Composting to Improve Crops and Human Health

By Miakoda Ford – Art in Tanzania Intern


With the observable changes to weather patterns, such as shifts in rain patterns, and intensified storms, rural communities in Tanzania are struggling to maintain their agricultural way of life. Continuing to produce the crops and quantities needed is becoming gradually more challenging. It is understood and observed that rain patterns have been abnormal in recent years but the other environmental factors negatively affecting crops are far less noticeable. As most know, crops need water, sunlight, and soil to grow, and healthy crops make healthy people. Yet in reality the equation is far more complex than that. Some crops can easily be over watered or receive too much direct sunlight, and air quality affects their growth as well. However, the most important element in crop production is actually the soil. Soil is not only what holds and supports the plants, it is also what provides nutrients to the crops. Healthy soil can retain far more water than thin dusty soil, combating the issue of inconsistent watering. Healthy soil also helps to protect the plants from illness, bacteria, and underground pests. The most important aspect of healthy soil is that it gives nutrients and vitamins to the plants we eat. Continuing to grow crops in the same plot of land season after season removes all the nutrients from the soil causing the crop yield to decrease and human health to suffer. With the changes in the environment, variability of rainfall, increase in annual temperature, and prevalence of harmful plastic derived chemicals, the best way to ensure crop health does not drastically decrease is to: improve the health of the soil. Soil health can be
drastically improved with the use of natural fertilizer, and natural fertilizer can easily be made with little to no cost by composting food waste.
The widespread lack of a thorough waste management system — especially in agricultural regions, causes food waste to pile up near common living spaces or even spaces where food is prepared. This negatively affects human health in several ways. This form of waste management emits a greenhouse gas called Methane that amplifies changes in weather patterns by changing the chemistry of the atmosphere at an unnatural speed. But more importantly for the community, food waste attracts a large number of insects. Cholera is a very common and severe illness in these areas, and it is largely spread by flies. Flies feed on both human waste and rotting food, so when these materials are close to fresh food, illness occurs more frequently. With better managed food waste illness would be less frequent and far less severe.

Common waste consists of fresh fruit and vegetable peels, cooked starchy food waste, and scraps of cow, chicken, goat, and fish. All these things attract vermin and insects, but they also are all organic materials that are high in nutrients. If these materials were to be property composted human health would improve from both the improved crop yield and the reduction of illness.

Composting is the process of using food scraps and other natural materials such as grass clippings and coconut husks to create a natural nutrient rich fertilizer. Composting takes attention and effort, but it is an extremely effective way to increase water retention in soil, crop production, and crop health. If the plastics were removed from these images, all the materials could be the start of a healthy nutrient rich fertilizer. Properly combining compostable materials
initiates a thermal reaction between the materials that causes them to break down while producing nutrients. The main things needed are airflow, warmth, moisture and a three to one ratio of ‘brown’ and ‘green’ ingredients. Direct sunlight can also increase the speed of the process. Brown ingredients refer to carbon rich materials such as dry leaves, sticks, and ash.

While green ingredients are nitrogen rich materials like food waste, manure, and fresh grass clippings. The reaction that causes composting to be successful is dependent on the interaction between carbon and nitrogen rich materials, so it is very important to pay attention to what you are putting into your compost. Composting can be done on a small scale in trash cans or buckets, but it is important to put small holes in whatever container you use so heat and air can flow through. It is also important to use a lid. Thin layers are best because the ‘brown’ and ‘green’ materials need to be touching. Whenever you have food waste put it in your compost container and cover with a ‘brown’ layer, then put on the lid. The smaller the food scraps are the faster the fertilizer will form, so tear and grind materials when able. It is important to keep the compost moist — but not wet– so you should only add water as needed. If the compost appears slimy or smelly add extra ‘brown’ materials or even some dirt. Mixing or stirring the layers every three or four days speeds up the process. If you are using a bucket you can simply roll it gently with the lid on. It is very important to make sure no plastic contaminates the process. Only the materials listed below should be incorporated.


