VSA has been in Tanzania since 1987. Our volunteers work with partner organisations in such diverse areas as rural income generation, vocational training, education, horticulture, sustainable forestry and HIV/AIDS awareness. Our work focuses on alleviating poverty and contributing to sustainable human development. Most assignments are in the Arusha and Moshi areas of Tanzania. VSA has a field office in Arusha, staffed by a local Field Officer. Please note: As of March 2011, VSA is no longer recruiting for long term assignments in Tanzania.
Kusal Perera worked as a Marketing Development Adviser at Tanganyika Farmers Association in Tanzania. He completed his assignment in August 2011. View Profile
Tanzania has one of the greatest ranges of ethnic and religious diversity in the world and has been stable and peaceful since independence in 1961. It is an East African country, bordered by Kenya and Uganda in the north, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi in the west, and Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in the south and the Indian Ocean to the East. There are over 120 tribes represented in Tanzania’s population.
The country seems equally divided among Christians and Muslims with about 20 per cent of the population practicing a combination of indigenous beliefs with one of the two mainstream religions. About one per cent of the population are Hindu.
The Tanzanian economy depends heavily on agriculture, and is dominated by smallholder farmers cultivating on small farms. Agriculture accounts for more than 25 per cent of GDP, provides 85 per cent of exports, and employs 80 per cent of the work force. Cash crops, including coffee, tea, cotton, cashews, sisal, cloves, and pyrethrum, account for the vast majority of export earnings.
An increasing urban-based migration has led to a large growth in squatter communities which, in turn, has put more pressure on an already shaky infrastructure in need of better maintenance regimes. Other social problems relate to continued gender inequalities, with high female illiteracy rates and low primary and secondary enrolments adding to the education needs. There is also a need to address the poorly trained and lowly paid teaching staff. HIV and AIDS continue to be major health issues, along with malaria, low life expectancy and high infant mortality rates.
VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important. Volunteers attend a language (Kiswahili) course shortly after arriving in Tanzania to assist them with the language learning process.
Understanding and respecting local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Tanzania is a traditional African country, so bear in mind that certain behaviours acceptable in Western countries may not be here.
We provide our volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation. Most houses have a flush toilet and a shower, and a few have a hot water cylinder. In more remote areas, there may be more simple facilities, such as a long-drop toilet and no reliable piped water. If there is no piped water, we, or our partner organisation, will provide water storage barrels and a water filter. We also provide you with cooking facilities (electric or gas stove), an electric or gas refrigerator if they are not already supplied, and kerosene lamps (pressure or wick).
Smart dress standard for work is very important in Tanzania, except for those working outside. So be prepared to dress in ‘office’ style rather than casual clothing. For men, this usually means a short or long-sleeved cotton shirt – open-necked – slacks and shoes. Ties are only worn on formal occasions. Shorts are inappropriate except when on the beach or during sports. In Arusha, tourists wearing shorts are tolerated, but are subject to stares and comment, especially females.
Women should wear skirts or dresses which cover their knees unless on the beach or at the pool. Trousers should be loose, partly to keep cool, but also to avoid offence. Sleeveless tops may be worn, but short sleeves are considered more appropriate for formal gatherings.
Malaria is endemic in parts of Tanzania and all our volunteers must use malarial prophylaxis. Other precautions are still recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves / trousers in the evening if outside, and using a mosquito net. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. HIV/AIDS are both prevalent in Tanzania, so be aware of the necessary precautions. Health care is basic and you’ll need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment, although there are local hospitals.
We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation. Travellers almost anywhere can encounter pickpockets and thieves, so you need to be sensible and aware of dangers. Avoid walking alone at night.
Volunteers open a local bank account during their in-country orientation where their monthly living allowance will be paid into. There are a number of different banks to choose from and the choice depends on whether there is a particular bank branch in the location of the volunteer assignment. There are ATMs in almost all town centres and these can be used to access accounts from most banks. The currency is the Shilling. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates.
Tanzania has five cellular providers and coverage is very good in urban areas, especially with Vodacom or Zain (Celtell) providers. It’s best to take a GSM international phone with you and you can buy a prepaid sim card for the provider of choice on arrival.
Most partner organisations have internet so you should be able to access internet/emails at the office. There are internet cafés in all major towns. You can also access the internet using wireless modem provided by mobile phone providers. This option is ideal for volunteers located in remote areas with no or poor internet connections.