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Country of the Week: Tanzania
October 12, 2017

Tanzania is home to people from countless ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups from across Africa, India, the Middle East, and Europe, as well as some of the world’s most extraordinary species and habitats.

The diversity of Tanzania’s peoples and cultures grew out of its location along some of the most important sea trading routes in the Indian Ocean, which has made the country a dynamic hub for migration and commercial trade. Today, Tanzania’s youthful population is largely concentrated around urban centers such as Dar es Salaam, which over the last century has transformed from a small fishing village into one of the world’s fastest-growing metropolises. There, a mix of African, Arab, Indian, and German influence, markets, traditional food, music, and anthropological exhibits are a testament to the country’s rich history and culture.

Few African countries rival Tanzania’s spectacular natural biodiversity. Tanzania’s landscapes span from the hot and humid eastern coast to the mountainous northeast, which lies under the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro—Africa’s highest peak. In the north, the Maasai people are an integral part of the Serengeti savannah, where they coexist alongside populations of lions and are witness to the great wildebeest migration, the world’s largest terrestrial mammal migration. In the south, the Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park are crucial habitats for one of the continent’s largest remaining concentrations of African elephants.

While these landscapes and species make Tanzania unique, the country’s spirit is especially represented by its people—inspiring and courageous leaders who are dedicated to improving their communities and country. For this reason and more, we’ve named Tanzania the YALI Network #CountryoftheWeek! Keep reading to discover three featured members working to educate others about deforestation and climate change, stop violence against women, and improve public health through sanitation.

Man sitting in chair speaking to students on porch
Oscar Nyenza from #CountryoftheWeek Tanzania teaching students from Bokela secondary school about climate change in April 2017.

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YALI Network member, Oscar Nyenza, lives in Morogoro near Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains National Park—a park that includes tropical rainforests, grasslands, and more than 2,500 plant species. It’s there that he realized his calling: to educate the next generation about the threats of deforestation, climate change, and the importance of conserving nature.

“Without sustainable development and healthy environmental practices, our community is at risk,” he explains, “so teaching young people about the harmful effects of deforestation and the value of nature is incredibly important.”

To do that, Oscar hosts #YALILearns events and works with groups of children at local s

Children sitting in a row holding up tree saplings
Students from Mang’ula Primary school in #CountryoftheWeek Tanzania show off the tree saplings they’ve learned to plant.

chools. First, he says, he “shows them where deforestation is happening and how it affects the environment.” Then, he teaches them how to start a tree nursery. Finally, he hands out tree saplings “so [children] can grow trees at home, school, and elsewhere for the benefit of [the] whole community.” Oscar believes that through education, children become important ambassadors who can teach others about the value of conservation and sustainable development.

Oscar also works to educate local women about deforestation and natural resource management. In many places, including Tanzania, he says, women are often the biggest users of natural resources: they gather wood in the forests and they collect fresh water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. But, explains Oscar, traditional methods of gathering firewood are often unstainable and can contribute to deforestation. To help remedy the problem, Oscar teaches local women how to cook using charcoal briquettes—small round bricks made from agricultural waste and other biomass that provide a cleaner, more sustainable source of fuel.

Oscar is hopeful that together, these projects will make a measurable impact and raise local awareness about climate change while reducing deforestation in a country that’s increasingly vulnerable to its effects.
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Our next featured YALI Network member, Anna Jomalema from Dar es Salaam, is using the power of the YALI Network to courageously speak out against gender-based violence (GBV), which she says is “one of the issues that most affects [her] society.”

Earlier this year, Anna hosted an event that aimed to educate women about GBV. She created an online social media campaign and invited others to the event, using herself as the face of the campaign. “As a young woman and now as a mother, I saw how GBV affected me,” says Anna, “I had to speak out.”

At the event, she invited victims and survivors of GBV—including her own mother—to recount their stories and share testimonials. “It was tough and emotional, but the space allowed people to open up and to see how we can help each other,” says Anna. “Both genders were invited to attend and share their perspectives. It was life-transforming.”

Anna credits the YALI Network for giving her access to mentorship through a nearby Regional Leadership Center and for helping her find the courage to share her experiences. “For the first time, I was able to access mentorship and to speak out publicly against gender-based violence,” she says. “My mentors helped me believe that my voice does matter.” Now, Anna has created a network called the African Golden Girls Network, which supports victims of GBV in Dar es Salaam.[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”Improving public health through sanitation” title_align=”separator_align_left” color=”grey”][vc_column_text]In the region of Tanzania where YALI Network member Ambakisye Mhiche works, cholera is a chronic problem. But Ambakisye, a regional public health officer responsible for overseeing water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, wants to eventually see his country rid of disease.

That’s why Ambakisye works closely with UNICEF and other organizations to support community public health and sanitation initiatives in about 40 villages along Lake Tanganyika. With guidance from YALI Network Online courses, including Management Strategies for People and Resources and Strengthening Public Sector Service, Ambakisye has secured various partners to help support WASH services throughout his community.

“My colleagues and I have deployed community health workers to deliver public health education and to convince locals to keep Lake Tanganyika free of waste by using toilets instead,” he explains. “Our program focuses on changing behavior, and is intended to shift the mindset of the community. We have been using a combination of approaches, including sending community health workers house to house and organizing community meetings.”

Ambakisye and his colleagues are also working with the Belgian Red Cross to implement a four-year project to improve water sanitation and hygiene in seven villages in Tanzania’s Buhigwe district. The project aims to increase access to safe water and to actively engage the community in improving sanitation and hygiene at the household level. “We hope that by the end of the project, the diseases that frequently affect these communities will be history,” Ambakisye adds.

For World Sanitation Day on November 19, Ambakisye is planning an event to raise community awareness about the use of toilets in preventing disease outbreak, as well as to highlight the importance of designating areas for women in toilet facilities. Ambakisye undertakes all of these initiatives, he says, to ensure that by eliminating disease, Kigoma will be a safer place to live.

Are you interested in getting more involved in your community or learning more about climate change? Like the YALI Network Facebook page and access free online trainings, virtual events, and more by visiting the YALI Network website.

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Young women listening to testimonies from survivors of gender-based violence in #CountryoftheWeek Tanzania.