If you would like to compost on a larger scale to suit your level of crop production and food waste, outdoor compost piles are easy to start and maintain. The simplest way to start an outdoor compost pile is to place a pole or branch in the ground and create layers of materials around it. The first layer should be of larger ‘brown’ materials like tree clippings and hay, then you can add a thin layer of food waste, and more ‘brown’ materials on top. You can collect the
food waste in any closed container, just be sure that no other unnatural trash contaminates it.

Several households can contribute their waste to the same pile. So, when you need to empty your jar of rotting food scraps, take it to the outdoor pile and create another layer. Whenever you add the ‘green’ ingredients add a ‘brown’ layer on top to ensure the reaction will occur. Covering the food waste with dry leaves and other materials also helps to prevent pests from disturbing the pile. When your pile has formed you can remove the pole in the center which the layers were formed around, this will allow heat and air to flow efficiently throughout the pile and it will increase the speed of the process. When the pile is first formed you should cover it with a tarp or rice sacks weighed down by a few rocks, this insures that it does not become too moist and it traps all the materials, forcing the reaction to occur. A few days after food waste has been added you can stir the pile to help the layers mix and breakdown. When your compost appears to be dark thick dirt the process is complete, and you can utilize the fertilizer wherever your crops are growing.
Continuing the process will gradually yet significantly improve your garden or field of crops. The more fertilizer added, the better your crops will be. Improving your soil improves your health, making plentiful and vitamin rich foods.

Indoor Air Pollution

What is indoor air pollution?

            Indoor air pollution is when the condition of air surrounding building settings both inside and out is detrimental to the health of living beings. It is especially dangerous in comparison to outdoor air pollution because of how confined the space is within a building as opposed to the space outside.

            Some of the causes of indoor air pollution are a result of the materials used to construct the building, practices followed in and around the building, and natural contaminants. Asbestos can be found in roofing panels and shingles, insulation materials, water supply lines, and cement pipes. Formaldehyde can be found in wood products, press fabrics, glues, paints, pesticides, cosmetics, and detergents. Radon gas can be found within the ground beneath homes and slip in through any cracks or openings in the home. Tobacco smoke can accumulate if smoking is done around or within the home. Biological pollutants such as bacteria, mold and animal dander can enter the home from outside. Appliances such as stoves and heaters can release carbon monoxide and nitrogen monoxide.

            Asbestos is a material that is harmful to health and has been made illegal to use as a building material in many countries. Formaldehyde will gather within a home if there is no proper ventilation. Radon gas can leak into homes if the gas in the ground is not removed or reduced. Tobacco smoke will increase if continued smoking is done inside or around the home. Biological pollutants grow if the environment in the home has damp or humid areas. Appliances that are used without proper ventilation can cause more harmful gases to reside within the home.

What are other household pollutants?

            Charcoal is often used for cooking and heating because of its availability and modest price. Without proper ventilation smoke from charcoal that stays trapped in the homes causes harm to the residents in the building. Organic waste and poor sewage treatment are more biological pollutants that are often improperly left within and around the homes releasing many harmful gases into the air. Along with a lack of practical toilets, the buildup of waste makes the increase of indoor air pollution more potent.  

What does it affect?

            The main complications that arise from indoor air pollution is the effect it has on human health as those areas inside and outside the buildings become a very unsafe environment to live in. Both short term and long-term illnesses can develop due to indoor air pollutants. Eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue are some of the more milder health issues. Long-term illnesses include respiratory diseases such as asthma, allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart conditions such as angina, arrythmia, heart attacks, heart failure and hypertension, and cancer. Pneumonia, stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer can become fatal health risks.

            The ones most affected are usually women and young children who spend more time in and around their homes. Older adults, people with existing heart conditions, and those with breathing/lung problems and illnesses are also at risk.

