Creating a Slum Within a Slum

A balcony view of the KENSUP Soweto East housing project Courtesy of MUST Kenya

A balcony view of the KENSUP Soweto East housing project. Courtesy of MUST Kenya

NAIROBI, Jul 22 2014 (IPS) - At the eastern edge of Nairobi’s Kibera slum, children gather with large yellow jerry cans to collect water dripping out of an exposed pipe. The high-rise grey and beige Soweto East settlement towers above them. A girl lifts the can on top of her head and returns to her family’s third floor apartment.

Inside, 49-year-old mother Hilda Olali is sweeping the floor. She’s had enough. Her family of five has no running water or electricity in their two bedroom apartment.

“When we first arrived we really enjoyed life. But now it’s hard because we don’t have water for weeks. This forces me to go and buy water outside. I can’t afford that,” she told IPS.

Outside her kitchen window, garbage has been accumulating over the last six months. The rancid smell of refuse wafts into the apartment throughout the day. She’s considering a move back to the slum, turning in her family’s brick and mortar home for her old mud and tin shack.

“In the slum things were cheap. When we came here they took us as if we were people who could afford expensive things,” she added.

It’s been 12 years since the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme, or KENSUP, launched its pilot project in Kibera. Many residents feel the government and United Nations’ Human Settlements Programme, or U.N. Habitat, have abandoned them soon after its doors opened.

In 2009, nearly 5,000 Kibera residents were relocated to the KENSUP Soweto East settlement. The 17 five-storey buildings are home to around 1,800 families. Population estimates in Kibera range from 800,000 to 1.2 million, making it one of Africa’s largest slums.

“We were told to move and it’s like we were forced. They [KENSUP] were carrying everything for us. Transport was arranged by them. I had seven rooms in the slum. Here I only have three,” Olali said.

According to the U.N., cities are now home to half of the global population. Forty percent of Kenya’s 43 million people are living in urban areas. More than 70 percent of Nairobi’s 3.1 million people live in 200 informal settlements, or slums. A lack of affordable housing in the city makes Kibera an attractive place to settle.

Godwin Oyindo, 24, is a recent university graduate and a close friend of Olali’s son. He grew up in Kibera and was hopeful this housing project would change the lives of all its residents.

“This slum upgrading project was established to address a few things in Kibera, the security of tenure, the housing of people, accessibility to services, and also to generate economic activities. One of their main objectives is a slum free society,” Oyindo told IPS.

Back in 2003, the government of Kenya and U.N. Habitat began working together to improve housing and quality of living for residents not only in Nairobi, but in Mombasa, Mavoko Kisumu and Thika. KENSUP is mandated to improve living standards for 5.3 million urban slum dwellers by 2020.

U.N. Habitat came on board with its Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme, working alongside KENSUP providing expertise and technical advice. The officer in charge of this department, Joshua Mulandi Maviti, said objectives have been met in all projects.

“Kibera was the focus of our work with the ministry,” Maviti told IPS. “But we also coordinated infrastructure, land tenure, water and sanitation projects across Kenya, in Mombasa, Kisumu and Mavoko.”

Justus Ongera, 24, shares a room with his younger sister in a two bedroom apartment in the Soweto East settlement. The two share the apartment with another family. Ongera believes he may need to instruct residents on how to improve sanitation.

“When we first moved in the garbage outside was cleared every two weeks. Now it’s been rotting there under the sun for six months,” he told IPS. “This is a serious health hazard. Something needs to be done.”

Due to the 12 years which have elapsed since the contract began, U.N. Habitat ended its collaboration with KENSUP once contracts expired, according to Maviti. But he assures this doesn’t mean it’s the end of the relationship.

“The government of Kenya and the ministry haven’t engaged with us on the issues faced by Soweto East residents. We need to hear from them officially to be able to help,” Maviti said.

