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

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