No Longer a Dangerous Trek

iStock-639776674_women with water.jpg

Imagine not having running water in your house. Now imagine living in an extremely remote place – you have few neighbors, a large family, and a lot of livestock – in an area prone to drought. Your husband and older sons are herding the livestock. Your younger children are in school. You and your older daughters who are not yet married have to build and repair the houses in the family compound, tend small crops, cook for the family, fetch firewood, and fetch water for cooking, drinking, and bathing. During times of drought, the nearest water source can take hours to get to on foot. If you’re lucky, you have a donkey to carry the water home for you. Now imagine some of the things that can happen to a woman walking for many hours in a remote area.

During these long treks for water, women are not simply losing time that they could use for other economic activities, they risk sexual assault along the way. During a long drought, families even take younger girls out of school to help fetch water. As FoTZC celebrates its 20th anniversary, we are focusing on providing clean water to communities like the one we describe here.  We have drilled three boreholes and are putting in solar pumps, allowing women access to clean water right in their communities, thus eliminating this dangerous, sometimes daily trek to fetch water. We plan to continue to drill boreholes in order to make clean water accessible for more and more women, enabling them to keep their daughters in school, to spend more time on starting small businesses through our COCOBA program, but most importantly, keeping them safe.

Water for a Healthy Life

FoTZC is so proud of the Sukenya Dispensary that we built and opened in 2015. Each month more than 500 members of the community receive care at this facility, but none of it would be possible without clean water. The dispensary would not be able to provide this care if the doctors and nurses were not able to sanitize their hands and instruments. Women who deliver in the dispensary need a hygienic area in order to minimize complications during and after childbirth. The borehole at the dispensary enables the staff to provide quality care, but it is so much more than that.

There are multiple long-term health outcomes associated with providing clean water in our partner communities. Four of the top ten illnesses treated at the dispensary are water-related: diarrhea, dysentery, eye infections, and typhoid fever.  The incidence of these diseases has been declining since the community started using the local borehole. Beyond the health outcomes, clean water will improve the life of local children. The less the children are absent from school due to water-borne illness, or because they need to collect water, the better educated they will be in the long run.

The list of benefits continues – the effect of water (or the lack thereof) stretches into every facet of life. Everyone needs clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Everyone deserves to have clean water to live a healthy life.

Bringing safe drinking water to Tanzanian Communities


Written by FoTZC Directors Mary Loeken and Katherine Record

Access to adequate supplies of safe water for drinking and food preparation is an unmet need in many low-income countries. The need is always dire in Sub-Saharan Africa, but is especially acute right now as eastern Sub-Saharan Africa is currently undergoing a severe drought. In remote regions in Tanzania, as in many parts of the world, streams and rivers may be the sole source of water, and is not safe for drinking or bathing. This can result in a multitude of preventable diseases including cholera, botulism, diarrhea and dysentery, typhoid, and river blindness. Moreover, women are disproportionately burdened by the effort to supply their families with clean water - 90% of water collection is done by women and girls - resulting in walking up to 8 hours per day to collect water. This leaves them with reduced time to engage in childcare, education, the workforce, attend healthcare appointments (often referred to as "time poverty"). In addition, requiring women and girls to travel long distances to collect water increases risk of sexual assault, as they travel alone. In Tanzania, school attendance is 12% higher among girls who live in homes located no more than 15 minutes from a clean water source; there is no difference in school attendance by boys. Having a proximate clean water source results in improved health outcomes, increased productivity, increased school attendance by girls, and movement toward gender equality.



When FoTZC constructs housing for teachers, or new classrooms, we usually include a SIM tank (a vessel that collects and stores rain water in a way that ensures it remains potable). This provides water to both the school and, ideally, the community. However, water collected in SIM tanks is inadequate for community, and sometimes, school needs, especially during times of drought. Thus, we have recently begun to work to increase the supply of clean water to communities in the Arusha Region, Ngorongoro District, Loliondo area, and Oloipiri Ward with boreholes, which are deep, narrow shafts in the ground from which water can be pumped. We are working with local contractors who find underground aquifers, dig the borehole, and install a pump. We have three borehole projects in progress, and two more that are planned, all located near schools or the dispensary where FoTZC has already undertaken projects, and which are in close proximity of homes to which water can be transported. The cost of a borehole is $40,000-45,000.