Olali is now weighing her options, whether or not she should move her three kids out of this apartment project and back into the slum. The fact that she has no running water forces to make a long trek through Kibera to visit the public toilet. This costs her five Kenya shillings each time.

“It all adds up, costing me even more money,” Olali said. “Some women didn’t even know how to flush a toilet before moving in, but now they do. We’ve all experienced a lot living here.”

Kenya’s Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development, along with KENSUP, turned down requests to be interviewed for this story.

Published online @ Inter Press Service

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Tanzania: Loliondo FM – bringing a community together

Mindey Ndoinyo with his mobile tuned into Loliondo FM

Mindey Ndoinyo tunes his phone to Loliondo FM, Ngorongoro’s first-and-only radio station

Taking a break from the midday sun under a tree, Mindey Ndoinyo tunes the radio on his mobile phone to 107.7 Loliondo FM. The 20-year-old lives in a remote Maasai village called Ololosokwan, 15 kilometres south of the border with Kenya.

Mr. Ndoinyo is joined by two friends dressed in traditional red and black Maasai robes. The men fall silent as they listen to the music and chattering voices coming from the phone’s loudspeaker. Mr. Ndoinyo says: “I like to listen to music and news on the Maisha Mix program. I also enjoy the Maasai cultural program and the environmental lessons it teaches us.”

Loliondo FM is the first and only radio station broadcasting from Tanzania’s Ngorongoro district. Founded in 2013, the mandate of the non-commercial, community radio station is to provide a voice to Tanzania’s pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities.

The villages of Loliondo division are located in Ngorongoro district, north of Ngorongoro Crater and east of Serengeti National Park, two of Tanzania’s major tourist attractions. Local land disputes involving international investors have created a huge rift between Maasai herders and the Tanzanian government, making headlines around the world.

After a protracted two-year application process, Loliondo FM received its licence and started broadcasting last November. The tensions around land ownership disputes made the authorities wary of granting the licence. Joseph Munga is Loliondo FM’s Station Manager. He says: “In Tanzania, political leaders have a problem with community radio because it speaks from the grassroots. This scares leaders in our country.”

Across the border in Kenya, radio stations are allowed to broadcast in the language of their choice. For a long time, the only radio voices villagers heard late in the evening were in Swahili from the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation and a Maasai language station in Kenya.

Broadcasting regulations are different in Tanzania. Mr. Munga explains: “There’s a government regulation that we broadcast in Swahili, not in our Maasai language, so [that] we don’t promote conflict between different tribes or spread hate.”

Broadcasters on Loliondo FM do speak Maasai from time to time. Many callers cannot speak Swahili, and news reports are translated for these listeners one hour after the original broadcast. The station’s news service focuses on both its own community and on broader Tanzanian affairs.

Musa Leitura is a Loliondo FM broadcaster who was born and raised with his four brothers and two sisters in Ololosokwan. The 28-year-old says, “I’ve been trained by UNESCO as a community journalist. I’ve attended workshops on investigative journalism, ethics and corruption.”

He adds: “I like being a presenter because now I’m a leader in the community. The radio is a great channel to create harmony between clashing tribes, and to educate everyone in Loliondo.”

As Mr. Ndoinyo’s mobile phone battery weakens, the group of friends move off to borrow a radio from a local shop owner and continue listening to Loliondo FM.

Mr. Ndoinyo says: “Ngorongoro district is isolated. We don’t receive newspapers in Ololosokwan village. Many people listen to the radio to get information.”

Published online @ Farm Radio Weekly

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Saving Tanzania’s Underground Hip Hop Scene

Arusha hip hop producer Daudi Bakari, aka Daz Naledge, hypes up the crowd at Saving Underground Artists (S.U.A.) event. Credit: Loic Nogues

Arusha hip hop producer Daudi Bakari, aka Daz Naledge, hypes up the crowd at a S.U.A. event. Credit: Loic Nogues

ARUSHA, Tanzania, Jun 18 2014 (IPS) - Inside a dark, cramped, music studio on Arusha’s hillside slum of Kijenge Juu, a thumping hip hop beat rattles the window-less room.