            Different instruments for cooking, heating, and lighting are powered using kerosene, biomass, coal, and charcoal. To collect some of these materials, it exhausts a lot of time especially for women and children. This takes away time that could be spent to work or attend school. Individuals can become injured from gathering the fuel and can develop musculoskeletal damage. Safety can become a big issue as kerosene can be accidently consumed and often results in childhood poisoning. Severe burns can also occur. A lot of the black carbon and methane released from these instruments can contribute to climate change pollutants.

What are some solutions?

            Eco-friendly stoves are one way to reduce emissions of gases if alternative methods to burning wood or charcoal are applied. Solar power and other natural fuel sources like biomass, volcanic rocks and briquettes can be used. These energy sources are sustainable as they last for a long time and do not emit the harmful gases that contribute to air pollution. Solar panels can be installed and hooked up to the stove to supply energy. Solar energy is a large potential power source as the geographical location increases the amount of sunlight that can be captured. Volcanic rocks can be heated up and then used. These rocks can be reused for up to two years. Briquettes are made from dried pruned branches that are then carbonized and combined with a natural binder. The briquettes produce low carbon emissions.

            Heating is usually done with traditional fireplaces that typically require coal, charcoal, or wood. A more ecofriendly alternative that will not emit those harmful pollutants is an electric fireplace. Smoke which contains carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, two very harmful gases, will no longer be released. These fireplaces are more effective at heating up the home as chimneys and specialized vents aren’t needed. The heat cannot escape from the homes through those spots, which normally occurs in traditional fireplaces. LED bulbs are used which drains less electricity comparatively to standard bulbs and can last up to 50,000 hours. These fireplaces can be positioned in any room in the house and demands little maintenance.

            Proper ventilation and air circulation allow gas buildup to leave the home and biological pollutants to not accumulate. Many household gases can be harmful as appliances that require the burning of materials to run release a lot of gases. Some of the chemicals in the house from the framework and structure of the building also release gases that do not leave the home. With proper ventilation using ducts, pipes and placing items within the home in certain locations, reduces the stockpiling of gases. Interior doors should be left open, and furniture should be kept away from outside walls. Humidity and dampness can also lessen as this limits the creation of a habitat for more biological pollutants to grow.

            Composting organic waste is one way to prevent harmful gases from transpiring in your home. Dry composting toilets take human waste and turns it into compost. This eliminates the need to have a sewage system as proper or lack thereof of such systems has greatly minimized appropriate sanitation methods and organic waste disposable. Other organic waste such as food scraps can also be composted in green bins.   

What will be impacted?

            Shrinking and possibly eliminating indoor air pollution with these potential solutions means that the risks will no longer be present. The health of the residents is severely impacted and if the pollution were to decrease, the improvement in their health will allow them to live much more comfortable and longer lives. They will be able to pursue education and work to further enhance their futures. 

References:

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/introduction-indoor-air-quality#:~:text=Indoor%20pollution%20sources%20that%20release,pollutants%20out%20of%20the%20area.

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-indoor-air-pollution.php

https://www.afro.who.int/news/asbestos-use-continues-africa-despite-severe-health-warnings

https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/formaldehyde/home/index.html

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/charcoal-africa-power-good-bad/

https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality#:~:text=Health%20effects%20associated%20with%20indoor,%2C%20heart%20disease%2C%20and%20cancer.

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/household-air-pollution-and-health

https://www.springwise.com/flatpack-solar-powered-biofuel-stove-africa-save-lives/

https://www.cnn.com/2015/01/30/africa/eco-stove-kampala-sustainable-cooking

https://www.dlapiper.com/en/uk/insights/publications/2019/11/africa-connected-issue-3/the-rise-of-alternative-energy-sources-in-africa/

https://www.africangreenrevolution.com/homes-in-african-are-adopting-energy-efficient-design-elements/

EFFECT OF GROBAL COVID-19 PANDEMIC TO PERSONAL BANKING AND FINANCE IN TANZANIA

By Greenford R Chinjeru – Art in Tanzania internship

COVID-19 is an infection disease that spread by virus and it dangerous and deadly.   It has killed many people and affected the global economy. The disease has affected movement of people and goods from one county to another. Many countries people and their movement has been restricted. This has affected the world economy including the banking business.

