In September 2023, Paul Cockhill, Fran Murray and Emilie Murray, visited the VALITA team in Tanzania. Emilie recounts their experience and highlights the inspiring projects that RfLUK will be fundraising for in 2024. 

Unsurprisingly, Dar Es Salaam in September is blazing hot. The sun beats down on the dusty roads, baking the corrugated iron roofs on the ramshackle buildings that fringe every roadside. We were extremely grateful that Alex, one of the VALITA members, picked us up every day from the hotel. He could expertly weave his way through the chaotic traffic and navigate the dips and swells of the long track that stretches from the city all the way to Kaya. 

Stepping out of the car on our first day at Kaya was an amazing moment. Here the sun filters down through lush cashew nut trees. We were surrounded by plants and chickens that roamed free, pecking around at our feet. The dusty beiges of the city had disappeared, replaced with dappled greens. We were immediately greeted by a group of children who led us to the terrace of Kaya. 

All the residents were waiting for us on the red steps. It really was a joyous experience; they were so pleased to see Paul again and so very welcoming to Fran and I. 

A highlight of our trip was the guided tour of the land led by Frank Ngulwa and Paul Manyama. We walked every inch of Bustani ya Binadamu as they explained how they are implementing the philosophy of permaculture, that they have learnt from the permaculture course in Zanzibar. 

According to the principles of permaculture they have carefully divided the land into zones. The zone closest to Kaya is where they grow plants used in the kitchen every day, like the delicious lemon- flavoured grass that they brew with sugar to make sweet tea. Further from Kaya are zones for growing crops such as maize, okra and cassava. As it was the dry season these were not yet planted, but Frank showed us the layer of dry compost he had lain over the ground and how the ants were busy working to break this down and prepare the soil. 

We saw the two fishponds full of baby catfish and the newly constructed pigpens and chicken coup. At the heart of the plot is a wild zone. Frank explained how they are going to leave this for native plants to continue to grow undisturbed, in harmony with the rest of the ecosystem. 

The next step towards sustainability is to increase the amount of water they can store and improve their power generation. 

After returning from our trip, RfLUK sent VALITA the money to purchase a new 10,000 litre water tank. Over the next year, we will be fundraising to install a new solar power system and batteries. This will mean that VALITA can pump all the water they need to irrigate the land and reduce their dependency on unreliable grid-power. 

The more water they can store, the more crops they can grow and the closer they get to being able to produce enough food to feed all the residents and those they support in their outreach work. 

A very moving part of our trip was the time we spent with a group of widows that VALITA help as part of their outreach. All these women have found themselves in the difficult situation of having to care for their children and grandchildren, as the sole provider for their families. With money donated from RfLUK, VALITA created a fund to provide these women with the seed money to set up their own businesses. We spoke with them about how they run their business and the difference it has made to their lives to now have a way to earn money. We heard many heart wrenching stories and were so touched by their resilience and bravery. RfLUK will continue fundraising to donate to this business fund so as to reach more widows who could benefit from this scheme. 

To say that it was a privilege to spend a week with the VALITA team is an understatement. The deep kindness and generosity of the people that give their time to run the charity is so inspiring. It is clear that the good they do for their community is profound and the number of people who receive their help and encouragement is amazing. 

Whilst meeting the women we saw their wealth of craft skills from, palm mat weaving, to batik dyeing and soap making. It is an exciting idea that these women could work with VALITA to set up a craft centre at Kaya. The products that they make have the potential to create a revenue stream which would support financial sustainability for VALITA. This idea is something we are keen to research further over the coming year. 

The VALITA team took us to the school in Mbopo where the children who live at Kaya attend. Since 2019, RfLUK have been involved with organising and fundraising for the installation of a water pump at this school. When this project first started, the school had over 1000 students. The school has grown considerably since then, with now over 3000 students. On arrival, we discovered that unfortunately the water pump has broken. We plan to fundraise to repair the pump as we are keen that the students and teachers can have clean drinking water once more. 

A moment that will stay with me, is standing on the small hill at the back of Kaya with Dominic, the founder of VALITA. He wanted to show me the exact spot where he and Percy had sat together, in 2012, and envisioned what Bustani Ya Binadamu could become. So much has been done towards their vision since then and it is exciting to feel the momentum building towards the next stages. 

There has been a lot of discussion between the RfLUK and VALITA members about how to create a training centre at Kaya that teaches the principles of permaculture and traditional craft skills, with the ethic of reverence for life at its heart. We are all looking forward to working towards this together. 

Reverence for Life UK is a registered charity in the UK. Charity No.1197043
Log in | Powered by White Fuse