Wait... First go to your sink and pour a glass of fresh clean water to drink... then come back and watch this short video.
Wait... First go to your sink and pour a glass of fresh clean water to drink... then come back and watch this short video.

African Empowerment Project is committed to implementing and nurturing community run development projects focused on creating opportunities for income generation, achieving access to quality education, and improving health and wellbeing, in order to empower the people of Africa to build a sustainable life for themselves and future generations.

How YOU can help!

Please visit our website at www.africanempowermentproject.org to learn more about who we are and how we are empowering the people in the village of Mnang'ole, Tanzania to pull themselves out of poverty.

You can make clean, accessible water and safe, healthy lighting a reality for the people of Mnang'ole by clicking below:
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IRS EIN # 27-1519070

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Composting and teaching...

Our work began with a meeting with 10 farmers.. Both men and women interested in learning how to improve their soil to yield better crops. We met in a building they use for prayer, (as the village has no mosque) to present the composting program that was given to me soon after I arrived here in Tanzania, by Peter. He is an agricultural trainer and consultant for the Peace Corps here in Tanzania. The program teaches them that they can improve crops, and create pest resistant soil using merely the resources they have right at their fingertips.. Again, like with the solar energy training, they listened intently to my words through Mac's translations... Nodding their heads and some sitting on the edge of their seats as of they could not wait to get started... Following a lengthy training session we set out to hunt for the materials needed to make a pilot compost pile.  I wanted them to all participate in the making of one before they set out to create their own... It was a fun and active process as everyone set out to gather 'browns' 'greens' food scraps, and water used to wash today's dishes (no soap, as they use dirt and ash to clean their dishes.) Then they all worked together, chopping the browns into small pieces with machetes and layering the browns, then greens, then food scraps, then soil, then water, then browns... Into a nice one meter by one meter square... The whole while, reminding them of how to add materials and to care for their compost piles as the days and months progressed.  I took many photos and video of the process and hope to hear of positive results in the future... Farming is their mainstay, so any way that they are able to improve their crop production, the better. We gave them 2 days to prepare their own compost piles on their individual homes and then went around to check each one... Many needed some tips...adding more food scraps or water or less browns... but for the most part they looked good and most took the project one step further by creating a fishnet fence of sorts around their pile to protect it from the goats and chickens wandering freely around the village. Then we returned a few days later to be sure that their piles were producing heat...Which tells us its working! 6 of the 10 farmers actually followed through and each one was eventually working properly. We met with Mohamed to explain very clear next steps for the piles and how to expand to 3 piles so that there will be a continual supply of compost over time... He is the only person in the village who reads and speaks a fair amount of English.  I left all the Peace Corps materials about farming and composting with him... Directing him to utilize the literature to expand the farmers’ knowledge of back yard gardening with rainwater collection integrated into these small-scale gardens.

The next project was to go into the school and teach English to the primary school children. I was prepared with songbooks created by my good friend and AEP board member Ann. I discovered early in this lesson that the younger children did not know how to read Swahili so trying to use these songbooks written in Swahili and English was futile. Eventually I left the books with the English teacher to use the way he saw fit... He was quite excited to receive these teaching tools... In the end we decided to teach them 'head, shoulders, knees, and toes' and even this was a challenge... We continued to sing and play this for the remainder of our time in the village. They would ask to do both this and the hand clapping game each and every day while we were hanging with them outside our home. Though this plan to teach English in the school failed in a sense, I did not feel the urgency to teach English to these young children:  A. Because they really should be concentrating on reading Swahili first and B. Because they now have an English teacher, which was a pleasant and surprising addition to the school staff since last year.  I did however make another exciting discovery along with a shocking piece of information that has renewed one of my goals.

One day when leaving the school at 4 pm, a few of the men in the village were standing outside the school room with notebooks in hand so I went over to greet them and ask in my broken Swahili along with English what they were doing.  Assuming they were waiting for some sort of meeting... Surprisingly they were there for an evening English class. Curiosity drew me to stay and observe this class.  I had so much fun in this class!!! It consisted of a group of around 10 men desperately trying to learn English. It was one of the cutest things I had seen in a very long time. They each were required to say 'please teacher, may I come in?' before they entered the classroom. This day they were learning 'This is' 'that is' 'these are' 'those are'. I was able to give the teacher some tips to avoid some confusion with a and an. He asked me to come help another day. After class this day, a handful of these adult students stayed after class to get clarification on when to use 'a' and when to use 'an'.. Then I quizzed them at the end of this impromptu teaching session.. And they were so pleased with this new knowledge!  I loved this and returned a few times to work on plural and singular and past and present.   Next visit to the village, I will prepare more lessons after I communicate with the teacher about their progress. One thing bothered me so much, and in the end, led me to a huge discovery. I wanted to know why there were no women in the class...  No one could give me an answer. I would invite the women to the class each day but no one ever took me up on the invite.  Finally one of my last days in the village... I received my answer.  This clarified so much for me... Not only in terms of why women aren't attending English class.. But most likely why this village has a lack of any type of business and why in many ways they are so far behind neighboring villages.
I was told...Up until 7 years ago there was no formal schooling in the village of Mnang'ole. Our friend, and water and firewood supplier, Kipingo, told me the history of the school and Mac translated.. 50 years ago the government wanted to build them a school... The elders of the village refused the offer out of the fear that along with this secular education there might be a Christian influence somehow and since 99% of the village is Muslim, they did not want this kind of influence. Therefore, the village remained without a school until 7 years ago when a few of the younger parents who had been educated in neighboring villages, decided that they wanted a school for their children so they approached the government. The government refused to build a school for fear that they wouldn't really send their kids to school. They did send a teacher, however, and 4 years later, after the enrollment proved that they were serious about this request, the government agreed to build a school building.   So... Last year they just graduated the very first class from primary school, to secondary school. (They must still travel to the next village for secondary school as Mnang'ole only has a primary school.)

So now let's back up a few years or so now... What about 8 years ago, or 20 or 50 years ago? You guessed it!  No one went to school... Unless they had enough money to send their kids to a neighboring village. Most could not afford this soooo... there are very few educated adults in the village of Mnang'ole. They are illiterate and lack basic knowledge that most of us take for granted... This answers so many of my questions...Like... Why have they not thought of small business ventures? Why do they allow their children to miss school? Why are simple verbal instructions so difficult for them to grasp? Why were they taking so long to read the water boiling and solar lantern instruction sheets I prepared in the states and copied for them to have? These sheets included photo images as well as written Swahili instructions.  They were not reading it... they were just looking at the photos and trying to pair that with the words we were speaking...   Man.. eye opening to say the least!

When I return I have a new job ahead of me besides raising money for the next projects….To do some major research and investigation into how to proceed in implementing adult basic education to the adults of the village.   What type of education is going to be most useful?  Are their government programs already in place? If not... Who does this already? and how can we implement a program successfully? I love a challenge......

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