Country Proverb: Tanzania
Written by Plant With Purpose on July 14, 2015 in Proverb
By Ben Held
“Akili ni mali”
Translation: “Intelligence is an asset”
Akili ni mali: it is a phrase imprinted across the folds of kangas and woven throughout Tanzanian culture, from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam. Kangas, an East African garment traditionally worn as shawls or long skirts, are also called proverb cloths because of the numerous sayings inscribed upon them. Of these, none may be quite as universal and yet so individually relevant as akili ni mali—intelligence is an asset.
Anyone who has embarked on an intellectual journey, whether in school, at work, or simply on their own time, will know that knowledge gained brings both new opportunities and self-fulfillment. It is empowering to rise to meet challenges knowing we are equipped with the tools and techniques needed to surmount them. Intelligence can drive us, change us, and even restore us—as it has for Youze Tito.
Youze planted a crop of corn and beans on his hillside plot in Bwambo, Tanzania, but struggled against the land each year for meager harvests. The chemical fertilizers he utilized not only stunted vegetable growth, reducing produce and profits, but also severely damaged the land. Eventually his soil could no longer support Youze and his wife. Desperate, Youze asked his children for financial support.
Amidst his struggle to provide for himself and his wife, Youze partnered with Plant With Purpose through a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). VSLA members not only work together to save money but they also receive training in savings management, water conservation, crop diversification, agroforestry and tree grafting, and sustainable agriculture techniques such as organic farming and composting. With these techniques at the ready, Youze found his new knowledge to be more than just an asset. It was life changing.
Restoring the land helped restore Youze’s livelihood. “Now I don’t have to use chemical fertilizers anymore and the quality of my soil is improving every year,” he says. Before implementing the skills he learned through the VSLA, Youze earned about $100-$200 USD from his harvest. Now his land bursts with produce and brings in $1,000-$2,000 USD, ten times more income than before. The VSLA and Youze’s flourishing crops enabled him to regain financial independence and pay for his children’s education. His eldest son has also joined him in Bwambo as a business partner, and together they aim to continue organic farming practices while working with the land to grow an even larger operation.
Youze was not alone in the face of adversity, nor in his present triumph. Plant With Purpose partners with hundreds of communities around the world (and many more individuals) to provide the knowledge necessary to find self-sufficiency and live with dignity. So next time you learn something new, think of the words glittering in Youze’s eyes and dancing along the Tanzanian streets into the African expanse: akili ni mali—intelligence is an asset.