For over 30 years, the congregation of St Andrew’s Church Stapleford Cambridge has had a link with the congregation of St. Andrew’s Nachingwea, Tanzania and its wider community. This brochure summarises activities to date and also future opportunities.
Nachingwea is a town in Southern Tanzania, East Africa, in the Region of Lindi and Diocese of Masasi, near the border with Mozambique. This is a relatively remote and under populated area, some 590 km from Dar es Salaam.
The 2012 census gave the Nachingwea District population as 178,464, with an average household size of 3.7. The district has 26 centres of population, ranging in size from around 3000 to over 16,000 people.
Nachingwea was the centre of the ill fated Groundnut Scheme in the 1940s, but following the failure of that project it remained quiet and neglected for many years. The facilities built for the Groundnut Scheme, including the airstrip, the hospital and a single track railway to the coast fell into disrepair. In recent years however, Nachingwea has benefited from various Government schemes and other charitable activities. The hospital has been renovated, there is a teachers’ training college with capacity for 800 students, a secondary and four primary schools, a nursery school and a day care centre.
The official language of Tanzania is Swahili. English is the second official language, used for business and for secondary and higher education. The transition from teaching in Swahili to teaching in English can present a significant barrier to learning for many students.
While the principal link has been with the Christian community in Nachingwea, the aim has been to help the whole population, some 40% of whom are Muslims, while others follow traditional beliefs. In practice, rigid divisions are blurred to some extent and inter-faith relations in the region are good.
1981: A British missionary, Fr. Bill Spencer went to Tanzania in 1952, and served as parish priest in Nachingwea for many years. In 1981, he visited the UK and met his friend, the vicar of Stapleford, Colin Davison. Fr. Bill was building up the Church in Nachingwea and establishing churches in the surrounding villages. He asked for Colin’s help and so the first link between the two parishes was made.
1987: USPG. arranged for the priest in Nachingwea, Fr. Raphael, along with Obed Pwirira, an agricultural expert (now the Link Chairman) and a teacher, to visit the UK. They stayed some time in Stapleford and made a number of friends. On their return letters were exchanged regularly and gradually the link started to consolidate.
The first people to be helped were the women. One of their jobs was to grind maize by pounding a long pole into a large round bowl. To save them this hard work Stapleford collected enough money to buy a small electrically driven Corn Grinder. This also became a source of income for the church by charging people to grind their corn. However this grinder was not really up to the task and the supply of electricity in Nachingwea was very intermittent, so the Stapleford Link raised money for a diesel driven hammer mill.
1993 Fr. Raphael retired, without a pension, so we provided one. By now it was important to be well organised at this end so a Link Committee was set up as a subcommittee of St. Andrew’s Stapleford Parochial Church Council.
1994: a party of ten from Stapleford made a visit to Nachingwea. As a result of the this visit, it was possible to develop a coherent programme of support. Money was raised to send medical supplies, clothing, books and resources for the schools as well as sewing machines and bicycles, which were sent out by container.
The Nachingwea Link Committee also received group membership of the Britain-Tanzania Society, funded through Stapleford and the UK Chapter of the Society.
1996: Six more Link Members visited Nachingwea to assess how our committee could respond to local needs.
1997: the District Medical Officer, the Chief Nursing Officer and a Tutor from the Teacher Training College (Lawi Issa, Fredy Stephane and Marion Nditi}, all members of the Nachingwea congregation, visited Stapleford for six weeks. This was followed by the first of several visits by medical students on their elective assignments, a practice that has been repeated on several occasions.
1998: a visit by a medical elective student showed significant improvements in Nachingwea hospital and helped focus medical and educational activities.
2000: a further medical elective visit reported continued progress, including the refurbishment and construction of new wards.
2006: A further visit to Nachingwea by eight Link members from Stapleford consolidated relationships and reviewed and renewed the programme of activities
2008: a visit by Bishop Patrick of Masasi was followed by visits from Dr Lawi Issa, the District Medical Officer and also Fr. Douglas. Following this last visit we helped to set up a link between St. Mary’s, Newala and St. Mary’s, Bocking in Essex.
2009: The management of the Link was restructured to accommodate the increasingly specialised activities being undertaken. A mirror Link Committee was formed in St. Andrew’s Nachingwea to channel support into the Community. Each Link Committee was further subdivided into Church; Educational; Medical; Publicity and Fund Raising; and Technical and Agriculture subcommittees looking at specific projects.
2010: The rains failed and there was a severe food shortage. The Link provided food aid and established a seed bank to help farmers.
2012: Bishop Patrick visited Stapleford just before his retirement. All Link activities were reviewed and reprioritised.
2013: A visit by three members from Stapleford took place in July-August. This fact-finding visit led to an ongoing dialogue with local officials and is leading to proposals for further projects involving education and agriculture.
