Dar es Salaam in a (Big) Nutshell

The field trip is now over, but what happened during those two weeks in Dar es Salaam?

Here’s a brief recap of our field trip, and some notes on what we managed to accomplish during the 14 working days in Dar es Salaam. More information on the journey to Tanzania and the project as a whole is about to come – or can be found in our Instagram. Please, just be patient.

Monday, Feb 19

After some relaxing days on the cost of the Indian Ocean and a bike tour in Dar, the team finally had the chance to dig their hands in the dirt. The first working week was kicked off, and our team still felt energetic, excited, and  ready to explore. On Monday, we had the chance to meet the people behind Center for Community Initiatives (CCI) – the local NGO and micro-financing platform involved – in person, in addition to some strong ladies – Husna and Farida – representing Phast Ujenzis.

The morning went by by getting to know each other and what have we all been doing and working on. We learned a lot about CCI’s other projects, such as the construction on biological dry toilets that use a slightly different system as the EcoSan dry toilets. During the morning, we were shooting CCI with questions that would clarify our understanding of the current situation. We explained our approach related to communications, and found out about possible issues related to the big picture. And then group photo of course.

After a nice – and a very Tanzanian lunch – we went to CCI’s office and interviewed the CEO, Tim, for some time. I am sure that the time spent with him did give some answers to at least some questions, but it also raised new questions in our heads. All of us must have noticed the potential that there is, but felt confused about the role and interests of the local partner and the people behind it. The discussion was diplomatic even, but still fruitful to some extend.

Anyhow, the project was kicked off well and more information was gathered. During the evening, we processed our findings, discussed about our learnings, and planned the upcoming days and meetings in a very relaxing (but Western) restaurant by the sea.

Tuesday, Feb 20

Tuesday was kicked off with a nice breakfast at a local lady’s house near our place – The Mikadi Beach – in Kigamboni. Right after, we headed to the ferry to cross the river and took a bajaj that took us to the World Bank office.

At the World Bank, a water and sanitation specialist was sharing us insight on their and the government’s plans related to development in the WASH field. It was interesting to listen to such ideas that concern the entire Tanzanian population – at least to some extend, as the discussion was very technical and thus complicated to follow. We learned more about their plans to take part in extending the sewerage network, building new water treatment plants, and campaigning for better sanitation. This of course is not directly related to our project and its goals, but it is valuable information in understanding the whole WASH and development picture in Tanzania. I am sure we all learned a lot, if not something extremely relevant, at least we got many new words into our personal dictionaries.

Unfortunately, our meeting with DAWASA (Dar es Salaam Water and Sanitation Authority) got cancelled, so we had time off during the afternoon. We went to see the Dar es Salaam Village Museum to get to know Tanzanian living and culture in rural areas. Later on, we worked, and worked, and worked, and prepared the upcoming days. 

Wednesday, Feb 21

After our second breakfast with the local lady, we went to see another NGO, PDF, working in the field of sanitation. And oh boy, what a meeting it was! Although the organization has nothing to do with dry toilets, it was an extremely interesting discussion on their work in improving sanitation and campaigning for better wellbeing.

PDF, a Tanzanian NGO, has several ongoing projects related to water and sanitation that are financed by the biggest players in the development field, and seem to carry out good results. Their key to success  has been the inclusion of authorities in the work done on the community level. They’ve created the network of the right people and connections, which seems to be extremely important in development work in general. They have the support of the nation and its government, and know-how to manage with the communities and their inhabitants. They empower social entrepreneurs and help them in building their  own businesses. In addition, they take part in the grass-root level implementation of the national sanitation campaign.

The connection to this local NGO must have been the most beneficial from many perspectives. Our team was inspired, they learned from us as well, and our mentor, Zita, seemed to have made one valuable connections regarding her future as well. Hope to hear more from them soon!

After the inspiring morning, we left off to the University of Dar es Salaam to meet one Swedish researcher and professor and her students that study water and environmental engineering related topics. From this meeting – after all the good and the bad – we left with a bunch of relevant thoughts. And we learned to embrace failure.

