Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world and nearly 90 percent of its people work in some type of agriculture and farming, yet 40 percent are still living on less than $1 a day. But Heifer Tanzania is working to change these statistics through education, training and gifts of livestock to needy families.
One of these families is Rosemary, her husband Sebastian Justin, and their four children. Rosemary was one of the 10 recipients of a dairy heifer during a Passing on the Gift® ceremony in 2010. “I thank God for that day,” she says. “It was my lucky day, and it was the light at the end of the tunnel for me.”
Rosemary and her family live in Getasam Village, located in the Hanang District of the northeast region of Tanzania. Her husband Sebastian is a general laborer and earns a meager income working on neighbors’ farms. The two married in 2000 and began having children; they learned early on that Sebastian’s income alone was not enough to feed the entire family.
“There was no food at all,” Rosemary explains. “My children would drink porridge only once a day and suffered from malnutrition. Neighbors forbade their children to play with Tutu, my daughter.”
Malnutrition caused all of Rosemary’s children to suffer, but it was especially hard on Tutu. Her limbs and muscles grew weak, and at three years old she was unable to stand on her own, requiring full care and attention. Tutu developed kwashiorkor, a disorder caused by lack of protein. This put her at a greater risk of contracting infections. “It broke my heart,” Rosemary says. “I cried every day. Tutu was so frail that she could not stand or walk. Her growth was stunted and our community ostracized her. There is no worse pain than this for any parent.”
But Rosemary worked to change her family’s situation, joining the Songambele women’s group. The group is supported by Heifer Tanzania and began in 2001 following Heifer’s training in basic animal husbandry practices. This group is one of seven in the Hanang District that has seen tremendous changes and received other trainings from Heifer Tanzania.
One morning when staff from Heifer Tanzania visited Getasam Village, they met Rosemary again. “I was one of the first from our group selected to go for training and to receive a heifer through Passing on the Gift®,” Rosemary explains.
“This was the turning point in my family’s life. I thank the Heifer team in Tanzania for showing me my true north in Bahati.” Bahati, the name Rosemary gave to her heifer, means “luck.”
After passing on the first heifer to her neighbor, Rosemary now has two cows, two calves, a heifer and a bull calf. Bahati is also expecting a calf at the end of the month. With the milk sales, Rosemary has been able to transform the health of her family, including Tutu who is getting better every day. Her children are healthy and are all going to school. They can afford decent clothes and are living happier lives.
Rosemary and Sebastian now have two acres of land where they grow maize, ground nuts and beans. They plan to buy more land in the future, and have also been able to buy a plow, oxen, 20 goats and a bicycle. They have recently invested in iron sheets, which they will use to roof a house they are building.
For the last four years, Rosemary has attended annual trainings and is now the community animal health worker for the Getasam Village. “All of the neighbors who would chase away my children and treat us badly now come to me. They depend on me as the doctor for their animals, and I am honored to help them,” Rosemary says with a smile.
Rosemary hopes to achieve her dream of giving a better life to all of the poor people in her community who have lost hope. She believes that along with the skills and livestock given to her through Heifer Tanzania, she will end malnutrition and poverty in her community.
Story and Photos by Rachel Singo
Communications Officer, Heifer Tanzania