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Blog #1 "You look good, you look fat"!
22 November 2022

Annemarie Weijenberg is project manager of the World Waternet project in Morogoro. In her first blog, she shares her experiences in Tanzania.

Early November we visited our local partner MORUWASA in Tanzania. For the first time, with four female experts. Together we worked hard on supporting the water company MORUWASA, its staff and local stakeholders. But evidently, we also had a lot of fun.

Water for the poorest

As part of the WaterWorX () programme, World Waternet works together with the Morogoro Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authority (MORUWASA) to improve the access to drinking water, with special attention given to the poorest. The goal of our visit was to participate in a technical workshop on climate-proof watershed management of the Mindu dam. The past years, drought issues are becoming more frequent in Tanzania. As a result, there is insufficient water available to supply drinking water. The focus of World Waternet has therefore shifted from drinking water activities to sustainable water resources. This also includes the participation of other Dutch water authorities (waterschappen). To protect the water supply from the Mindu dam, MORUWASA, local stakeholders and World Waternet kicked-off a project to secure the water availability in this catchment. We also visited the local NGO Kinara for Youth Evolution, with whom we work together on improving water supply, hygiene and water education. Menstrual inequity is a big problem for many young girls who cannot go to school/work during their periods. Early this year, World Waternet donated fabrics to Kinara to produce sustainable and reusable sanitary pads. They are distributed for free among young women and can be used for 2-4 years.

How’s my hair?

The trip to Morogoro was, as always, a major undertaking. The flight to Dar Es Salaam, the country’s capital, takes 11 hours. After spending the night there, a bumpy and slow ride to Morogoro takes another 5 hours. This is a provincial town located 180 km west of the capital. Getting into the car at 7 AM, including the 2 hour time difference, makes you wonder: ‘how’s my hair?’

NL 001.pngVisiting a local bakery, participating in the technical workshop for the Mindu dam and doing research on the local market on profitable crops

A warm welcome

When we finally arrive at our partner MORUWASA, we are always warmly welcomed. Everybody is happy to see us. Everybody emerges from their office to say hi and have chat. This time, I was  received in a very special way: “you look good, you look fat!”. You may understand, that was quite a shock for me. Especially if you consider that I visit the gym 4-5 times a week to keep my body in shape. Luckily my colleague gave me some reassurance: it’s a compliment! And indeed, it was a sincere compliment, I looked good and healthy!  

Learning from each other

This demonstrates once again how much cultures can differ from each other. And how much we can learn from one another. We must avoid the pitfall of seeing everything through Dutch glasses, but try to understand the local context and see what it is about. If you look ‘fat’, that means that your husband takes good care of you and you have enough to eat. But for us – Dutch women – it was clear: this will be ‘our quote’ for the rest of the week.

The 1000-things bag

When I travel, I always struggle to decide what to take with me. What is useful and what do I leave at home? In addition to my suitcase, I have a large hand bag that contains everything. I take it with me everywhere I go: and thus arose the ‘1000-things’ bag (inspired by Mary Poppins). Always handy in case someone is in need. How about several phone charges, adapters, stroopwafels to hand out, medications and background documentation. It became a gimmick among my travel companions to guess what the bag did not contain. But honestly, even then it became clear that I had exactly the right adaptor or a disinfectant wipe that my companions did not have.

EN 002.pngVisit to Kinara for Youth Evaluation and the ‘1000-things’ bag

Finally rain

At the moment, Tanzania is facing severe drought and this causes huge issues for MORUWASA. After all, they can’t supply water. Now, only twice a month water is supplied. The people are waiting for the beginning of the rainy season. Without interventions there won’t be enough water and the poorest part of the population is mostly affected by this. Besides our enthusiasm, advice and passion we brought something else. On the day of our arrival in Morogoro, it started to rain for the first time in months. And on Thursday, there was so much rain that we had to leave the car at the side of the road. It was then that we received the biggest compliment of the week: “you brought the rain”.