KIVUMWI YOUTH PROJECT
The aim of the KIVUMWI Youth Project is to work in collaboration with the KIVUMWI cooperative to increase its capacity to train and employ people in the village of Mwika in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania, with a particular focus on the plight of underemployed local youth. Though they make up a much larger portion of the population than in more developed countries, youth in Tanzania struggle with an education system which is mediocre at best, and moreover is inaccessible to many beyond the primary level. Once they leave school, youth have few economic opportunities. KIVUMWI is an extremely unusual organization in that one of its primary aims is to offer youth training, a livelihood, and, should they choose to join, membership in the cooperative. The capacity of the group, however, is extremely low due lack of resources and a competitive business environment. Currently, many of the youth who train with the cooperative leave after 2-3 years rather than staying on as full members. The aim of the project is therefore to determine strategies to overcome economic challenges in addition to offering training and consultation on matters related to the internal organization of the cooperative. These two aims are both inseparable and positively correlated. Achieving them requires fully utilizing the human potential of the cooperative through democratic, inclusive brainstorming and decision-making, and where necessary, seeking out outside expertise.
This project began with my interest in development and youth, and particularly in the roles that organizations with social or environmental missions can play. After initially coming to the Kilimanjaro area of northern Tanzania in December in order to visit family members as well as collect project ideas, I decided that it would be best for me to remain in Tanzania for the entire coming semester and the following summer. I felt that the extra time would be necessary to really learn and accomplish something meaningful. Through January I searched for project opportunities, eventually settling on the KIVUMWI group because it is located so conveniently close to my current hometown of Marangu, and partly because it may be the only multipurpose cooperative with a focus on youth still that still exists in the country. Due to the shortness of time and the unavailability of people during the holidays, my initial project plan relied exclusively on second-hand reports. Now that I have had opportunities to observe the group firsthand and talk informally with its people, my vision for moving ahead has had to adjust accordingly. I have a feeling that I will be doing a lot more adjusting and learning in the near future, but what is also apparent to me is that a lot is possible. The people I'm working with really know the harsh realities of their business, but still have a lot of spirit and the will to work for the benefit of their community. This will certainly be an exciting few months.