Don and Marianne’s experiences in the village of Bacho put flesh on some of the abstractions that one can find in the CIA’s World Factbook account of Tanzania. The Factbook identifies Tanzania as “one of the poorest countries in the world,” in which agriculture “employs 80% of the work force” even though “topography and climatic conditions…limit cultivated crops to only 4% of the land area.” Per capita GDP for 2006 was estimated at $800. Not surprisingly in a country heavily dependent on subsistence farming, each woman gives birth to an average of 4.8 children.
As of 2002 only 78% of males aged 15 and over could read and write while the literacy rate among women was substantially lower at 62%. The Factbook has not updated its figure for HIV/AIDS prevalence among adults since 2003, when the rate stood at 8.8%, but it calls the degree of risk of contracting a major infectious disease “very high.” Thus the life expectancy of Tanzanians born in 2007 is 49 years among males and 52 years among females.
Only an educated people will be able to address the challenges facing Tanzania.
But hardship is only part of Tanzania’s story. The rest of the story must include its safety and political stability, its cultural diversity, its breathtaking natural beauty, and the extraordinary warmth, generosity, and good spirits of its people.
Don and Marianne encountered these positive aspects of Tanzania on a cultural tour organized by Joas Kahembe, who lives an hour away from Bacho in the town of Babati. Google “Kahembe Cultural Tours” to learn about the variety of Tanzania experiences which Mr. Kahembe packages from the pleasant guest house that he runs in Babati.