After many hours stuck in the air-conditioned bellies of large jets, struck by the heat and colour of Dar Es Salaam’s outskirts, I landed in Tanzania. After a day’s worth of much-needed recovery, a long bus ride finally brought me here in Moshi, where I’ll be working with TATU Project for the coming months! I arrived a couple of days before the long Easter weekend and the timing could not have been better for a quick induction to life in Africa at the edge of the Great Rift Valley, on the shores of lake Manyara. I quickly learned to appreciate the many wonders of the cramped ‘dala dala’, gazing as green forests slowly morphed into plains dotted by Acacia trees.
On Easter Monday morning, we left the pictures floodplains as dawn bathed the slopes of the Gregory Rift with hazy sunlight. Back in Moshi, the following week I was introduced to the village of Msitu Wa Tembo and the women of Kazi Na Sala! To the South of Moshi, shortly after having crossed the Pangani river past the vast sugar-cane plantation, lies Msitu Wa Tembo; a rural village dependent on the adjacent plantation for any income beyond what the sale of one’s harvest can yield. I soon met the members of Kazi Na Sala, women that had taken it up to themselves to strive for more, despite everything. Here at TATU Project, I will be working with Kazi Na Sala with the goal of setting up a bicycle rental business run and led by the women themselves.
As part of the larger Women Empowerment program, we have partnered with GlobalBike for the Bicycle Project aiming to improve access to water, health services and the marketplace as well as generating income for Kazi Na Sala to be reinvested in the community. The project is currently at a critical juncture. The business is undergoing management change and the construction of a bike shop is about to start! This will allow for significant changes in the organized structure and the business model; driving efficiency, promoting best practices and knowledge transfer, as well as providing a stable income for the women of Kazi Na Sala.
Since I arrived, the women of Kazi Na Sala have received intensive mechanical training and will soon be able to maintain and repair the bicycles donated by GlobalBike. An exam is scheduled for the 18th of April, and I am confident the results will be stellar. Moreover, construction of the bicycle shop has finally started! After months of delays, the legally-mandated toilet has been built and the materials for the main building are currently being sourced!
All in all, the first weeks I have spent in Tanzania have been extremely interesting and exciting! I am really eager to contribute to the Bicycle Project and discover life in Tanzania. The cultural shock has been substantial, a little frustrating at times, but absolutely necessary for a genuine experience. You’ll hear more from me soon, stay tuned!