The following are the effects of the COVID-19 in banking business in Tanzania 

Reduction of deposits, in banking business bank use their customers deposits to provide loans and credit to other so as when their return their return with interest and the get profit through it. But due to the COVID-19 the number of people who deposit their money has decreased. This is because people has been advised to stay at their homes so in order for them to survive they have to use their saving and that include stopping deposits and just to use their cash in hand savings. 

Increase of expenses, due to the spread of the disease, the banks as the places where many people came and go, has been taking measures to prevent the spread of the disease between the customers and their employees. These measures costs weren’t in the budget in the first place but for the safety of the people it had to be implemented.

Interference of banker and customer contract. There are contractual agreements between customer and banker but and due to the COVID-19 some of those agreed clauses have been hard to implement to the safeguard the health of all parties. There have been times that a customer has had an obligation to return the loan to the bank when the time required but the customer has failed because of getting sick and being forced to quarantine and the bank can’t sue him for it that because that is global problem.

All in all, COVID-9 has affected our county in so many ways especial in economy as during times of quarantine the government had to use their revenue to help people who were infected and purchase medical machine to ensure the safety of the people and the country.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS IN TANZANIA


 By Bazilius Emmanuel – Art in Tanzania internship

Introduction

Environment is a famous word in current days, as it used to refer to different settings, ranging from local to international ones. The origin of term environment is from the French word “environed “which means surroundings, so people may use environment to refer to everything found in a certain location.

 -Also, in geography some words like nature, habitat, domain and surrounding are used as synonym of the term environment.

Meaning of environment

Our environment is the set of complex physical, chemical and biological elements, conditions and factors that affects an organism and determines its form of survival. It is comprising of all surroundings in which an organism lives and interacts with living things and non-living materials like water and air.

 -The environment is dynamic depending on interaction of living organisms with non-living materials. Also, the environment is regarded as the sum of total conditions surrounded human beings at a certain time and space.

Natural resources are derived from the environment, So the interaction between human beings and other living organisms has more to do with the environment(which can be good or bad for the sustainability of the environment)

N.B The interaction on the earth is what creates the environment, and environmental interactions are continuous. See the diagram below:

Components of the environment

From above explanation you can see that everything surrounding human beings in a particular time and space is a component of our environment. But geographers have tried to categorize all these environmental components into three, which are;

   (a) Physical components, includes all naturally occurring environmental elements like air, water, mountains etc. 

   (b) Biological components i.e., abiotic and biotic components, including all living and non-living things. See diagram below;

    ( c) Cultural components, includes all man-made parts of the environment such as buildings, population, farms etc. 

Diagram shows the three environment components;

IMPORTANCE OF THE ENVIRONMENT

Our environment has a vital role to our daily survival. The environment plays an important role in the survival of all living things by:

  (a) Supporting agriculture for food production•Climate and soil are essential during farming

  (b) Temperature modification and climatic change control•The presence of trees and water bodies are essential for temperature regulation, also good agricultural practices have a lot to do with controlling climatic change.

    (cNatural resources are derived from the environment.•Resources like medicine, air, water and minerals are essential human needs obtained from natural resources derived by the environment.

    (d) Minimize and or prevent disasters•swamps and marshes act as reservoirs of more water which may lead to flood, also air and plants absorb much gases emitted from human activities which will have more contribution to global warming.

(e) Absorption of our pollutants•Environmental components like air, land and water absorb pollutants, such as poisons, radiations and chemicals which effects our healthy survival. 

