinterland (see a map here). Getting out to the villages gave me a chance to see the basic conditions that so many people struggle with day to day; no electricity or running water and the only transport being the odd bicycle. Each day we set out to a different village and gathered together the Seed Change program famers. The farmer training days involved a lecture from a Kigoma agricultural expert Mr. Said Ruba (and Seed Change’s Seed Nursery Manager) and a bit of hands on training. The farmers got involved in how to efficiently space their palm seedlings and how to correctly dig and prepare holes for their impending seedlings. The farmer training days were a great time to connect with the people who are going to be the primary benefits of the Seed Change program. There were plenty of curious onlookers that probably didn’t have much of an idea what was going on, but soon they will see the first batch of year old palm saplings rolling into their neighbourhoods.
Once the farmer training was completed, focus turned to preparations for the 2015 seedlings, and the much expanded infrastructure that would be required. With the generous donations received we have been able to fund the planting of 30,000 seeds for our second year. This will mean four times more farmers will be brought on board the program during 2015. A new shed to store tools and consumables like fertiliser and a new seedling shade house required constructing. Preparing for construction certainly wasn’t as easy as driving to the local hardware warehouse and picking up every imaginable piece of kit. Around the main town of Kigoma there various building supplies one needs for even minor construction are scattered and scarce. After a few days scrounging up requisite supplies we headed out to the nursery to get to work in the equatorial heat.
The shed went up quickly despite some rain delays and work progressed nicely on the new shade house before I unfortunately had to leave and head back to Australia. Three hard weeks in Tanzania certainly made me appreciate the difficulty of getting things done in Kigoma. After meeting the farmers we will be helping change the lives of I am convinced the Seed Change program is an absolute winner, get on board and donate! Or better yet, change your next holiday plans and get over to Kigoma to help out!