After being in Tanzania for 10 years, Beny Mwenda recently returned to Brandon to share his story.
A native of the East African country, Mwenda studied agriculture at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon and took what he learned back to his homeland in 2005.
The Marquis Project in Brandon was successful in bringing Mwenda recently back to Brandon to share his experiences as part of the Tanzania Society of Agricultural Education and Extension, a national organization which works to improve food security and reduce poverty particularly for rural women and youth in Tanzania by supporting agriculture professionals.
While in Brandon, Mwenda has been visiting schools throughout the Westman region including those in Brandon, Gimli and Hamiota. Students have been curious to learn what life is like for children in Tanzania similar in age to themselves. Through the presentations, students learned about human rights issues and how climate change is affecting agriculture around the world. The students also showed interest in learning about the development of different strains of plants such as tomatoes that are resistant to blights and other diseases and how that technology is having a positive effect on crop production.
Mwenda works extensively in rural development and helps people set up micro enterprises where they work toward something tangible. Mwenda has helped develop projects in seven different communities primarily by assisting single women.
Naomi Leadbeater, president of The Marquis Project in Brandon, says the students are using the skills they’ve learned about their local environment and are succeeding.
“They’re able to develop an agricultural-based social enterprise to reach their goals,” she said.
An example of one such enterprise, Leadbeater says, is gathering ground nuts which are roasted and sold at local markets.
Mwenda has also been instrumental in the development of life skills training programs such as the education of pregnant women and AIDS/HIV training.
One of the important items on the agenda during Mwenda’s trip has been centred around discussions about redeveloping a youth exchange with The Marquis Project. For five years, the local organization sent two youths between the ages of 18-24 to Tanzania each year. These volunteers worked alongside people like Mwenda to assist in education programs about AIDS/HIV as well as on other projects.
“We’re trying to bring back the exchange program and Beny is interested in working with us on that,” Leadbeater explained.
While Canadians who have travelled to Tanzania can share their experiences with local people, Leadbeater says that having a native from the country come to speak has had a big impact.
“The response to him and his story has been overwhelming. He can talk in a different way as someone who lives in Tanzania. Community development is in his heart and he has so much to share.”
For more information on The Marquis Project please visit www.marquisproject.com.