The teacher herself might have been a bit too harsh, but she most definitely was right in many things she said and criticized. The students on the other hand seemed to work on interesting topics relevant to our project – and they were nice. We heard of the power of Moringa seeds in processing urine for example, and producing charras from fecal sludge. We met someone working and doing research for the Ministry of Health, and heard so much about the importance of inclusion. Many projects are meant to fail, because not all things and parties are considered as they should be, and that became very clear. There are many issues emerging with the project our team investigates as well, so better start working on them now.

Thursday, Feb 22

After a long night of preparing our first workshop for the community members, we finally made it to Keko Machunga, one of the informal settlements involved. It was an interesting process to plan the activities as we needed to take into account the different hierarchical levels present, possible illiteracy, simplicity, and understandability of the activities, our aim and goals for the workshop, and the set up as a whole as our main tools were paper and pens – location, a urine fertilized test garden.

Anyhow, our workshop was a success! The team as a whole was very happy for the outcome. Our activities, simple yes and no questions related to our project played with red and green cards, and open discussions, allowed us to monitor and evaluate the current situation, the people who attended, and their opinions on the project. Great thanks to Abou, the CCI employee who translated the entire workshop, English-Swahili-English.

In the workshop there were three authorities present representing three different fields: health, agriculture, and development. There were farmers and agricultors, Phast Ujenzis, and CCI members. It was interesting to observe the reactions and answers to our questions and how they changed during the discussion and the workshop. Especially the local authorities seemed to receive a lot of food for their thoughts, and seems like some minds started to shift.

Well what was the outcome then? Local authorities, and authorities in general, were not aware of EcoSan or the benefits of dry toilets for the community. As we’ve understood, authorities haven’t been engaged to the project in the beginning, at least not in the extent they should have been. There is great potential hiding behind the curtains, and authorities can help in revealing that.

Another topic that came up strongly during the workshop discussions was the usage of urine as fertilizer. Not all believed in it, and many wouldn’t eat food produced with it. People are skeptical,. Urine is not considered safe, and there is a strong stigma around it. The agricultors, especially the ones who’ve been using urine for their plants, believe in it. The garden where we were sitting was one of the trials that uses urine as fertilizer. It is easily noticeable that urine works, and if it is used correctly, it won’t cause any damage to the environment or health. After discussing with agricultors, some minds were slightly shifted from anti-urine to pro-urine.

In the afternoon we went for our first toilet tour around the Keko Machunga settlement. It was both interesting and a bit frustrating to see the toilets in use. Some of them were used properly, some were not. Some have been closed, and in some the waste is not recycled. In addition, there have been some technical issues with some toilets that haven’t been repaired. The only question that came up was why: why aren’t the toilets used properly? And why cannot they be fixed?

Friday, Feb 23 – Monday, Feb 26

The first work week was about to come to its end, and it was time for us to evaluate the situation as a whole. On Friday, we spent the morning discussing about our findings, achievements, and the next steps that should be taken during the field trip. It was clear to all of us that there were many new questions that needed answers, although not all our previous questions were answered etiher. It was clear to all of us that we needed more information from all key stakeholders, including Phast Ujenzis, CCI, farmers, and users. In addition, we needed to rethink the concept and focus of our final event that was supposed to be held on the second Thursday of our trip.

After the internal workshop in the morning, it was time to head to Zanzibar for a weekend off.

During our time in Zanzibar, we didn’t think of work until Monday morning when we woke up at a local Practical Permaculture Institute. Until then, we had spent time on the beach, swimming, and walking around the old streets of Stonetown.

Permaculture is a method for gardening and agricultural production. It focuses on natural production and cycles, and how would different plants grow in the wild – mixed, not separated. It is close to a wholesome lifestyle that focuses on natural living. Our main focus at the institute was to learn more about the latter parts of the cycle we were working on: using human waste in agriculture.

Tuesday, Feb 27

For the second week in Dar es Salaam, we had moved to stay in local families in Kigamboni. We spent the first night in the families, ate our breakfasts with them, and headed for our second day at the communities – destination: Karakata. In Karakata, some of our team members held a second workshop for the community members while some went to see and visit a local small farm.

The workshop went by nicely, and more, relevant information was gathered. This time, we didn’t have any authorities present, but a stronger focus on toilet users and farmers. That was great, as in the first workshop we didn’t have any toilet users or potential users taking part in the activities. We held the workshop with a similar framework as the previous one: simple yes and no questions posed to gather information on the perceptions and acceptability of EcoSan dry toilets and communications.

