Abdul Meena, our host and owner of AbrojaleyAfricaAjabu Tour Company, met us as we arrived in Arusha, Tanzania, after our amazingly wonderful week of safari, seeing all the amazing animals and several National Parks. (Please see our previous articles each month this year.) He introduced us to Brightson Pallangyo , who is working with the Minister of Natural Resources and Culture to develop programs to help locals by providing tours into the homes and small businesses. Mr. Pallangyo took us to his home and coffee plantation to visit his “Mama Gladness,” who heads up two of these Cultural Experience Tours near Arusha.
Cultural Tourism Initiative in Tanzania is a growing venture under the Minister of Natural Resources. Started in 2004, these tourist programs are now in 27 different locations. While tourists have come to Tanzania for decades for safaris to see the wild animals, this program enables visitors also to experience the local people and ways of life.
For years most tourists have the experience of going into a Maasai village set up to demonstrate their way of life and sell their crafts, but this Cultural Tourism Initiative is different. It is an authentic experience of eating or sleeping in actual homes of local people in various villages and learning their unique special ways and crafts and getting to know them as a people and culture.
We were fortunate to go to Tengeru near Arusha and be guests for the afternoon in the home of Mama Gladness, who prepared a delicious meal of typical local food: pilau (brown rice), ndizi na nyama (banana with beef), makande (beans and corn), choroko (green garnets), white rice and vegetable beef, chapatti (hard pancake), and fresh juice cocktail of mango, avocado, carrot, orange and honey. We were served buffet style in a beautiful garden patio.
After the wonderful meal all the tourist guests got a tour of the home farm where two cows in stalls are fed elephant grass that grows adjacent to their stalls. The stalls are cleaned daily and the manure goes underground into a system that hygienically produces all the fertilizer for the coffee and banana plantation and also produces methane gas, which is piped into the home to use for totally clean and odorless gas cooking and to create the electricity and hot water for the home. This system worked so beautifully, and guests from the western world were amazed at the self-sufficiency and permanent sustenance such a farm provides for the family.
We toured the lovely hillside grove of banana trees towering above and providing shade for the coffee trees beneath them. This home plantation’s groves are 70 years old and family operated. They hand harvest the red arabica and robusta coffee beans and clean and dry them to ship to Germany for roasting and marketing.
We had the special treat of getting to pick, shell, grind, roast, and prepare some beans in the typical way that local families enjoy coffee in their homes. With the help of our hostess Gladness and her son Lemu, we had the most fun grinding the coffee beans by placing them in a wooden drum and pounding them with a tall wooden pole while the women sang the happy grinding song, which set the rhythm of the pounding. Tanzanians have traditional songs that make any work joyful and set the pace for people to coordinate their energy and work together happily. The local philosophy is “Bulle, Bulle…go slowly, arrive home happy.” A cup of coffee never tasted as good as this we made and sipped in the lush garden, relaxing and visiting with the family and a representative from the Tourism Department, Mary, who is coordinator of all the 27 Cultural Tourism events around Tanzania. They also took us to the second brief cultural tourism visit at Lake Duluti near Arusha. We stayed only briefly because we needed to get back to repack for our trip home early the next day.
These events are women’s initiatives and the nominal price you pay for these experiences goes to help the local community in whatever way the group thinks is most needed: building schools, providing school supplies, clean water, building bridges, etc.
We encourage everyone who visits Tanzania to include one or more of these in-home events to get to know local people and their way of life. They are beautiful, gracious, happy, loving and generous people and welcome you with open arms and the customary three kisses on the cheek, and they speak very good English. This will augment and complete all the other wonderful things you experience in Africa.