Tanzania: Mbola Millenium Village Project helps improve lives of locals

Cattle is part of the project

Cattle is part of the project

By Elias Mhegera – The Mbola Millenium Village Project (MVP), Uyui District in Tabora Region explains a lot about investing in people, as now the cluster village stands out like an oasis in a desert.

The visit to the village by Shout Africa for three days from 24th to 26th August revealed that life standards of its residents are far better than those of residents of Isikizya, the headquarters of Uyui District.

And this is the case even to some residents at the Tabora Municipal 36 kilometers apart from the village. Health services have shown to stand out more vividly than other services out of the eight Millennium goals.

Beehives at Mbola village

Beehives at Mbola village

This reporter attested this after a discussion with Dr. Gerson Nyadzi the MVP project Team Leader, prior to the visitations the idea of visiting other villages was to get a comparison and contrast in the nearby villages.

Before visiting the MVP, the acting District Development Director Mr. Ahmada Suleiman admitted that the life picture in the whole of Uyui District is gloomy and of extreme poverty.

The comparison visit showed that outside the MVP there is a band of unemployed youths many in dirty and ragged clothes. The answer was simpler and obvious that almost the whole of Uyui district and Tabora region in Western Tanzania is dry without adequate supply of water.

Moreover even buying soaps and detergents becomes none of their priority as long as people are hungry and with poor financial resources. The areas faces severe drought due to environmental degradation that has been caused by falling of trees in order to dry up tobacco leaves.

Solar installation at Mbola village

Solar installation at Mbola village

Listening to the presentations and discussions at the Ilolanguru village Millennium Centre showed that extreme poverty has always been the one of the main causes of school and unexpected pregnancies and other related matters.

The introduction of seminars at the MVP is part of mainstreaming transformations through parents and influential persons in the urban setting.

“We introduced such seminars after realizing that there were snags in implementing the MDGs to this MVP at Mbola, some parents were skeptical, and even there were campaigns that the whole project was intended for land grabbing,” remarked Dr  Nyadzi before he introduced this reporter to villagers.

Conference Hall at Ilolanguru village

Conference Hall at Ilolanguru village

He noted that the spirit of contribution in kind is not necessarily received well because villagers think that everything should be provided for by donors. The MVP project Team Leader Gerson Nyadzi worries that because of this attitude MVP  may not be sustainable after it comes to end of sponsorship in December this year.

“We are facing a problem of ‘theirs’ syndrome,” said Dr Nyadzi, referring to stakeholders including government officials, who see the project as belonging to donors rather than working to mainstream it in the development programmes.”

An Assistant Inspector from the Tabora District Police Office, Ms. Grace Kaijage who also dubs as chairperson for the Gender and Children Desk within the Force explained some challenges in dealing with cases of school pregnancy.

She said in many cases such matters used to be handled in ‘traditional courts’ whereby the culprits could only be fined without undergoing any other punishment.

“Through our researches we discovered that parents of the girls who were made pregnant particularly mothers have been taking even ‘gifts’ without informing their husbands what was going on between their daughters and their ‘covert-in-laws’,” stated the policewoman.

Dr. Gerson Nyadzi in front with a worker in a clinical coat at the Mbola village dispensary

Dr. Gerson Nyadzi in front with a worker in a clinical coat at the Mbola village dispensary

Through the MVP project six villages have benefited from one investment which cannot be found in other normal Tanzanian villages. From Mbola with a modern dispensary, to Ibiri with a maternity ward, Inonelwa Primary School with solar energy, also Membo food preservation and many other investments of the like.

The head teacher for Mahaba Primary School at Mpenge village, Ms. Catherine Mbando admits that through the MVP the differences are fundamental in comparison to as nearby as 2003 when the project was not yet introduced.

“I come from Kilimanjaro where missionaries introduced many schools particularly during the era of colonialism, but in Tabora the case was different some Muslims were hesitant to send their daughters to schools in the fear of being Christianized,” she reveals.

She reveals that this added to with some local stereotypes denied girls formal education therefore gender parity in schools was merely an illusion.

However, due to the MVP now the enrolment of girls and boys is almost at par. She admits that there is a direct correlation between poverty and school pregnancies. But the project has introduced a series of awareness programs in order to make parents supportive to education initiatives.

