The village of Gasaboi lies about 35km off the main road between Babati and Singita. A few decades ago, the area surrounding the village was a wooded acacia forest where pastoralists and wildlife coexisted in relative harmony. Now, the majority of the land has been converted into large scale agriculture, producing much of the countries barley and wheat.
UCRT recognizes that land rights, sustainable natural resource management and improved livelihoods go hand-in-hand with economic security. In 2017, UCRT, in collaboration with Oxfam, began a new income generating project, aimed at eliminating poverty at the family level for some of Gasaboi’s most vulnerable members, women and youth. The majority of participants belong to the Datoga tribe, a traditionally agro-pastoralist tribe recognizable for their beautifully hand-beaded clothing.
Mesuja, UCRT staff member in Hanang District commented “Due to things like lack of capital or work, young people in rural areas can often spend the entire day sitting. This is not only harmful for them but also for the community. Both of these groups (women and youth) have a lot to contribute their community if given the opportunity. ”
The group in Gasaboi is comprised of 50 members, including 25 women and 25 youth. Forty-two acres of land were allotted for the group to plant sunflowers. From this year’s crop, the group is expecting to sell 28 million Tanzanian shillings worth of seeds that will be pressed into oil and an additional 5 million shillings worth of stems for feeding livestock.
Maria Alphonce acts as the women’s group sectary. When asked what this project has meant for women like herself she replied “Most women in this community have a hard time getting even a thousand shillings from their husband to feed their family. This project is changing that. My family is happy, I’m able to buy soap and have taken a small loan to build a house made of makuti leaves. Before that, we didn’t have a proper home to live in.”
The women were also provided with the resources to begin a small VICOBA (Village Community Banking). Members can take loans to start small businesses, finish repairs on their homes, or pay school fees for children.
At 27 years old, Andrew Jacob, the youth group chairman, is intent on this project being a stepping stone towards building a new life for himself. When asked what his thoughts were on women and youth working together he replied with a smile “It’s best to work together. It’s about respect. We are a good influence on each other. The mamas teach us patience.”
Caption: The women call themselves umoja - meaning unity in Swahili. They range in age between 30-65.
While this project is still in its early stages, it is safe to say that the results of this partnership between the women and youth community has surprised everyone. By working together, two of this communities most vulnerable groups have managed to increase their income.
Martha Paulo, the chairperson for the project said, “We couldn’t have done this as individuals, we did this together.”