Better fish, farming, food

Published January 1, 2003

The diocese of Masasi’s fish farm employs local women. The farm is one of many programs aimed at reducing malnutrition in the area.

I began the journey to Masasi on my knees. Not because I had been seized by appropriate senses of humility or piety but because Zaida Bastos had directed me to the bottom of the filing cabinet. As a University of Guelph student of international rural development planning, I had asked her for a Primate’s Fund partner project to evaluate for one of my courses. Curiosity overcame incipient arthritis and rewarded me with Masasi diocese and Geoffrey Patrick. Prayerful posture has its rewards.

I extracted enough information from the file to learn that the partnership between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Tanzanian diocese of Masasi was one of the longest and most successful in the history of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund. Their extensive files on Masasi allowed me to write an evaluation program for my course and gave me as full a picture of our development partnership as could be achieved without personal contact.

When I learned that Geoffrey Patrick, Masasi’s development officer, had arrived in Canada to study international development at the Coady Institute in Antigonish, N.S., it was not long before we were discussing heifers, maize and fish farming over a McDonald’s breakfast. Geoffrey was polite about my plan for an evaluation of his work but our conversations told me what I sensed, that I needed to experience life as it is lived by our Tanzanian partners. Geoffrey and the bishop of Masasi, Patrick Mwachiko, invited me to participate in a workshop for clergy and laity of the diocese giving leadership in development. My wife, Gillian and I were able to make this journey through the generosity of the people of St. Peter’s, Erindale, in Mississauga, Ont.

Masasi diocese is located in the southern part of the Republic of Tanzania, bordered by Mozambique to the south, the Indian Ocean to the east and the Selous game reserve to the north and west. The diocese has a long history of service in health clinics and hospitals, and has more recently moved into preventive health care within villages. Since the area is extremely poor and 95 per cent of the population engage in subsistence agriculture or fishing, it has focused on improving agricultural practices, yields and food processing, improving livestock and their care and village water supply programs.

Since 1995 the diocese has succeeded in introducing improved maize for local farmers by establishing its own seed farm, building, managing and promoting fish farms and providing women with goats and families with heifers.

We were impressed by the impact these projects are having on the quality of life and morale of their beneficiaries. All aim to reduce the malnutrition common in Masasi and were chosen after a lengthy consultation process of parish and diocesan meetings. Beneficiaries include many non-Anglicans. There has been a substantial increase in funding and material and human resources for the diocesan development office. Indeed, the long-term goal is to increase development awareness and the capacity of the diocese to be more responsive to the needs of the community and to establish and implement sustainable and viable development programs.

The workshop in which I participated was for capacity building with diocesan staff and diocesan and parish committee members, clergy and women leaders, improving their competence to effectively organize, establish, manage and support small-scale development activities in their communities. Women were in a majority at the workshop, indicating the diocese’s goal of integrating gender concerns in all development activities and promoting the status of women in decision making, project management leadership and participation in the development process.

Between 1995 and 2000, the program cost $265,000, of which Masasi contributed $65,000 and PWRDF, with its partner the Canadian International Development Agency, $200,000. The PWRDF’s current three-year plan calls for a further investment of $105,000.

Canon Stephen Paul Booth is a priest in the diocese of Toronto.


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