A soft-spoken 26-year-old who goes by the name Raf MC steps up to the microphone. He glances down at a piece of paper in his hand. Taking a deep breath, he starts to deliver rhymes in Swahili, the unifying language of Tanzania’s 47 million people: “Hip hop game sio kama tu ma game mengine [The hip hop game is not like any other game]…”

Three other Arusha MCs stand behind the microphones: Pacha the Great, 21, Sight Mo’, 28, and Motra the Future, 20. Together they call themselves KINGS, which stands for Kijenge, Ngalimi and Sekei, three of the city’s most notorious slums.

“We all grew up and live here,” Raf MC tells IPS. “I’m from Sekei, Motra is from Kijenge, Pacha and Sight Mo’ are from Ngalimi.”

KINGS are a hip hop group brought up in the nurturing environment of northern Tanzania’s underground hip hop scene. Acheni Blah Blah is the first single released by them and the group is expecting to release an album later this year.

Daudi Bakari is a music producer at Watengwa Records based in Arusha. He’s also the co-founder of Saving Underground Artists, known locally as S.U.A. For almost two years, Bakari, 25, and his colleague Biggie Shirima, 25, have hosted hip hop shows featuring aspiring artists.

“Arusha is known as a tourist city in Tanzania located near most of the countries national parks and major attractions,” Bakari tells IPS. “What people don’t know is there’s an emerging hip hop movement here that dates back to the late 1990s.”

A few years ago, Tanzanians started to fear Arusha’s hip hop scene was disappearing as more young people began turning to jobs in the burgeoning tourism industry, leaving music behind because of the lack of opportunity.

“There were some tough times that we faced trying to promote local hip hop shows,” Bakari says. “People stopped buying records and turning up to performances.”

Bakari and Shirima stepped up to the challenge and started a showcase for Tanzania’s hip hop talent. A few times so far this year, music fans have gathered outside of Watengwa recording studios in Kijenge Juu. Graffiti covers the doors and walls. Over the stage area, the words “Read more, learn more, change” are inscribed alongside a young person holding a book.

Recently, there’s been a resurgence of hip hop fans attending S.U.A. events, assures Bakari.

But S.U.A. isn’t only an event. It also acts as a support network for up-and-coming artists like KINGS. Bakari and Shirima host workshops the week before every show to select which artists get to perform.

“We always choose those eager to learn about the history of hip hop and how it took shape in Tanzania,” Shirima says. “That’s how we found KINGS. Now their music is playing on radio stations across the country.”

Swahili hip hop, still referred to as Bongo Flava, has changed dramatically since its early days when emcees and groups like X-Plastaz gained prominence internationally. It’s gone underground.

“Hip hop in Arusha has never just been about songs and beats. It’s always been about substance,” former X Plastaz member Mohamed Yunus Rafiq, 38, tells IPS. “It’s because of hip hop music that a lot of us avoided becoming criminals.”

Rafiq was a young man during the transition from socialism in Tanzania to the free market. He admits hip hop music in Tanzania is still heavily influenced by founding President Julius Nyerere’s brand of African socialism, known in Swahili as Ujamaa.

“The 1967 Arusha declaration officially made Tanzania a socialist state,” Rafiq says. “In the 1980s, there were Cuban doctors and Russian military advisors everywhere. I remember going to ANC [South Africa’s African National Congress] meetings as a boy and receiving candy from Russians.”

All of this made Arusha the international city it is lauded as today. Now it is home to many international organisations such as the United Nations. Arusha was even once referred to as “The Geneva of Africa” by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

This all made Arusha fertile ground for a socio-political music scene to flourish. From “muziki wa dansi [Swahili jazz music]” which gained prominence in the 1960s to today’s bongo flava music popular with youth across the continent, Tanzanian hip hop seems to remain true to its roots – and in Swahili.

