Tanzania: Widows support each other with farming projects (by Alex Butler for Farm Radio Weekly in Tanzania)

| July 23, 2012

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After losing her husband, it is difficult for a widow to earn money and provide for her family. But widows in Sangananu village, near Arusha in northern Tanzania, have found these difficulties easier when faced together.

Beatrice Mosolo is the chairwoman of the Okombosi Widow’s Group, made up of about 20 widows who work together on agricultural projects. Ms. Mosolo says, “It is hard for widows to do everything alone. They are not powerful and live in a difficult environment.” She explains that the group helps widows support each other: “We have to do things together. We must provide to those women who cannot do it for themselves.”

The group began with a few women sewing and selling clothes. They earned enough money to register as an official group, open a bank account and start some farming projects.

The projects include raising dairy goats and chickens, and growing vegetables. These activities help feed the 20 women and their 50 children.

The group often comes together to prepare meals for the widows and their families. This group mentality creates a supportive community for widows who are grieving. Ms. Mosolo says, “It makes the widows happy to be together.”

The group earns the majority of its money from selling matembere, or sweet potato leaves. Sweet potato leaves are a popular, nutritious food.

Much of their earnings are devoted to buying and raising dairy goats. The women also breed goats and hope to eventually provide each member with her own goat. According to Ms. Mosolo, they also use goat manure to fertilize their gardens.

One of the group’s challenges is that some widows expected to receive money from selling their goods. But produce such as vegetables, eggs and milk are used to provide food for the widows, or are sold in the village. The sales money is then re-invested into the group’s farming projects.

Michael Sarakikya works with the Duluti Initiative Inc., an NGO which supports women’s groups and provided a grant to Okombosi Widow’s Group. Mr. Sarakikya says, “They are a good example because they’ve gotten profits and then used their profits for projects.”

Ms. Mosolo says that being a registered group helps them gain support in other places, like the District Council. She explains, “The District Council assists groups, not individuals.”

The women want to buy a milling machine because their village does not have one. They want to earn as much money as possible from selling vegetables. But if their earnings fall short, they hope to apply for a loan from the District Council.

Though the group has many goals for their gardens, animals and community, Ms. Mosolo knows that they must build their future on the foundations of their existing efforts. She says, “What we’re looking for in the future is improving our projects.”