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Photo by Dave Anderson
I dare you to find a Heifer participant who has done more for her family, her village, her Heifer dairy cows and farm education throughout her country and Africa than Huruma Mhapa of Ibumila village in the Njombe district of Tanzania.
In July 1993, after living in poverty in a small mud hut with her family, she received one dairy cow from Heifer International and its partner, the Anglican Church of Tanzania, and was trained in the zero-grazing method. Today, she’s a university lecturer in rural agriculture, farms 11 acres (six of them designated for cow feed only, five to feed her family) and cares for four dairy cows, all descendants of that first cow. She and her husband built a brick house with a concrete floor and a solid roof, a Heifer Tanzania 2010 calendar and numerous awards proudly displayed on her walls.
From 2002 to the present, she has trained about 4,000 farmers directly, including those from Heifer projects in other countries including Malawi and Kenya. Another 5,000 people have visited her farm to learn about zero grazing and organic farming.
Shown above, Huruma harvests the grasses she feeds her cows, which include several varieties of grass and fodder that contribute both protein and carbohydrates to their diet. Her cows, which are fat, glossy and sassy, are fed three times a day with the nutritious feed. She collects their manure and urine to compost for fertilizer and to convert to biogas to use for cooking and to power lights. She also sells the grasses and processed leaf meal she grows to other cow farmers. She milks the three oldest twice a day, keeping some milk for her children and selling the rest as part of the co-op in her village.
Among what she produces on her farm are: Maize, milk, calves, vegetable gardens, leaf meal from fodder trees, mushrooms, hay from rhodes grass, yogurt from milk processing, beans, wheat, Irish potatoes, bananas, guavas, plums and lime.
She says, only partially joking, that she loves her dairy cows more than her own children. You’ll see for yourself how much she adores them when you see what she’s working on for them right now, but I’ll save that for our World Ark article.
Photographer Dave Anderson loved every bumpy mile of Tanzania. An inveterate road-tripper by nature, Dave was blown away not only with the natural beauty of the country (and all the roadside baboons), but with the numerous successes of so many Tanzanian farmers who have not only been empowered by Heifer, but who have inspired their extended communities to begin the climb out of poverty. Dave says bravo to these Heifer farmers and especially the Heifer Tanzania staff, led by inspiring country director Peter Mwakabwale, who are making all of this possible.
Just a few feet off the road between Njombe and Iringa, Tanzania, only a mile or two from the Isimila Stone Age site, lies a gravesite with supernatural powers known to all in the region.
When Country Director Peter Mwakabwale first told us the story, we couldn’t wait to see the visible proof he promised was just miles away. If you look closely enough, behind the grave are two power poles taking the electric lines across the road. Another half-mile down the road, the powerlines again cross the road, reconnecting the broken line that zigs and zags to avoid the grave of Martin Kiyeyeu, a former resident of Isimila village some mysteriously hint was a sort of medicine man or witch doctor.
In the 1990s, when the powerlines were being built, villagers warned the engineers to not string the wires over the area, advising that the current would stop when it crossed the graves of Kiyeyeu and his family. Dismissing the warnings as hokum, they strung the wires as planned. When they tested the line at the other end of the grave, there was no power. Before the grave, it was still live; they restrung the wire and retested, all with the same result. The engineers finally had no choice but to reroute the lines across the road and around the graves, where they remain today.
Turns out, a similar phenomenon happened in the 1970s when the road was first built, according to Daniel Msakwa, our guide at the Stone Age site and the grandson of Martin Kiyeyeu. Many other graves were moved to make way for the paved road, but when the giant Caterpillar unearthing the graves got close to Kiyeyeu’s, the engine quit. Our guide demonstrated the effect on some tall grass along the path at the park, stopping at the grass and backing up. When the tractor approached the grave, the engine quit. When the Caterpillar went into reverse, the engine fired up again, but abruptly quit before it could move forward to do its work. The grave was left untouched, just a few feet from the pavement.
“People always ask me why,” Msakwa said. “I tell them why it happened I do not know.”
