On June 20, 2014, The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) announced that it would effectively prevent the Tanzanian Government from constructing a highway through the Serengeti National Park, a 5700 square-mile World Heritage Site. The African Network for Animal Care (ANAW) won the case against the Tanzanian government, which had plans to construct an asphalt highway through the park to foster socio-economic growth for the 1.2 million people living in the area.

The construction plans were drawn to fulfill a promise made by President Jakaya Kikwete during his last presidential campaign, with the goal of connecting developing communities in the Northwest with the rest of Tanzania. The proposed road would be over 33 miles long, cutting directly through the park; currently, the only road in Serengeti runs below the park’s southern boundary. The road would also include a 164-foot “buffer” zone on either side. The entire space road would no longer be considered park land, so commercial traffic—including large trucks—could utilize it freely.

The Serengeti—meaning “endless plains” in the Massai language—is as famous for its annual migration as it is for its breathtaking scenery, drawing 90,000 tourists anually. For ANAW, fighting construction of the road meant protecting both the animals and tourism, which is crucial to Tanzania’s economy. Each year, during the “dry season,” millions of animals migrate circularly through the Serengeti and into the Massai Mara Reserve in Kenya in search of grass and water. Construction in their natural habitat could potentially alter or even halt migration, which is vital to the survival of millions of the animals. Additionally, a major commercial road would decrease the Serengeti’s scenic value for which thousands of people travel to witness each year, contradicting the government’s plans to boost economy in the area.

ANAW’s case continued to cite that not only would construction disrupt the park’s scenic quality and the natural habitat of millions of animals, but it would also pose serious threats to both humans and animals in the area. Increased vehicular traffic could increase the number of traffic-related or roadside animal and human fatalities. Increased traffic also poses serious risks to Serengeti’s ecosystem, increasing air, water, and soil pollution. ANAW’s bottom line: high-impact development could have had severe, damaging effects on the animals and people who call Serengeti home, which isn’t worth it.

Though the government worked to ensure that adequate measures would be taken to prevent harmful or negative consequences tied to the construction, plans have been canceled as of now. Ultimately, environmental protection, sustainable development and the protection of natural resources remained the top issues that influenced the judges at the EAJC. The road—which has sparked debate for several years now—is an issue that is sure to surface again in the future. But, for now, the circle of life will continue as it always has in the Serengeti for humans and animals alike.

– Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: National Geographic, Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Tanzania National Parks, Humane Society International
Photo: National Geographic

hunger in tanzania
It is difficult to believe that large quantities of people could go hungry in a country that relies heavily on agriculture to sustain its economy, but that’s exactly the case in Tanzania. Not only does agriculture account for a quarter of Tanzania’s GDP, but also approximately 75 percent of Tanzanians (most of whom are women) are employed by that sector. Yet nearly half of households don’t have access to adequate amounts of food, and Tanzania’s malnutrition levels are among the highest in Africa. Something isn’t adding up.

What is the problem? It isn’t that Tanzania is exporting all of its food, leaving its own people to starve. Tanzania is actually considered “food self-sufficient,” meaning that it makes most of the food its people need to live. The problem is poverty. Classified as a low-income country and ranked in the bottom fifth of countries in terms of human development, Tanzania simply hasn’t yet developed the infrastructure necessary to get the food from the fields into the hands of those who need it most.

The future is bright, though. Tanzania’s economy has been growing for several years and has the potential for continued growth. Targeted agricultural infrastructure investments could radically reduce the number of hungry Tanzanians, as Tanzania already has excellent land and water resources, in addition to international access via a major port city (Dar es Salaam.) The climate disposes itself to a wide variety of crops, and simply improving the quality and amount of seeds available to Tanzania’s agriculture sector and building the rural roads necessary for the distribution of food could vastly increase Tanzania’s food yield.

International aid organizations like USAID are already working to make hunger in Tanzania a thing of the past. The Tanzanian government is also taking steps to eradicate poverty in its country by instituting policies and programs such as Kilimo Kwanza (which means “agriculture first”) and the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania, which aim to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty by promoting agricultural growth. Motivated to feed themselves, the Tanzanian people simply require the capital to make prosperity a reality.

— Elise L. Riley

Sources: IFPRI, UNDP, USAID, World Food Programme
Photo: WFP

Earlier this week, Tanzanian government officials vowed to improve water access and sanitation conditions for its millions of citizens residing in urban and rural areas.

