25 January 2010


Something I often finding myself wondering: Is there just something wrong with the people of Nanganga?

Other villages just a few kilometers away from Nanganga have groups that start projects, and actually succeed at carrying out and finishing these projects. To my knowledge, there are no active groups in Nanganga. Groups start and then die after a month, and rarely start projects, and never finish them. Other Peace Corps volunteers talk about the numerous groups that they have started or work with in their villages, while I can barely succeed at getting five people to show up to a meeting. Other communities build schools or wells by getting villagers to contribute money or labor, but the district government had to cancel a water project for Nanganga because the villagers wouldn't contribute to the project. Recently, I even told a group that I would GIVE THEM MONEY TO START A PROJECT if they would just come up with a project they want to do, and submit a project plan. No one showed up to the next meeting.

Is there something wrong with what I am doing?

Well, probably, but I am a minor celebrity in my village, and I have decided that as a celebrity it is my prerogative to blame things on others. Therefore, back to blaming the village. But there being something inherently wrong with the villagers doesn't make sense either. There are a few good, motivated people. And people aren't just born to be lazy thieves. So what is the deal here?

For awhile I thought it had something to do with the village being on the main road. People don't have to work as hard here as if they would in a village in the middle of nowhere? The lure of pool tables and buses and other distractions and income opportunities at the road has somehow made people uninterested in development activities? That doesn't make sense either. There are plenty of villages on this same road with active groups, with villagers that contribute to community projects, with motivated people. So it's not the road.

Is it just that Nanganga is a big village, and getting projects done and trying to do anything communally is always a tremendous challenge, and corruption is going to be a big problem wherever you are in Tanzania, and I am just having a hard time finding the right people? Maybe.

But all of these explanations don't seem to quite add up. Surely there must be a bigger explanation.

Two days ago I finally found out the reason. I present you with-

German missionaries were in Nanganga from the 1920s to the early 2000s. Since the 1920s. I am competing with 90 years of handouts and viewing wazungu as walking banks. No wonder I can't get shit done. No wonder when I tell people I am not rich and can't give them money they just don't get it. In the past people could just go to the missionaries if they were having problems, and it seems the missionaries would just help them out. Now the missionaries are gone and they don't know what to do.

(Now, I'm not entirely dismissing the work that missionaries do. Missionaries have definitely started some hugely important projects and provided important services in Tanzania, especially in Mtwara region- ie the hospitals in Ndanda and Nyangao. And building schools in villages. Etc. However, based on some anecdotal evidence and my entirely biased views, it also seems to me you can't deny the fact that a constant presence of missionaries whose role largely consists of giving out handouts of some sort can have a negative effect...)

Other contributing factors (told to me by a friend, who didn't grow up in Nanganga but who lives here now, so the accuracy of this information can be disputed):
-In old times (not sure what year), Nanganga was populated by only the Makua tribe (now it is Makua, Makonde, Mwera, and maybe a few Waio). The Makua chief was apparently a greedy bastard and stole a lot of stuff from his citizens, and people were required to pay him bribes all the time, and stuff like that. Other villagers saw that the only way for them to get ahead was for them to be greedy corrupt bastards too, and their children followed suit, and their children followed suit...
-Apparently people's income for a long time was based on "kuchimba madini" (digging for minerals) and not on farming. (This explains why people come up to me every month trying to sell me gold. I was always wondering where this gold was coming from. There seems to be a mine of some sort not too far from Nanganga). So a lot of people just aren't used to farming, and I guess even though these days there aren't too many minerals to be found, people still don't want to farm because they haven't for so long. This combined with the fact that Nanganga has a large youth population, and, in general, youth these days don't really want to farm for a living either.

So now I know some of/most of the reasons it is so and difficult to get things done in Nanganga. What do I do with this new knowledge?

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