(f) Food web and food chain advantage•All food is obtained from environmental components, so without the environment there is no potential for life. 

  (g) Disease preventionEnvironmental components like air, water and minerals are required by the human body for proper growth and rescue our bodies from different diseases. E.g., the use of table salt decreases the chances for disease like goitre.

So, We can conclude by saying, the environment gives us life. 

See the diagram as it shows how living organisms interact with environmental components.

It shows the mutual benefit in the ecosystem.

 TANZANIAN ENVIRONMENT

The environment of Tanzania includes its’ land and marine surfaces which covers approximately kilometer squares 947.303. That also includes its’ natural resources endowment found in Tanzania mainland and Tanzanian Islands.

As our discussion focuses on the environment in Tanzania,  we need also to get insights about different things which form the whole environment of Tanzania.

Below are major components of Tanzania’s environment including its’ natural resources:

(a) Population, which is approximated at 56. 3 million by 2018

(b) Water bodies, which covers 6.49% of whole Tanzania land. These water bodies include;

   (i) Some part of Indian ocean

   (ii) More than 20 lakes include Victoria, Tanganyika, Nyasa, Rukwa and Natron among others.

       (iii) More than 75 rivers include Kagera, Malagalasi;Pangani, Wami, Rufiji, Ruvuma, Tarangire and  Songwe

       (iv) Natural ponds and artificial lakes

  (c) Seven World Heritage Sites (as per UNESCO) which are: Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, Kondoa Rock Art Site, Stone Town of Zanzibar, kilimanjaro National Park, Selous Game Reserve and Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara

  (d) Sixteen National Parks including lake ManyaraNational park, Ruaha National Park and Serengeti National Park

  (e) Seven Historical Sites includes Kilwa Kisiwani, Mbozimeteorite and Olduvai Gorge & Laetoli among others

(f) Islands includes Saanane island National Park, Zanzibar island, Pangani town and Ukerewe island

  (g) Marine Parks and Reserves like Chumbe island Marine Sanctuary, Dar es Salaam Marine Reserves and Tanga Coelacanth Marine Park among others

  (h) Wildlife Management Areas which includes IpoleWMA, Mbomipa WMA and Buninge WMA among others

  (i) Cave, Gorges and Rocks like Amboni cave, Kalambofalls, Nyombe region, Nyumba Nitu Natural forests and Kaporogwe falls

  (j)Twelve Tanzania Forest Reserves 

  (k)Thirty two Game Reserves 

  (l)More than two thousand mountains and highlands includes mount Meru and Kilimanjaro among others

  (m)More than twenty mines includes Geita Gold Mine(GGM-Geita), Bulyakulu & Mwadui (Shinyanga) and Kabanga Nickel(Kagera)

(n) More than five famous and important Cities and Towns includes Mwanza( Rock City), Arusha (Tourist City), Mbeya(Green City) and Dar es Salaam (island City) among others

  (o)Biological diversity includes  more than 75 endemic species like Kihansi Tod and horned chameleon

 (p) Agricultural land and rangelands

From above it seen how Tanzania’s environment is endowed with ample valuable natural and man-made resources. 

Tanzania’s environment is engine for sustainable development for Tanzania and the World at large. While Tanzania is blessed with more natural and man-maderesources that are distributed throughout the Country, the friendly and sustainability exploitation of these resources can be advantageous to Tanzanians.

Furthermore, We are born to create a better future. We need to use our environment and its’ God given resources for sustainable development.