Conditions in the country have become extensively dire since the end of the past century. The Tanzanian government intends to establish either a water fund or agency through legislation that it believes will be brought to the government’s House by next year.

Climate change is not helping the problem. The Great Ruaha River has consistently experienced dry spells since the late 1990s. In fact, since the dry spells began, the population along the river basin has doubled from 3 to 6 million inhabitants.

Currently, only 40 percent of Tanzanians have access to clean water. The government hopes that percentage will jump to 75 percent by next year with additional funding for water programs in rural areas.

While a lack of accessible clean water in Tanzania causes health concerns, including diarrhea, cholera and typhoid, the lack of water throughout the country has created problems for farmers and businesses. Inadequate water supplies continue to generate crop shortages and failures.

While water shortages remain a problem, the vast majority of Tanzanians do not have access to sanitation. Critics have argued that the government does not spend enough on water and sanitation facilities given the country’s large and increasing population.

For years, the government has not possessed the necessary funds to improve the problem. Coupled with indifferent and at times uninterested community leaders, the country continues to experience hardships at a local and national level. Numerous towns and cities throughout the country are in need of new water infrastructure and repairs to existing equipment. A 1997 report estimated that an equivalent of 620 million U.S. dollars was required to fix the problem.

Fortunately for Tanzanians, the government has started to begin work on water projects with the intention to provide water for rural and urban communities. It is thought that educating Tanzanians about sanitation and safe water principles may help to alleviate the problem.

Yet, part of the challenge involves getting local community leaders to be both engaged and trained to help oversee the individual projects. Many local leaders lack an adequate knowledge about the water infrastructure.

However, the government intends to train and educate the communities about the projects, some of which has already begun. Observers believe that through a coordinated effort among the government, local leaders and Tanzanians, the country can make a difference in improving sanitation conditions and water in Tanzania.

Ethan Safran

Sources: All Africa 1, All Africa 2, All Africa 3, All Africa 4, All Africa 5, All Africa 6, The Guardian
Photo: Africa 6000 International

The Lincoln Park Zoo and MSD Animal Health have secured a joint victory for animal lovers and humanitarians alike. With substantial funding and direction from these two organizations, the Serengeti Health Initiative is vaccinating wild and domestic dogs to combat the spread of rabies in Tanzania, an endeavor that saves both the lives of people and animals in the east African nation.

Although rabies is both preventable and treatable, the developing world continues to suffer a disproportionate number of human cases. An estimated 70,000 people die from rabies every year, most of whom contract the disease in African and Asian nations. By vaccinating wild and domestic dogs, the Serengeti Project has reduced the annual number of rabies cases from 250 to effectively zero in Tanzania, which translates to an estimated 150 lives saved per year.

However, besides the immediate health benefits, the project improves the lives of Tanzanians in more ways than one. Dogs are essential to the welfare of many Tanzanians as they help herd goats, cattle and sheep. These animals also help protect farmers’ livestock from other wildlife. By ensuring these dogs remain healthy, the Project provides an essential service to many Tanzanians who rely on organized, protected livestock for their livelihood. Consequently, citizens are traveling miles to help combat the spread of this preventable, but deadly virus.

The Serengeti Health Initiative has produced a perceivable and positive impact on the outlook of the animal kingdom in Tanzania as well. Since the project’s commencement in 2003, the country’s lion population has experienced a healthy comeback. In addition, African Wild Dogs have successfully re-emerged in the ecosystem after being nearly extinct for the past two decades. However, the biggest success for animal lovers is how many animals are now avoiding this excruciatingly painful fate. Rabies causes a variety of symptoms, including disorientation, seizures and abnormally aggressive behavior before a debilitating paralysis results in death.

The results have been staggering. The Initiative has vaccinated over a million canines since 2003, yet the Lincoln Park Zoo publicly maintains that the fight is far from over: “The project has no end in sight: ongoing vaccinations are needed to continue to protect the Serengeti’s people, pets and predators.”

The project’s continuation is also beneficial to staff members like Anna Czupryna who are determined to learn more about the effects of the vaccination movement on the entire ecosystem. Czupryna also yearns to learn more about these understudied animals that roam Tanzania’s countryside.

“What do these dogs eat? What is pup survival like? What do they do on a daily basis?” She told the Chicago Tribune. “I just was curious. I just wanted to know.”

With so much to learn, staff members may be based in Tanzania for the foreseeable future, helping improve the lives of both man and animal in the east African nation.

