Country Chronicle: A Look at Tanzania’s Program
Written by Plant With Purpose on January 14, 2016 in Country Chronicle
Have you ever wondered how Plant With Purpose decided to launch programs in each of the seven countries where we work? As funds are available and needs analyzed, exploratory trips are planned and local partnerships sought out (read more here). Tanzania’s program was Plant With Purpose’s fourth and launched in 2004. Today we share the history of our first program in Africa and celebrate alongside thousands of partnering farmers who are transforming their lives and land around the iconic Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Avid mountain climber Cindy Outlaw first conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro with her husband Ed in 2000. While trekking, her guide shared about the dilapidated state of the school in his village. One year later she found herself back on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro with a group of students from Point Loma Nazarene University building a school in the community of Masia Mamba on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. During the three-week project, Cindy was struck by the malnutrition she saw in the children and the deforestation of the local rainforest.
Upon returning to San Diego, Cindy recalled an organization that addressed the very issues of rural poverty and environmental degradation. A meeting was arranged with the executive director, Scott Sabin (years prior, Cindy and Scott had taught a Sunday school class at their church). Plant With Purpose’s board approved an exploratory trip in 2003 and one year later a local program was up and running thanks to the hard work of Technical Director Robert Morikawa.
What Cindy witnessed first-hand was backed by global research, which made a strong case for launching Plant With Purpose Tanzania. More than 95 percent of the population utilize fuelwood or charcoal for daily cooking. The rate of deforestation is higher than the regrowth rate, which leads to environmental degradation in the form of soil erosion, decrease in soil moisture, and loss of nutrient rich topsoil. These factors cause crops to produce small yields which further impacts subsistence level farming families. In fact in rural areas, 45 percent of children under five live in a state of chronic undernutrition. Food insecurity and poverty are key factors contributing to malnutrition in Tanzania.
Working to address rural poverty at its foundation, Plant With Purpose began walking alongside communities as they focused on environmental restoration, economic empowerment, and spiritual renewal. Reforestation projects are now revitalizing the soil on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Sustainable agriculture training is allowing farming families to increase crop yields. Community-based savings groups provide a safe place to accumulate funds for larger projects such as home improvements, investments in farms, or starting small businesses.
Solutions to the problems that Cindy Outlaw witnessed years ago have taken root because of Plant With Purpose. A young mother shared with Cindy that in the past she could not feed her children enough food to keep them nourished. Malnutrition left her children weak. After walking to school, they would fall asleep lacking the energy to learn. Plant With Purpose taught this mother how to grow enough food to feed her family. Her children are now thriving—vibrant and doing well in school.
Cindy Outlaw returned to Mt. Kilimanjaro this week. Rather than celebrating the accomplishment of climbing the Roof of Africa, Cindy will be celebrating the transformation of 7,129 families at Plant With Purpose Tanzania’s annual group competition award ceremony and organic agricultural festival. An expected 4,000 participants will gather on Thursday, January 14, 2016 acknowledging their many achievements including planting more than 1.5 million trees in 2015 alone. Cindy acknowledges that this competition has led to major program expansion and acts as a catalyst for other communities to partner with Plant With Purpose.
Plant With Purpose is chipping away at the immense problem of poverty and environmental degradation in Tanzania. The program continues to drive impact and stories of hope abound as families work to transform the conditions of their lives and that of their homes in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro.