Tanzania Program Update- Great News from East Africa

So it’s been more than a little while since I’ve updated the blog, but I thought you might be interested some recent Plant With Purpose developments, especially in Tanzania. The program has seen some fantastic growth in the last several years, in terms of the program’s activities, and also the measurable impact on people’s lives and the environment. First of all, take a  look at this amazing graph:

Tanzania program growth graph

This graph illustrates three key things: the number of families we’re working with, the number of trees planted, and the number of Village Savings and Loan (VSL) groups that we are leading. The years across the bottom of the chart give you some idea of how rapid the growth has been. This is a real credit to the leadership of the local staff in Tanzania, who are doing a great job of figuring out how to work very efficiently, so as to be able to do more with relatively modest increases in budget. (Just to give you an idea of the scale, Plant With Purpose has planted 12 million trees over the past 30 years, but 1.4 million of those were planted just in Tanzania in the last year- they are really leading the way in scaling up.)

But what about the impact of all those trees on people? In our very recently completed impact evaluation, we saw a 50% increase in girls enrollment in secondary school. Based on the size of our program, that equates to over 550 girls enrolled in school, who otherwise would not be. As families are increasing their incomes, they are prioritizing paying for their girls’ education. What a wonderful and hopeful sign for the future, for those girls, for their families, and for the country as a whole.

Trees TanzaniaThese girls are in school, thanks to the good work of our local program partners- and thanks to all of you who have supported our program and made our work possible! (And with a special shout out to our friends at Wings of Kilimanjaro, who gave so much to support our Tanzania program last year, and who at this moment are camped out of the summit waiting for good weather to fly down.)

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Wings of Kilimanjaro: Six Months Later- Good News from Tanzania

Six months ago the Wings of Kilimanjaro expedition put 95 climbers on the summit of Kilimanjaro and in the process raised over $550,000 for environmental restoration, clean water and education in Tanzania. Plant With Purpose received just over $165,000 as a result of this effort. (Fundraising efforts are continuing and you can learn more or make a donation here.) It was an amazing adventure that continues to have a lasting impact on people’s lives. Below are a few of the highlights of how Plant With Purpose has used these funds:

1. Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) – We have started 24 new VSLA groups with a total of 473 new VSLA members. 73% of these members are women. These groups provide a platform for farmers to save money and make it available for loans to start small businesses. As a result of being in a group, families are able to save money to pay for school fees, pay for emergencies and in general live with a much greater level of security.

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Village Community Banking

 2. Farmer Field Schools: 43 schools involving 1,075 farmers.  Farmer Field Schools are literally outdoor classrooms and laboratories, where farmers can learn about and test new crops, organic methods of pest control, fertilizers and water conservation techniques. By actively being involved in learning, farmers are much more likely to implement these new techniques on their own farms: “I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.”

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In Farmer Field Schools, farmers lean by doing

3. Trees Planted: 784,095 – Trees provide income for families in the form of fruit and wood products. Trees also conserve soil and water, which raises crop yields while at the same time restoring the environment.

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4. Stoves Built: 130 – Each stove reduces wood use by 60%, reducing deforestation and smoke inhalation, dramatically improving the health of women and children involved in cooking.

5. Number of Group Members with Vegetable Gardens – 546. Vegetable gardens are incredibly important for improving the health and nutrition of children and their families. According to the latest stats released by the World Food Program, 38.8% of Tanzanians are malnourished. In children, this malnourishment causes irreversible loss of brain function and reduced ability to learn and other chronic health problems. It doesn’t have to be this way!

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Tanzania has plenty of land to grow food and farmers are anxious to work hard. Thanks to the support provided by Wings of Kilimanjaro, this child and thousands like him will have hope for a better future.

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Tree Planting in Oaxaca: The Difference Four Years Makes

I have the privilege of being in Oaxaca this week with our group from Solana Beach Presbyterian Church. We participated in a variety of activities this week and I’ll be putting up a few posts. First I want to show you a couple reforestation pictures.

Oaxaca is the most deforested state in Mexico, and the Mixteca Alta region, where Plant With Purpose works, is the most deforested part of Oaxaca. The good news is that with the participation of the local community, things can really turn around. Take a look at these pictures of pine tree seedlings being planted and of those that were planted for years ago:

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Our intrepid visiting tree planting team about to get to work

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A Oaxacan Pine in it’s new home

After we were done planting these trees, one of the leaders of the local community of La Union, Don Nivel, wanted to show us a hillside that they planted four years ago. We were pretty amazed by what we saw:Image

A forest of 1,500 Four year old Oaxacan Pines: with Don Nivel and Eduardo, who leads Plant With Purpose’s reforestation work in Oaxaca.

