Cash crop success and failure

2018 Casew farmers cheated

It’s good to know that the Prime Minister has toured the region (in 2018) and he is aware of corruption by certain people keeping money which should be paid to farmers for the cashew nuts they harvested.  Most people want poverty removed from their country. Why do powerful people steal the wealth of poor people?


Tools for work


Carpenters and builders need better tools for building bigger and better houses which people want these days. More houses are being built with bricks or concrete blocks and a roof of metal. Traditional houses made of poles and earth with a grass roof are less popular. Beds, tables and chairs for new houses are not just the traditional kinds but are increasingly solid and carefully made.Furniture from a simple carpentry workshop.Chairs ready for varnish and upholstery

Before the carpenters made these chairs the wood had to be cut into planks or squared-off lengths and then planed smooth. Woodworking machinery makes preparing wood easy instead of time-wasting and labourious. The round legs were shaped on a lathe driven by an electric motor. Electricity is in all towns now but subject to power cuts. Carpenters usually work out of doors but electrical machinery would normally be stored inside when not in use.

A selection of carpentry workplaces in Mtwara town;

Old machinery is kept going if possible but replacement parts may not be found when needed. The machines below were perhaps installed in workshops of British builders of Mtwara port and  the railway up-country in about 1948.

An old planer

This planer clearly works but not well because the cutting blades were broken

Old saw

I guess this saw works if electricity is “on”

Traditional shipbuilding and metal working

Ship builders and repairers are both active in Mtwara and a blacksmith makes long nails from steel bar for wooden ship construction.

Blacksmith at work, making big nails

Normally a blacksmith works like this in the shade of a big tree or a built shelter.

The need for tools

Tools were sent to Mtwara for many years by Tools For Self Reliance but that supply stopped about 2010 because of dissatisfaction with the way tools were distributed there by the Tanzanian partners. The Region has a growing need for tools to alleviate unemployment and raise productivity.


Tools supplied by Tools For Self Reliance

Tools from the UK

The screw of the F clamp has had a bar welded to it and a new handle was made for one saw.

Vehicle mechanics

Mechanics need tools for repairing a vast number of bicycles, motorbikes, cars, tuk tuks, minibuses, buses and lorries which have been bought in the last twenty years. Training mechanics and other craftsmen is often done by skilled workers who hire helpers and teach them as informal apprentices. The monks of Ndanda Abbey have a seriously good Training School and in Mtwara the government runs a Vocational Training College which has become very popular in recent years because of increased business following the discovery and extraction of gas from under the sea.

Outdoor repair shop for motorbikes

A big-end bearing apparently needed replacement and the spare part was expected to be available in Masasi town. This was in Ndanda village.


Bustling Masasi has many vehicles

low cost local taxi

Bajaj, made in India and not very robust. Owners can only get an income from these vehicles when they are in good repair.

Bikes, buses and trucks keep the economy moving and their owners are good at keeping them on the road. When a bus has a puncture it is usually dealt with quickly by the on-board crew. Other repairs may take longer but I was pleased when our bus on a long journey got a broken spring there was a delay of only an hour because a spare spring kept on the bus was fixed efficiently. That was a problem caused by bad road making by a Chinese company and we had made a diversion on a temporary road with a rock hidden by sand.

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Welders have plenty of work but use poor equipment…the transformers inside an arc welder can overheat and burn its insulation. I saw several which had been rewound and the covers were left off to help stop them overheating.

13 welding workshop

Workshop of a welder in a container

9 arc welder

repaired arc welder

7 welded gate

Steel gate being made (for a wealthy businessman?)


Ndanda Mission has a flourishing Building Department with apprentices who learn theory and practice. They can take qualifying national exams at more than one level and can then find employment, sometimes in the Mission itself. Many styles of house and commercial buildings require a wide range of skills and tools, both traditional and modern.

Building Nurses accommodation

A hostel for nurses under construction


Dining room of Abbey Secondary School, also used as a hall

The school hall is shown here as an example of the work done by apprentices and qualified workers in the building, carpentry, plumbing and electrical departments at Ndanda.

Kambaa; plaited cord made with palm leaves

Kambaa is gaining popularity among British chair makers. If there are people wanting it in Germany it can be made available there too.


Kambaa hank close-up

Kambaa is made in Masasi District from thin strips of the leaves which grow on the dwarf palm. This plant normally grows no more than a metre high and survives in  miombo woodland where it is less dense. Kambaa is plaited by women during the dry season when there’s not much work on the land and  when it’s made for sale each hank is about 125 metres in length. The width is always very constant throughout the length but different hanks vary between about 8mm and 12 mm in width.

Dwarf Palm, hyphaene species

In Tanzania kambaa is used for making beds. It can be woven diagonally or parallel with the sides and ends of a wooden bed-frame. The Tanzania village life museum in Dar es Salaam has several examples in houses of different regions.

a traditional bed with kambaa

In Britain a new use for kambaa has been gaining acceptance steadily. It was first imported…

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Water Project for Masasi and Nachingwea

The project should be recommenced this month (January 2013).  The first transfer of water from the source into the holding tank near Masasi has not happened so far. Pumps should be installed and then a distribution system must be agreed and organised.

The illegal extraction of water near Mtandi from the older pipeline was stopped some months ago. Providing piped water is the work of engineers. Agreements on access to that water is a matter for the town’s people to decide.

I heard a rumour that the original Masasi pipeline was terminated at the house of a local politician so that he could sell the water. Then people were angry and he had to leave town. What will happen in 2013? Can anyone tell me?

In miombo woodland fruit trees grow...

Improvements for farmers.

In miombo woodland fruit trees grow...

Wet season growth

There are plenty of things happening in the wider region for farmers to help them improve their income. The LIMAS project, funded by the government and Finland, is continuing with a big program, too big to describe properly here, but one prominent project this year is to improve poultry and egg production around Newala. This link will show you LIMAS newsletters;

A video on YouTube shows some very good business expansion in the region;

Water for Masasi

First the good news; a steel pipeline has been made for bringing water from springs at the edge of the Makonde Plateau. The water flows by gravity, no pumps needed, as far as a big holding tank near Mailisita. Another smaller tank has been built a few kilometres closer to Masasi at Mtandi. Pumps will force the water up-hill to this high tank but from there the water will flow onwards by gravity to Masasi and Nachingwea.

The bad news is that the project is unfinished and I believe that the Chinese construction company is waiting for some overdue payment from the government. Meanwhile, thousands of buckets of water are carried every day into Masasi for selling. Young men are benefiting from this work and perhaps this is the only paid work that some of them can find. The water comes from a plastic pipe which comes from different springs by the Makonde Plateau. The unofficial tapping of the pipe is controlled by young men. Because of this illicit trade the new pipe is steel and I guess it is buried more carefully!