Environmental degradation has pulled the world’s attention now more than ever, geared by a desire to continue prospering industrially the developed world is now set to pay the developing world handsomely on any efforts they undertake in making sure that they reduce the rate of environmental degradation. The unfortunate truth is that, this money which comes in the form of grant or compensation is squandered and siphoned by scrupulous politicians and technocrats in the government and in the civil society sector alike.
In an effort to mitigate the effects of environmental degradation the local communities have for centuries been playing a great role with or without donor support, such efforts are nowadays down played and even criticized as not sustainable, not scientific etc. However, on an objective eye, no reasonable man would avoid the temptation of associating such despises with donor syndrome and a rat race chase for donor channel by CSOs and Government institutions.
Mid March this year, found me in Arusha-The Hague of Africa undertaking a Community mobilization course at MS Training Centre, as part of the training we went for a field trip which happened to be a visit at River Ngarenaro at Ngarenaro Ward. Had it not been for the bad name that the area had earned itself all over Tanzania in two to three years down the road, that it’s a slum, dirt, and dominated by low class inhabitants, I would not have been impressed by what transpired later as locals’ efforts to make a difference and preserve their environment.
At Ngarenaro River we were received by our hosts, a local organization led by few not articulate but right thinking youths-Setlife. As they took us along the beautiful banks of River Ngarenaro that was by now dominated by well cared for and lined up soft wood trees, we could not avoid being attracted by the beautiful aroma of pine and Cyprus which had now replaced the chocking filth smell of shit and leftovers that used to be piled along the river bank three to four years back. Going even further, were boys and girls aged as from 10 to 18 years planting more trees on a voluntary basis as we later came to learn. This gave us a chance to join the activity as we lent a hand by planting trees which we shall be proud of for years.
Specifically, Setlife attracted me on its innovative idea of not depending on donor support but rather use the opportunities available to make a difference in environmental preservation. Setlife so a gap of lack of proper garbage collection at Ngarenaro, which to them was not only a threat but also an opportunity, they decided that they will collect solid waste from all house holds at Ngarenaro for a token fee of Tsh. 300 thus not only securing employment for themselves but also giving locals an alternative of disposing of their garbage other than along River Ngarenaro at an affordable fee. This to me goes even further than employment and cost and covers; environmental protection along River Ngarenaro whose banks am told had been piling with heaps of garbage.
Having managed the collection of garbage from homesteads, Setlife invested at reclaiming River Ngarenaro from the garbage piles that had already been piled up before they started their operation. This was quite costy and tiresome considering the fact that they had to depend on the money they received from garbage collection. With the river banks clean, Setlife embarked on a tree planting campaign which is on going though the doors of success are wide open for Setlife.
It wasn’t easy at all, they say. They were met with several constraints including lack of locals’ cooperation at the beginning. Determined to make a difference they have set strategies to make sure that they have expert’s advice and political support from the government. This has been done by supporting a member to enroll at the University of Dares salaam and one member to contest for councillorship of the area.
These efforts are worthy emulating, Setlife is like a drop of water in the desert. It is a high time that youths will stop the proposal minded kind of NGO formulation and borrows the good work of Setlife. To me Setlife, so a gap and addressed it thus opening an opportunity for themselves and the community at large. Long Live Setlife! Long live River Ngarenaro!
By: Stephen Msechu.