Thursday, January 19, 2012

Making Yoghurt and fresh cheese

Are we aware of what a  privileged life we have? Probably not as much as we might be. But let me give you an idea. Our workshop took place in Mambo a village situated at an  altitude of 1900 meters in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania, where there is no electricity, the road from the nearest town takes two hours of bone jarring four wheel driving (60Km), water trickles from communal pumps, and out of a population of 5000, there are 2000 primary aged children. Just as importantly for our aims, we learnt of no one in the village with more than one cow. In short desperately poor. 

After the 10 day workshop, sponsored by Mambo Viewpoint Lodge (, there were seven wonderful women working together and independently to produce 5 varieties of ricotta cheese and a wonderful yoghurt. For the first time in their lives they learnt to calculate a viable selling price for their own work, how to organise themselves into a team, how to work efficiently, and how to manage accounts for all their money movements. They were truly AMAZING. And they called me 'Baba' which I learnt to like!! It means as you can imagine a number of things, but the one I choose is  'teacher'!!!

By working for approximately 2 hours each day, they now each earn, after subtracting the costs of making their product,  about 1,600 Tanzanian shillings. This will make a SIGNIFICANT difference to how they can feed and educate their children. It also, very importantly, places value on women's work. And how much is that for us Westerners? Well a daily wage for unskilled labour in the Usambaras is Ts 3000, skilled labour Ts 5000. Ts 1,600 is worth approximately ONE dollar. Just one dollar makes a Hugh difference to a family's welfare. Incredible. 
My conclusion is, we all need to know that even by giving very  little, we can make a Hugh difference. The need is great, the moral imperative is even greater.  
Africa can be wonderful, vibrant and somehow peaceful and happy whilst suffering terribly from scourges such as AIDS, corruption, appalling health problems, and of course grinding poverty. But people are resourceful, courageous, determined - once given the opportunity.

It is possible to enjoy the beauty, but equally impossible to ignore what needs to be changed, what we can give.

If you get the chance, do go. You will not regret it.
PS The 'swiss cheesmaker' is meant to read swiss cheese (PAUSE)  maker! Yes, I am sensitive about my origins being misrepresented and do not disavow them!! I guess Australian swiss cheese maker was just too much for Herman the Dutch writer of the web site. By the way, have a look at particularly at the PROJECTS drop down menu. You might find something you can offer.

Hope all is well.   Best Wishes, Julian

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

MamboViewPoint eco lodge, a new approach for sustainable development and tourism

MamboViewPoint is owned by social entrepreneurs Marion Neidt and Herman Erdtsieck. They travelled through many continents, cooperated with various development agencies and saw very many development projects. In the end they felt unhappy with the often very poor or even counterproductive results of many aid projects and all the money that went to expensive overhead, offices and 4x4 cars.

All previous experiences resulted in a plan for a new approach. The basic idea was to create a permanent socio-economic stable base in a poor area and to start regional development from there. In our vision development is not based on unconditional aid but should be achieved by empowering people, building capacities, giving them ideas and information, knowledge, expertise and support them in obtaining tools. As our current experience learns it sometimes only needs a little push to enable people to pull themselves out of poverty. There are some important features in our concept. First, development is not a one item issue like f.e. education because in the end everything is interlinked. For example, when children are educated but there is no work in the end, it is likely to lead only to depopulation of the area but no improvement. Second, development can best be based on practical experience people already have and try to improve quality of products and give it added value instead of selling raw materials. Third, there is always a reason why projects fail or fall apart. The fact that we wanted to have permanent base and become part of the village gives the opportunity for in-depth understanding of optional failures and make together with the population the right adjustments in time.

After a fact-finding mission early 2008 MamboViewPoint eco lodge was established in the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania. It is situated on a beautiful spot near Mambo, which is an area with many opportunities but the population has an average income below the poverty line.

