Masasi to Nkokoto - 2018

It was a great experience in May/ June this year, to visit these 2 places in Tanzania, some 900 miles apart, but both linked by friendships with Minchinhampton.

Masasi Diocese in SE Tanzania. Here we walked in some of the footsteps of John Cornwall who served in Masasi for 23 yrs before coming to Minchinhampton as rector with Benita his wife. (1959 to 1972) They met when she joined the mission as a teacher, working there for 5 years. We were reminded of the missionary tradition stretching back to 1876, soon after the abolition of slavery, which brought not only the Christian faith but the first schools; hospi-tals and medical care to Tanzania. Subsequent bishops and their staff have continued providing both spiritual and social ministries to this vast diocese. Whilst the gov-ernment now runs the majority of schools and hospitals there are still many needs.

Minchinhampton Church has been supportive over the years, funding projects including HIV/AIDS education pro-grammes, famine relief; sponsoring students and contributing to renovations of the beautiful chapel at Rondo. During this visit, we in turn, were inspired by the vibrant worship and faith we encountered and joyful Tanzanian welcomes.

Journeying north & west: The coastal town of Kilwa lies midway between Masasi and Dar es Salaam and is at the northern boundary of Masasi diocese. The car drive, on a good tarmac road, took 5 hours, illustrating the immensity of the diocese and challenges Bishop James has in ministering to far flung parishes.

At Kilwa, there are ruins of a rich trading city dating back to the 8th century, long before the arrival of European explorers.

 The next day, a 5 hour journey by coach took me to Dar es Salaam where I visited the National Museum. Here there is an exhibit about the 2 million year old footsteps found in volcanic rock in the Serengeti, where it is thought hominids first stood upright. If this is the cradle of humankind, perhaps it is no wonder we feel at home in Tanzania?

From Dar es Salaam I took the easy option of flying the 500 miles west to Tabora. Then it was just an hour by road to Urambo, the nearest small town to Nkokoto and the other neighbouring villages I was to visit.

MtandiHill KilwaMosque

Mtandi hill, Masasi – green after the rains with
the bishop’s house beneath

The remains of the C13th grand mosque at Kilwa

Minchinhampton’s 40 year friendship with Nkokoto began in 1978 when Lenten, ecumenical group discussions led to a resolve to ‘twin’ with a third world village. Tanzania at that time was one of the poorest nations. At Independence in 1961, the country had only 12 doctors; a life expectancy of 35 yrs and adult literacy was atBoreHole only 15%. Nkokoto and its neighbouring villages were part of President Nyerere’s ‘Ujamaa’ (collective) scheme of the 70’s. This was not judged economically successful, but did deliver better access to education and health care. The present primary school, for pupils up to 14 yrs, and the village dispensary date back to that time.

There is no doubt that the link with Minchinhampton has greatly helped Nkokoto. The 2 bore holes (one pictured right) delivering clean water are a lifeline on this high, arid central plateau, especially in the long dry season.

The resources Minchinhampton has given to the primary school and the sponsorship of students at secondary school and to vocational courses at the Folk Development College are very valuable. Trained professionals are badly needed.

The Village Dispensary: The shortage of medical staff was very apparent here and in all the villages I visited. The 2 staff have a big workload including maternity care and vaccination programmes.

Agriculture: Subsistence farming remains an important way of life, cultivating mainly with mattock and hoe. The government is encouraging diversification and some sunflower and cotton growing has begun.

Infrastructure: Mobile phones have revolutionized communication and now Nkokoto has electricity and internet access. The tarmac road from Urambo past the villages is scheduled to be finished soon and there are plans to build another fast track alongside the old single gauge railway line.

Visiting 3 other villages in the ward: 8 years ago Nailsworth made a link with Vumilia, and that village was the main focus of my visit. But as well as Nkokoto, I called at Uhuru (once called Nkokoto 2) and Moto Moto. Both villages would dearly like to be befriended.

The welcome and hospitality at all 4 villages was wonderful. Stima and Augustin, project coordinators for Nkokoto and Vumilia, had arranged the programme and accompanied me throughout. Both are retired teachers and their warm, longstanding friendship is a great example of the good relations between Moslems and Christians, the 2 main religious groups in Tanzania.

Jo Smith