Mkuranga — POVERTY in rural areas is cutting deeper than ever before, especially with recent sharp rise of kerosene prices whereby sandals are now used in place of kerosene lamps.
At filling stations kerosene is sold at 2,020/- a litre but once taken to villages the same volume would fetch 4,000/- at retail outlets. Rural communities cannot afford the hike and many houses literary remain in darkness at night.
Interviewed residents of Kibululu village, Kiparang'anda ward, Mkuranga district, in Coast Region together with the leadership of the area confessed to have experienced more hardships in life with an increasing number of children who are not going to school anymore.
"Drinking tea is considered part of luxury. It is too expensive for a family of six for example to afford just a quarter of a kilogram of sugar which is 625/- equivalent to 2,500/- a kilo.
"The only primary school is six kilometres away and the little earning we have is spent on food for the family, not for school uniforms or other necessities. It is tough. Life was better in 1970s," said Mr Mussa Mwago (90).
Ms Mariamu Mbilili who is a village committee member said deprivation had reduced majority of the villagers into dwellers in darkness as the common kerosene lamps have been put out of use due to expensive fuel.
"We all feel bad seeing that we don't have enough to provide for our families. Just imagine most of the houses are without light at night. Even those considered to be better off here will not have the nerve to set alight two lamps. People have resorted to using sandals to start fire or let some light in," Ms Mariamu explained.
The village chairman, Mr Saidi Ruanda, wished to have a simple but sustainable project which is affordable to all as the most effective mechanism to fight poverty in all five villages in the ward.
"We have learnt about lucky fellow countrymen who have the opportunity to attend training on mushroom production. Some have come to bear witness about sharp increase of family income to make hardships in life a history," Mr Ruanda said.
Dr Delphina Mamiro from Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro says mushroom is accepted and appreciated as healthy food in Tanzanian communities but cultivation technology has not been made available to most mushroom growers.
"Oyster mushrooms cultivation is a short duration crop and land saving meaning that its cultivation does not need ample land. In addition, it can be grown on a wide range of substrates and as such one doesn't need expensive agricultural inputs such as fertilizer. Mushrooms can reduce poverty and household food insecurity," Dr Mamiro said.
She added that mushroom cultivation also contributes to environmental protection since agricultural wastes are re-used instead of burning them.
In Tanzania mushroom cultivation is not very widely practiced due to lack of knowledge, which we are ready to provide as experts.
The Village Executive Officer, Mr Saidi Mbwera, said there are more than 12,000 people in five villages that form Kiparang'anda ward and mushroom production would have been appreciated so much.
"Economic potentials are plenty only that people lack skills and the necessary support.
There are five villages in the area. These are Magoza, Kise, Kibululu, Kiparang'anda 'A' and 'B' but deprivation is widespread. Without income we cannot meet our priorities like construction of schools and dispensaries.
"Pupils walk 12 kilometres a day to school and pregnant mothers deliver babies in the bush. Mushrooms can transform people's lives," Mr Mbwera concluded