In my last article, I revealed how I was intrigued and impressed by Setlife, an organisation that has distinguished itself to make a difference along the River Ngarenaro against all odds. In that article moved by the spirit of Africa by Africans, I went forward to point out how successful an anti-aid African initiative can be successfully transform our country and the Africa as a whole!
Today’s article is intended to further justify aid is killing Tanzania and most African countries and that we do much better on our own, even with the level of illiteracy that we still have, as according to me, education matters but the so called ‘formal education’ matters less.
As August was folding, again I went for a field visit to Babati District in Manyara region. Though I visited several places and organizations, two destinations caught my eye. These were Ayasanda community forest and Mzee Joachim Thambo’s private forest.
First I should make it clear that, the two destinations that I will Endeavour to unveil to you in this article, are pioneered by one, Mzee Thambo an illiterate who never stepped into the English men’s class, and the second, Mr. Kwatlema, dropped out of school at standard seven of those good old days.
Without prejudice, I have been tempted to narrate the formal education background of the key players in my field visit so as not to attack you by surprise as to how they manage to do things that the so called environmental experts with Doctorates have never achieved without writing down proposals for funding.
To begin with Mzee Thambo, though he never tested Whiteman’s formal education, his 500 hectare farm-cum-indigenous private forest has proved beyond reasonable doubt that, Africans are not born tabularasa!
As he responded to my questions professionally, I noticed that his explanations were correct scientifically and that his arguments were critical challenging what scientists had once told him when they visited his 500 hectare farm-cum-private forest. For example, their was a time I saw an eucalyptus tree growing near by a water stream and basing on my formal education blindly was convinced that Mzee Thambo had erred as the species was known for its high water consumption. When responding my why! Question he did not hesitate to point out that he knew that there was such belief but according the type that he has planted in his forest it was not harmful as were it so, then the water could have dried up long ago.
I don’t intend to dispute science, nor do I suggest that scientific research is deceptive as a whole as that would amount to stereotype, what am saying is that, there is room for change through education obtained by doing. Yes!
In Mzee thambo’s 500 hectare farm-cum-private forest, he has managed to save part of a natural forest that was being depleted by locals way back in the early 80’s a period when the world and Africa in particular was still very green and not even the government had sensed danger. In his visionary youthfulness, Mzee Thambo saw a threat to the forest and mobilized his community to shun from unwisely cutting down trees. This he failed but was not discouraged as he went further to call the district government to intervene. Again, for the second time his plea was not responded to and so he decided to seek full ownership of the forest which was adjacent to his farm so as to personally protect it, in the 80’s, long before I was born!
Today Mzee thambo is carrying out what we now refer to as Agro forestry (a title that I doubt if he can even comprehend), with a greater part of the 500 hectare land covered by indigenous plant species ranging from shrubs, trees, grass and flowers that were it not for him would have been gone long ago. These indigenous species not only make the area green but also provide habitat for different rodents, birds, worms and insects. They play a great role in preserving the over ten water sources that exist on the forest which according to him, they had all vanished at the time he was given the mandate to own the forest.
As the farm-cum-forest is located along a steeply river, soil erosion in rainy seasons is an order of the day, however Mzee Thambo has managed to cover up the giant gullies by planting special tree in them thus in his words, strengthening the soil, trapping any soil washed down from above grounds thus raising the level of the gullies after a period of time.
Mr. Thambo has no plans to cut down neither the indigenous tree nor the thousands he plants as he already posses a different source of income from the same forest which include; honey from beekeeping, money from selling fruits, vegetables and tree seedlings from his tree nursery.
The Ayasanda community forest that was founded under the Chairmanship of Mr. Kwatlema is a forest that is 100% founded, funded and preserved by the Ayasanda village.
In 1994, when Ayasanda village was at the peak of droughts and low productivity, the village sat down to decide a way forward and without a degree holder in there midst, they managed to determine that they were suffering climate change that was an immediate effect of population increase and increased human activities and that they were bound to perish if immediate measures were not taken.
In rectifying the situation, they decided to set aside 550 Hectares of their 1548 hectare village land to be a protected community forest. After the due process of formulating a community forest was observed, as it was explained to us by Mr. Kwatlema, the village formulated different committees to preserve the forest. Although no new trees were planted, the indigenous tree that had been cut down leaving their roots intact, were given time to sprout again and in a period of time the land was green again.
Today, Ayasanda villagers are enjoying the fruits of the forest in different ways, one is that, even before UN’s REDD project has started pouring dollars in compensation to carbon exchange, Ayasanda already received Tshs. 2,500,607 from carbon exchange under another project which were it not for its English long name Mr. Kwatlema could have named it, the money was used to build a village school. Other ways include; poles to build livestock bomas, timber, firewood, cattle grazing during the months of April to June, water from catchment areas, and beekeeping. All these activities are coordinated and village guards are used to monitor against invaders every day.
Having being successful on the Ayasanda forest, Ayasanda villagers went forward to seek partnership with the central government’s 7000 Hectare forest that borders their village and as we speak today the forest’s water catchment areas that had dried out, provide the village with drinking water.
Besides several challenges that both Mr. Thambo and Ayasanda villagers face, one being lack of formal education as everything have been systematically been placed to be actualized by it, these two encounters have again made me believe that a classless African is not uneducated!