August 4: Smooth tarmac has banished to memory the dirt and potholes endured by past Karimu volunteers on their long journey from Mount Kilimanjaro International Airport to Babati. Today the speed of travel makes up for twenty minutes stolen from us by a freelancing policeman who demands a bribe to let us use the road. But our lead driver is a talkative, self-confident Chagga tribesman who calls himself Tiger. He steadfastly refuses to pay and finally, in frustration, the cop waves us on.
Once we reach Babati, the obviously good health of Sifaeli Kaaya comes as a relief. We have gotten to know this Dareda Kati Village farmer well since 2008 as he has translated for us. But simultaneous attacks of malaria and typhoid left him gaunt in photographs taken in June by the Huffington Post reporter Suzanne Skees, whose story about Karimu appears at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzanne-skees/tourists-changing-the-wor_b_892635.html. Now fully recovered, Sifaeli rides along on the last leg of our trip to Dareda Kati. The drive takes an hour, during which the rugged unpaved road arouses excitement rather than exhaustion. Like many of the twelve California State University at Long Beach students who have joined us, Zach, a tall, handsome theater major, weeps when he sees the hundreds of villagers gathered for the greeting.
As we do for every visit, we will use the cafeteria and simple apartments of the Integrated Agricultural Training Center, just ten or fifteen minutes by foot from Ufani Primary School and forty-five minutes from Ayalagaya Secondary School. Its parched lawns remind me of Tiger’s failed attempt at farming earlier this year. Before the typically wet months of March, April, and May, he rented six acres of fertile land and planted them with beans. But he harvested only one tenth of the crop he had counted on, losing money. Now I worry that the famine engulfing Somalia and the other nations of the Horn of Africa might spread to Tanzania.
August 5: Because Marianne and I spend just ten or eleven days out of every year in Dareda Kati, we still know relatively little about this village. So we learn some things that surprise us on every visit.
Today, for example, we learned about the pressures imposed on Ayalagaya Secondary School by a seemingly progressive policy of the Tanzanian government. The government rewards teachers who attend universities to earn their Bachelor’s degrees with sharp increases in salary. Yet the government does not pay for teachers to replace the ones who go off to university. In Ayalagaya’s case, this means that Headmistress Catherine must choose between accepting fewer teachers and therefore larger classes, or asking parents to pay the salaries of replacement teachers. Some parents drag their feet or even refuse, with predictable dire consequences for both the replacement teachers and the students. Karimu will need to consider trying to help Ayalagaya School pay its replacement teachers.
First, however, we should probably retool or replace the kitchen used by Ayalagaya’s two cooks. Inside a flimsy woodshed not much bigger than the space occupied by their open fires and the cauldrons sitting atop them, Peter and Faustine prepare meals for more than seven hundred students. The heat in which they work is often intolerable and the fumes are always toxic. Bearing in mind all our other projects, I don’t know that Karimu can commit to replacing the woodshed. But I believe we need to find the cash, which should come to under two thousand dollars, to eliminate the open fires and install a large smokeless, or smoke-minimizing, cooker that will radiate less heat.
Soon we will do something similar for two hundred village households. We should not deprive Peter and Faustine of the same kind of relief simply because they require a much bigger cooker that Karimu cannot buy for a few dollars.
August 6: Today it felt like Karimu received a three-thousand-dollar donation: the price we just got for Ufani Primary School’s forthcoming clean-water system is lower by that much than the estimate from a year ago. Although I wanted the system put in months ago, now I’m glad it hasn’t happened yet.
We had also worried that the need to measure accurately the amount of water in the holding tank–in order to add the correct amount of disinfectant–would cause some problems, but the technician we have called in from Babati assures us that taking the measurements is easy. So as soon as the villagers agree to bear the ongoing costs of buying the disinfectant and as soon as they dig the necessary trenches, Karimu can wire funds to complete this vital health project.–Don Stoll