“The Bongo Flava you hear on the radio now is a blend of rap, dancehall music and R&B. What we do here is much different,” Shirima says. “We focus on the four pillars of hip hop: breakdancing, emceeing, DJing and graffiti. We hope by teaching the fundamentals that it will empower youth to make change in the community.”

By promoting hip hop artists to express themselves in the Swahili language also empowers Tanzanian youth to continue reaching new heights. Across East Africa, from Tanzania and Kenya to Uganda and eastern DRC, hip hop fans are taking notice.

“We’re a linguistic nation. Swahili is a creative language that adapts quite nicely to hip hop,” Rafiq says.

As the hip hop beat fades away, Raf MC takes a step back from the microphone and folds up his piece of paper. “We just want to represent our culture and our city. We do this by using music to educate youth on how to do something positive in the community,” he says.

Published online @ Inter Press Service

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Tanzania: The Crop Doctor is in the Market

Crop doctor Wilson Mchomvu writes out his prescription for the unhealthy sweet pepper

Plantwise “crop doctor” Wilson Mchomvu examines his patient, a diseased sweet pepper, and writes out a prescription for farmer Peter Chambegha

Dark clouds fill the sky, blocking the view of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro. Rain pours down on the bustling market in Himo town, about 100 kilometres east of Arusha.

Farmers come from all over northern Tanzania to visit the bi-weekly “plant clinic” at the market. Some even travel across the border from neighbouring Kenya.

Wilson Mchomvu is an agricultural extension officer, but attends the market as a “crop doctor.” He hangs up a large sign at the entrance to the market. The sign welcomes farmers and invites them to bring their unhealthy crops to his table for a free examination.

Kilimanjaro farmer Peter Chambegha enters the market cautiously, stepping through thick mud which collects on the bottom of his shoes. He is carrying a diseased sweet pepper.

The crop doctor has office hours every Monday and Thursday. Most of his patients are vegetables, and their symptoms are quite common. As Mr. Mchomvu spreads information booklets and pamphlets with pictures of healthy orange carrots, red tomatoes and onions on his table, Mr. Chambegha greets him and takes a seat.

Mr. Chambegha hands the crop doctor the sweet pepper, saying, “I tried crop rotation, growing it with maize, beans and onions. But I think it has a fungal disease.”

Mr. Mchomvu pulls out a knife and cuts open the root of the sweet pepper. He explains, “Farmers bring me their crops and I ask them simple questions to find out the problem.”

At times the table is crowded with farmers asking questions about the beans, tomatoes and onions they bring for diagnosis.

Mr. Mchomvu says: “I receive farmers from Karatu [in Tanzania] to Kenya. If I’m asked a question and I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to get as much information as possible from the farmer.”

If the crop doctor doesn’t know the cause of the unhealthy crop, he consults information booklets provided by Plantwise. Plantwise is an initiative funded by an organization called CABI in order to improve food security by reducing crop losses.

CABI is working to establish plant clinics in 31 countries across Africa, Latin America and Asia. The organization’s spokesperson, Dannie Romney, says CABI is working alongside Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irish Aid to establish plant clinics in markets across the country.

Ms. Romney expects that plant clinics will flourish. She says farmers find them useful, and that plant clinics increase farmers’ awareness of and interest in other services.

Mr. Mchomvu pulls out his prescription pad and writes his diagnosis. He tells Mr. Chambegha, “This season I’ve seen a lot of sweet peppers and tomatoes. I think a fungicide is needed.”

Mr. Chambegha takes the prescription with the diagnosis in both English and Swahili. He says, “This is my first visit to the plant clinic. I called ahead to check its time and location. I’m pleased with the help I received.”

Mr. Mchomvu thanks him for visiting, then says: “The plant clinic is making our lives easier. As extension officers, we don’t have to go to farmers in the villages any more. They can find us in the market.”