The farm visit was rather OK as well. It wasn’t a big farm, but let’s say it was a relatively large garden. But there was potential. The person whose place that was, was trying the usage of urine as fertilizer for the first time, and he was excited about it. He was also planning to buy a larger farm from outside the city. In case the trial for urine would go well, he could be such person to use it elsewhere as well. In addition, he was the president of a local community council and a man of networks – a person who could spread the word and work on changing the stigma related to usage of urine.

We’ve now seen several small places where urine has been used, and the feedback has been both negative and positive. There were some places where the plants flourished because of the usage, and the difference and benefits were remarkable. There were also places where the benefits were no greater than from using chicken or cow dung. In addition, there was some misuses of the fertilizer. The training for the farmers should be standardized, and more urine should be produced for testing. Anyhow, the overall experiences were positive and the potential is high.

Later on in the afternoon we had our second toilet tour in the Karakata settlement. The feelings after the tour were similar as after the first tour in Keko: hopeful, but frustrated. We saw several toilets and some of us saw even more in the morning when walking in the settlement. Some of them were well maintained, some were not. Some had technical issues, some issues were about to be repaired. Some were misused, one was closed by the street level health authority. We saw some good and some bad, but most of all, even there was potential. There were two main issues that arose: technical issues and their repairability, and then landlords and house renting. The latter one seems to be more crucial, as many issues with the toilet use come up due to landlords not training their residents to use the toilets properly, or because the landlord has changed and doesn’t know hot use the toilets himself.

Later on, it was time to go home to our host families.

Wednesday, Feb 28

Beach day. No wait: working day at Mikadi. On Wednesday, our team spent the day working together at Mikadi, in Kigamboni. Our mission was to formulate the content and our findings so that we would be ready to present what we have for CCI and Phast Ujenzis in our workshop/final gathering the next day. It was very fruitful to go through all thoughts and findings from the time spend in Dar es Salaam so far, and discuss what is most important and what should we discuss further with the key stakeholders.

During the time being, our team had come across many issues related to the big picture of the project. Bad communication was only a thing among others, although necessary to work on for the project to take a step forward. First of all, the responsibilities and roles of each stakeholder didn’t seem clear. Second, the training for users and farmers was not structured, which causes part of the misuses. Capacity building of Phast Ujenzis, communications, among others formed the rest of the main issues.

During the morning and afternoon we managed to come up with a great method and materials for our last workshop. Later in the evening, we went to visit the community of Kigamboni and their youth center, and oh boy it was great! After a slightly difficult day, it was nice to switch the mood completely and put the mind into acrobatics, dancing, music, yoga, and so forth.

Thursday, March 1

The last day of work in the field was already there, and it was time for us to share our findings with CCI and phast Ujenzis. It started to rain, the air cooled down. We went back to Keko Machunga and the office place of the local authorities. We waited for the participants to come.

After a long while had passed, we finally got everyone on board and were able to start. In addition to CCI and Phast Ujenzis, we had some visiting authorities in the workshop, listening to our findings and discussing about the responsibilities. As a whole, the workshop went as well as it could have, although we ran out of time and were not able to go through all activities we planned for the morning. Anyhow, we were happy that we succeeded in creating discussion and involving the authorities as well. It was interesting to go through everything, and sort of criticize their work in front of them. Hopefully, what we did lead to somewhere. Luckily, our mentor Zita said that she’ll pursue with the last activity we planned, the next steps of the project, with CCI and phast Ujenzis during her time in Dar es Salaam the week after.

Well, that was it basically. We gathered data, information, and images of all the things that had been going on in the settlements and with the people. We talked with people, we workshoped, and analyzed the results and outcomes within our team. The team work itself went on smoothly, and it was great to have Zita present, working with us and sharing her knowledge on the situation. It was time for an afternoon off, shopping kangas, beers and burgers.

Friday, March 2

The official last day of work was Friday, March 2. We spent the day working at Mikadi, thinking of the next steps and future of our project. Although our work in Dar es Salaam was about to end, our project had just begun. Once we all get to Finland, it is time to start working on and analyzing the information that we have, and start to think of the suggestions and final report.

One last dinner together, and it was time for some of us to go home.


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