Msakwa says the fight is not yet over, as the village has received another request to move the graves to widen the road.
Heifer Tanzania Communications Coordinator Richard Bugaisa contributed to this story.
Passing on the Gift doesn’t just happen in the villages where Heifer works around the world. It’s an idea that also inspires Heifer staff to give of themselves whether it be in time, talent or a physical gift.
The staff of Heifer Tanzania recently marked Pass on the Gift month in their own unique way.
Over the past few years news of albino killings in east Africa made its way to the United States. The killings and mutilations were particularly bad in Tanzania and prompted the government there to ban traditional healers who use albino organs for medicinal purposes. (The New York Times has two good articles on the topic. Read about the increase in killing here or the ban on traditional healers here.)
In support of the government’s measures to stop the killings, the Heifer Tanzania staff provided educational materials and protective gear to about 56 albino students at the Mukidoma Secondary School in Usa River.
Heifer Tanzania Country Director Peter Mwakabwale presents a cap to Neema
Moses, a standard 3 student at the Mukidoma school
Heifer Tanzania Communications Coordinator Richard Bugaisa wrote, “Apart from supporting the government’s call to protect albinos, Heifer International Tanzania realized that, since the outbreak of merciless killings, people with albinism especially children have not been able to attend school in fear of their lives.”
During the Pass on the Gift ceremony, Heifer Tanzania Country Director Peter Mwakabwale told the students, “Heifer Tanzania understands that education is the key to success and you have been missing this great opportunity; we assure you that Heifer Tanzania will give you full support during your studies.”
Both institutions agreed that this would be the beginning of a strong relationship. Heifer Tanzania also plans to continue to pass on their gifts to the albino community in the coming years to help end the traditional beliefs about albino people.
Twice on our way to Heifer Tanzania field visits we passed through the Mikumi National Park. The highway stretches for 30 miles directly through the park, with signs such as this one on either side.
I was hopeful to see more giraffes, and was not disappointed. At one point we passed a herd of more than 40 munching trees on both sides of the road! We were also overwhelmed by the site of several different types of antelope, elephants, buffalo and zebra as we passed through, yelping at Country Director Peter Mwakabwale to stop the car so we could take even more photos. It’s a wonder we made it to our destinations at all.
Some of the most entertaining critters were these baboons Dave Anderson captured on video as we went through the park. Keep an eye out for the teeniest one jumping around in the road. Some park facts from Peter: The black rhino is so rare and in danger of poachers that the park rangers escort it around the park with trucks and machine guns, day and night, wherever it should wander.
As for the baboons, Peter says Tanzanians never stop to watch them because they’re so plentiful even outside the park, something comparable to squirrels in the U.S. We must have seemed ridiculous watching them for 15 minutes or more. He said the baby male baboons ride along underneath their mothers, while the female ones leap on top. They are very playful, as you can see. “I could watch them all day,” Dave said, focusing in on yet another tail-twitching, tree-shaking chase scene.
We asked Peter what the rarest or strangest animal he’s ever seen is, as he passes this way often to visit beneficiaries. He was a bit puzzled by the question.
“This is my home. To me none of them are strange. I know them all.”
How lucky is he?
As the sun began to set on Wednesday evening, Peter swung our Heifer vehicle into a clearing marked from the highway from Njombe to Iringa by a tiny blue hand-written sign: Isimila Old Stone Age site. We had just finished our last interview of the trip and were making our way to Dar to catch a flight home should the European ash cloud allow it.
Guide Daniel Msakwa (above with prehistoric spear) hurried us along to beat the shadows falling over the spectacularly eroded landscape where a flowing river over millennia carved soaring pillars. As we walked, tall grasses waved in an evening breeze and night noises, including the hoot of a nearby owl, began to emerge.
The land around the now nearly-dry riverbed once was called home by Stone Age people up to 300,000 to 400,000 years ago. The Isimila Stone Age Site offers one of the richest exposures in Stone Age tools in all of Africa. The site was discovered in 1951, with archaeological digs revealing knives, spears, slingshots and stone hammers the inhabitants used to protect and feed themselves unearthed in 1957 and 1958. The tools still lie where they’re found, protected from the weather by small huts. For more information, see Allafrica.com’s writeup on the site here.