Published online @ Farm Radio Weekly

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Zambia: Radio Schools Reach Rural Children

solar radio

The Freeplay Lifeline Radio. This wind-up, solar-powered radio is used around the world for humanitarian purposes.

A large blue, solar-powered wind-up radio sits on a chair underneath a large tree. The radio crackles as the dial is tuned to the only local station. A handful of children gather around and begin to sing.

The children are listening to Learning at Taonga Market, an interactive radio instruction and distance education program broadcast in schoolhouses and community learning centres across Zambia. The program reaches hundreds of thousands of children across the country via community radio stations. It delivers high quality primary education based on the Zambian national school curriculum.

Policar Michelo is now a 24-year-old university student. When he was 11, he walked ten kilometres every day to reach the learning centre at Chikuni Parish in southern Zambia’s Monze district.

He’s a prime example of how Zambian children are willing to overcome great obstacles to get an education. Mr. Michelo says: “I started attending interactive radio instruction in 2001. At that time, my parents were unable to meet formal school requirements such as school fees, exercise books, school uniforms, et cetera.”

In sub-Saharan Africa, there are few options for orphans and other vulnerable children who want to learn. Although attendance at primary schools is free in Zambia, the extra costs of buying books and uniforms make it nearly impossible for the children of poor families to attend school.

According to Mr. Michelo, Learning at Taonga Market was a favourite pastime. He looked forward to attending the daily 30-minute radio lesson with his three brothers.

He remembers: “It was really interesting despite having a poor learning environment. For the first few years we were learning under a tree, which made things difficult during the rainy season.”

In 2004, residents of Chikuni Parish built two classroom blocks to make learning easier for the children. Two years later, Mr. Michelo passed his examinations and went on to secondary school. He credits his success to Learning at Taonga Market.

The UN Children’s Education Fund says there are six million children under the age of 18 in Zambia, four million of who are between 7 and 14 years old.

Learning at Taonga Market is one of the most successful educational initiatives in Zambian history. Zambia’s Ministry of Education states that the number of community schools offering the program grew from less than 200 in 1996 to more than 3,000 in 2009.

Surveys reveal that Taonga pupils score 10-15 per cent higher than children in government schools on numeracy, literacy and life skills. Children love the program. Learning is active and fun. Lessons include songs, dance and exercise. Children interact with each other, the classroom teaching mentor, and the radio teacher.

Last year the government was forced to cancel its national broadcast of the program, as the cost of transmission was prohibitive. However, in Chikuni Parish, Learning at Taonga Market is still broadcast from Monday to Friday on Chikuni Community Radio Station.

Father Kelly is Mr. Michelo’s priest. He is proud of the young man’s achievements.

Father Kelly says: “The parish tries to subsidize the fees of every student who continues with their studies. Now he’s studying at a teacher training college in Livingstone.”

Mr. Michelo says, “When I finish my diploma, I’d like to return to Chikuni Parish and teach.”

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Media Literacy Talks for Tanzania’s Youth

Speaking to students at Orkeeswa school in Monduli, Tanzania

Speaking to students at Orkeeswa secondary school in Monduli, Tanzania, May 30, 2014. Courtesy of Orkeeswa

I’m on the back of a boda-boda motorcycle taxi, heading uphill, when my driver, Nuru, points out the drive-way leading to the house of Tanzania’s former prime minister and current presidential hopeful, Edward Lowassa. Not even five seconds after we pass the turn off the tarmac ends, turning into a bumpy, dirt road.

The air becomes much cooler as Nuru takes me up into the mountains which surround Monduli, Tanzania, over 40 kms from Arusha. I’ve been invited to speak to students at Orkeeswa secondary school about journalism. Having already given a few media literacy talks to Tanzanian youth since arriving in Arusha, I’m beginning to enjoy being a public speaker.

My first talk was sometime last year when I was invited by The School of St. Jude to address high school students in Usa River, over 30 kms from Arusha about possible careers in the media. I took this as an opportunity to try inspiring youth to consider the option of pursuing careers as journalists, stressing the important role media plays in a democracy.

