The Creative Activist

Martin Saning’o Kariongi Ole Sanago

Weeks have gone by, my national exams were nigh, since Mr. Martin Saning’o had passed away from COVID-19. I had a dream. In the dream, Mr. Martin said to me, in Swahili, with rough translation to english as, “Dare to dream big, never give up and always have a spirit big enough to achieve your dreams. Never give up my son and remember I love you!”. I woke up emotional that day but I also had a thought. He has done great works that most don’t know of. I wouldn’t want his works to go unnoticed – I would want people to know of the works that he did and the benefits he has brought to the Maasai community in Terrat, Simanjiro. This is his story.

Martin was born in the early 1960’s in the Simanjiro district of northern Tanzania. This is in the Maasai heartland – the high arid plains south of Arusha. In common with many Maasai of his generation, Martin and his family cannot be sure exactly when he was born. But Martin believed it to be born in 1960 or 1961.

                                                       Simanjiro

Martin was one among the minute number of Maasai children to have received education at the time. He used his education well. He wanted to give back to society that brought him up, so in the early 1990’s he founded IOPA – Institute for Orkonerei Pastoralists Advancement. Although IOPA’s first priority was to deal with land rights, it also eyed health problems and water supply problems that the Maasai in Terrat faced.

Martin became an activist, and made critical moves to ensure that the Maasai aren’t displaced from their traditional lands – The government had been displacing the Maasai at the time from areas they claimed to be ‘National Park areas’. His moves were seen to be ‘too critical’ to some in high places, and as a result the government initially refused to register IOPA.

As impossible as it may seem, Martin sued the government for displacing the Maasai from their traditional lands. At the time, more than 6000 Maasai had already been displaced by the government form National Parks. IOPA, led by Mr. Martin, filed a number of cases against the government which later on resulted in a landmark ruling by the High Court in IOPA’s favour.

Martin recognized that education was the key to enlighten the Maasai on a number of things: land rights, their own health, their livestock, the ongoing changes in the outside world, and a number of other things. He figured that a community radio would effectively serve this purpose. He took measures to establish a community radio, the first ever in Tanzania. He worked his fingers to the bone – a lot of sleepless nights – and finally the ORS FM first broadcasted news in 2002. The radio was in fact the first ever community radio in Tanzania – or in a larger perspective East Africa. It broadcast news in Kimaasai (the Maasai native language) and also played Maasai music.

After the idea of the community radio, Martin also realised that there was a need for electricity – not only for the radio station but also for the receivers of the information they portrayed. He worked on a number of projects, in association with different international organisations, to bring electricity to the Maasai people.

Martin also worked to help women facing different challenges, most especially those in the maasai areas – they were more prone to treacherous practices – such beatings from husbands, mutilation and harassment. IOPA created a safe haven where beaten women would go to and tell their stories. It also tried to prevent female genital mutilation, FGM, child marriage, and women oppression. IOPA dedicated some of its resources to educate women and raise the status of women in the Maasai society. IOPA also sought to help women economically. IOPA established dairies in Simanjiro with a long-sighted view of enabling women to sell milk and get money, they used to acquire their needs and the needs of their families. In the maasai culture, the only resource that belongs to women is milk.

Martin had broad and liberal outlook in his work, which touched each and almost every age group and social class by the time. For children, IOPA helped establish more than 50 pre-primary and primary schools across the region.

Martin’s work didn’t go unnoticed – he was elected an Ashoka fellow in 2003 and got the attention of a Dutch philanthropist, Dini de Rijcke, and began to work with her through her foundation, Strichting Het Groene Woudt (SHGW). Through working with Ashoka and SHGW, IOPA achieved many of its objectives. The Dutch foundation provided IOPA with 5 dairy plants and generators to power them across the region, and each dairy could process up to 2000 litres of milk into yoghurt, cheese, ghee and butter per day. These products were sold throughout the country. In cooperation with these organizations, IOPA was also able to work on a number of water supply projects, that bore fruits as the people in the dry Maasai lands got water with much more ease than before.

The women’s refuge centre was expanded to also be guest houses that could accommodate visitors to the area. IOPA also added additional generators to build one of the first mini-grids in the country to supply more than 1000 people in Terrat village with electricity, since the government had considered it too expensive to connect Terrat to the national electricity grid.

                        The IOPA centre in Terrat with guest house, community hall and dairy

Martin was bestowed various awards for his great work such as Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2014 by the Schwab Foundation and World Economic Forum Africa, the Ford Global Community Leadership Award, and Dubai Global Innovator Award.

