Tuesday, 24 November 2020
Thursday, 19 November 2020
When I was working with ECHO-East Africa (April 2019 - March 2020) I applied to many organisations for funding to do all sorts of development work. Most applications were unsuccessful but yesterday I was invited to a training day to see the fruits of my labour with a couple of successful grants. The first was a large project to plant trees in degrading farmland on the mountain slopes in the Arusha area. This is in conjunction with Treedom - an Italian company. It will run for the next 5 years at least and will result in hundreds of thousands of trees established. Tree planting for the first year has just begun and I was able to see the ECHO team loading a truck load of seedlings to take up into the hills.
The main event today however was capacity building training. This was funded by the Australian Volunteers International and the Planet Wheeler Foundation under its Community Grants Scheme. Donkeys and bullocks are used as draught animals commonly in the Arusha region. They are often required to pull heavy loads with poorly designed harnesses and yokes and have shortened, painful lives as a result. ECHO and a couple of other NGOs have put together week-long training programs where farmers can learn how to make equipment to better suit their animals. Over the week they learn how to make padding, yokes, neck harnesses etc. from local and cheap materials and with minimal tools and how to ensure these suit the age and size of their animals.
|Hessian and plastic bags stuffed with straw|
|Nicely padded to spread the load across the donkey's back.|
Tomorrow we cross into Kenya and will spend the weekend at Amboseli National Park.
Sunday, 8 November 2020
Eight months after our rather hasty departure from Tanzania we have returned. We felt we were sitting around in Hamilton doing very little and had a choice. Peter Dutton gave us his blessing to travel and we consulted with family and friends who were also mostly supportive of our plans.
Getting here was very wearying this time. A long day in Melbourne catching up with our son David and my dad in Melbourne before nephew Callum drove us to the airport. Then the usual long Qatar flight to Doha where we had a 20 hour layover before our flight to Tanzania. Normally we would leave the airport for a hotel in the city, sleep and freshen up, do some touristy things and then return to the airport. This time we were not allowed to leave the airport. This was most unpleasant as there is little to do and mask wearing was compulsory. The same mask gets a bit manky after 30 hours.
We had been advised twice by Tanzanian Immigration that we would need to provide a negative COVID test certificate on arrival so we were tested by our GP in Hamilton the day before we flew. The results were to be emailed to us so we could show them on arrival. As I write it is 9 days and they still haven't come. Of course - no-one asked to see them at the airport in any case.
Arriving at our Arusha house felt like we had been away 2 weeks. The staff were so happy to welcome us back. Rooney the dog forgave us for leaving him so abruptly in March and the new dog Soxy seems friendly - if a bit neurotic.
The house and car were looked after well and we quickly settled in although the exhaustion of the trip took a while to pass. It is the beginning of the wet season here with a few mornings of rain since we arrived. The garden is still very dry however. One change since we left is the shelter over the picnic table. I sat here quietly yesterday and a small flock of Hadada Ibis ignored me as they foraged and sunbathed.
We have ventured out for shopping and have visited our old workplaces. We have new neighbours in the compound - an Italian couple working for the anti-poaching PAMS organisation which has its office in the grounds as well. Hopefully landlord Paul will be back from lockdown in the UK in a few weeks.
On Friday we had a long day in Arusha NP and nursed our RAV up the mountain track as far as the waterfall picnic ground (2150 m). There are some birds here and higher that I still want to find. We will need to either go with someone in a more suitable vehicle or do a guided walk with an armed ranger to get higher. Buffalo occur up this high so it is not safe otherwise.
Whatever the reality, COVID has had little impact apart from economic. The hospitals were never overwhelmed and there are no coffin manufacturers along the highways. Two theories are being examined: other COVID viruses have been through the population regularly so there is a degree of immunity; or native African people have no Neanderthal genes (common in European people) and this protects them from more severe infections. Hopefully one-day we will have answers.
We have planned a safari to Ruaha, Udzungwa and Mikumi National Parks starting on December 1st. Our friend Stanley from Zorilla Safaris is going to take us and it will be great to be with him in the parks again.
Thursday, 26 March 2020
- We were booked to go back to Melbourne and Hamilton for a holiday over Easter
- The coronavirus started spreading and killing people
- We were told we would have to stay in isolation on arrival in Australia for two weeks
- The first case was announced in Tanzania
- The police appeared on the streets wearing face masks
- A second case was confirmed
- Wednesday a week ago both our workplaces closed indefinitely
- Another volunteer who lives in our compound self-isolated because she had flu-like symptoms
- Someone reported her to the authorities
- Health department authorities arrived and took a sample for testing
|Not what you want to see in your compound|
- AVP announced that all 400 global volunteers were to go home to Australia as soon as possible
- We got the AVP travel agent to book us flights for Monday - so now we had two options
- One by one - various flights on our two options were cancelled and new options found
- A couple of farewells with AVP colleagues who left earlier than us
- Our original holiday flights home became impossible to use
- Early on Monday our AVP booked flights were cancelled
- By 1000 we were on our way to the airport with new Qatar Airlines tickets
|So happy to see this chap arrive at Kilimanjaro airport to start us on our journey home.|
- Safely home Wednesday via Dar es Salam, Doha and Perth (41 hours door to door)
- Now 14 days in isolation in Hamilton
Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Busy at work in recent weeks with several project funding application deadlines since the start of the year. I think I've sent off two applications and have another one due in a week. Hard to remember what proposal I'm working on sometimes. Several others are coming up in the next few months.