After my talk, four students approached me asking if I could give them more insight into the life of a journalist. I agreed and gave them my contact information. I met with three-of-the-four a few weeks later at Clocktower roundabout in downtown Arusha. The administrator at School of St. Jude gave them permission to come into Arusha, during a day off from class, and meet me. I introduced them to the routine of a journalist. How to look for stories.

I led them from Clocktower, down Sokoine Road, to the Arusha public library. We stopped so I could point out what a terrible state this institution has been left in, abandoned by the government, and how a story on the state of education in Tanzania could be told through the lens of a public library, where students should be able to sit, study and borrow and a wide range of books.

From the library, I took them to the river which passes through town. They could all see the massive amount of garbage strewn everywhere along the river bed. A veritable environmental story, if I’ve ever seen one. I mentioned how it’s a journalist’s responsibility to do civic stories about how to improve life for every resident in a city, town or village.

To speed things up a bit, I took them to Soko kuu, Arusha’s central market. There, I showed them a good public health story. One which was obvious due to a massive rubbish dump in a parking lot alongside the market. The fumes of burning piles of trash burned the nostrils, as kids passed by us, walking home in their beige school uniforms.

None of this tour was planned out a bit. I just took them on a walk and discovered these stories as we passed through downtown on the way to Mambo Jambo Radio, where I was working as a trainer and mentor to journalists at the time. Our last stop was at the Uhuru Torch, near the Arusha Declaration Museum. I couldn’t take them inside for lack of time and funds, but I assured them such an important part of their country’s history was played out inside those walls. Over the last few years, a lack of care and appreciation of this history has led it to deteriorate almost beyond repair.

Speaking to students at The School of St. Jude

Speaking to students at The School of St. Jude last year. Courtesy of St. Jude’s

More of a feature story, mind you, but I thought it was important that stories like these could help Tanzanians understand the importance of this East Africa nation’s rich culture. There’s even an artist-run workshop inside which I did a story about during my first few weeks in Arusha, over one year ago. The very last stop before reaching the radio station, where the aspiring reporters came face-to-face with real Tanzanian broadcasters, was Sheikh Amri Abeid Memorial Stadium.

The soccer stadium doubles as a shelter at night for homeless youth in Arusha. I wanted these students who’ve benefited tremendously from a free, charity-funded, education to understand the plight of Tanzanian street kids. I think this was the part of the tour which helped them the most to realize the commitment journalists must make to those less fortunate in society, helping tell their stories.

When we reached Mambo Jambo Radio I looked each one in the eye and saw some fierce future journalists. Those who hopefully won’t be bought off by corrupt leaders, and will understand how to tell stories about human rights and good governance. A few weeks later I spoke to a group of female students from MWEDO girls school outside of Arusha. I also took them on the same tour as this first group of students. Not long after that I was asked by a friend to conduct a media literacy talk on gender equality and interviewing skills with a group from The Girls Foundation of Tanzania, or TGFT.

Coming back to where I started this story, I was introduced to all Orkeeswa students at an outdoor assembly. Tanzania’s green, yellow, black and blue flag fluttered in the wind behind me. In the library five minutes later, twenty-or-so students dragged their chairs into a semi-circle and sat down as I introduced myself: “Hello, my name is Adam Bemma. I’m a journalist from Canada living in Tanzania.”

I really hope I’ll receive more opportunities to speak so I can try to inspire youth across sub-Saharan Africa to consider careers in the media. Maybe then there’ll be real change across the continent as a new class of disciplined, ethical journalists come to prominence, holding government accountable. That would be the most rewarding achievement for me, watching as African youth rise up and call for real change using the fourth estate.

After my talk at Orkeeswa, four students, again, approached me. All extended their hands to thank me for taking the time to come and speak to them. I proposed to their teacher, a friend of mine, that she bring all four into Arusha sometime in the next few weeks and I take them on a tour of the city. To see it through a journalist’s eyes.

Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it,” wrote Afro-French post-colonial philosopher Frantz Fanon.

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Tanzania: Intercropping and companion planting get results

Oliva Lawrence-Mchomba is a former house Mama at Kesho Leo, now she's employed as a farmer

Oliva Lawrence-Mchomba is a former “House Mama [meaning she took care of kids]” at Kesho Leo, now she’s employed as a farmer

Just three kilometres south of Arusha’s dusty, congested streets, the village of Engo Sengiu sits at the end of a long, bumpy dirt road, surrounded by fertile farmland. The village’s rutted roads are bordered everywhere by lush, green vegetation invigorated by the recent rains. John Melau-Laizer grew up here studying his father’s planting techniques, the same techniques he now uses himself.

He remembers: “I started farming when I was 15 years old. My father grew maize, beans, bananas, cassava, [and] pigeon peas as well as coffee. I learned so much from him about companion planting, how to grow [different] crops in close proximity.”

Mr. Melau-Laizer, 35 years old, now works for FoodWaterShelter, or FWS, an Australian non-governmental organization based in Tanzania. FWS built a self-sustaining, eco-friendly school and residence called Kesho Leo, or Tomorrow Today, in Engo Sengiu. Kesho Leo provides educational, social and health facilities for vulnerable women and children.

FWS uses permaculture on its one-hectare farm. Permaculture is a system for designing sustainable human settlements. Mr. Melau-Laizer runs the organic agriculture and aquaculture projects and tends to the cows, chickens and ducks. These provide food and income for the six women and 12 orphaned children who live at Kesho Leo.

Lucy Bradley is the project manager at Kesho Leo. She explains: “We are improving the health of everyone at Kesho Leo by eating a broad range of fruits and vegetables grown here. We also sell and deliver the vegetables all over [the city of] Arusha as an income-generating project for the women.”

Kesho Leo is designed to be sustainable. Rainwater is collected on the building’s rooftop and piped to huge tanks underground. Human waste is composted behind the home in large barrels and used as fertilizer for crops. Cow manure is also collected and used in vegetable plots.

Two nearby ponds with ducks and tilapia provide water for the farm, while a stable of four cows provides up to sixty litres of milk per day. Meanwhile, 45 chickens produce enough to ensure a daily egg for each resident, providing essential protein and other nutrients.

Mr. Melau-Laizer says his proudest achievement is the intercropping techniques he learned from his father, techniques which he has improved over the years.

John Melaulaizer takes a pause from work on the Kesho Leo farm

John Melau-Laizer inspects the vegetables on Kesho Leo’s farm

He kneels down to inspect the sweet potatoes growing next to the Napier grass used as cattle feed. Mr. Melau-Laizer says: “Intercropping is important because it keeps pests away. Here, I’ve planted companion crops: mango, cassava and sweet potato. The aromatic Napier grass distracts pests and improves soil fertility.”

Intercropping acts as a natural form of pest management. Mr. Melau-Laizer has also planted neem. Neem is a medicinal tree which acts as an organic pesticide. He grounds neem leaves to a fine powder and soaks them in water for 12 to 24 hours. The solution is sprayed on crops as a pest repellent to protect them from damage.

According to Ms. Bradley, permaculture could play a huge role in improving livelihoods for farming families across sub-Saharan Africa. As part of the FWS team, Mr. Melau-Laizer’s knowledge and practice of permaculture is creating a ripple effect in Tanzania. He has trained many local small-scale farmers on permaculture techniques.

Mr. Melau-Laizer has completed several permaculture design courses. He says, “I train local women and children from Kesho Leo and Engo Sengiu village on different aspects of permaculture. I teach them about sustainable farming practices.”

FoodWaterShelter is running a permaculture design course at its Kesho Leo site from May 26 – June 6. For further information, email

Published online @ Farm Radio Weekly

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