SUNDAY OCTOBER 2, 2022
By Deus Bugahywa
The Tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania
Chacha Machari has never known any other source of income than illegal mining in his life, but he can now see the light in the sky, thanks to Twiga Mineral Cooperation — a partnership between the Tanzania government and the Barrick Gold.
Twiga Mineral is a joint venture between Barrick and the Tanzania government, overseeing management of Barrick’s assets in North Mara and Bulyanhulu gold mines in Tanzania as well as implementation of an economic benefit-sharing agreement.
It was founded when Barrick took over operations of the former Acacia Mining in September 2019, subsequently entering into a framework agreement with the government.
Among many achievements of the joint venture is the harmonised relationship between the mines and the surrounding community. North Mara Gold Mine’s horticultural Agribusiness Development Project is one of the glaring outcomes.
North Mara Gold Mine deliberately decided to give communities surrounding the mine alternative sources of income for them to achieve sustainable economic growth.
The initiative is designed to provide the community with integrated support in a bid to promote horticulture value chain, quality, efficiency and to obtain a sustainable business model for the emerging agricultural sub-sector.
Machari, a resident of Nyangoto Village in Tarime District, Mara Region, Tanzania, is among beneficiaries of the project which will see North Mara Gold Mine support it in terms of technologies, agricultural inputs, and production and marketing materials.
The 27-year old, who is now a Secretary of one of the 10 groups of 10 youth each, from villages bordering the mine, he was, at first, not convinced because, to him and his peers, horticulture was nothing but an option for the failures.
“We had a conviction that a brave and strong young man cannot engage in cultivation of cabbages or tomatoes, we’re the worriers of the society, we’ve to prove that by eking out a living the hard way, this is the reason we were proud of opting for intruding into the mine,” he says.
Like the rest of his peers, he never believed a living could be eked out through any other means save for invading North Mara mining pits for gold ores, he admits.
Machari invaded the mine for over four years armed with a panga(machete) he used for defending himself against security officials and fellow intruders from other opposing groups.
His life was in constant danger, as the mine trespassers invaded in groups of up to 100 people at once, and when they managed to climb the concrete wall fence and to enter the mine site, they turn to each other.
“When our opposing clans separately invaded the mine, they clashed inside. We fought each other in the first place, with the winning group taking all stolen mine ores,” he narrates.
His small-sized body made his case even worse, he adds, explaining: “There were individual fights too among members of a single group, and I was the perpetual victim.”
It took a lot of effort to lure Machari and the like-minded youth to join the agribusiness groups until the mine and the government officials joined forces to offer them sessions of consultations and economic development education regularly.
“In our attempt to convince them, we had to send them to a horticulture exhibition in Arusha, where they met their fellow youth to whom the agriculture sub-sector has paid off.
“The study tour completely changed their mindset, they came back inspired and committed to implement the project,” says Hermence Lulah, North Barrick Communication Superintendent.
Lulah says the project intends to secure descent jobs especially for young men and women from the community surrounding the North Mara Gold Mine.
“It seeks to transform the targeted groups into credible suppliers of fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables to meet growing demands of the mine and the local market, as they secure decent jobs in horticulture to beef up their households’ incomes,” explains Lulah.
As for Machari, the project now means everything. “Horticulture is my life, and my life is horticulture, we now refer to it as green gold,” says Machari, explaining:
“Unlike the perishable traditional gold, horticulture lasts forever, people can eat vegetables every day. All what it takes is to ensure a farm is sustainably managed.”
According to Lulah, all group members will be trained in financial literacy to enable them to manage their finances.
“The anticipated outcome of the project is to improve production and productivity, reduce cost of doing business to farmers, and to increase income and linkage to markets through multiple distribution channels, including the mine,” Lulah says.
The $120,000 worth project covers 10 acres and will involve 100 primary beneficiaries, and 3,000 secondary beneficiaries, pending the spillover effect of the project.
Going by experts, income growth generated by agriculture is up to four times more effective in reducing poverty than growth attained through other sectors.
Tarime District is endowed with good agro-ecological conditions in favour of crops and livestock production throughout the year, but not much attention is paid to agribusiness.
The Tarime District Commissioner, Colonel Michael Mtenjele, says the government had entered into joint venture with the mine for the community members and the nation at large to benefit from the investment.
“Opportunities are now right here, it is up to the youth to grab them for the betterment of their community and the nation at large,” Col. Mtenjele said.
The Matongo Ward Councilor, Mr Godfrey Mwita, whose youth from his area of his jurisdiction are among the beneficiaries, says the agribusiness project is an economic growth game changer at the area.
Barrick creates a long-term value and economic benefits sharing approach for the sustainability and development of the community.
“We strive to be a good corporate citizen and a genuine partner for our host communities in locally-led development, and to build resilience towards global challenges,” Barrick President and CEO Mark Bristow saysΩ