Tanzania: Millenium village strives to fight poverty

By Kizito Makoye, Tabora –  In an effort to realize millennium development goals, people in one of the United Nations model villages in Tanzania have made remarkable strides in fighting poverty with just  a little assistance from donors.

Residue spraying is one of malaria interventions

Residue spraying is one of malaria interventions

Residents of Mbola – a remote village located 36 Kilometres from Tabora Township have demonstrated their commitment in climbing the ladder of prosperity by improving  living conditions despite being faced by a myriad of development challenges.

Nestled across  six villages spread out over an expansive area of hilly terrain Mbola village finds itself at the centre of Africa’s  malaria zone which  had previously threatened the survival of its people notably pregnant women and children below the age of five. But with intervention strategies adopted the village has been able to roll back the killer disease.

A baseline survey conducted in the village about four years ago indicated a 16% prevalence of malaria epidemic, as a result the leadership had organized a plan of action to tackle malaria using several intervention measures which include;-

-Mass distribution of over 30,000 insecticide treated bed nets

-Distribution of anti- malarial drugs (Coartem) to tackle uncomplicated cases

-Use of Salfadoxine pyremethamine (SP) for pregnant mothers.

-Use of Rapid Diagnostic Test in the diagnosis of malaria

-Indoor residual spraying.

These intervention measures have greatly helped the villagers to tackle malaria and its burden has fallen.

This reporter saw new health clinics  as well as renovated older ones which had been built by the community in Mbola in partnership with district authorities to provide health services to the locals.

A health coordinator for Mbola village, Dr. Deusdedit Mjungu told this reporter that initially some of the preventive measures against malaria were opposed by certain government officials on the grounds that they were hazardous. But they turned out to be more effective two years after they were first introduced making the village one of malaria free areas in the country.

Mjungu said basing on the breakthrough in Mbola, Tanzania government  announced its resolve to reduce malaria incidences by 2013 by 80%.  The success in fighting malaria in this village which  became  evident even to residents themselves- shows  that the  project is fulfilling some of the many pledges made as part of the overall proof that the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved.

Trekking through hilly terrain of the village whose people depend on farming, the crops have generally improved  since peasants   can easily get access to organic fertilizers- necessary for a decent harvest.

The village had  been suffering not only from recurrent drought but also  shortage of organic fertilizers  making it difficult to grow crops such as paddy rice, maize and even tobacco which is the main cash crop cultivated by 68% of the population.

“ This area has a very poor soil…you can hardly grow anything without fertilizers but since more peasants have had access to fertilizers through the so-called voucher system they can now make a good harvest” says a villager Masumbuko Malima.

Agriculture experts, however, see the soil situation in this village as a perfect trap since poor soils lead to poor harvests, and poor harvests lead to poor households unable to replenish the soil.

But with a little help from international organizations, the UN backed Millennium Village has begun to break this cycle and begin the climb out of poverty.

The idea behind millennium villages is to reduce extreme poverty through investments in agriculture, health, education, roads, electricity and Internet access.

In Mbola  the first step has been to help farmers harvest more food, by providing them with fertilizers and high-yield seeds.

According to village authorities maize yields have increased about 60%. This has helped families trapped by extreme hunger grow enough food not only to feed themselves but also to bring a surplus to market.

The community has also set aside some of  the harvest to provide a midday meal for schoolchildren.

New schools have also being constructed and classrooms refurbished. Several dozen students have received scholarships to attend secondary school, something their families could otherwise not afford.

The main development challenges in Mbola still include the high rate of environmental degradation resulting from poor crop management practices, declining agricultural production and destruction of the Miombo woodlands for fuel wood used in the tobacco industry.

Overgrazing and expansion of agricultural land have also contributed to the decline of land productivity. In addition, roads are in a poor state, thus limiting easy access to markets.

Kizito Makoye is a Journalist based in Dar es Salaam Tanzania