See the following maps:

Tanzania Lakes and Rivers:

Locations of the major national parks

MAJOR ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH ENVIRONMENT IN TANZANIA

These issues are related to unsafe exploitation of above resources. These issues include:

   (a) Illegal and unsustainable wildlife exploitation

   (b) Overgrazing and unsustainable range management

   (c) Poor agriculture practices like bush burning, vertical ploughing across steep slopes, failure to adopt crop rotation, failure to maintain adequate vegetative cover, inadequate use of organic fertilizer and lack of sufficient conservation measures

   (d) Land conflicts

(e)Poor mining techniques

(f)Climatic change includes melting of ice at mount Kilimanjaro and fall of water depth at Ruaha river

(g)Major Six environmental problems in Tanzania which are;

   (i)Land degradation

  (ii)Lack of accessible good quality water for both urban and rural inhabitants

    (iii) Environment pollution

    (iv) Deforestation

   (v) Deterioration of aquatic systems

   (vi) Loss of wildlife habitats and biological diversity

   -The joint measure is required to be taken from local,

 National and International levels to remove or reduce the above harmful issues relating to resource use for sustainable and inclusive development of Tanzania and the world at large.

REASONS FOR ENVIRONMENT CONCERN IN TANZANIA

From above circumstances it is clear how much Tanzania needs to have strong environmental concern which shall focus on eliminating the negative impacts on Tanzanians from endowed natural resources

The reasons for environment concern in Tanzania include the follow but not limited to:

    (a) Despite 55% of Tanzania’s land is potential for agriculture but only 6% of Tanzania total land is under agricultural activities. So, Tanzania and the world at large are needed to set strategies to enhance and expand agricultural activities in Tanzania. (b) With more natural and artificial resources Tanzania is still depend on agriculture, which accounts more than 40% of Tanzania GDP and employs more than 75% of Tanzania workforce

  (c) Energy use of power, although Tanzania is endowed with much fossil fuels, waterfalls and rapids, more than 90% of Tanzania depend on forest related materials as their source of energy.

  (d) Population distribution, with 47.7 kilometers squares population density, but by actual sense Tanzania population is unequal distribution where there are disparities in internal population densities  between urban and rural areas as result of rural-urban migration associated with unequal distribution of man-made resources. 

-Also, more people are living in highland areas and interacting regions like near lake Victoria, therefore government of Tanzania needs to deal with this environmental issue

  (e) Also, from the major six environmental problems affecting Tanzania, the environmental solutions are required to rescue Tanzania’s environment from other disasters that may arise as result of those six environmental problems.

Conclusions and remarks

– We are a large cause of environmental dynamism, so our actions must first assess its negative or positive impacts to our environment.

  – As part of dynamic environment, we are supposed to educate ourselves about all issues related to the environment and to take precautions toward any action that might harm our environment.

  – The Government of Tanzania is required to sharpen the implementation of environmental and natural resource related laws, policies and declarations.

Sober House Art

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The future Art Gallery and Cafe

When wandering through the alleys and byways of Stone Town, every once in a while you’ll come up to a little square, a little breathing space. It’s at one of these that I am to meet Kasim Nyuni and Saleh, the driving forces behind an upcoming art gallery. When I get there – through the able guidance of my fellow AIT volunteer Sue Wagstaff – we find Kasim negotiating with a carpenter in rapid Swahili. The whitewashed house with the L-shaped patio will not only serve as an art gallery, but also as a cafe and Bed & Breakfast, Sue explains, so new furniture is required.

When we sit down to talk, Kasim and Saleh explain to me that this won’t be a regular art gallery. All the art for sale will be produced by recovering addicts and the proceeds will flow back to the NGO that supports their recovery. “Quitting drugs isn’t enough,” explains Kasim, “You need to change your outlook on life.” Kasim, himself a former addict, has devoted his life to helping others recover from their addictions. In the sober houses, recovering addicts can take part in various activities: English classes, computer classes, art classes. “People don’t come to us because they want to be artists, they come to us because they want to stop being addicts. But in the course of their programme, we often discover their talent and help them develop it.”

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Meeting the “fundhi”, the carpenter

Sue, who worked as an AIT volunteer at the sober house last year, is back to help them set up the art gallery, as well as teaching art at the sober house. “These aren’t trained artists,” she explains, “They’ve been on the street, on the outside, their art comes from a different place entirely.”

