SkillsFAST: The project planning adventure on Vikuruti farm
19 May 2015
In March 2015, a student group from HAMK University of Applied Sciences visited the Vikuruti rehabilitation farm. Vikuruti is a psychiatric department of the Muhimbili Hospital, and it works as a transitional facility for former drug users. In Vikuruti, the patients are provided with a conducive learning environment to gain and learn relevant technical and vocational skills to facilitate their reintegration into society. The farm is currently dedicated to producing milk, eggs and green vegetables, but agricultural production is planned to be expanded as new patients are taken in. The farm is located in Mbagala, which is one of the most densely populated suburbs of Dar es Salaam with a population of about 1.2 million.
The week spent in Vikuruti challenged the students both mentally and physically. On the farm, our normal day would start around 7 am by having chapati (local thin bread) and chai (tea) accompanied by eggs produced in the henhouse of Vikuruti. During breakfast we would share our thoughts about the day before and reflect back on the things we had experienced. Breakfast was also the time of planning for the day ahead. Since the students’ time on the farm was limited, the days were pretty intensive and filled with activities to make the most out of our narrow timeframe.
Pirkka – our technically oriented development student concentrated on fixing the technical energy solutions on the farm as well as designing and piloting new ones. As a design student, Oona focused on designing marketable products for the handicrafts section and shared her knowledge on how to add value by honing the finishing of the products. Social care student Marika used her expertise to plan the skills development from a rehabilitation point of view – especially concentrating on diversifying the variety of agricultural skills provided. With a background in biotechnology and engineering, Antti-Jussi focused on planning solutions for waste and water resources management. Finally, business student Katja played a critical role in concluding the best profit making opportunities for Vikuruti. The opportunities and needs identified during the planning visit were drawn together in a project document that forms the basis for future activities on the farm.
To get adapted to the local lifestyle – where haste is considered impolite and the working efficiency is not quite what we Finns are used to – we got acquainted with the local pub where our portable biogas unit was also premiered to the locals. As ways of building up trust and togetherness, we arranged a football match with the Vikuruti rehabilitees (the Finnish team lost) and a garbage collecting session during which the messy surroundings of the farm were tidied up together.
Now almost two months have passed since the student group visited the Vikuruti farm. When I asked them to name the first thoughts that pop into their head about what they learned during their stay in Tanzania, they shared fairly similar memories.
We were all overwhelmed by the friendliness and the strong sense of community of the locals. The way people (including us) can adapt to such basic conditions – with no running water and frequent power outages – surprised us all in a both good and bad way.
What the students hope for the future of Vikuruti is that the institutions involved in running the facility will help to bring the farm into a level of overall self-sufficiency through expansion of agricultural production, better water resources and waste management as well as a continuous supply of renewable energy for these functions.
We see a lot of potential for Vikuruti to become a profitable business venture by setting up a farmers market as an outlet for its numerous products.
In addition, the farm is hoped to become a demonstration zone for various sustainable practices and technical solutions that can be adapted by the surrounding community. In the process, the learning-by-doing approach on Vikuruti will continue to provide rehabilitation for the growing number of drug addicts in Tanzania.
Hungry for more? My next post will elaborate on the technical solutions and other activities planned to be implemented on the farm in the near future.