Mr Jumanne Enos second master at Ilolanguru Secondary School says some of the major benefits of the project are being supplied power by the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO), the major repairs of classrooms and introduction of a computer room to the school.

“Up to this moment we do have 20 desk top computers,50 ipads, and internet routers which make it easier for a virtual class and even for students’ sourcing of information. The emphasis being for science subjects namely; physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology,” he commented.

But for Zena Agwanda second in charge at the Mbola dispensary the MVP means a complete transformation of her life. She registers the benefits being personal to societal. For instance at the personal level her salary is 50 percent more than what she used to be paid at the Bunda District Designated Hospital (DDH).

“I have enjoyed being accommodated in employer’s house for the first time, I own a cellular phone which is paid for by the project on monthly basis, and the hospital has enough pharmaceuticals my life is far better than many nurses at the DDHs,” she comments.

Further, patients who were interrogated said that due to immunization and availability of medicines and high quality medical services and availability of an ambulance at their dispensary, the rate of child deaths has gone to almost nil.

Apart from that the health facility has created jobs through the Community Health Workers (CHW). In terms of agriculture the MVP has provided land tillers, quality seeds and seedlings, fertilizers, insecticides and farming implements.

Moreover the MVP has introduced a Savings and Credit Co-operative Society (SACCOs) being the most powerful for the whole of the Tabora region. The project has supported villagers with an incubator which is solar powered.

Forestation and environmental preservation have provided some families with more than 1000 beehives as family projects.

Villagers have been given facilities to package honey and other agricultural products. The MVP project also has introduced environmentally friendly methods of drying tobacco leaves.

Mr. Mrisho Ally who attended a one month course that was sponsored by the project is happy that through his title as team leader and Agricultural Community Extension Worker (ACEW) he can now enlighten his village mates on the demands of the market.

He has as well attended several workshops on how to package and where to sell their items, entrepreneurship, and negotiation skills between the buyer, government and corporations. Moreover, he cherishes the trainings that he received on green villages, and how to generate capital in a rural setting.

Amongst the most notable challenges are; some unscrupulous villagers have been diverting the use of fertilizers which instead of being utilized in their farms it was sold somewhere else.

The spirit of contribution in kind is not necessarily received well because villagers think that everything should be provided for by donors.

Classrooms have overcrowded from the 20,000 that was planned for, to 42 000 twice as much due to the fact that some parents from the cluster villagers bring in children from elsewhere due to the meals motivation and availability of books and other teaching materials.

While on the success side almost 40,000 people benefit from the project which covers 1, 334 Sqkm area which is 10 percent of the whole of Uyui District in Tabora Region,  There are 1000 homesteads with 5000 villagers which are equal to six villagers of the Millennium project.

Experiences of entrepreneurship have been mainstreamed in the lives of people through various projects, modern farming of vegetables, food preservation, and animal husbandry.

In order to support economic activities there is a strongest SACCOS in the whole of Tabora Region, 61 groups of more than 300 have been supported. Various financial institutions have supported this SACCOS in finance and marketing strategies for its members.

In education there is an increase of school attendance one motivation being meals which are provided to pupils during the lunch hour. The increase in enrollment is 60 percent (2006), 85 percent (2006), to over 100 percent (2013).

The health sector is one which has benefited most whereby malnutrition has been dropped significantly from 42.2 percent in 2007 to less than 10 percent in 2012. Services to People Living with HIV (PLHIV), is encouraging so far, 61 children of less than four years are attended fully by the project.

Clean water and sanitation are maintained well therefore reducing the vulnerabilities to new infections. In this bid ventilated pit latrines for 20 schools with a total of 120 holes have been constructed for 17 primary schools, also 6 of such type with 48 holes have been constructed for a dispensary.

However Dr. Nyadzi is worried because there are no tangible plans for the sustainability of these services which were provided by the Millennium Village Promise. “We are facing a problem of ‘theirs’ syndrome” he commented.

He was referring to some reliable stakeholders including some Government officials, who do see the project as belonging to donors rather than designing to mainstream this project in the development programmes.