Soft-spoken Saleh is one of the many who have been helped by Kasim. Once an addict, he is now a fashion designer and painter, who in 2013 exhibited his designs at the Zanzibar Fashion Week in front of hundreds of people. “During the show, we shared my story with the audience. It was great to feel their support. It’s important that we fight prejudice against addicts,” he says, “We want to show the community that we can change, that we can be valuable and productive members of society.”

Kasim agrees. “Addiction takes everything from you. Addicts are disconnected from their families, from the community. We help them bridge that gap.”

Through the art gallery and cafe, Kasim and Saleh want to generate some income for the organisation, so they are less dependent on donations and subsidies. Equally important, however, is that they try to involve the Stone Town community. “We want to keep the prices at the cafe as low as possible, so ordinary Zanzibari can come, have a cup of coffee and see what our recovering addicts can achieve.”

Zanzibar week 1 114

From left to right: Kasim, Sue and Saleh

 “Every morning I wake up and I think ‘What can I change today?’” says Kasim. It seems to me that, slowly but surely, they are teaching the people of Zanzibar that addiction is a disease, not a sin, and that it can be overcome.

An opening date for the gallery hasn’t yet been set, but keep an eye on this blog. (Originally published on Apr 30, 2014)

A fashion designer volunteers her skill in Tanzania and gains an experience of a life-time

Volunteer Emilie Bendix Hansen at the volunteer house in Dar es Salaam

Volunteer Emilie Bendix Hansen at the volunteer house in Dar es Salaam

Written by Saara Kanula (Finland)
Edited by Lynne Hambury (South Africa) (Originally published on Apr 24, 2014)

Emilie Bendix Hansen is a 22 years old girl from Copenhagen, Denmark. She has been dreaming of coming to Africa for many years. She finally made her dream come true last January when she came to volunteer at Art in Tanzania (AIT).

As a volunteer Emilie has been teaching English in a nursery school in the mornings and Adult English in the afternoons – this is a typical type of volunteer project in AIT. Depending on one’s education, background and interests, one can participate in many other projects made available by AIT. In Emilie’s case, besides teaching, she found a project where she could use her professional skill as a fashion designer.

Emilie graduated last December from Teko Design and Business school and has been designing women’s clothing for Lolly’s Laundry in Denmark. While volunteering  Emilie designed clothes for Art in Tanzania. These items will then be produced by the Getting Older is to Grow (GOIG) Society – a certified Fair Trade producer of unique and sustainable handcrafted products. A non-profit organization founded in 1991, GOIG’s mission is to enable disadvantaged children in Tanzania to reach their full potential through receiving a quality education relevant to their needs. At GOIG the youth is trained to produce quality traditional handcraft products for internal and external market access.

During its start up in 1994 through to 2005, GOIG received significant financial and technical assistance from the Finnish Handcrafts Society and FINNIDA. Now GOIG is collaborating with AIT and producing items for their Fair Trade shop in Dar es Salaam and online shop in Finland.

I had a chance to meet up with Emilie and ask her few questions about her design work at GOIG.

How did the idea arise to design clothes for Art in Tanzania?
The idea came about during a conversation with a team leader at AIT. After finding out that I was a fashion designer, the team leader told me about GOIG and suggested a possibility of working with them to produce a clothing line. I took some time off from my teaching projects and then started designing women’s clothing together with GOIG.

GOIG Modern Schools situated in Dar es Salaam

GOIG Modern Schools situated in Dar es Salaam

How did you find working as a designer in Tanzania?
I knew that would be different from designing in Denmark and before I started I couldn’t really imagine what it would be like. Everything works so differently in Africa compared to where I come from. I came to Africa with an “open” mind but still found some unexpected things. This is not a bad thing as it taught me about a different culture to my own.

