Latest project/news > Tanzania

Mtakuja Secondary School opened in June 2004 and will eventually accommodate 200 students. The village of Mtakuja lies in the very dry lowlands below Mt Kilimanjaro, 25 miles south of the town of Moshi - one of the poorest areas in the country. In addition to a modern 4-year high school curriculum, students are trained in modern farming techniques and other practical skills. Friends of Africa is working with the school to set up income-generating projects both to sustain the school financially and for the long-term benefit of the community.

The exceptional properties of the Neem Tree will provide the school with a source of income as well as skills training and employment for young people, whilst improving the ecology of the area. The pressed seeds produce an effective organic pesticide and fertilizer and almost every part of the neem tree has economic value: its oil is used to make soap, skin cream, shampoo and toothpaste and its timber is valued by carpenters. Originally from India, neem grows well in Mtakuja's fertile but salty soil and thrives in drought conditions, bearing fruit within 3-5 years.

We have helped the school to start a reforestation program by planting several hundred trees, which also act as wind-breaks. This has already had a highly beneficial effect, encouraging more rainfall and a variety of bird-life whilst providing the school with a renewable source of firewood for cooking.

In the longer term we plan to establish links with schools and colleges in the UK and USA to help raise funds and provide volunteer opportunities. Tanzania is very short of qualified teachers and gap-year students and trainee teachers could gain exciting and fulfilling experience of working in the developing world by helping out at the School.

This project is concerned not just with building and sustaining a school, important though that is, but also with uniting and empowering a community and providing job opportunities for its young people whilst improving the environment in which they live.