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Photo: The Guardian
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, bus rapid transit on the Morogoro Road has cut typical commute times from four hours a day to 90 minutes.

Big challenges sometimes get resolved more efficiently when fancy solutions are bypassed in favor of more straightforward ones. That is what a large African city discovered when it chose the concept of dedicated bus lanes over building a subway.

Nick Van Mead has the report at the Guardian, “Dusk falls in Dar es Salaam, and for hundreds of thousands of people in this African megacity-to-be the daily chaos and frustration of the journey home begins.

“People cram themselves into dalla dalla minibuses, some even climbing through the windows once the entrance is blocked. Others hang out of the doors, but the Kilwa Road heading south towards Mbagala slum is jammed and these diesel-belchers are going nowhere fast.

“On Bagamoyo Road to the wealthier areas in the north, solo drivers in blacked-out 4x4s sit stationary too – captive customers for the hawkers. … So far, so normal for a sprawling megalopolis of 6 million with virtually no public transport and only eight lanes of major road heading to and from the centre.

“Dar es Salaam, the de facto capital of Tanzania, is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. Its population has increased eightfold since 1980 and swells by half a million people every year. The latest UN projections anticipate it will become a megacity within seven years as its population passes 10 million. …

“Dar es Salaam is pinning its hopes on a solution that could offer a different model for Africa’s megacities, giving them an alternative to a future in thrall to the private car. Unlike many cities on the continent, Dar es Salaam isn’t trying to build a metro. It has chosen a less sexy but cheaper and more achievable route: the bus. …

“The Dart system boasts bus lanes separated from other traffic, mostly in the middle of the road to reduce stoppages. Ticket payment and control takes place at stations rather than on board, while step-free stations and boarding mean the entire route is accessible to people in wheelchairs or with buggies. …

“The average journey time from the centre to the terminus at Kimara has been slashed from two hours each way to just 45 minutes, according to sustainable transport group the ITDP. That adds up to a saving of around 50 hours a month for the average bus passenger making the full trip. The ITDP awarded the system Africa’s only ‘gold standard’ bus rapid transit (BRT) rating.

“ ‘The new buses are much, much better,’ says Paulas George, a young IT worker waiting at Manzese station. He takes the bus every day and it has cut his journey time by two-thirds. He says it is not perfect though, complaining drivers sometimes turn off the air conditioning to save fuel.

“That is not the only teething problem. A shortage of buses after the main depot flooded during the 2017 rainy season means the system is carrying 200,000 people a day – half the expected capacity. Smartcard readers at station entrances aren’t working either, forcing passengers to buy individual paper tickets for every journey. Each is printed with a scannable QR code, but there are no scanners. Station staff stand by the gates and tear tickets as people enter. …

“ ‘Much of the city will have access to a world-class transport system within the space of a few years,’ says Chris Kost, the ITDP’s Africa director. All phases are being planned to gold standards and, once complete, a third of city residents will be within a 10-minute walk of the BRT network. …

“Kost [sees the metro fad] as political expediency. ‘Because metro systems don’t take up road space and don’t take away from cars then they are politically easier,’ he says. ‘Politicians see it as a big project with no sacrifices. But what if it never gets built? What if what is built is too expensive and so limited in size it leaves the majority of city residents no better off?

“ ‘It can be tempting for those in power, but is it really addressing the needs of people of the city? Bus rapid transit has been transformational for Dar es Salaam. For millions of people in African cities, this is their best hope of ever being connected.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Photobucket at Psychology Today
Hadza grandmother in Northern Tanzania. Hazda grandmothers’ labor and care is correlated with better nutritional status and survival rates in Hadza children. Anthropologist Kristen Hawkes studies the Hazda for a window on ancient worlds.

As a grandmother myself, I am naturally drawn to well researched articles on grandmothers throughout history. Their role has fluctuated, of course. In some periods, they have been useful — essential even. At other times, they have been pretty useless. Here’s a report from John Poole about very early grandmothers. I heard it at Rhode Island Public Radio.

Kristen Hawkes is an anthropologist at the University of Utah. She tries to figure out our past by studying modern hunter-gatherers like the Hadza, who likely have lived in the area that is now northern Tanzania for thousands of years. Groups like this are about as close as we can get to seeing how our early human ancestors might have lived.

“Over many extended field visits, Hawkes and her colleagues kept track of how much food a wide sample of Hadza community members were bringing home. She says that when they tracked the success rates of individual men, ‘they almost always failed to get a big animal.’ … In this society at least, the [old] hunting hypothesis seemed way off the mark. If people here were depending on wild meat to survive, they would starve.

“So if dad wasn’t bringing home the bacon, who was? After spending a lot of time with the women on their daily foraging trips, the researchers were surprised to discover that the women, both young and old, were providing the majority of calories to their families and group-mates.

“Mostly, they were digging tubers, which are deeply buried and hard to extract. The success of a mother at gathering these tubers correlated with the growth of her child.

But something else surprising happened once mom had a second baby:

“That original relationship went away and a new correlation emerged with the amount of food their grandmother was gathering. …

“In this foraging society, it turns out, grandmothers were more important to child survival than fathers.”

