The Mwiba Makao Community Center
Mwiba Wildlife Reserve (MWR), technically a game ranch, is managed by Ker & Downey Tanzania (KDT) and supported by the Friedkin Conservation Fund (FCF). It borders a rural village, from which the land is leased, called Makao. Makao is situated between several conservation areas, including MWR, the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, Maswa Game Reserve and Serengeti National Park. MWR employs over 50 people from Makao Village, who are mainly members of the anti-poaching team, as well as staff for the small photographic tented camp run by KDT. From the outset of MWR, one of the goals of establishing the area as a wildlife reserve/game ranch was to not only protect one of the more unique areas within the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem, but also to benefit members of Makao Village.
We are planning to build the Mwiba Makao Community Center – which will be a great addition to the community, offering a place for the residents of Makao to come together and benefit from the center’s three primary functions: to facilitate early childhood development, healthcare/HIV awareness and environmental education.
A community center that addresses early childhood development, health and environmental education is desperately needed in Makao:
- Currently, there is no early childhood development in Makao and many of the children age six and under do not receive educational stimulation. Because Makao remains an agricultural and pastoral village, parents are out doing physical labor for the majority of the day. This forces the younger residents to either entertain themselves or to enter into physical labor at quite a young age. Through a play group/nursery held several times a week, the Community Center will provide a place for these children to go, whereby they can develop skills and be exposed to learning tools such as books, paints, puzzles, music, etc.
- Access to a medical facility and medicine is very limited. There is a doctor in Makao, but he does not always have medicine and he is not able to do blood tests, forcing many families to travel long distances to find medical care. Through HIV awareness programs and a medical services group, there will be medical care offered every two weeks, benefitting all members by providing consistent, good quality medicine.
- Lastly, it is crucial that the entire community understand the benefit of their environment and the wildlife and pristine ecosystems that lay on their doorstep. Because the villagers are situated in a location which is surrounded 100% by conservation areas, they will benefit hugely by realizing how best to live in congruence with wildlife, how they can benefit financially from that wildlife and how they can help to continue to preserve the gift they have been given. Twice a month there will be a film screening of an environmental or wildlife oriented movie. Mwiba Scouts will return to Makao to give presentations and “nature talks” to their community on the responsibility they have to protecting wildlife. Children will have the opportunity to come on field trips to see Mwiba, the wildlife and learn how protecting the area will provide many opportunities for them in the future.
Beyond these initial three programs that the center will support, it will also be an area in which people can come together to develop skills and knowledge that will help prepare them for jobs and markets throughout Tanzania. Potential developments for the community center include classes on micro-finance and entrepreneurial development, English lessons, a library and possibly computer programs.
The Mwiba Makao Community Center is a joint venture development project with the village, structurally and financially, which will lead to an overall improvement in the way of life for many people living in Makao. Our teamwork is ensuring that the center will be used to its utmost potential, as a multitude of community members will feel a sense of pride and ownership due to their time and effort helping with several important facets of the project!
A selection of Makao Village Council Members, as well as MWR/FCF members, are putting into place vigilant systems of funding, building and program establishment and monitoring. The funding will be primarily sourced from grants awarded to the project and facilitated through MWR and FCF, but will also come from the Makao Development Fund (MDF). The MDF is a fund which the village has access to and which is sponsored every year. Sharing the financial and managerial responsibilities is a project in and of itself, as the council members in charge of the center will develop the skills and knowledge of how to facilitate projects such as this in the future.
The Community Center building will be an eco-friendly building, made of earthbags. Earthbag building minimizes the use of concrete and other unnatural substances and is relatively inexpensive. Up to 15 members of Makao will assist in the building of the center and we hope to see those who help construct the building teaching others from Makao how to use this method.
With the village community center members, we are currently organizing plans for the site to be cleared so that building can start! We thank all those working to bring the Mwiba Makao Community Center to life and look forward to seeing how it enhances the lives of Makao residents! Photos coming soon!