Community involvement with famine relief in rural villages in Tanzania

sduncan post on November 26th, 2014
Posted in Africa

By Nadine De Albuquerque

Throughout my childhood, family members would describe stories depicting their upbringing in East Africa; the difficult times, the government nationalization of personal property directed at particular ethnicities and the disparate situations they witnessed, always making a point to convey just how “lucky” I was. The importance of family and community support was a recurring theme to these tales. As someone who was fortunate to grow up in Canada, these stories seemed so foreign to me. And although this was a difficult concept to comprehend in my youth, as an adult I realize that this is an unfortunate global reality.

Various communities would come together in the rural areas, regardless of ethnic or religious background, to help neighbouring villages work the land, provide agricultural supplies or livestock and build wells (1-3). This sustainable approach to famine relief required the cooperation of multiple sub-communities to facilitate and achieve their agenda, working side by side in close partnership with villagers that ultimately provided the village and future generations with food and clean water supply. The Tanzanian population consists of 120 ethnic groups, with 6 religious communities within the Asian community alone (4,5). Despite some disagreements between these communities in the past, the importance of helping others in need took precedence.

Food and water should not be seen as a ‘privilege’, especially when it is a matter of live and death. It can be both an instrument and limiting factor in poverty alleviation and economic recovery (6). Investigators illustrate that better nutrition is associated with higher income, and that nutrition interventions have a substantial beneficial effect (7). Furthermore, the incidence of malnutrition in Tanzania has been attributed to the high levels of poverty in rural parts of the country where 87 per cent of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood (8).

Africa also has the lowest water supply and sanitation coverage in the world, contributing to the dangerous health situation observed in many regions, where hunger and water-related diseases are prevalent (9). This circumstance is much more widespread in rural areas, where accessibility is only 50% compared with 86% in urban areas (10). Villagers, particularly women and children, are faced with the burden of traveling very long distances to obtain water, resulting in a heavy workload (11). Studies also indicate that increasing the distance to the nearest water source results in a significant increase in trachoma prevalence (12). In addition, the diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, schistosomiasis and lymphatic filariasis have all been implicated with inadequate clean water supply (13). Problems with freshwater availability in Tanzania are further complicated with droughts and variable levels of rainfall resulting in a significant portion of the population that are dependent on groundwater as their primary water source (6,14). Since, water availability is inextricably linked with climate, the need for wells in rural villages is further reinforced (6,15,16).

Being a member of this environment carries a certain conscientious responsibility to one’s neighbours that extends beyond the community they identify with. In this example, the mindset cannot be linked to one particular culture or religion, rather it exemplifies the basic moral principles that cross those barriers. Whether out of religious obligation, a sense of duty or simply the need to help those less fortunate, communities involved in work of this nature were pioneers in developing sustainable approaches to empower neighbouring villages and illustrating the effectiveness of hope in a non-institutional environment. A notion of goodwill and caring that would be passed off to their future generations, emphasizing the “pay it forward” ideology. Through a collective, holistic approach juxtaposed with close partnerships fostered between different communities, residents are given the opportunity to actively break out of the cycle of poverty and provide for their families in
a dignified and non-humiliating manner. Everyone in this case facilitates philanthropy in an atmosphere that viewed all participants as equals, in contrast to dominance by the wealthy elite in an attempt to restore social order. Although, their primary motive and methods differ from traditional Western strategies, the overall goal is essentially the same, to help those in need. It is important to recognize all forms of philanthropy and their sustainable contribution to the society in which they exist.

Irene De Albuquerque, verbal communication
Peter De Albuquerque, verbal communication
Arminda Fernandes, verbal communication

UNEP. 1999. Global Environmental Outlook.
Alderman, H. et al. Reducing Child Malnutrition in Tanzania-combined effects of income growth and program interventions. 2005. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 3567
Prospector John. Tanzania recording steady progress against malnutrition. IPPmedia.

ONU/WWAP. 2003. UN World Water Development Report.

Baggaley, R.F., et al. 2006. Distance to water sources and altitude in relation to active trachoma in Rombo district, Tanzania. Trop. Med. Int. Health. 11(2): 220-7.

Riebsame et al. 1995. “Complex River Basin Management in a Changing Climate.” In K. Strzepek and J. Smith (eds.) As Climate Changes: International Impact and Implications, pp. 57-91. Cambridge University Press.

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