The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | December 2001 / January 2002
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Dreams Become Reality
Tanzanian President Benjamin William Mkapa and first lady Mama Anna Mkapa guaranteed the success of Habitat for Humanity International’s World Leaders Build in Tanzania when they arrived at the Chamwino site for the first day of the August build.

The president and Mama Mkapa made blocks, mixed mortar, and hefted shovels and pickaxes in this community in the Tanzanian capital of Dodoma. Demonstrating his personal commitment to improving housing in his country, the president made it clear he was not there to make speeches, but to work.

Improving Tanzania’s housing has been a priority for Mkapa since his election. “An important yardstick is the quality of one’s housing,” said the president, addressing members of parliament during his inauguration speech in November 2000. “It is unacceptable that in the 21st century our people should live in houses that are no better than those inhabited by our ancestors at the beginning of the 20th century. ...It is the aspiration of my government that as many people as possible should be homeowners.”

Working with Habitat homeowners during the WLB,Tanzania’s top government leaders—including the vice president, the prime minister and the minister of lands along with the chief minister of Zanzibar—demonstrated their support for Habitat’s work by joining volunteers at the Chamwino or Chidachi sites. Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye, who is a professional carpenter, surprised volunteers by expertly laying bricks and mortar while his wife dug out a house foundation.

Perhaps the greatest example of government cooperation surfaced on the second site of Tanzania’s WLB at Chidachi, a planned urban community in Dodoma named after the only tree that grows in the region’s poor, sandy soil.

Picture this: a dusty, wind-swept plain with patches of scrub grass and a few crooked thorn trees.There are no houses, no roads, no water or poles carrying electricity—but there is a dream. For years the dream existed only on paper— a plan designating sites for churches, mosques, clinics, schools and 315 house lots. On paper, a road circles the field, poles bringing electricity ring the plain and city water is piped to the site.

That dream now is becoming a reality through a strategic partnership between HFH Tanzania and the Capital Development Authority, which donated land in the planned community.

Still, the lack of water and electricity at the site hindered preparations for the build. Workers from the Chidachi community were carrying water from 2.5 miles away to the build site. Regional commissioner Isidore Shirina said it would be too costly to dig such a long trench, but more than 300 members of the new affiliate joined to dig the trench by hand. By the start of the WLB, a thick black pipe stretched to the site, and the water authority had agreed to provide water for free during the week of the build.

Electricity also is crucial for many of the Chidachi homeowners, who are small trades people or civil servants such as teachers and nurses. Neema Tuwa Abdallah, a tailor who lives and works in a rented shop that was recently sold, needs light for her livelihood.

Again, the regional commissioner was approached—this time about the possibility of bringing electricity to Chidachi. During the WLB, trucks with utility poles arrived, followed by workers from the government’s electric company. Using only manual power, laborers dug postholes, put poles into position using ropes, strung wire and built a transformer. A single light bulb burned continuously for the rest of the build, signaling the government’s commitment to partner with Habitat.

“The partnership and commitment as demonstrated by HFH Tanzania is the recipe for success,” Ali Mohammed Shein, vice president of Tanzania, said at the house dedication ceremony. “The government of Tanzania will work with all stakeholders to ensure good environmental management in these low-cost housing estates established with the help of Habitat.”

‘It is unacceptable that in the 21st century our people should live in houses that are no better than those inhabited by our ancestors.’

President Mkapa chose to lay blocks in Chamwino because of the community’s special history. Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere, called upon the Tanzanian people to help develop the young nation in the ’70s.When a group of young people asked him what specifically they could do to help, Nyerere replied, “Start a new village.” The president later discovered they were, indeed, building a village—Chamwino. To honor their work, the president set up a tent in Chamwino and lived in it for three months. When he left, he built himself a small house in Chamwino, telling people he always wanted to be part of the community.Today Nyerere’s original house sits on the grounds of Tanzania’s State House and is used as a residence by President Mkapa’s secretary.

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