Lately, I’ve spent several days visiting some of the church members from house to house and talking with them about what their lives are like. We want to know how they are doing with their material needs overall, and how they manage their money. We’re getting a “before” picture, so that we can later take an “after” picture and see the effects of the savings groups and asset-based community development work. Two things that will be evident from the “before and after” pictures:
- Are you now more able to meet your physical needs?
- Did the savings’ groups and asset-based community development help you?
Last year when I arrived in Tanzania, I realized that I had already invented a picture of what these people’s lives are like. Why did I do this? What evidence could it have been based on? I don’t know. The picture I had invented has not matched the reality. There’s a lot we don’t know about the everyday lives of these folks in the majority world. I hope you can learn a little bit about their lives from looking at some of the answers that folks gave me.
As I have met with more folks, I have been adding more questions. Here are some spreadsheets summarizing their answers, in order from earliest to most recent.
I’ve come to see a few things from meeting with these folks. They are at the mercy of the rain, which has not been predictable lately. The January harvest was weak, due to a lack of rain, and that means that these folks are trying to stretch their harvest as far as they can, and are therefore getting small portions each day. “Hunger” (“Njaa” in Swahili) was one of the most common answers I heard about important community events over the last few months.
The most important crops are corn, cassava, and millet, which are all ground into flour and stirred into boiling water to make the Tanzanian staple, ugali.
Although many of the places look similar and the crops are similar, some areas are doing much better than others (compare Buhemba and Ingrichini).
Many of these folks save by buying animals. Many of them also do not sell any of their harvest, but instead store it and eat from it until the next harvest. Since this doesn’t let them build up any savings, they depend on contributions from neighbors in the case of emergencies (funerals and sickness being the most common emergencies).
Upgrading from a rented house or a mud and grass house to a brick house is what these folks see as the first step of getting out of poverty.
Again, it’s a before picture. We’re working hard towards an after picture.