FUM chairman Richard Pratt, accompanied by Medical Liaison Officer Jo Taylor, spent a hectic week in Tabora Region, meeting newly appointed government officials and inspecting many FUM sites and projects there.
FUM projects are located in four Districts of Tabora Region in Tanzania. The Region and Districts all have local government officials appointed by central government. For FUM to operate effectively it is vital to have good relations with, and support from, these local officials and we have cultivated these over many years.
However, over time, officials retire or move away, especially when there is a new President. Richard and Jo decided that a visit was necessary to refresh these relationships and discuss priorities. The costs of the trip were self-funded and not a charge on money donated to FUM.
FUM supports the FDC in Mwanhala. It was found to be in good shape under the imaginative and energetic new Principal Mr Mwadua. Buildings had been newly painted and refurbished, with electricity now supplied to dormitories and staff houses. In the face of government cutbacks the Principal is being creative with farming, livestock and other revenue generating projects. One challenge is the defective water pump but FUM received a promise of assistance from District officials.
Close to the FDC is Mwanhala Primary School. Here pupils and parents had made a huge effort to raise the funds for sinking a well but needed help with a hand pump or other safe means of accessing the water.
A visit to the isolated village of Semembela, where FUM has ongoing projects, prompted the arrival of the borehole test drilling truck and the rainwater harvesting engineers. We later learned that a good supply of water has been found and is being tested for safety and quality at the government laboratory in Mwanza.
They were grateful for much help and guidance from Mr Venance Gomegwa, the recently retired Nzega Clerk of Works, who for many years has planned and supervised FUM's building projects in the District.
Urambo, Sikonge and Kaliua Districts
At Urambo FDC Jo and Richard were shown around by the excellent Principal
Mr Herman Nestory who has a clear vision for the college and an imaginative, successful approach. A strategy for solving the FDC water problems has been suggested and is being costed.
The sewing machines supplied to FUM via Work Aid in 2013 still work well but would benefit from some maintenance. FUM hopes to have a technician visit the FDCs in 2017
Mr Nestory also took them to the Urambo Huruma Centre, a safe place for albino and orphaned children.
In a brief visit to Sikonge FDC they met the Principal Mr Luambano and his staff. Again, a strategy for solving the FDC water problems was proposed and is being costed. The kindergarten, opened two years ago, was seen to be very popular and provides useful income.
FUM learned that the water table in the area is now very low and this also applies to neighbouring Urambo and Kaliua Districts. Boreholes have only a 10% chance of success. Far better, and cheaper, is to construct large tanks in the ground, suitably lined and covered, then supply these with an extensive rainwater harvesting system. With this in mind we are reviewing our plans for providing reliable sources of water at Urambo and Sikonge FDCs which FUM supports. We were grateful to Mr Lucky Mgeni, formerly based in Urambo but now in Tabora, for his help with this and other matters.
The five FUM clinics have been transferred from Urambo to the newly created Kaliua District. Four clinics are now providing essential medical services for villagers but need additional support in the form of water supplies, and staff housing is necessary for the fifth clinic to open. A new District Hospital is being built at Kaliua to reduce the pressure on that at Urambo. Requests were made for further FUM support.
The visit to Urambo Hospital showed it to be very well run, with dedicated staff, but chronically short of doctors, nurses and equipment. Richard and Jo discussed the forthcoming 'elective' by three UK doctors which will enrich their experience and provide additional support for the hospital.
Meetings with Officials
The Regional Commissioner, Hon. Aggrey D. J. Mwanri, is based in the 'capital' Tabora. He is a big, energetic and impressive man who is FUM's Honorary Joint President, .
Also in Tabora is Mr Baraka Makona who took over very efficiently, and at very short notice, as FUM's Liaison Officer following the sudden and tragic death of Janeth Mzimba.
Each of the four Districts has their own Commissioner, Executive Director, Administrative Secretary, Medical Officer and Water engineer. Richard and Jo were able to meet these officials, or their representatives in each district.
Apart from creating new relationships, these meetings were most helpful. All of them were highly supportive of FUM. In each case, discussion of priorities showed that FUM’s views are in line with Government thinking.
Many of the officials were highly impressive. The Urambo District Commissioner had a clear strategy for dealing with the district’s challenges (one of her predecessors as Urambo DC is now Prime Minister) . The Nzega District Executive Director described a new administrative structure to work with FUM and reduce bureaucratic delays. The Kaliua Medical Office showed an impressive grasp of the details of the FUM clinics. The Sikonge water engineer was most helpful in explaining the different strategies for getting reliable water supplies.
Richard an Jo were especially pleased to meet our old friend Elias Masatu who served outstandingly as FUM's Liaison Officer for nearly 25 years and to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude. He is slightly handicapped from a stroke after his retirement in 2012 but his mind is still sharp and he enjoyed renewing acquaintance with former colleagues at a dinner on our final evening.