2015: Three teachers from Stapleford Primary School visited Nachingwea to review teaching methods and develop a link between schools. Their visit was followed by a visit to Stapleford by two teachers from Nachingwea. Further linkages between schools are planned. Bishop James Almasi, the new Bishop of Masasi visited Stapleford in November
Link Projects: A wide range of projects have been completed and are underway including
Church: The Church in Nachingwea is very active and expanding. Church organisations, such as the Mothers’ Union and Choir are significant forces in the community and the MU, in particular, is a very effective means of channeling and managing support. Projects have included helping to meet some of the church’s needs for books and vestments ; support for the Sunday School and the education of catechists. Longer term projects include assisting with the design and funding of a major extension of the church building, as well as the possible construction of a guest house.
Education: A continuous programme of sponsorship of girls in secondary education has been run for some years. This involves provision of financial help towards fees (secondary education is not free in Tanzania) and a mentor programme . The annual intake for this programme is up to six students. Primary teachers too have been helped with their professional development.
Special needs students have been supplied with clothing, teaching resources and classroom furniture.
Several primary schools have been provided with funding to obtain pupil text books for all subjects, particularly books for teaching English.
Other education projects include supplying resources and equipment for classrooms, including the two Special Needs classes.
We have collaborated in building a Day Care Centre for pre-school children. The opening of this facility received a very high profile, being blessed and opened by a retired Archbishop accompanied by two further bishops.
Medical programmes: In addition to the series of visits by medical elective students, the Link has undertaken a number of projects in association with Nachingwea’s medical staff.
We have supplied an operating table, autoclave parts, refrigeration and lighting, dental and maternity equipment to Nachingwea Hospital.
Assistance was provided for a programme to eliminate Schistosomiasis (a water borne disease) from primary children in 12 villages in the area.
A series of training courses for Traditional Birth Attendants, and HIV/AIDS education have been organised and run by the local medical professionals, mostly funded by Stapleford.
The hospital improvement programme has been funded by the Tanzanian Government, but various items of equipment to supplement this have been provided, including surgical gloves and anti-mosquito netting for the windows of the children’s ward.
Current activity centers on a survey and updating of the hospital electricity supply.
Technical and Agricultural: The initial project to supply corn grinders has been followed by a number of others, tackling specific areas of need. Projects have included a rainwater conservation scheme at the Church to build a large water tank. This has since been copied on a smaller scale by householders. The Nachingwea Committee identified a need to reduce fungal attacks on their cashew nut crop by spraying with sulphur fungicide. The equipment was bought locally from Stapleford funds. Advice was also given about suitable tree husbandry to minimize cross infection.
The Link facilitated donations from the “Women of Wolfville” in Canada, who raised funds to set up a cow project with the “Women of Nachingwea”. A similar project to promote pig husbandry has also been set up with members of the Nachingwea Mothers’ Union.
A motorbike and several bicycles have been supplied for parish use to enable the clergy to visit the 21 outreach churches in the parish. Clergy wives have been supplied with sewing machines and solar powered ovens for domestic cooking thus helping to improve health in the home and saving valuable timber.
The climate in Nachingwea is variable. Two rainy seasons provide adequate water in good years, but when rains fail, there are severe problems, both for humans and livestock. Over the last thirty years there have been three severe rain failures and a number of years when water was in short supply. Artesian wells dug many years ago with european aid have since silted up. The project to pipe water to nachingwea via Masasi is not yet complete, and even so, the volumes available are unlikely to permit large scale irrigation. The Link has sponsored both food aid and the creation of a seed bank for farmers, but longer term solutions are required, probably involving use of alternative crops or agricultural practice.
The Link recently partnered with the UK’s National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and the Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) to investigate methods of improving agricultural performance in the Nachingwea region. Field studies have been undertaken using funding from the Cambridge-Africa Alborada Research Fund, and a report is in preparation. It is hoped that this will lead to practical developments to assist Nachingwea’s farmers.
Communications: For many years, communication between the two halves of the Link was challenging, due to its remote position. The postal service was very unreliable and phone calls were too expensive for regular use. In recent years, the spread of mobile phones has revolutionised our ability to communicate: texting is of great value, and email is becoming possible, despite irregular electricity supply. Purchase of a computer and other equipment has been supported to improve communication and record keeping. However, visits are by far the most effective means of establishing relationships and building mutual understanding, and two way visits remain the most valuable means of consolidating the Link.
The future: Southern Tanzania has been known as a potential source of minerals for many years. Artisanal mining of alluvial gold deposits is well established, but industrial operations have not taken place. This is about to change, as in the last few years prospecting activities have located very substantial deposits of nickel, copper, gold and graphite. The claim areas for these materials are close to Nachingwea township, and industrial scale extraction is planned, although timing is uncertain due to the recent downturn in commodities markets.
In parallel with these developments, the Port at Mtwara is being developed as an oil and gas terminal, a gas pipeline to Dar is under construction, water is being piped from the Makonde plateau via Masasi, a new power station is planned with a spur passing close to Nachingwea and new road and rail links to Dar-es-Salaam, Mozambique and Malawi are being planned or are under construction.
Nachingwea is at the geographical centre of all these developments and substantial change is inevitable, involving both opportunities and potential problems for the local community. The Link is working with the mining companies involved help foresee and overcome problems and also maximising benefits.