Tanzania Development Trust; Empowering and Transforming Rural African Communities

In this interview with  Janet Chapman, Chair of the Tanzania Development Trust. We learn about the grant-making organization’s impact on grassroots communities during the last four decades.

The Tanzania Development Trust is the charitable division of the Britain Tanzania Society, which was founded in 1975 by associates of the first President with the intention of fostering positive ties between Tanzania and the UK.

“We’re all volunteers, so by establishing enduring connections with our volunteers in rural Tanzania, we’ve been empowering the country’s poorest populations at the village level. “The Tanzania Development Trust was founded out of friendship with Tanzania’s first president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, and the nation,” says Janet Chapman, Chair of the Tanzania Development Trust.

The primary goals of the organization are as follows:

  • Clean Water; Communities are often deprived of reliable water and sanitation facilities, which leads to increased health risks and decreased school attendance.
  • Girls’ Safety & Education; Access to education is often fraught with difficulties. Girls are forced into domestic roles, lack proper hygiene, and face risks of abuse.
  • Income Generation; Relatively small amounts of money, when invested strategically, can profoundly transform the lives of rural families.

What made you interested in African philanthropy? 

My first job a very long time ago was teaching in a government secondary school in Sudan and that was what opened my eyes to a lot of the challenges and a lot of the untapped potential. So it all started there.

What drives the social impact journey of the Tanzania Development Trust?

We believe relatively small amounts of money, when strategically invested, can profoundly transform the lives of those living in extreme poverty. When people are able to start their own operations, coupled with business training and ongoing coaching, they increase their family income and elevate their own roles in their communities. Access to water is vital and we’ve developed community-based approaches that are very cost-effective and sustainable. Girls’ Education is key to community development

I’ve been a volunteer for the last ten years and have witnessed firsthand the incredible impact of projects that have been done. Women, for example, no longer have to spend up to four hours a day transporting water from polluted streams. That has a very transformative influence on their life. Similarly, investing in minor revenue-generating initiatives, such as agricultural projects, has seen communities grow crops outside of rainy seasons; by investing in a solar pump, they can now extend that growing season and enhance their income and family nutrition from a very low starting point.

How has your organization been able to catalyze social change

Some notable activities undertaken by the trust include;

  • Training local youth in low-tech and low-cost methods of water extraction has brought sustainable water supplies to over 70,000 people.
  • Setting up pass a pig and goat project is a low-cost and sustainable way to improve the livelihoods of villagers living in extreme poverty.
  • Building partnerships with organizations with PlantVillage means rural youth can benefit from cutting-edge technology such as AI for pest diagnosis leading to potential increases of the yield of up to 900% in staple crops.
  • Building girls’ self-confidence and educational opportunities in hostel study groups hugely impact their opportunities.
  • Digital Champion program that empowers rural women to get online for the first time, map the safe spaces in their communities, and protect their community from female genital mutilation and gender-based violence.

Is the TanzaniaDevelopment Trust a grant-making organization and How do you measure the success of funded projects?

Typically, grassroots organizations in rural Tanzania apply to us for small grants and depending on the project support, we receive case studies from locals about the number of people impacted, as well as some individual impact stories. Wherever possible and if health-related we would also speak with local clinics and other organizations about the reduced frequency of waterboard infections and other similar issues.

Applications for funding are typically accepted on a rolling basis. When we get applications, we assign them to a local representative project officer, who analyzes the project, asks questions, visits the site, and so on before presenting it at a monthly committee meeting.

What challenges or nuances have you experienced on the development journey?

  • Infrastructure:

Working in very poor communities raises additional challenges. Due to poor infrastructure, and bad road network. When it’s the rainy season, everything turns to mud and Transportation becomes a problem. Water and power cannot be relied on a regular basis.

  • Financial restrain:
    When we fund girls’ hostels, we often find that not every parent can give meals to the girls. So we’ve implemented extra measures, such as school farms, to help schools become more sustainable and to assist girls who would otherwise be unable to access the hostels.

  • Connectivity:

Also, connectivity in remote schools is always an issue. Therefore we set up a pilot project with African Child Project and Basic Internet to provide low-cost internet in schools.

We generally communicate via WhatsApp, but in locations like rural Tanzania, individuals aren’t always online. They don’t always have the information. Even when they do, especially when it rains, the signals are quite low.

  • Bookkeeping:

Many entrepreneurs have limited bookkeeping and financial planning skills, so our local representatives work hard with them to build them, particularly the income-generating groups. We often prioritize rural women because they have had limited education and, as a result, do not have very good budgeting or bookkeeping skills.

  • Digital skills:

As previously indicated, many of our beneficiaries have never had post-secondary education and have never used a smartphone. To assist them, we developed the Digital Champions programs, which assist recipients in getting online for the first time, teaching them about the benefits and drawbacks of using a smartphone, and so on.

  • Funding:

Finally, access to finance is always a difficulty for a volunteer-run charity like the Tanzania Development Fund; but, our local representatives are integrated into target areas, so we have a good grasp of the challenges and will continue to provide customized solutions.

Kindly share your perspectives on creating a strong development sector in Africa. 

When addressing community concerns, I believe you needed to create local capacity and consider long-term solutions.

To build sustainable change in rural Africa it is critical to collaborate with people who live in those places and have the respect and trust of the local population.

To learn more about Tanzania Development Trust please visit their website https://tanzdevtrust.org/ 

Connect with them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and Youtube 

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