Posts Tagged internship

Never say you’ll never end up in Mwanza rock city

It’s not as though at the time, sitting in my 4th year Business Policy class at Wilfrid Laurier University, I actually had the exact thought cross my mind, but I certainly didn’t think the opposite either.

I don’t imagine I will ever end up there…

We are watching a clip from the Oscar nominated documentary, Darwin’s Nightmare, and the clip is being shown in this particular class as we have been discussing some of the issues and problems that result from international trade and globalization. Hell, we all know our business schools could use a little more of this well rounded perspective so kudos to the prof on that point. On the screen, although I don’t know much about it at the time, is the city of Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania.

The symbol of Mwanza...the rock city

The movie isn’t exactly showing a flattering portrait of Mwanza or Tanzania (in fact, the documentary caused quite a bit of outrage here in Tanzania and even caused personal rebuttals from the president of Tanzania). It’s an examination of the introduction of the Nile Perch species to Lake Victoria and theorizes that the local population has benefited little from the globalization and has largely experienced only some negative affects such as imported of conflict arms and the continued spread of HIV while the expensive fish fillets are flown off to Europe. I think in the end both sides of the controversy are a bit correct – the Lake Region is a beautiful area and in the end the film did not do justice to the people, the natural beauty and likely hurt it even more through lower fish sales and tourism. That said, I have no doubt that many of the points the Director makes about how the effects of the global fish and arms trade have also negatively affected the local population. All this said, I only watched a piece of the documentary that year and still haven’t seen the whole thing so I will leave it up to you dear reader to watch the documentary and make your own judgement.

Caught the culprit in question

Just about 4 years after this I found myself arriving in Mwanza. It was this past Janaury and I was coming to the rural areas just outside of Mwanza urban to run a pilot of MEDA Tanzania’s new program the Universal Coverage Campaign (UCC). Sometime this spring, the Government of Tanzania’s Ministry of Health will launch this Global Fund to Fight Malaria, AIDS, and Tuberculosis funded campaign which will aim to provide a free Long Lasting Insecticide Treated bed net to cover every sleeping space across Tanzania. It’s a daunting task, to accurately coordinate the logistics of registering every household in the country and then procuring and distributing the bed nets in every single one of Tanzania’s estimated 12,500+ villages. Something like running an entire national census combined with organizing a distribution network in every village, hamlet and metropolis back home. Phew.

A UCC village healthworker registers sleeping spaces during the Mwanza pilot

Anyways, I am getting off track. Zach, Jer, and I were tasked with planning, organizing, and executing a small scale  launch of this UCC program to test out a number of our proposed policies, procedures, materials, and technologies. Very cool stuff and so after a month or so of planning we find ourselves arriving in Mwanza to go live with the pilot.

Mock volunteer training exercise tests the variables

I won’t bore you with too many of the details, but I think everyone felt it was a success all around and we learned lots of things which are now going to be implemented when the full program launches in the months ahead. It may be stating the obvious but…don’t try and launch a project of this magnitude without taking all of your ideas (which seemed to make complete sense sitting in the office) and trying them out in practice in the real world.

Not sure why this is here....just liked the photo I guess

In the end, it was a work trip and although we got to see some of Mwanza, take a little dip in Lake Victoria, and even eat some of those controversially delicious Nile Perch – I didn’t really get the opportunity to see if the side of Mwanza portrayed in Darwin’s Nightmare is out there as well.  Another time perhaps…

Colourful boats tied up but waiting to go on the Lake Victoria shoreline

I guess it’s not really that outrageous of a connection finding myself on the same shores that film depicted 4 years later.  But all I am trying to say is…. never say you’ll never end up in Mwanza rock city because one day, if you’re lucky, you might just find yourself there.

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So what’s this all about?

Welcome (“Karibu”) to my blog about travels, development work, and everyday life here in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Here in Tanzania, the daily greetings are just about the most important thing to know in Swahili so I figure I better get these formalities out of the way right away.

I arrived safe and sound here in Dar es Salaam, where MEDA is located, in mid- September. Apologies for the lack of a quick start on the whole blog thing – somehow it’s not always the most exciting option to choose when deciding what to do over here… Dar is Tanzania’s largest city with a population of about 3 million and is the centre of commerce and administration for the country. I figured for this first post it might be helpful to just do a quick overview about the organization and work that I am doing here. I’ll be living and working in Dar for an 8 month internship contract with an organization called MEDA. There are three of us in total here with MEDA Tanzania and I live, work, and travel with Zach and Jeremy (whom I am sure will be further introduced in later stories).


MEDA is a leading Non-Governmental Development Organization (NGO) headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada but working in over 30 countries around the world. MEDA is known internationally for it’s unique approach in providing business and market-based solutions to problems caused by global poverty. I’ve been very impressed so far with the innovation and out of the box thinking that MEDA has applied to Check out their work on their website here (www.meda.org) or watch YouTube videos on their many global projects here.

Hat Punguzo project on YouTube

We work within the Production-Marketing Linkages (PML) group which (lifted right from the orientation materials..) assists small-scale producers to increase their incomes and build their livelihoods through improved production and pathways to effective markets. PML also supports the development of distribution networks that reach disadvantaged consumers with appropriate and affordable products.


MEDA Tanzania is the country branch operating the local Tanzanian operations and projects and has been in country on a number of different micro-finance and business of health areas since 1986. Once again, I’m going to just take the lazy way and paste in some more official lines to help me better explain the work. Our mission is to bring hope, opportunity and economic well-being to rural and urban communities of Tanzania by building the capacity of the economically active poor and linking them to production, marketing and financial infrastructure.

MEDA Tanzania manages two different but closely related projects:  The Tanzania National Voucher Scheme (TNVS) and the Under Five Catch up Campaign (U5CC).  The goal of both projects is to increase the coverage and use of insecticide treated [mosquito bed] nets (ITNs) among specific target groups (pregnant women and children under five, the population most at-risk for malarial mortality).  MEDA’s work focuses on management, logistics, and the delivery of ITNs to each target group through a unique public-private partnership (PPP) which strives to build a sustainable private sector distribution network in the country for long after the aid dollars have disappeared.

hati punguzo logo


I’ll be working on the project in the area of Business Development and Communications. From what I know so far that will involve some work with project management of some of these programs, researching new funding opportunities, writing and submitting funding proposals, building relationships with donors, reporting, and a host of other tasks where needed. They’ve got some pretty ambitious targets set for us during our time here – both a good thing but also a little intimidating…more on that line of thinking next time.

Alright, that’s more than enough for now.

Cheers,

Dan

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