A collage of musings – injustices, accountability, naïve suppositions, and coca cola

Its my second week anniversary of arriving in Singida!
Photo-time: A walk through a village.

a new asphalt road has replaced a previous dirt road. This new addition to the highway has brought better accessibility to this village and has attracted rapid growth in the area. Trenches are being dug to handle the water flow. In the highlighted section on the bottom left, you can faintly make out a 6” wide metal bar that is used by the villagers to cross the trench.

new house being built on the left. Owners incrementally save money to buy land, build foundation, erect walls, then purchase tin roof. Some homes take years to build for lack of sufficient funding. Dozens and dozens of unfinished houses sit in the landscape, waiting..

unbuilt land adjacent to house still used for farming. Lack of irrigation limits the potential of the land. Large boulders in the background are characteristic features of the Singida landscape.

 

 

earth bricks drying in the sun. electrical wires bringing electricity to nearby road construction headquarters. Electricity is expensive – rural communities live off the grid.

 

 

green planting used exclusively for fencing demarcates boundaries and prevents cows and goats from grazing on private fields. My tour guides are walking in front and accustomed to long walks in the hot sun without the need for water. I, on the other hand, stopped multiple times to re-hydrate my tiny body

piles of stones on the left demarcate a plot of land that has been purchased and waiting for development

[Urban photos to come – more difficult to obtain since most residents are weary of photographers. Sometimes pretty ugly situations can unfold]

In a recent discussion with a panel of subsistence farmers, I was told that the local secondary school had appropriated some of the villagers’ farmland without providing any sort of compensation. I was floored by the complete lack of consideration for these poor farmers. Some of the affected villagers sought council to express their complaints. But these are the lucky ones – they have leftover funds and the time available to seek (very slow) justice. The more destitute suffer silently – all their time and effort is spent on finding ways to simply survive.

Situations like this can happen because in remote villages, the citizen’s rights can be easily abused. There are few (if not a complete lack of) skilled “lawyers” to defend these “small cases”. In a country where expressing dissent towards the government is taboo, many complaints are not even raised. Thus, nothing is done to rectify the situation. Those who actually do fight face incredible challenges. Finding someone accountable to address one’s case to is sometimes a game of luck. On top of that, follow-up is difficult when communication channels are so severely challenged by primitive infrastructures, lack of personal resources and time.

I take a bus (that i often complain about) when i visit the villages. If i wanted to join the majority, I would be walking the 2.5 hours to the village instead. But I am among the privileged ones that that can afford to pay the equivalent of 1 USD each way. While waiting for my rickety bus (daladala) to fill pass capacity before we are allowed to depart (and I have never waited less than one hour), I watched a series of sparkling new SUVs drive by. I wonder about the policy makers, leaders, and workers that visit remote communities in their insulated chauffeured vehicles. They see the conditions around them, but they do not fully participate. Does their detachment completely blind them from reality and the possibility of realizing truly sustainable solutions? And now for a completely naïve proposition (and entirely impossible to implement): what if leaders were forced to live in the worst conditions that their have policies created? Who would be a politician? What changes would be made? And how accountable would they be then?

Distribution is definitely a challenge in remote rural areas. But there is one product that is having success: Coca-Cola. In villages that are situated one hour off road, I am able to purchase warm bottles of coca-cola is small village cafes. The beverages are priced to be accessible by most as a treat for guests and those celebrating happy occasions. Café owners can be seen walking their bicycles laden with carts of glass bottles back and forth between the “main town” and their café. Empty bottles get returned in huge trucks via an unfinished highway to local plants for cleaning, rebottling and redistribution. Perhaps it possible that one day, mosquito nets, mediation, solar panels, etc.. can be similarly distributed. But there remains an uphill battle: there is so much to be done to create the conditions for affordability, local production and skill training for effective execution.

 

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Comments
One Response to “A collage of musings – injustices, accountability, naïve suppositions, and coca cola”
  1. David Ho says:

    perhaps coca-cola can somehow be convinced to participate in the distribution system of these mosquito nets and other goods you mentioned. you know how corporate responsibility is a major initiative that big corps cant ignore now. so coca-cola does some self-promotion when they deliver coke by distributing some nets as well, thus earning some brownie points. and if one thing private corporations should know how to do, is to do things for the most economic cost.

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