2006 National Winner, Tanzania
Lake Zone Intercultural Center, Nyegezi, Mwanza, Tanzania
Mashariki Innovations in Local Governance Awards Programme
Mashariki Innovations in Local Governance Awards Programme
Lake Zone Intercultural Centre is situated in Nyegezi, Mwanza, in the Southern parts of Mwanza, a city in the north-west of Tanzania and a southern port of Lake Victoria. As part of Tanzania's northern highlands, the area is noted for its temperate climate with a mean temperature that ranges between 25.7OC and 30.2OC in hot season and 15.40C and 18.6OC in the cooler months.
Located on the shores of the Lake, Nyegezi is known for its heavy rainfall averaging between 700 and 1000 mm between the months of October and December and February and May. That causes massive water logging just to be followed by dry spells that cause massive droughts. The main economic mainstay is agriculture, although majority of the population engage in subsistence peasant farming.
Disturbed by the abject poverty and the plight of orphans living in Nyegezi, the director of Lake Zone Intercultural Centre conceived a solution to alleviate the sufferings of the disadvantaged children in the area by targeting their educational needs. This programme was conceived out of the need to promote education to disadvantaged children in the area. Rather than register a community-based organisation or NGO and solicit funding from external donors, the founders were more interested in a sustainable project capable of running without donor funding.
After realizing that the biggest challenge with these kinds of projects is that they rely heavily on donor funds which can be unreliable, they thought of coming up with a project that can generate income to sustain the primary goal of providing the orphans with education. This thought found expression in an agricultural project that combines environmentally friendly agriculture with traditional animal husbandry and fish-culture.
Water security is one of African farmers' biggest hurdles on their path to realizing good harvests and, given that most farming areas experience unreliable rainfall, practicing agriculture has been a big challenge. But since the community has water nearby, this was seen as a big boost to the project. With the help of the youth and women, the project embarked on constructing water reservoirs to store water that would serve the community during dry spells. The centre also emphasizes the use of locally available resources and organic farming to ensure that the environment is exploited in a sustainable manner.
The income generated from the farms has seen the progress of the educational initiative in the form of a community-based organization known as Education, Aid and Sharing (EDASHA). For instance, the iniative has been able to set up a small library complete with a computer lab to cater for about 60 orphans from the area. The proceeds have also been used to provide free stationery and uniform to the children.
The idea was not to start a children's home but to help the orphans in facilitating their education while still living under the care of their guardians. On the other hand, children brought up by close relatives in their home environments have faired much better.
Currently, the Lake Zone farm has employed several youths from the area, a couple of them volunteering to work on the farm to gain new farming skills. While the ultimate aim of the Lake Zone project is to become self-sustaining, the project still requires funds for it future stability. Most of the funds channelled directly to the educational initiative come from well-wishers and friends. The goal of the project is to build a bigger library that will cater for as many children as possible from the Nyegezi area in order to encourage a reading culture in the children because education is key to development.