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Mbola, Tanzania

Mbola Cluster: 6 Millennium Villages | approximately 30,000 people

Located on low, hilly terrain, the six villages in the Tanzania cluster are spread out over an expansive area, making travel between them difficult while also suppressing the development of local markets. Subsistence farming is the main economic activity, consisting mainly of rain-fed agriculture and the production of local livestock breeds. Persistent drought and difficult planting conditions, including sandy soil that results in decreased water and nutrient retention, have hampered agricultural productivity.   

The Mbola cluster is located in the Uyui district in mid-western Tanzania. The nearest city center is Tabora which is located 36 km away. The cluster represents the maize-mixed farming system in the Miombo woodland savanna agro-ecological zone of the Southern Africa plateau. The village has two distinct seasons, a rainy one between November and April and a dry season for the remaining parts of the year. In recent years, the rain has become increasingly erratic.

The main development challenges in Mbola include the high rate of environmental degradation resulting from poor crop management practices, declining agricultural production and destruction of the Miombo woodlands for fuel wood used in the tobacco industry. Overgrazing and expansion of agricultural land have also contributed to the decline of land productivity. In addition, roads are in a poor state, thus limiting easy access to markets. Tthere is a general lack of basic infrastructure for health and education.

Village Characteristics

Farming is the mainstay of people living in Mbola. The village land holdings range between 1 to more than 15 hectares per household, with 1.4 being the most common size. The cluster is one of the largest of all the Millennium Villages due to sparse population density. The main food crops grown are cassava, sweet potatoes, paddy rice, fruits and vegetables. The main cash crop of Mbola farmers is tobacco, which is cultivated by 68% of the population. Beekeeping and rice growing are also important activities in the region. Unreliable rainfall and poor soil fertility are the major hindrance to farm production in the area. Low and declining crop yields are posing problems of food insecurity resulting in hunger and malnutrition in most households, affecting particularly children.

Many people in Mbola suffer from water-borne diseases and other infectious ones including malaria, acute respiratory infections, schistomiasis, worms, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. There is one health facility in the region that is 7 km away from Mbola. The roads in and around the cluster are difficult to traverse. When many people when they are sick they suffer and die without even seeing a doctor or the inside of a clinic.

Most schools are poorly attended and few children finish their primary education. Poverty has had a devastating impact on the level of education throughout the villages. Many parents cannot afford to send their children to school, buy uniforms or school materials. Children, especially girls, instead stay at home to perform household chores. Secondary school education is nearly non-existent.

Many villages have little or no access to clean water. Most sources are from stagnant pools or water holes. Most of the houses in Mbola are made up of mud and thatched roofs which limit the ability to harvest rainwater. There is no existing sanitation or sewage system. Instead, temporary pit latrines are commonly used which contaminate water sources during the rainy season.


In the past year, the project has worked with local officials to train community health workers about the effective use of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets and malaria diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. In January 2007, the project distributed 20,000 bed nets, covering all sleeping sites within the cluster, and an additional 13,000 to surrounding villages in support of the anti-malarial campaigns run by the local government.

In 2007, the Millennium Villages team partnered with community and local government to construct two new health dispensaries in the Mbola and Ibiri villages as well as to renovate three existing dispensaries in Ilolangulu, Mabama, and Mingungumalo. All five dispensaries will be fully stocked with essential medicines, including anti-malarial drugs such as Coartem (donated by manufacturer Novartis), de-worming medications, contraceptives, pre- and antenatal care medicines, and numerous other treatments for local neglected tropical diseases.

The Millennium Villages project has worked closely with community members and local government to construct two new schools, rebuild two classrooms, and renovate three classrooms in the cluster.

Cluster staff is now working with members of the community to determine the location for new schools in the Ilolangulu and Mabama villages, and to renovate three classrooms and rebuild two others in Ilolangulu. Efforts are also underway to construct staff housing, safe and sanitary latrines, and environmentally-friendly kitchens, which burn less firewood and produce little smoke.

The cluster is looking forward to several exciting developments in the area of education in the coming months. In August 2007, the project launched a school feeding program for 7,165 children, using community crop surpluses. Similar programs in other Millennium Village clusters have produced dramatic improvements in attendance rates and school performance as parents have new incentives to send their children to school and the children are no longer distracted by hunger pains. The project also supports 99 local students (including 45 girls) with secondary school scholarships in the 2007 academic year.

Solar panels will also be installed in teachers’ homes in the coming months, and three cluster schools will be connected to the national electricity grid, enabling the schools to be used by the community at large as business and community centers.

Water and Sanitation

The project has focused on increasing access to water and improving water quality and safety. Because of very heavy rains in 2006, assessments of water sources were somewhat delayed. The Tanzania team is now working with the local Ministry of Water to assess 57 different water sources and to begin renovation and construction on at least 47 water points, rainwater harvesting tanks, and irrigation points.

Agriculture, Environment, and Business Development

Alongside food security efforts, the Tanzania cluster is working with villagers to encourage environmentally-sustainable farming practices. In 2007, 48,538 nitrogen-fixing trees were planted throughout the cluster to reduce dependency on inorganic fertilizers. In partnership with Total Land Care, a local NGO, 5,950 woody trees were planted to minimize deforestation. Additionally, ten local farmers were trained in environmentally-sustainable farming practices at the Community Forestry Management in Mwanza, Tanzania, about 300 km from Mbola.

In the first two quarters of 2007, the Tanzania team also began helping community members to start new income generating activities, including raising fruit tree nurseries, bee keeping, and honey production.

Gender Equality

Initiatives to promote gender equality in education include the provision of secondary school scholarships to 45 girls and the construction of separate and safe latrines at schools and throughout the broader community to prevent gender-based violence.

Community Development

Community development in the Tanzania cluster has focused on two initiatives: ensuring the successful establishment and facilitation of participatory, gender-sensitive pro-poor institutions throughout the cluster; and guaranteeing that surrounding communities benefit from the development within the cluster. Throughout 2006 and 2007, the Tanzania team has been working with various stakeholders, including ward executives, village chairpersons, hamlet chairpersons, and ward councilors, to sensitize and inform them about the project’s principles and its objectives. The majority of local stakeholders are taking an active part in encouraging communities to attend project meetings, subscribe to the principles of the project, and sign up to receive farm inputs and other services.