The GOIG Society is a very nice organization and the people are very friendly. Just a few workers speak English so communication was a little bit difficult. Luckily I had a Tanzanian co-worker, Jessica, who was fluent in English. At first she was a little bit shy, but when I got to know her, I really liked her and enjoyed working with her. We designed the collection together.

GOIG is located in Dar es Salaam, about half an hours drive from the Bahari Beach volunteer house. The GOIG building is quite modest when one compares it to any of Denmark’s buildings. Working spaces are simple and equipment is quite rudimentary – Workers sew with very old sewing machines.

Staff members (sewers) at the GOIG Society

Staff members (sewers) at the GOIG Society

How does the work differ from a designer’s work in Denmark?
In Denmark students learn how to design clothes and most of the production is done in Asia. At GOIG the teaching concentrates on teaching women to sew, so all of the designed items are made here. The process of making clothes is really different too. I was surprised to see that the workers cut the fabric without a pattern to guide them. Sometimes the outcome works well, however there are many mistakes made and fabric is wasted. Workers have graduated from the GOIG vocational school and some of them are very talented. I was amazed when I saw Jessica making clothes from bed sheets! She didn’t cut the fabric or use any needle or string. All she did was place a few pins where needed and after five minutes there was a really beautiful dress! She is able to make many different styles of dresses like that. This is something I would love to learn. One of the really great things about this project is that I did not have strict guidelines to follow and was able to be highly creative with the collection.

The final product ranges from dresses to back-packs and bags

The final product ranges from dresses to back-packs and bags

From where did the inspiration for the collection come?
The collection, which includes twelve different design pieces, nine for women and three for children, was designed for Finnish markets. In the Women’s collection there are casual, beach and party outfits. We had some instruction about what types of clothes are in demand, but otherwise we could work very independently and be creative. Marjut Valtanen, a team leader at AIT co-ordinating the Fair Trade projects gave us some insight on what would be “IN” next Summer in Finland and that guided the designs. After designing the clothes Jessica and myself chose the fabric we would like to use. We wanted to use the best Tanzanian materials so we chose some ketenge, kanga and batik. The variety of the colours in local markets were amazing. We tried to use the kind of colours that would be suitable in Finland. In Tanzania women use lots of bright colours. Finnish people are more moderate in this respect, so we tried to keep that in mind. At this point the staff is making samples of the designs. I haven’t seen them yet, but I am excited to see what the outcome is. Our plan is that the collection appears in a market next summer.

How would you describe the experience of volunteering at Art in Tanzania?
I have had a really great time – There are many opportunities to see a lot and do many different things. I’ve experienced the school system, done some designing work, planted trees in the Moshi area, been on a safari, swam at the beaches in Zanzibar, taught kids how to swim and even attained a diving licence. Working here is so different from working in Denmark – it is a difficult environment, but really rewarding. Because things happen at a slower pace, I have learnt some patience. One needs to be laid-back and things will happen when everyone is ready. Akuna Matata!

Do you think that volunteers can actually make a change in Tanzania?
Yes, one makes a change by doing little things. For example when teaching in nursery schools, the kids are very happy when just learning new songs and playing different games. Some of the teachers have also adopted new teaching methods from the volunteers. This is a really good thing – some old-fashioned methods practiced before have been replaced with new alternative methods that have increased effectiveness. The most rewarding thing for me has been teaching Adult English. Students are very eager to learn and they are so grateful to get these lessons for free and they really appreciate it. Another great moment was when I taught children to swim and helped one little girl to conquer her fear for water.

What would you say to people who are planning to come to work as a volunteer in Tanzania? One cannot really not prepare for anything one will face here. The best advice is to be open-minded. It is definitely a worth-while experience not to missed!

For more information about the GOIG Societ go to www.goigsociety.org

Kindly contact Marjut Valtanen (marjut[at]artintanzania.org) for more information about volunteering in AIT’s Fair Trade projects.