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On red soil

Greetings from ‘the bushes’!

“It’s time for you to get out to the bushes” was my superior’s comment in a meeting on Wednesday. And with those words it was decided I get to join another colleague on a 3-day big field mission to do a technical review of local governments’ financial and economic capacities and performance.

Even though the whole suggestion came from “behind the bush” (a literal translation of the Finnish saying “puskan takaa”, which probably doesn’t work in English, but oh well), I was definitely up for the trip. In my nearly three months here I’ve only managed to see Dar es Salaam, some of its outskirts and Zanzibar for a day. So yes, it was definitely time for me to get out and see what’s going on in the countryside. And to give it some context, during the past month I’ve been working on a budget analysis of local governments’ budgets vis-á-vis the central government’s, so I’m not completely out of the loop.

The journey to Korogwe – a small town in north Tanzania at the root of the pictoresque Usambara mountains – started at midday and finished five less-sweaty-than-expected-due-to-airconned-car hours later. On the way I saw and experienced some of the things many people associate Africa with. Driving (only) 60km on a bumpy sand road. Stopping in the middle to allow 40 huge cows to cross. Passing by houses built of reddish mud with straw roofs. But I also saw huge sisal plantations and mansions, shiny motorcycles at nice pitstop bars and some amazing scenery.

This morning I woke up to the sunny view of Usambara mountains (not a bad way to start a day, I can say!). After a four hour meeting at the district council we got to visit some projects that the district has implemented. One of them was quite the African experience. We drove 100km away from the main town, the last 10-15km of it on some kind of road between all the bushes and shrubs. At the destination, we get to the Pangani river which is apparently inhabited by crocodiles. Thus we cross the very dodgy bridge with care to get to a maasai village, where we are greeted with some 30 children singing and drumming. There’s a short meeting under a shady tree with the village heads and others associated with the project there, and then we proceed to look at the constructed cattle dip (a waterbasin where cattle and goats dip themselves in twice a month to stay free from common diseases). It was an interesting project to see, because the village collected some payment for cattle to be dipped thus securing a revenue for the village and ensuring the project’s sustainability. Of course as visitors, we only got to see some successful projects, but it’s good to see there are some (I’ll have to write a longer story of what I’ve been working with here, as soon as I get time).

After the field visits we drove back to the district council offices for a short meeting, and headed then to Tanga on the northern Tanzanian coast, where I am now. After attending meetings and field visits for about 7 hours today, sitting in a car for another 4 hours and having now had a good number of Kili baridis (cold Kilimanjaro beers – my favourite), grilled goat meat and chips, I admit I’m pretty tired. There’s a lot to take in from this day and I’m not sure I’ve managed to do that yet, will let you know when I have and write something more usfeul. This was a very shallow and clichéd account of my day, but hey, at least I managed to update the blog at the wee hours. Now off to bed as a bigger and longer meeting awaits tomorrow. Usiku mwema na lala salama (good night and sleep well)!



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