Written by Sean Koenig, ChangeStream Media co-founder
The four-wheel-drive truck taking us to Eco Camp stalled out in two feet of water and mud, tires spinning like the blender at an earthworm cocktail party. We eventually were able to reverse out, but the challenge of living in rural Tanzania was clear even on our first morning in the country.
The village of Lukwambe is located 17 kilometers off the highway connecting Dar es Salaam, two hours east on the coast, and the rest of inland Tanzania. And the ‘road’ to the village, passable only by motorcycles and trucks in the best of conditions, is a potholed, red clay swamp during much of East Africa’s December to May wet season. But at the end of the road, on the banks of the Ngerengere River, is a radical experiment in volunteer-driven sustainable development innovation, and the ChangeStream Media team was determined to get there.
Remmy Mushenga is the driving force behind the Ngerengere River Eco Camp. Using his own money from a successful business career, he purchased a tract of land in this remote location in hopes of bringing new ideas and resources to a largely forgotten community. Before he arrived, children had to walk those 17 kilometers – each way – to Bwawani to go to school. Needless to say, many never went. So Remmy partnered with a UK charity, the Happy Bricks Foundation, to build a school on his own land last year. And during our visit, he donated the school building and five surrounding acres back to the community, allowing the community to know that the school will always be theirs.
Remmy’s current focus is on how to transform the local economy from one based on illegal logging for low-value charcoal production and over-grazing by cattle to high-value, sustainable options like beekeeping, planting fruit orchards, and chicken farming. To make this possible, he relies on the expertise and funding that comes from hosting volunteers at his lodge. The mutual benefits are considerable. Volunteers are welcomed into the community, eat local foods, and stay in a traditional home at a beautiful location surrounded by wilderness. The money that volunteers pay – about $100 a week for room and board – is modest compared to many volunteering options, and provides the funding for initiatives like distributing clean drinking water and providing resources for the students at the school.
ChangeStream Media created two videos to assist Remmy with his Eco Camp project. The first is an English-language video showing what life is like at Eco Camp, in hopes of drawing more volunteers there to help.
The second video was made in Swahili to explain the potential of tree planting to the local community. Full of important information – when to plant, which varieties produce fruit fastest, how to care for the seedlings – the video is part of a campaign to start a tree nursery at the Lukwambe school. This will teach the children about conservation, generate income for their books and uniforms, and provide the community with access to premium tree varieties.
We hope that with these videos, Remmy will have powerful tools for sharing his message about sustainable development in rural East Africa, both within the Lukwambe community, and reaching out globally to the engineers, agronomists, doctors, artists and other experts and enthusiasts who will come to Eco Camp and make a lasting impact.