We mostly try and to keep this blog light and (hopefully) interesting. While life in Tanzania, and our work, is almost always interesting, it is often not light. In fact, it is often awfully depressing. And for those of us who were lucky to be brought up in the west, and hence largely insulated from a lot wrong in the world, frequently emotionally draining.
Last month contained one such example. Seed Change had been lucky enough to come across Helene, a talented recent media studies graduate, at a bit of a lose end in Kigoma (that happens more than you would think). She made a few videos about Seed Change and our farmers. You may have seen a few popping up over the last few weeks on Facebook (for those of you without Facebook, you can check them all out here.
Helene made two short videos about Jucelyn a farmer in Kamara village. In the first, Jucelyn was buying her trees at our nursery. In the second, we were delivering them to her house. Helene made a couple of these double act videos. They are really good (I would say that of course) and show what our trees mean to farmers and their hopes for their future. The videos of Jucelyn are posted at the bottom of this post. As the-opposite-of-luck would have it (the world needs a word for that. It’s more than unlucky or bad luck; maybe as beingbornintanzaniaratherthanaustralia would have it), a few days before we were going to post her videos, Jucelyn died. There had been a storm, the stream she needed to cross to go to her farm where her new trees were planted was swollen, she was washed away crossing it and drowned.
It wasn’t even a big storm with a lot of rain. I would say it was a once-in-a-week type event in the rainy season. Jucelyn would have crossed that stream in that swollen condition dozens if not hundreds of times in the last few years. This time she just got beingbornintanzaniaratherthanaustralia.
I’ve been here four years. I am just so sick of people I know dying. Be it Leonard, a young man I used to employ who, a few years back, was diagnosed with “malaria” on a Wednesday, took some medication and reported feeling a bit better on the Friday, and whose body I drove to the morgue on the Saturday. Or Majaliwa’s (our Nursery Assistant Manager) 6-year-old daughter who died 18 months ago. Or the one-month premature baby who died last week because as her mother was giving birth, the power in the hospital went out and the backup generator wasn’t working.
Surely all of those deaths should have been avoided. And they would have been if either the person had more money (and so didn’t need to cross rivers to get to her subsistence farm) or the country had more money (so a bridge could be put in or the power grid worked better). I’ve never been in a hospital when the power went out and I’ve never forded a stream for any other reason than pure recreation and certainly never to get to work.
Of course it’s slightly tangential but Jucelyn’s story is why we run Seed Change. She didn’t need to die. She shouldn’t have died. We don’t run Seed Change expressly to “save a farmer’s life” but poor people everywhere, and especially rural Tanzania, lead fragile, vulnerable lives. Hopefully the income from Jucelyn’s trees will mean less precarious lives for her children and their children.