– Sam Preston

Sources: The Chicago Tribune, ONE, Lincoln Park Zoo
Photo: Lincoln Park Zoo

baby elephant
In one of the largest countries in Africa, a new program is working to change the outcome of premature births with a simple footprint.  Tanzania is home to an estimated 46,218,000 people who earn an average of $570 per year.  With about one third of its people living below the national poverty line, Tanzania is regarded as a ‘developing country.’  The term ‘developing country’ is described by Princeton as “a nation with a low level of material well-being.”  A common reality in developing countries is the limited or complete lack of access to medical assistance, whether a hospital, pharmaceuticals or a birth attendant.

The latter is an issue that can have devastating consequences.  In low-income countries, about 40% of births are unattended by a trained, medical professional.  Whether or not they are equipped with modern tools and resources, a trained professional is better able to determine the dangers and necessary steps to take before, during, and after birth, especially regarding premature babies.  Of the approximately 10% of infants worldwide born prematurely each year, about one million die, with over 80% of those deaths occurring in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

At present, Dr. Joanna Schellenberg and a team at Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) in Tanzania are researching a strategy with the potential to have a global impact.  The research began by attempting to solve how to reduce premature infant deaths without requiring entire health systems to be constructed (and funded) first. This is especially important since one of the greatest obstacles facing health care in rural areas is the absence of equipment.  However, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 75% of preterm infant deaths could be prevented without the use of intensive care and modern resources.  Premature infant weights are under 5lb 5oz, yet since scales cannot be assumed to be available, the IHI team came up with another measurement: the size of a baby’s footprint.

Volunteer health workers visit villages with a laminated card picturing two footprints.  The health workers measure infants’ feet against the pictures and determine how to proceed based on their size.  If the infant’s footprint is the same size or larger than the bigger footprint, then the child is not premature.  If the footprint is between the two sizes, it may be premature but not necessarily in danger.

Health workers then proceed with suggestions on how to promote infant health such as holding the child skin-to-skin for warmth, or how to breastfeed effectively.  Finally, if the footprint is smaller than both samples, about 67mm or less, the mother is directed to the nearest health center where the infant can receive potentially life-saving care.

The strategy just described is called “Mtunze Mtoto Mchanga” which translates to “Protect the newborn baby,” a concept that local women have been quick to support.  With the persistent visits and encouragement by the project’s health workers, support has grown into a greater compliance by the public. Though the project will continue for another six months before clear results are available, the team is already poised to implement it throughout Tanzania.

The laminated-card system is not only relatively simple to duplicate, it also demonstrates potential self-sufficiency amongst rural women.  Moreover, once the procedure and subsequent actions are ingrained, the individuals could monitor their babies themselves without the need for health workers help with premature birth testing.

The versatility of the project only heightens anticipation for the results of the study.  If successful, the IHI project could mean saving up to three-quarters of a million infants each year with just a footprint.

Katey Baker-Smith

Sources: World Health Organization, Princeton University, United Nations Data, The World Bank, BBC

With a name that quite literally translates into “house of peace,” one might expect Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, to be fraught with peace and prosperity. However, contrary to its namesake, this locale still grapples with impoverishment, with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of less than $530 USD.

Despite this low per capita GNI, Dar es Salaam remains one of the world’s fastest growing cities as an influx of rural farmers from outlaying Tanzanian villages migrate in hopes of success in the city.  Not only is Dar es Salaam one of the world’s fastest growing future municipalities, it is also the largest city in Tanzania, hosting over 4 million residents. A key characteristic of the city is a proliferation of urban sprawl placed in jeopardy by severely inadequate infrastructure.

In an interview with BBC news, Rolens Elias, one of the many immigrants in Dar es Salaam, attests that “It has been hard to set up a life here. I came here by myself and had to wait until I had enough money to bring my wife and family. We all live in one room, but it’s a better life than in the village.” According to, approximately 50% of the city’s most deprived inhabitants survive on a daily income of $1 USD- an income that falls short of the cost of utilities and adequate healthcare.

It is not as if this widespread impoverishment has gone unnoticed. Many programs have attempted to tackle poverty in Dar es Salaam, however, none of these initiatives have proved fruitful, undermined by insufficient leadership, planning, regulation, and resource constraints.

However, regardless of the humble living conditions in Dar es Salaam, the city still proves more opportune and accommodating than the more rural regions of Tanzania- a country that has consistently ranked among the top ten poorest countries in the world. Indeed, approximately 80% of the country’s impoverished live in rural households with the wealthier members of the populace living within less-destitute urban milieus, such as Dar es Salaam.