For the hart of the project is chosen for a lodge because in Tanzania tourism is one of the main income sources. Moreover, for the project it is very important to have an inviting place for people from abroad who can bring knowledge and assistance.

MamboViewPoint is an example for sustainable and responsible tourism. Though the owners are from abroad, there is a strong connection with the local community. Employees, building materials and food are as much as possible from local origin.
Moreover the lodge offers a meeting place for people from all over the world including the local people where they can enjoy their holiday in a family atmosphere.

What makes MamboViewPoint special is the associated foundation which is in charge of the various projects that target various development issues. Because of the stable position of the lodge and the many volunteers and guests who contribute to the project, it is possible to spend 100% of the received aid money on the projects without overhead costs. This is an essential difference compared to what we see at other places where only for example 10% of the profits are spent on community projects. With our concept we are able to do far more.

The MamboViewPoint approach

In the first place the lodge is a steady centre for all the activities. This is not for a limited amount of time but without end. The fact that the owners of the lodge are living permanently in Mambo, created a strong bond already with the local inhabitants because the lodge and its owners are facing the same problems as they do. The cooperation of the village and the lodge creates a bigger potential to solve existing and upcoming problems.
In the second place, the lodge is built with local people. Over 650 women and 350 men worked in shifts for one and a half year. This made the lodge to a kind of product of the people around and gave them the first income and skills.

In the third place the lodge is not a goal in itself but is a vehicle to create development. Experience learned that it is important that the spill of the project is a lodge. It brings many people from all over the world who can contribute with their skills, funding. knowledge and relations. They see with their own eyes existing problems discuss about optional solutions, afterwards see the result of their contribution and stay updated regarding the impact. Nevertheless to actively contribute is not an obligation, only having a nice holiday is already supporting local development because their stay brings work, sales-opportunities and money for the region.

In the fourth place the projects and professionals for the projects are only for a small part financed by the lodge. What the lodge provides is ideas, contacts, the necessary infrastructure and (most important) an eye on the projects once the volunteers who helped to achieve certain goals are gone. We can, together with the people concerned, help to make the necessary adjustments that are needed if specific problems might occur. This ensures the feasibility and effectiveness of the initiatives undertaken.

In the fifth place, the focus is to create added value to the things which are already there. Like making cheese from milk, biogas from cow dung, juice from fruits that are already growing etc. All not in big projects but by encouraging people to start their own business.

In the sixth place MamboViewPoint is an eco lodge which means that the footprint which it is leaving behind is as small as possible by using as much as possible solar power, natural building materials, local produced food and most important, being close to the local people and taking care they are benefiting and not exploited.

About the MamboViewPoint approach and the aid industry

Since Tanzania belongs to the poorest countries in the world but the political and economical climate is positive, it is a beloved target for many aid organisations. This causes  a main stream  from aid funds and many projects concerning public matters which actually should be done by the government. Combined with the present corruption this is resulting in a huge spill of aid money and a not optimal governmental system with, especially on individual level, other targets than the development of the country.

All this resulted in an “aid industry” where even volunteers have to pay a lot of money f.e. to work in an orphanage. MamboViewPoint does not want to be a part of this aid industry but chose for the approach like it is explained before.

This makes it worthwhile to  donate to the project since none or only a little money from donated amounts is lost and the results are very visible and projects keep being monitored. Many guests of MamboViewPoint realized this and are contributing to the projects.

About MamboViewPoint and the tourist industry.

A main part of the tourist in Tanzania are heading for the well known hotels and tour operators. Often those are owned by foreign companies which supply food and other needs and staff from far and even the profits go abroad again. A well known saying is “the only thing which is left for local people is the dust from the cars if tourist come or go”

MamboViewPoint is trying to optimize the profit of tourism for local benefit by involving as much as possible the local sources. Employing local staff, purchasing local products and food and being under the national tax system.

For detailed information about MamboViewPoint eco lodge:

For detailed information about MamboSteunPunt foundation: