Photo 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.