Our Mt. Kilimanjaro leader summitted for the seventh time! I was elated to summit once, and have no plans to return to the mountain top. Cindy does the hike over and over again - and will return summer 2011 - because she not only enjoys it, but also wants to share the work Plant With Purpose is doing in Tanzania. Cindy was instrumental in bringing Plant with Purpose to Tanzania, and the non-profit organization has been working with Tanzanian villages for the past four years. The Plant With Purpose website explains in great detail about its mission of work particularly in the area of sustainable agriculture and stopping deforestation.
We spent three days in Marangu at the Babylon Hotel (prior to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro) so we could visit the Plant with Purpose office, and see for ourselves what the organization is up to in Tanzania.
On our first day Edith Banzi, the national director of Plant With Purpose in Tanzania, showed us an eco-toilet. I think she could tell by the look on our faces that we were not impressed. It was our first glimpse of African toilets, and the eco-toilets didn't look like much. "Don't worry," she told us, "you will learn just how nice these are." And she was right! Many African toilets are simple, small rectangular holes in cement, enclosed in a stall or single outhouse-like structure.
The eco-toilets were clean and looked like toilet bowls set flush into the ground. Human waste is separated in the eco-toilet system, treated and used as compost.
One night we had a delicious dinner cooked in a kitchen powered by methane gas - the methane was piped directly from the cow pen nearby!
We were most welcome (Karibu-sana) at two VICOBA (village community bank meetings) where we were served lunch (rice/pasta - almost like a cross between orzo and rice pilaf, meat stew and cooked cabbage salad and sodas in glass bottles). The VICOBAS are completely funded by its members' own savings, and at each meeting, members very publicly add more to the savings or pay back their loans. If someone falls behind on a loan, his or her pressure group will visit and make sure the loan payments are made.
At one village situated at a lower elevation, we walked through cornfields to visit two different stores funded by VICOBA loans. During the meeting, one man shared how he had electricity in his house because he used a VICOBA loan to purchase a solar panel. Many use kerosene to light their homes which is very expensive.
Edith told us Plant With Purpose had made available an inexpensive light about the diameter of a CD powered by a solar battery, and quickly sold out the 1,000 they had; more are on order.
Because many do not have electricity, cooking is done over a fire using three stones which uses a lot of firewood. Plant With Purpose sells an inexpensive "stove" that consolidates the cooking process, requiring less wood. (I'm sorry for my poor explanation, but you just have to see it for yourself to understand.)
We were welcomed into people's homes, and introduced to their families. Everywhere we went it seemed we were greeted with hellos (Jambos), and as we walked single file through the corn, the women sang. There was singing before the VICOBA meetings, and singing and dancing after. I can't imagine a meeting involving money, particularly savings and loans, in the United States being book-ended with singing, dancing and laughter.
Maize (corn) is a major crop in Tanzania and a big staple of the diet. Another big crop is coffee. One of the villages that works with Plant With Purpose grows coffee which you can buy. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of the coffee goes back to Plant with Purpose for the village of Malindi. Visit if you want to buy Tanzanian coffee direct from the source. www.friendsofmalindi.org
This is my last blog about Mt. Kilimanjaro and Tanzania. The journey - starting with the training regime nearly a year ago and peaking at the summit - has been one I will never forget. Thanks for coming along with me. I'm not sure what the next challenge will be, but I'm positive I will not be climbing any mountains higher than Mt. Kilimanjaro's Uhuru Peak - the Roof of Africa.