Out of the blue we were approached by an Italian company, Treedom (www.treedom.net) to work on a tree planting project. They obtain funds from large corporations who want to offset their carbon footprint and use the funds to buy trees for planting all over the world. They currently have on project in Tanzania and want ECHO to be their second partner in the country. I spoke to their project manager for East Africa by Skype a few weeks ago, put together a proposal and he has just been to visit us. It looks highly likely that we will have a 5 year contract with them. Very exciting on many levels: many trees will be planted in heavily eroded catchments, ECHO will get a nice injection of funds and security and we can use this relationship to leverage new projects.
|This huge hole in a village road leads to the primary school and is a direct result of erosion |
that tree planting will help to reverse.
|Despite a reasonable number of trees in this scene there are erosion points in the grazed pasture and few trees above to slow down water during a storm.|
In November ECHO hosted a conference in Rwanda and one of the speakers presented information on a form of compost for providing highly diverse populations of fungi and bacteria to soils. Soils here are run down in terms of nutrients and micro-organisms so we thought we'd have a go at building our own bioreactor. I did some research and found an instruction video and manual. Last week the planets aligned and the whole team plus visitors helped to build the beast. Unlike ordinary compost it will not need to be turned over at all. The only maintenance now is to keep it moist. In 12 months we will see what we have and if it can help grow food here.
|Start with a pallet and some shade cloth.|
|Erect a wire mesh cage and check the aeration tubes for a snug fit|
|Shade cloth around the outside|
|Faith bringing in the first load of mulch and woodchips|
|Filling the bioreactor - now we water daily and wait for 12 months.|
SafarisOn Sat 8th I went with Per Holman and some of the local bird club members to Mererani and Shamburai Swamp. We'd had a great day there in October so time for another visit. There is a competition underway with Tanzanian birders to see the most species in 2020 and we all needed water birds. We got bogged, twice, for a total of 2.5 hours and there were no water birds on the swamp. After extracting Per's car from the bogs (he wouldn't let me take photos) we decided to spend an hour or so in nice acacia woodland hills well away from any water. I got three lifers in that time - Scaly Chatterer, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit and Pygmy Batis - great names all of them.
|Common Rock Thrush|
|Unstriped Ground Squirrel|
|Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater (photo by Jenny)|
|Common Buzzard drying out after a thunderstorm|
Daily lifeOur landlord Paul Oliver came home for a few weeks after many months having cancer treatment in the UK. He looks quite fit and is enjoying catching up with his friends here. He also took clients on a two week Tarangire/Serengeti NP safari. We've had a couple of great chats with him - he has been here running safaris and lodges since the early 1980s so has many stories.
I tried again to register my SIM card with VodaCom yesterday (attempt no. 10). I failed again. Apparently my fingerprints taken by immigration on our arrival in April are out of date - they need to be less than 3 months old! I think I've exhausted all my options now and Jenny has also given up. If they cut off our phones we will sort something out then. Maybe we can redo our fingerprints when we fly back from Australia after Easter.
Our CommBank visa cards were hacked recently. Probably someone tampered with an ATM we used and got enough information to bypass the security on our cards. They removed 200,000 and 300,000 TSh (about $Aus320). The cards have been cancelled and we hope to get the money back. We'll collect the new cards after Easter. In the meantime we are using our emergency backup cards. If they are compromised we will have to sell some of Jenny's ever increasing collection of curios.
We joined a team at a quiz night for a new rotary club a few weeks ago. Great fun with lots of discussion between tables as to the answers - there are some very pedantic people around. We came third out of maybe 20 teams.
Our car is going really well but we have had a few tyre issues of late and even though the treads looked fine we thought the rough roads were taking their toll on valves and sidewalls. We bought four new tyres a month ago and have had no more problems - touch wood. They should last for the rest of our time here. We have had brake squeaking and then a disturbing thunking noise from the front somewhere also recently so I took the car to the bush mechanic adjacent to ECHO and he fixed both for 160,000 TzS ($Aus100) and his labour was only 20,000 TzS. Such a relief to have a trustworthy mechanic close to work who can fix these problems.
|I arrived to see if the car was ready to go home - nope!|
Footy is back this week with a pre-season match between Essendon and West Coast on Friday. How long before my early enthusiasm and confidence is tempered? Surely this is the Bombers' year!
We head home via Addis Ababa and Singapore on the 4th April, stay in Melbourne near Dad's until after Easter, catch up with all the kids and other family. Then we have a few days in Hamilton before heading back here on the 18th. Looking forward to the break! Hope to see some of you.