Discovering a new place and a new community certainly does away with the monotony that accumulates throughout our daily routines. It gives us a better insight to the reality. After experiencing a few days of safari in Southern Tanzania’s bushes we decided to proceed inland and visit the local villages. This meant that we had to forget about venturing further in the wilderness. That was quite hard to renounce, I admit! Profoundly saddened, but nevertheless grateful to have chosen to cross through southern Tanzania’s Mikumi areas, left me with nothing but a sensible perception of Tanzania’s inhabitants’ reality, something that is often overshadowed by its spectacular wildlife.
The Poor Mikumi
Mikumi, most noted for being the fourth largest wildlife park in Tanzania, makes part of a great ecosystem combined with its neighbouring wildlife park of Selous, where animals like elephants, buffaloes and zebras migrate to and fro. It also borders human settlements where villagers struggle every day to meet their basic needs for food, fuel and clean water. They strive on a rain-fed agriculture and battle with constant droughts, poor harvest and water shortages, leading to malnutrition and poverty.
The Traditional Mikumi
Over the last few decades, also with the help of the local government, many volunteers, environmentalists and social workers have worked hard to implement various projects and aid frameworks designed specifically to help these households. However, for some villages, traditional ways of life remain unchanged. At first glance, these settlements appear indistinguishable to the centre and suburbs of the Capital; Dar es Salaam – a fascinating city in its own right, bustling with colours, exotic smells and smiles. Villages, standing up high on dry dusty orange hills are surrounded by lush pristine vegetation. To what at first seems an attractive bountiful area with natural resources shows signs of poverty with a short walk along the village pathway.
The Friendly Mikumi
Men in ragged clothes sit listlessly on their plastic chairs, starring incessantly at our entrance to their village. A group of women herding their livestock came to greet us and immediately dragged us to their houses – a cluster of huts made out of bricks and mud. Right at the centre there’s the local store selling the bare essentials with a friendly woman sporting a bright turquoise and green African print dress. The ambitious and talented tailor, from whom I bought a red shirt, designed it for me in less than an hour. Some of the children were running happily, others resting in the shade silently fighting illnesses.
The Hopeful Mikumi
A closer look at village life was a truly eye opening adventure where words and images cannot adequately describe such culture. It would certainly be misleading to suggest that the beauty of this village lies in its aesthetics. The beauty lies in the people’s smiles and happiness. Smiles of hope and pride, hiding their misery, deriving some form of happiness from making it through the day – something we surely take for granted in our everyday lives.
© 2016 – VIDA Magazine – Mandy Farrugia