The sun in Tanzania is soul-filling. Just a week of traveling through the country will teach you that.
I had the opportunity to travel through Tanzania via an untraditional route that allowed me to visit various international development projects, including those sponsored by donors like USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Witnessing these projects, which aim to alleviate issues such as food and energy insecurity, allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the hardships that many Tanzanians face.
Many Tanzanians are farmers and the majority of them rely on cash crops, such as maize (corn), potatoes, and bananas for a combination of sustenance and commercial production. Additionally, many are also pastoralists, meaning they work with various forms of livestock, specifically dairy cows, to generate income.
A good day for a dairy farmer in Tanzania is 6 liters of milk per cow. A good day for a dairy farmer in the United States is 70 liters - more than 10 times the amount milk production of their counterpart across the globe. Yet, that Tanzanian dairy farmer gives thanks for her blessings and allocates the profit from that milk towards supporting her family, especially the education of her children. It is good reminder to be thankful for what you have.
A Colorful Life
While the sun shines bright in Tanzania, so too do the colors of the people and cultures there. Often when I travel, I fall in love with the people of a certain place. In Romania, I was impressed by the go-getter, yet relaxed attitude of the younger generation. In Germany, their hard-working spirit. In Tanzania, I was humbled by their kindness, hospitality, and generosity.
While they face many hardships, Tanzanians live a colorful life. They laugh, dance, and sing through the greys of hardship, the blues of sadness, and bright yellows of success. Of each Tanzanian asked, “What do you love about your country?”, all responded to me with the same answer: “I love my people because they are kind”. They reflect a positive attitude about loving your neighbor that much of the world could benefit from emulating.
Always Facing the Sun
I will be honest - in many ways, my trip through Tanzania was too comfortable. Hotels and private tours sheltered us from the realities of contaminated water, no electricity, and the decision some families make daily between food or education. I also learned that while foreign aid organizations and business may have good intentions, their actions can also have unintended consequences that make bad situations worse. However, these actions can also form beneficial partnerships and fuel growth that creates better lives.
NGO’s - Heifer International, the Gates Foundation, Land O’Lakes International Development, and others - have direct and positive effects in places like Tanzania. And, what is most promising, is that the international development community is learning from their past mistakes. Today, rather than simply providing capital funds (which were often lost due to the lack of transparency, regulation, and clear vision of their impact), we are seeing projects that elevate individuals from the trenches of poverty and provide opportunities for economic growth, educational advancement, and increased security on all fronts. While there are still hurdles to be overcome, we are looking with hope towards a positive future for nations like Tanzania.
As I traveled through Tanzania, I saw perseverance reflected even in the landscape, as tall, strong sunflowers grew between the the rows of maize. Everyday, despite the challenges of shade and competition, these flowers still find the strength to turn and face the sun. The aspirations of the Tanzanian people are similar in their strength and potential. People find the will each morning to rise, despite hardship, and follow the sun to pursue a better life.