Our first full day in Tanzania began early in the morning. We were picked up by “Edwin”, a driver from Classic Tours at 9 a.m. to go to Tengaru Cultural Village. We had breakfast of fruit and coffee at the hotel and checked our luggage, taking only one bag because we were returning to Arusha the following night.
It was not a long drive to Tengeru. located just 13km from Arusha, on the slopes of Mount Meru which at 4566m is Tanzania’s second highest peak,behind Mount Kilimanjaro.
When we arrived, we met with Mama Gladness, and her guides, Elisante, Hilary, and Stephen.We sat outside in the courtyard to learn her story through the help of our guide who was translating. Her story was fascinating and I took eight notebook pages of notes.
I won’t tell her whole story, because I encourage you to go and hear it for yourself. She reminded me so much of Otillia Chareka, D’Arcy’s mentor/advisor from Zimbabwe when he was writing his Masters Thesis at St. FX. Mama Gladness started as a teacher, and wanted to make a difference in other people’s lives.
She chose to empower women, despite being worried in the beginning about the “talking and gossiping” that happens when a group of women work together. She began a farming cooperative with 12 women to start with and some women rose to the opportunity they had been given while others did not.
Known as the “Iron Lady” in her area, she is creating and expanding community projects, despite the fact she does not like politics. She is empowering and encouraging her community through agriculture and environmental sustainability. Everything they use at the village is environmentally sustainable. In the photos below, Elisante teaches us about how they use cows to produce methane gas which is used for cooking and electricity in the village.
She has helped provide 150 trees for 11 secondary schools. Each student has a tree (mango, lychee, banana, avocado) to look after and there is a competition to see who can grow the best trees. Any seeds from the trees must be replanted at the schools, or in the student’s home community. She has also had a well dug which will eventually provide clean water to the whole community.
Her cultural village is one of 51 cultural tourism programs, and there are additional programs being developed. However, any additional offerings must include new product to differentiate themselves from the others. The common thread is that coffee (a main crop in Tanzania) must be included in the offering.
There are over 129 tribes in Tanzania, each with its own traditions and dialect, however, they are all bonded by the Swahili language and live peacefully together.
We toured the village with Elisante and Hilary after we finished speaking with Mama Gladness. They showed us the banana groves and the coffee plants, explaining the process of producing coffee. It was fascinating.
When we returned from our walk, we husked, roasted, ground, and boiled coffee together before eating lunch together. We learned that the Swahili word for “coffee” is “kahawa” and the word “coffee” means “slap”. Always ask for kahawa! We also learned the phrase for “cheers” is “kwa maisha marif”. As we prepared the coffee for brewing, one of the employees from the village came out to join Elisante as they sang a traditional working song and ground the coffee. It was beautiful!
For lunch, we all sat together at the table for a meal of chipati, rice & veggies, beef stew, lentils, plantains, spinach, green beans, tomato & avocado salad, curried chicken, with bananas, watermelon, and fresh lychees picked from the tree just for us. We had freshly squeezed watermelon, avocado, and passion fruit juice to accompany our meal – along with our kahawa.
We signed the guest book and kept talking until Edwin told us we really must leave as we had a long drive to get to the Nogorogoro Crater where we were booked to stay for the evening. Mama Gladness asked me if I was “just a baby” because I reminded her of a tribe that never looks their age. She was good for my ego. With lots of hugs and “asante sanas” (thank yous), we left for our next adventure.
For more information on this fascinating experience, please visit their website: Tengeru’s Cultural Tourism Programme