Rainy Reflections

The dry spell in Tabora has been broken with the start of the short rainy season (known as vuli)! Heavy rains beat down on our roof almost every night creating a rhythmic drumming sound. Sometimes the rain continues throughout the day and it’s amazing to see how the change in weather impacts life in Tabora both positively and negatively. Most people have rejoiced at the site of the rain because it means more (free) water for cooking and cleaning. Colorful buckets line the fronts of houses collecting water under homemade gutters and people find creative ways to store it for later. More and more people have been going to the shambas in the morning to plant maize and some of our running paths are now over-flowing with greenery. For the most part the community seems to be embracing the rain (it definitely hasn’t stopped the kids from playing outside!).

However, it is remarkable how something so useful and desirable can also be a detriment to work and productivity in Tabora and, more broadly speaking, it can have a greater impact on community development. Most income-generating activities in Tabora are conducted outside and when the rains come, businesses are negatively impacted. For instance, our partner Mama Asha runs a restaurant and she preps and cooks the food on a mat outside her house every afternoon. When it’s raining she and her business partner/sister-in-law, Mama Hassiyah, must re-locate to their living room, which isn’t an ideal space for prepping chapatti, maandazi, donati, visheti, cakey and potatoes.  But they make it work! However, even if they are able to find alternative cooking locations, there is no guarantee that she will have the same steady flow of customers. Additionally, a lot of men ride around the village on bikes selling vegetables, a job that becomes increasingly difficult when the roads fill with puddles and mud. And then there are the folks who earn their living by operating the water bombas in town. When there’s enough rainfall there’s no need to pay 100 shillings for each bucket!

The impact of changing weather patterns on development is striking to us and the rain has been a clear reminder of the privilege we carry coming from a developed country. in the States we are able to continue most activities when it rains. We can drive to a nearby supermarket to purchase groceries; we can still get to work by car or public transportation; and most businesses continue to operate (if we don’t want to purchase groceries to cook we can just go to a restaurant and think of how busy shopping malls are on rainy days!).  A lot of development discourse tends to focus on things that can be changed, such as infrastructure, education programs, and health care systems and we sometimes forget about the unpredictable forces of nature that also play a role in stagnating or hindering development. Living in a rural village in a developing country and witnessing the harsh impacts that nature can have on daily life and income-generating activities has provided a stark reminder of our privileges and it has been eye-opening to think of the things that we take for granted every day (such as paved roads, indoor businesses and running water). Despite the seemingly harmful effects of the rain, it is inspiring to see so much resilience in Tabora, as people find creative ways to adapt to the elements.

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