Lost and Forgotten: welcome to Buigiri Community near Dodoma, Tanzania

WE ARE TEAM: MR & MRS. Chelesu tending to their vegitables

WE ARE TEAM: MR & MRS. Chelesu tending to their vegitables

 

Located just about 30 Km east of Dodoma, Buigiri, is a small farming community which has virtually has no contact with the outside world, especially the government and politicians, it can be mistaken with distant border villages like Ihumwa, Chamwino, Kikombo or Ikowa.

Buigiri is generally neglected, deserted and left to fend for itself; but all this changes during election years like this year. During election season politicians proclaim their love for communities like Buigiri, many politicians actually frequent these areas only to come back when the next election comes by.

Despite the fact that the community is home to an award winning primary school for the blind, a school with a stellar academic record, Buigiri has fallen through the cracks when it comes to government programs.

The community also is mostly inhabited by the blind, but these poor farming folk claim the government and politicians are blind to their plight.

Donors to the primary school and the centre for the blind have long halted their support to the region for no apparent reason.

The Minister of Education and Vocational Training has not visited the school or center. Likewise, the Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children has never stepped foot in Buigiri,

The community representative in the parliament also has not paid this community a visit except when he was soliciting for votes back in 2010.

Members of the community however, want to see some change, they are starting speak up.

“I cannot even recall the name of my legislator.” Says Mzee Kapingo Yohana, a 62-year old longtime resident of the area.

“We have lost hope and we don’t know our fate tomorrow.” He laments.

Mzee Yohana

Mzee Yohana

Mzee Yohana who was registered at the Centre for the blind/elderly in 1995 says the community that is dependent on vegetable farming has never been visited by Agricultural Technical Officers.

“We’re hoping to become medium-sized commercial vegetable farmers, the question is how we are going to reach there without little support.” Totally blind Yohana wonders

Out of the 50 area residents, 17 of them are people with visual impairments, these residents heavily depend on vegetable produce from their tiny irrigated farms at the centre.

They sell the surplus of their produce to their neighbours and small scale dealers who end up ‘exporting’ the goods to Dar es Salaam and Dodoma.

Daud Chereso, is the Chairperson of the Buigiri Centre for the Blind, He told this website, the community that was originally established with four houses in early 1990s has now grown to twelve houses. “We have no supporters as of now. All the supporters are not in position to extend their support like before. We depend on vegetables to even take our kids to school.” Chereso said.

The Chairperson, says salesmen have capitalised on the residents’ blindness to sell them expired agro-inputs like pesticides and fake manure as they cannot see and read product labels.

This impoverished community also lacks basic infrastructure to support their small scale vegetable farming, it lacks irrigation structures like water pipes, pumps and boreholes.

A 40-year old mother of three, Olipam Mwaluko Chelesu is married to Yaledi Daudi Chelesu (a totally blind man) she is happy that she can generate at least Sh3,000 a day by vending her vegetables.

Her farm is decorated by pepper, okra, spinach, onions and Chinese vegetables. Her daily chores include preparing her children for school early in the morning before joining her husband at the farm for irrigation.

She helps her husband plant and take care of their garden, she says together with her husband they are a team.

She however castigates many politicians and government officials who often use them as a bridge to satisfy their own interests.

Chelesu, who was trained at the centre in horticulture, is urging the government to look into possibilities of providing financial help to the community as a means of improving and sustaining horticulture productivity.

She says unlike thousands and thousands of disabled beggars on the streets Dodoma and Dar es Salaam “we’re not here begging, we work hard for our survival, all we need is a little bit of supplemental help”.

In an exclusive interview with Afrika Reporter, Mwalimu Lubuva Omar, the Chairperson of the Federation of Disabled People’s Organization of Tanzania (SHIVAWATA)-Dodoma Chapter says the general public should understand there is a serious need to help such communities.

He faults the government for forgetting and neglecting these vulnerable citizens in the capital’s backyard. .

Unlike Buguiri Centre for the Blind, Buigiri Primary School has been visited by a top government official in the past, when Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda visited the school, his visit led to the construction of a borehole to help pupils access clean and safe water.

Samwel Jonathan, Buigiri Primary School Head Teacher says the school and the community as well believe that when such high government profile leaders visit, benefits like the boreholes follow.

Buigiri residents are dire need of basic infrastructure, this is the only borehole that services the area

Buigiri residents are dire need of basic infrastructure, this is the only borehole that services the area

The Deputy Head Teacher at the School, Mwalimu Denis Mongela revealed that the school was founded in 1961, with just 7 pupils but now it has 87.

Mzee Yohana

The Deputy Head Teacher at Buigiri Primary Mwalimu Denis Mongela (R) and further left in the background Mwalimu Lubuva Omar, Chairperson of the Federation of Disabled People’s Organization of Tanzania (SHIVAWATA)-Dodoma Chapter

The government takes care of teachers’ salaries and allowances, dormitory maintenance as well as providing pupils with transportation to and from their parents for and after holidays.

The area church pays non-teaching staff like chefs, watchmen and janitors.

Mongela says many famous blind professionals and experts across the country were trained at Buigiri Primary School, the school now also has brought onboard kids with albinism.

“PWDs have proved to have extraordinary performance in class and outside classrooms.” he said.

He adds it is critical that all key players join forces to support Buigiri community for better social and economic transformation.

  • http://tomintanzania.com Tom Steuart-Feilding

    It is good to read a decent write-up about Buigiri. A few of the facts are a little wrong, such as the photo of the red table shows Mwalimu Denis Mangwela and in the background is Mwalimu Omary Lubuva. I am not sure who Yohana is. I am also pretty sure that is not Mr Chelusu in the other photo, though the woman is his wife. I believe that the donors largely pulled out from the village due to repeated mismanagement of funds. There are still some connections, such as between me and the school/centre and wider community, plus a couple of UK schools fundraise to support people and projects in the village. It barely scratches the surface, but it is at least something.

    • http://www.afrikareporter.com edi editor

      Thank you very much Tom, the author/photographer should make clarifications shortly.