Martin suggested that IOPA had to try and create viable micro businesses, so that even after funders ended their collaborations, IOPA would still be able to run its activities and thrive. As of today, IOPA’s remaining running projects include ORS FM radio, a few dairy plants, the conference centre, the water business, the guest house, and education and health support project in Terrat.

In 2019, IOPA was changed to Orkonerei Maasai Social Initiatives (OMASI) – an NGO – because of government laws and regulations, and by the end of 2020 Mr. Martin had achieved most of his goals and dreams.

On March 1st, 2021, Martin passed away. I can say that he hasn’t truly died because his works still live on – he lives through his works. He has left a legacy and very big shoes to fill. This story of Martin is supposed to be a motivation to anyone with big dreams, anyone who is fighting against all odds to achieve their dreams. I hope I have done his story justice.

If you will it, it is no dream; and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay

                                                                                    – Thomas Herzl –

Martin Saning’o Kariongi Ole Sanago

The value of using GDH to the country, especially Tanzania

James Mathew Mgaya – Art in Tanzania internship

The nine domains of GNH

To many GDH is new terminology but it bears most important value to the countries. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a measurement of the collective happiness in a nation. Gross national happiness (GNH) is a measure of economic and moral progress that the king of the Himalayan country of Bhutan introduced in the 1970s as an alternative to gross domestic product. The kingdom of Bhutan’s first legal code, written at the time of unification in 1729, stated that “if the government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the government.”. GNH has nine domain pillars of measurement which current work internationally. These pillars provide the foundation for the happiness, which is manifest in the nine domains of GNH: psychological well-being, standard of living, good governance, health, community vitality, cultural diversity, time use, and ecological resilience. In simple understanding is that the country that prefer people than self government interest by living with peace and harmony towards its citizens.

The value of GNH?

Encourage investment; the country with good Gross Domestic Happiness mean it will attract more foreign direct investment which will contribute to GNP (Gross Domestic Product) of the certain country. By FDI means more foreign investors will start their business in Tanzania and increase our national revenue. Moreover, it also encourages entrepreneurship and establishment of new companies and enterprises own by local resident (Tanzanians). Valuation of currency; increase of value of the currency like Tanzanian shillings depend on interest rate, exports and imports , the purchasing power of currency in internationally, foreign exchange reserves that means amount of currency held by foreign governments. Simply, the value of currency increases according to it circulation money within international borders by good diplomatic relation through international trade/financing/business. Which GDH can give you that good standard of living means available market, purchasing power of consumer and good money circulation. Good diplomatic relation internationally; GNH gives good governance and psychological well being this means the government can have good relationships to neighbouring countries and international collaborations to economically, politically, and socially. In psychological wellbeing means government through its resources can ensure life satisfactory in some degree of it services which create peace and harmony among the citizens. Mentally stable country bring relief to nearby countries and allow friendship due to available labour force, no political unrest which attract more investment to multinational companies and international relationship. Increase of production nationally; GDH gives that the government could build into its public policy decisions like good governance and sustainable development This is when government focus in public good to boost they are citizen economy and infrastructures like in Tanzania strategic cities projects which give formal and informal employment to the citizens. Building transportations means to the citizen to increase production from the farmers toward the producers, availability of water and electricity to the rural areas which stimulate production and lead to urbanisation of rural areas which bring closure factories to available raw material due to availability of public goods. Increase of national income; for citizen to enjoy their government the need sustainable income, example in Tanzania they use strategic project to build infrastructure of public goods like roads, railways, bridges aviation and marine transports. This is life satisfactory to the citizens by means of transportation, but it has income good side to government and individuals. It creates formal and informal employment to the citizens and at same time create income through toll like bridge toll at Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam creates income, air Tanzania can create national income, also marine transport in lake zones create employment and national income. If citizens are happy with their government, it means no political unrest and its national income will thrive.

The verdict

There so much to talk about the Gross Domestic Happiness and the things can offer if considered. It is an alternative to Gross Domestic Product which it rather than focusing strictly on quantitative economic measures, gross national happiness considers an evolving mix of quality-of-life factors. The centre provides an overview of national performance across these pillars provide the foundation for the happiness, which is manifest in the nine domains of GNH: psychological well-being, standard of living, good governance, health, education, community vitality, cultural diversity, time use, and ecological resilience.