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Those who know Seed Change know that in the grand scheme of things, our trees play second fiddle. From planting, to nursing, to maintaining, to first harvest, our tenera palms take up an enormous amount of our attention in their first few years of life, but they really are just a means to an end. It’s our farmers who are ultimately our top priority. They’re what gets us out of bed in the morning, and helping to lift them out of poverty is the whole reason these leafy palms are here to begin with.

But poverty in Tanzania, and especially so in Kigoma, has an important quality that needs to be taken into account: it’s brutally intergenerational, and more likely to be inherited here than in most other places on the continent. But don’t take it from us. The World Bank’s 2015 Tanzania Mainland Poverty Assessment, which includes a thorough decomposition of drivers of inequality and poverty, found that the contribution of inherited factors to explaining poverty in Tanzania is roughly 30% higher than the average among other Sub-Saharan African countries. Inherited factors here are more consequential than even the characteristics of the community in which one grows up:

Family background seems to have a greater influence on the disparity of living standards than the characteristics of the local community, such as access to basic services and infrastructure, connection to markets and population centers, and so forth. This indicates significant problems of intergenerational poverty and inequality persistence. Addressing the influence of parental education and background on children’s opportunities is a long-term mission that is often complex. But without additional policy actions, there are limited chances for the generations disadvantaged by the circumstances to spring out of the poverty and inequality also endured by their parents.

Which is why Seed Change’s focus doesn’t stop at our farmers. To break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, we need to ensure that our programs also translate into better living standards for their kids during key developmental phases. And because poverty–in rural areas more than anywhere else–is multidimensional, we need to track those living standards in more comprehensive terms than just income. To gauge the extent to which our beneficiaries’ children are given the conditions to thrive, in aspects ranging from nutrition to health to education, we developed a composite index, called the Childhood Wellness Index (CWI).

The CWI score is on a scale of 0 to 100 and is determined by the following formula:

The CWI uses the eight components above to give a holistic look into the atmosphere created for children in the home, all while allowing a degree of separation of multidimensional poverty from income poverty. A child growing up in a household with a score of 100 is in school, as are all of her siblings. She is able to focus on learning and on enjoying childhood, as she eats three times a day, has a healthy micro- and macronutrient intake including protein from meat, fish, and a steady supply of eggs, and knows she’ll be just as well fed tomorrow. She and her siblings miss school due to illness less frequently than other classmates, since they are all vaccinated, sleep under mosquito nets, and use improved sanitation facilities.

Stay tuned for our 2020 Livelihood Report, coming out later this year, for a deep look into how children of Seed Change beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries in Kigoma are doing, and what’s changed for the little ones between 2017 and 2020. Spoiler: there’s a lot of work left to be done, but the kids are doing better than ever. Together with our trusty palms, dedicated staff, hardworking farmers, and the power of data, we’ll keep working to make sure the intergenerational cycle of poverty in Kigoma meets its end.

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