However, the purpose of her visit was not only to discuss strategic matters, Ms Skogen was very interested in talking to people who are benefitting directly on the ground from Norwegian support. She therefore visited the Arusha Technical College to experience firsthand vocational and technical training making an impact on the lives of Tanzanians, a biogas project set to benefit local communities with big ambitions to commercialise biogas across Tanzania, and a successful avocado project exporting the high quality fruit to world class supermarkets in the West.Dr Richard Masika, Rector of Arusha Technical College welcomed the Norwegian delegation and gave a presentation where he said, “Through Norwegian support we have been carrying out a feasibility study to develop Kikuletwa Power Station. Built by the Germans in the 1930s it lacked maintenance through nationalisation and ground to a complete halt in the late 1980s.
If reconstructed, the power station will not only provide electricity for the surrounding community but will also become the site of a hydropower training centre.” Norwegian senior advisor to the power station study, Vegard Kristiansen added, “Many Tanzanians rely on diesel power, which is expensive and not sustainable.
The challenge now is to secure funds from a cross section of investors from both the public and private sector in the region of 6.5 million USD. These funds will go towards implementing the rehabilitation of the power station to enhance living standards and provide a reliable and environmentally sustainable power supply to Tanzania.”
“The development of hydro-power is what makes Norway the industrialised power it is today,” said Ms Skogen, who is keen to forge a connection between young people being trained and entering the workplace.
The Kikuletwa Power Station project could provide the opportunity for hands-on training for the students. Ms Skogen was then shown around the college and met with female student entrepreneurs who make unique jewellery using colourful beads.
The students have received support from the college in developing their businesses. The Deputy Minister also visited a number of laboratories, where students were practically studying mechanical and civil engineering.
“I’m studying engineering as I want to fill a gap in developing infrastructure in Tanzania, “said Ellen Mndima, (23), who is studying for a Bachelor of Civil and Industrial Engineering, and showed the delegation a variety of rocks being explored as potential construction materials for roads and buildings.
A highlight of the college tour was being shown various student projects including a blood warming device for delivering more efficient blood transfusions and a design for a baby’s incubator.
Currently Tanzania’s national hospital, the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, has no individual incubators for premature children and has to heat an entire room to recreate the warm temperatures needed for these tiny newborns. These innovations being developed at the Arusha Technical College are much needed in a developing country like Tanzania.
An agreement was signed in 2014 for Norway to pledge up to NOK 29 million (approximately USD 3.4 million). To date, approximately NOK 5 million (approximately USD 587,803) has been disbursed to the college.
The next stop on the delegation’s agenda was six kilometres west of Arusha town, where Tanzania’s Domestic Biogas Programme is taking shape. Run by the Tanzania Domestic Biogas Programme with Norwegian support channelled through the Rural Energy Agency, Tanzania, the project aims to establish a market by encouraging rural households to cook using biogas extracted from cow’s waste, which is cost efficient, instead of firewood, which poses a threat to the environment.
Using biogas also improves the health of mainly women and children who are often traditionally subjected to wood smoke in kitchens. In the long run it is hoped the programme will be rolled out on a commercial scale across Tanzania.
A biogas digester, which resembles a simple concrete structure with channels and a chamber is constructed next to the family animal shed and converts dung from livestock into biogas, which is used for cooking and lighting.
The liquid left-over from this process-bio-slurry-is used as an organic fertiliser for the soil, so households are expected to realise higher crop yields as well as saving time and energy searching for firewood, which has become a contentious issue in the area.
“This is a much welcome solution in Olango village where women traditionally collect firewood for cooking fuel, thus putting pressure on forest resources where firewood extraction from forests is the main driver of deforestation in Tanzania,” said Justina Uisso-Rusali, Projects Appraisal and Supervision manager from the Rural Energy Agency.
The biogas digester costs 1.2 million Tanzanian shillings (approximately 600 USD) to install. Villagers have to find 1 million Tanzanian shillings (500 USD) and Norwegian support tops up the rest, amounting to a 25 per cent discount, implemented through the Rural Energy Agency. Since January 2016, the Norwegian Government has been supporting the biogas market development through Tanzania’s Rural Energy Agency (REA).
A total of 184 bio digesters were installed in January and February this year. Biogas provides a sustainable opportunity for individual households with livestock to reduce dependency on firewood and fossil fuels, and to benefit from modern and clean energy. Improvement of socio economic living conditions, environmental sustainability and employment generation go hand-in-hand in this case.
The project is expected to contribute to the installation of 10,000 biogas plants in mainland Tanzania over 2 years period (2016-2017), with a total contribution from Norway of TZS 3,064,734,018 (1.5 million USD). The tour ended with a 25 kilometre drive north paying a visit to a Norwegian investment-Africado, an avocado farm covering 137 hectares, employing 140 full-time staff, an additional 200 seasonal workers, and over 2,000 out-growers (farmers who supply avocadoes to the farm for export).
The farm was originally a coffee plantation, which was abandoned, and has been rehabilitated into an avocado farm, producing 2,600 tonnes of Hass avocados every year. Hass avocados are characterised by their green bumpy skin and are hailed as a ‘superfood’ in the West, coming second to the much coveted blueberry in terms of super nutritional value to health.
The farm started operations in 2007 and in 2010 Norfund, the Norwegian government’s investment fund for developing countries, invested approximately 4 million USD in the business, allowing the company to invest in irrigation, expand planting and develop the out growers scheme. In essence, the farm provides local jobs and grows world class avocados.
Avocados are in increasing demand in the West and the farm wants to expand its premises and employ even more people in the area. Africado also has plans to expand its nursery, which produces high quality avocado seeds. Currently there is only one other commercial avocado farm operating in Tanzania.
(Ms Joanna Martin is a Media Consultant on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Dar es Salaam, dailynews)