Other researchers have come up with other likely benefits of prehistoric grandmothers.

Michael Tomasello is a developmental psychologist at Duke University and the Max Planck Institute. … Tomasello originally assumed that the pro-social traits in human babies [described by researchers such as U.C. Davis primatologist Sarah Hrdy] were preparing kids for skills they’d need as adults, in line with the Man the Hunter hypothesis. Now he thinks that Hrdy’s proposal – that human babies are so socially oriented as a result of shared child care and feeding – is a more compelling theory. The traits appear so early in a human’s life that it makes better sense that they were adapted to early childhood situations rather than adult hunting behaviors.

“It’s this ability to ‘put our heads together,’ as Tomasello puts it, that may have allowed humans to survive, thrive and spread across the globe. While the men were out hunting, grandmothers and babies were building the foundation of our species’ success – sharing food, cooperating on more and more complex levels and developing new social relationships.”

More.

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In Tanzania, women farmers appearing on a TV show called in English “Female Food Heroes” are bringing attention to the importance of their work and the barriers to expansion.

Oxfam America reporter Coco McCabe writes about contestant Edna Kiogwe, “She grew up in a farming family and knows well the hurdles they face, especially women farmers who, in her country, own only a small fraction of the land. …

“It’s that inequality — and the lost opportunities buried beneath it — to which Kiogwe and 14 other women farmers helped to bring attention this year as contestants in the fifth season of a highly popular reality TV show shot in Tanzania and aired across East Africa. Called Mama ‘Shujaa wa Chakula ,’ or ‘Female Food Heroes,’ the Oxfam-sponsored show celebrates the vital contributions women farmers make in feeding the planet, and highlights the challenges many encounter on a daily basis, including limited access to land, credit, and training opportunities. …

“In the village of Kisanga, where ‘Mama Shujaa wa Chakula’ was filmed [in 2015], the 15 contestants learned a great deal about the struggles local farmers face in feeding their families. Each of the women stayed with a village family for the duration of the three-week shoot, and daily contests included designing tools that could be useful to Kisanga farmers, interviewing them about their agricultural challenges, and putting together skits to help bring attention to those hurdles. …

“Kiogwe [now] spends most of her time in Dar es Salaam, a coastal city about a two-and-a-half hour drive away, where she lives and works as a civil servant. But her city life belies her village roots — and her keen interest in farming. Unlike most women in Tanzania, Kiogwe owns her own land, given to her by her forward-thinking father on her wedding day. She harvests corn, cassava, rice, and sugar cane, carefully aligning her 28 days of annual leave from her city job with peak work times on her small farm in the Morogoro region. …

“ ‘I want to make agriculture like a business,’ says Kiogwe. … With a little effort, greater value can be added to the fruits farmers grow, for instance.

“ ‘Change it from fruit to juice, we can sell it … We can add value to maize — maize flour for porridge — and you can have a good label and good packaging and compete with international businesses. That is my dream.’ ” More here.

According to OXFAMCloseup, the nonprofit’s quarterly magazine, the episodes shot in Kisanga, Tanzania, aired in five countries and had 14 million people tune in. The magazine adds, “Versions of the program are now being produced in Ethiopia and Nigeria, and some finalists have become involved in local, national, and even global farmer advocacy.”

Photo: Coco McCabe / Oxfam America
Edna Kiogwe helps her host family with the morning chores in Kisanga, where the TV show “Female Food Heroes” was filmed in 2015.

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According to a feature provided by the Christian Science Monitor, drip-irrigation systems are becoming a boon to regions suffering from persistent drought.

Kizito Makoye writes for Reuters, “Peter Chuwa has long flooded his paddy field using a canal that draws water from the river. These days, however, water is scarcer and growing rice this way is proving hard to sustain. A period of drought set in two years ago, and the abundant water that once helped suppress weeds in his fields and assure him of a crop regardless of rainfall has disappeared, hurting his harvests and his income. …

“Now, however, a drip irrigation system, introduced to help his village deal with worsening drought, is restoring his harvests, building his resilience to erratic weather, and saving time, he says.

” ‘You simply open the tap and leave the kit to supply water to the roots, unlike the traditional system, which takes a lot of time and energy,’ he said.

“Under pressure from drought, the 65-year-old farmer at Kikavu Chini village in Hai district in Tanzania’s northern Kilimanjaro region has switched to crops that need less water, including vegetables, maize, potatoes, and beans. A drip irrigation system, which uses far less water, supplies plenty to grow those crops, he says. …”

Nguluma Mbaga, a Kikavu Chini agricultural field officer, says the technology has come at the right time as farmers try to find ways to cope with worsening drought and other effects of climate change.

” ‘I believe farmers will be in a better position to cope with the changing weather patterns. This village is located in a dry area that does not get adequate rains, so farmers must try to use water wisely,’ he says.”

More here.

Photo: Mariana Bazo/Reuters/File
A farmer cleans prickly pear cacti irrigated with water collected by nets that trap moisture from fog on a hillside in Lima, Peru.

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