Hello! My name is Katie Mead and I traveled with Tammie Jo this year to visit the projects of One Small Drop in Tanzania. However, I am not a stranger to Tanzania. In 2012, with planning assistance from Tammie Jo, I spent 3 months volunteering as a nurse at the Mwakaleli Health Center in Kandete, Tanzania. It was a wonderful experience and I was very excited to return to see old friends this year. In addition to visiting the area, I also completed a fieldwork experience for a Global Health minor as part of my PhD program in nursing. I wanted to learn more about how elders are cared for in the community, as well as evaluate the work that One Small Drop has done with the women’s groups. Today I would like to share a little of what One Small Drop and the women’s groups are doing currently, and their future plans.
In 2008, One Small Drop began providing assistance through seed grants to four women’s groups in the Mwakaleli area in the Livingstone Mountains located in southwest Tanzania. Together they formed an organization called Lukamanda. Eight years later, Lukamanda consists of 11 distinct groups: 10 groups of women from 10 different villages, and 1 support group for persons living with HIV/AIDS. It has also recently registered as an official NGO with the government. Through small infusions of capital from One Small Drop, these groups have been able to start income-generating projects that are now sustainable. As One Small Drop has achieved its goal of helping to support sustainable projects for the groups, it will be dissolving in two years.
Currently, each group is running a variety of income-generating projects, many of which are self-sustaining. Some popular projects are growing avocado trees and potatoes, raising pigs or chickens, and administering microloans. Microloans seem especially popular and profitable, as most of the groups have started this project. The larger Lukamanda group is now saving funds so that it can run a more centralized microloan program.
The groups also have a number of plans for the future. Some groups are hoping to buy equipment for milling trees and one group wants to buy a press for sunflower oil. Several groups also want to expand their microloan programs so that more women are able to benefit. For example, in Mbigili, only 28 out of 100 potential women were able to receive microloans, so expending this program is a high priority for them.
The women named a number of things they have learned by working on these projects. First, they learned how to work together and also form partnerships with others, the local churches being the most common partner. They have learned practical skills related to farming and administering the microloan programs. The women have also gained project evaluation skills. When they see that a certain project is not profitable, they invest their earnings in a different project. For example, many potato projects failed last year due to lack of rain, so many of the groups invested in microloans instead this year.
The ultimate goal of all the groups is to improve their communities. The theme of empowerment and “building women up” was threaded throughout each conversation. They want to be able to support their families, as well as share what they have learned with others. With their earnings, the women also want to help orphans, widows, and elders, the most vulnerable members of the community. It was wonderful to hear the women discuss these things. It was also very encouraging to hear their male advocates voice these hopes as well.
The future for Lukamanda is very promising. While we have very sadly lost Labani, the Lukamanda manager, earlier this year, his replacement, Oscar, is trained in agriculture and works very well with each group. He will be administering a new water irrigation project for Lukamanda, which will help prevent crop failure from drought and can also be rented out to generate more income for the group. Lukamanda also held an election during our trip and chose a new secretary and treasurer, and will continue with their current chairwoman. Previously, a retired male accountant served as treasurer, but now one of the women will be taking over that position. It was wonderful to see how far the women have come in eight years, and very exciting to hear their plans for the future.