Don Nivel led the effort to plant these 1,500 trees four years ago and was very proud to show them to us. As we walked through them we could see how the pine needles were building up on the ground. Bird nests in the trees were a sign that wildlife was returning. As we thought about the barren hillside where we had planted in the morning, this gave us a living example of what the future could look like in Oaxaca. The trees will also make a tremendous human impact as the control erosion which will increase crop yields and reduce water-borne illness by naturally filtering the water as it soaks into the ground.

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Don Nivel pointing out a bird nest

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A Presidential Goal for Tanzania

Guest Post! A reflection on the work of Plant With Purpose in light of President Obama’s remarks during a press conference while in Tanzania last week, by development department intern Maddy Swoy.

During President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Tanzania, he was greeted with warmth and gratitude. President Jakaya Kilkwete of Tanzania thanked President Obama and the United States for their effort to assuage Tanzania’s “food security” problem, which has led to “nutrition security” and is “building Tanzania’s capacity for self-sufficiency and food supply.” President Obama said, “Tanzania has the potential to unlock new economic growth not only in this country, but all across East Africa.” He continued, “President Kilkwete and I agree to keep tackling the hurdles of greater economic growth, starting with the sector where the vast majority of Tanzanians work, and that’s the agricultural sector.” The United States is taking action through the Feed for Future campaign, which works with 14,000 farmers, and has helped to increase yields by 50 percent.

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This type of work is aligns closely to that of Plant With Purpose as farmers are trained to engage with sustainable and practical farming techniques that serve as long-term solutions to food scarcity, water shortage, malnutrition, and community development.

As President Obama said, “Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans and our job is to be a partner in that process.” Plant With Purpose is doing just that in empowering farming families and helping them help themselves by inspiring farmers to take pride in their work and affording them the ability to provide for their families with dignity. Plant With Purpose is empowering communities to go together, creating self-sustainable, dignified results.

Through Plant With Purpose’s trainings on family gardens, small-scale farming, and tree seedling production, change is certainly underway due to diversity of diet and having excess produce and seedlings to be sold for income. Each of these projects supports President Obama’s effort for “higher incomes and a ladder for families and communities to greater prosperity.” Plant With Purpose is adding rungs to this ladder by approaching the issue holistically—by helping to restore the environment, providing outlets for economic opportunity, and inspiring hope.

President Obama said, “We (the United States and Tanzania) are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance, but on trade and partnership… I am inspired because I’m absolutely convinced that with the right approach, Africa and its people can unleash a new era of prosperity.” Plant With Purpose is working to do just that. With an increase in income and improved nutrition, children are able to attend school, overall family and community health improves, families generate a buffer of savings for crisis, and transformation spreads across generations, among communities, and within regions.

 

 

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Hurricane Season in Haiti: Chantal

I haven’t written much lately but thought I’d post this image of tropical storm Chantal’s trajectory. It seems that storms hit Haiti so regularly now that, sadly, we hardly think about it. I’ll probably put another post up on this later in the week.

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Spectacular hike through Nyakazu or “German’s Gorge” in Burundi

I had the privilege of hiking though this watershed and under this spectacular waterfall when I was in Burundi in January. Our team put the rough footage together into a three-minute video and I think it came out great! We were told we were the first people in 18 years to descend this gorge.

Even better, we just got a significant amount of the funding that we had needed to begin expanding our work in and protect this beautiful area.

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New Savings and Loan (VSLA) Groups in Haiti

Almost three years ago Plant With Purpose’s international meeting in Tanzania focused on the village savings and loan program,or VSLA, which I’ve written about quite a bit on this blog. Since then, the program has spread the other five countries where Plant With Purpose works. The pattern of pooling savings that are then made available for loans is the same in every country, though groups also have freedom to decide things like how much interest they will charge for loans and so on. Another consistent pattern has been skepticism as to whether “it will work here,” followed in a few months by a growing sense of excitement about how effective the groups are in empowering members and the community to work together to improve their lives.

So one of the highlights of my recent trip to Haiti was seeing two new groups, one in Tewouj in Grand Colline and another one in Tefwad. It was especially exciting to be at the Tefwad group, as this was the very first time that they were meeting to begin saving. The plan is for 50 groups like these across the Haiti program in the next year. Here’s a (not very good) picture:

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Notice that the leadership of the group is shared by four people who are elected by the group, and that all transactions (savings deposits, loans and loan repayments are handled up front for maximum transparency.

For me this has been a super encouraging and inspiring trip to Haiti and I will have a few more posts, along with better pictures, soon.

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