Elizabeth Mwakajila, FoTZC Project Coordinator in Tanzania explained the immediate impact of the availability of clean water at Sukenya Primary School. Of the 459 students at the school, the “number of absentees due to sickness were a maximum of 105 [on a given day] before water was available at the school. The pupils were sick as well as not attending school [in order to go] miles away to search for water for domestic use. [Since water has been available at the school] the absentee number has dropped to 38 students.” This is a stunning decrease in school absenteeism, and we expect to see reports from the Dispensary shortly that the number of patients coming in with water-borne diseases is decreasing!


The Focus Has Arrived!

The 2016 copies of The Focus have arrived, and you should receive one in your mailbox soon!  We hope you enjoy reading about our efforts this past year from women’s empowerment to education and from water to healthcare. We are proud of what we have accomplished, and we are looking forward to an exciting 2017 – our 20th anniversary!

As you do your holiday shopping this year, please consider shopping through AmazonSmile to support FoTZC; Amazon will send a portion of each purchase through Smile to FoTZC.

Happy Holidays!

Bringing Projects to Life

By: Bob Treitman

As the chair of the Programs and Policies Committee for Focus on Tanzanian Communities (FoTZC) and a Director since 2006, I am immensely proud of the commitment we have made to ensure that the projects we undertake and support are determined collaboratively with the communities, thoughtfully considered (with our mission in mind), implemented with an emphasis on balancing cost and quality, supervised with appropriate oversight, and lastly monitored for sustainability.

FoTZC’s goal is to “collaborate with Tanzanian communities to overcome economic and social challenges through a working partnership that directs resources toward sustainable projects. Special focus is given to proposals that support education and women’s empowerment.”

The collaborative working partnership is key to the success of our projects. To foster and maintain this relationship a sub-group of FoTZC Directors, travel to Tanzania biannually at their own expense to meet with the leaders of the communities in which we work and listen to what their most urgent needs are. In addition, if we have ideas for new types of projects (e.g., COCOBA), then we will present those ideas to them to gauge their response. I’ve been fortunate to participate in two of these trips, and found them to be invaluable. There is no substitute for meeting with, and listening to, the community leaders.


Board Members Judi Wineland and Karen Dial sit on either side of Ward Councilor for the Oloipiri Ward, William Alias during a meeting with Oliopiri Elders. 

Board Members Judi Wineland and Karen Dial sit on either side of Ward Councilor for the Oloipiri Ward, William Alias during a meeting with Oliopiri Elders. 

We also use these trips to explain to the community leaders that we can’t undertake all of the projects immediately, since our funds are limited. We ask them which are more urgent/important to them and prioritize projects accordingly. This dialog led us to branch out from our original focus on building schools to our decision to construct the Sukenya Dispensary, which has been an amazing success. We’ve also heard (and observed) that access to clean water is a huge problem for these communities. In response, not only have we included rain-water collection and storage systems on most of the buildings we’ve constructed, but we’re now funding borehole (well) drilling, with solar- or wind-powered pumps and storage tanks.

Potential projects are then brought back to the entire Board for consideration and prioritizing to create a multi-year plan and schedule. Among the factors that go into this plan are budgets, cost-efficiencies of synchronizing construction projects, balancing projects among communities, our goals, and priorities for the communities.

But as has been oft-repeated, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. And so, we know that we have to constantly be re-evaluating the overall plan as we work our way through the projects. We have a part-time staff member on the ground in Tanzania whose job is to routinely visit the communities, monitor progress on our projects, and provide the Board with her evaluations. We also receive and review regular progress reports from a local microfinance consultant who we've hired to lead the COCOBA project, as well as from the contractors who are building the classrooms, teacher houses, dormitories, and health facilities. From time to time we’ll hear directly from the community leaders if there are urgent needs.

The Board meets four to six times per year to review the projects and reports, compare where we are against the multi-year plan and our budget, and make adjustments where it makes sense to. For example, in 2015, we learned that the boys’ dorm at the Soit Sambu Secondary was destroyed in a fire. We were able to fast-track the construction of a new dorm and raise the necessary funds through a matching-grant campaign earlier this year.

As a donor, I greatly appreciate the Board’s commitment to being responsible stewards of its limited financial resources. It’s personally fulfilling to be part of this organization which has accomplished so much and provided opportunities for so many, and done so with an eye on getting the most appropriate impact. I’ve participated in many long discussions about which projects will be funded, and have never failed to be impressed with the thoughtfulness of the opinions and suggestions. I consider my donations to FoTZC to be an investment in Tanzania’s future.  


Bob Treitman spending some time with the children of Tanzania during a visit to Tanzania.

Bob Treitman spending some time with the children of Tanzania during a visit to Tanzania.