By 2015, Tanzania is projected to accomplish three of the seven critical Millennium Development Goals, falling short in the areas of education, maternal health, poverty eradication, malnutrition, and environmental sustainability.Thus, despite present poverty, Dar es Salaam, and moreover, Tanzania, can progress towards a more stable economy, guided by proper leadership and global support.

Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: Rural Poverty Project,, BBC, IFAD, World Bank
Photo: National Geographic

President Obama and Congress’ plan to double power to sub-Saharan Africa has people buzzing about an Africa where energy poverty is a thing of the past.

During a recent whirlwind tour of Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, President Obama announced his Power Africa initiative, which would invest $16 billion to combat Africa’s energy deficit. Meanwhile in Congress, a bipartisan contingent led by Representatives Edward Royce (R-CA) and Elliot Engel (D-NY) introduced the Electrify Africa Act of 2013, which would provide over 20,000 megawatts of electricity to 50 million Africans by 2020.

So, why is the U.S. government so interested in turning on the lights in Africa?

The fact that millions of Africans are trying to get out of the dark certainly has something to do with it. In Senegal, only 42 percent of citizens have access to electricity. The situation in South Africa is much better where electricity is available to 75 percent of the populous. However, in Tanzania only 14 percent of the population is on the grid. This lack of energy availability continues to curtail the continent’s development.

Furthermore, the fact that the U.S. has the opportunity to reap enormous economic benefits also has something to do with it. By eradicating the energy gap and lifting Africa out of poverty through aid-based and market-driven approaches, the U.S. will be able to access markets that were previously closed.

The U.S. has a very successful track record of providing aid to countries in order for them to develop and then establishing trade partnerships with them.

Unlocking the trade potential Africa holds could be the answer to the economic woes the U.S. has been experiencing. An immense new consumer base could be created, which could mean more jobs and increased productivity.

The benefits to Africa could be profound as well–millions of people could enjoy an improved standard of life–while ushering in a new era for Africa from a hopeless continent to a legitimate investment and trade partner.

Diminishing global poverty by narrowing the energy gap is essential for any of these benefits to take place.

– Aaron Faust

Sources: White House Press Release, H.R. 2548: Electrify Africa Act of 2013, Access to electricity in SenegalWorld Bank
Photo: Philips

As one of Forbe’s 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, Elsie Kanza is not to be overlooked. Born in Kenya to Tanzanian parents, she obtained an education in the United States and in Kenya. She received her BA in International Business Administration from the United States International University – Africa, her Masters of Science in Finance from the University of Strathclyde and her Masters of Arts in Development Economics from Williams College.

Kanza then went on to become an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow in 2008 and a World Economic Forum World Leader in 2011. Until recently, Kanza served as a personal assistant and economic advisor to the Republic of Tanzania president, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, making her an extremely influential political figure in Africa. Now, she serves as perhaps her most important role yet: director for Africa at the World Economic Forum. The World Economic Forum is a Geneva-based non-profit organization that works to convene global leaders in business, academics, and politics to engage in shaping global agendas.

Through this position, Kanza’s team has been focusing on addressing important issues in Africa including climate change, food security, infrastructure development, and resources management. Kanza works specifically on connecting senior government officials in sub-Saharan Africa with leasers at the World Economic Forum to facilitate collaboration. In an interview with In2EastAfrica, Kanza said that the new job is essentially an extension of her last job as an advisor because she is working so closely with government officials. She develops partnerships that will help her team achieve their broader development goals.

This year’s World Economic Forum conference on Africa was held in May in Cape Town, South Africa. Over 1,000 people participated from 80 different countries. The conference focused heavily on economic grown and competitiveness in Africa as well as infrastructure development. In an interview with Forbes, Kanza said, “There’s a real optimism in Africa at the moment, but also caution: Africa’s leaders know that although they have a unique development opportunity, growth is by no means guaranteed. We dedicated a number of sessions to discussing how Africa can diversify its economic base, create more and better jobs and improve competitiveness through further reform.”

As a powerful young leader, Kanza is also dedicated to promoting youth leadership in Africa as well. She particularly focuses on helping the World Economic Forum’s “Shapers” community which consists of 20-30 year olds working on development projects across Africa.

– Emma McKay

Sources: Forbes
Photo: Youtube