There was too much to see, including these rock hyrax perched atop pillars along our path. The puppy-faced, mole-bodied critters are apparently tremendous jumpers that can easily navigate the rocky landscape, though to me it looked like they might be stuck where they sat for the next several hundred thousand years.
We have our hard-working Heifer staff in Mbeya to thank for opening the office late on a weekend (about 9 p.m. Saturday here) so we could share video footage from our field visit to Tanzania.
On the way to a Maasai women’s camel project northwest of Arusha, we came across these giraffes strolling in the morning sunshine. They paused for a moment to see what all the shiny stuff was about, then went on about their day. Our expert guides told us these are Maasai giraffes, taller and darker in color than the type more commonly seen. Animal conservation parkland now takes up a lot of the land the Maasai used to roam with their cattle herds.
Video by Dave Anderson
Donna Stokes is managing editor for Heifer International’s magazine, World Ark. The past two weeks she’s shared experiences from her visit to projects in Tanzania. You can read her previous posts here.
We have our hard-working Heifer staff to thank for meeting us late at the office in Mbeya in south-central Tanzania so we could upload this video I promised of Maasai women milking a camel. The women’s group received the camels about a year and a half ago. Some of the first training they received was on milking, and a special process they use to naturally preserve and pasteurize the milk.
Video by Dave Anderson
Heifer Tanzania is the first country in Africa to offer fish-farming projects, and it’s been both a challenge and a blessing for those with the pluck to give it a try.
Nicholas Mwakabele built his ponds in 2003 and quickly saw the benefits of raising Nile tilapia. His family ate well and grew healthier, and soon neighbors heard of his project and came around to check it out. He trained two villages on fish farming and gave away countless fingerlings. He began to earn a profit, despite all the fish he gave away, and started making bricks to build a new house as his business and recognition grew.
Yet not everyone was pleased. The government water authority heard about his ponds and came stomping up, saw the pooled water and demanded he stop.
“I was arrested and thrown in jail,” Mwakabele said. “They said I was wasting the water. But it was their ignorance. I told them that I was not using the water in a bad way, but instead was conserving it.
“I told them, go ahead, put me in jail, but I will not stop the fish farming because I am not wasting water.”
He sat in jail for several days, then was sentenced to community service, as if giving away tens of thousands of fish fingerlings and training his neighbors in a sustainable business was not service enough.
Heifer’s Country Director Peter Mwakabwale came to his rescue, educating the government on the conservation benefits of the project. Within a year, the same district officials who tossed him in jail built him a fish pond worth $5,000 on his land.
Nicholas Mwakabele was also honored by Tanzania’s Uhuru Torch Team, who traveled to his farm to give him the award. A huge national honor, the Uhuru (or Independence) torch, is brought out every year on the anniversary of Tanzanian independence (December 9, 1961) to celebrate those who shed light over the country and bring unity among all its people.
Timothy Sheghere Mgonja (pictured with his family) got the idea to ask Heifer for camels after he visited the Meserani Snake Park and Maasai Cultural Museum in Arusha, Tanzania. The park offers camel rides, and Timothy thought the camels could make a great tourism business.
Once he learned the other benefits of the camels he convinced his group in the town of Same to ask Heifer for the animals. He, his family and all group members now use the camels to carry water, pull a plow, entertain tourists and produce milk. He says this work is what he was born to do and can’t imagine ever doing anything else. You’ll read more about him soon in World Ark and on www.heifer.org.
Our Heifer group also sought inspiration on a rainy afternoon at the Meserani Snake Park, where black and green mambas, pythons and other slithery creatures such as crocodiles lurked around every corner.
Richard Bugaisa, Heifer Tanzania communications officer, bravely volunteered to wear a mildly poisonous African grass snake with the proper spirit of adventure, all in the name of getting attention for Heifer. He got a bit nervous, though, when the snake started to wiggle.