by Alex Bush

Issue: 46

Journal section: General Article
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Received: 2010-08-12


Situated in the north of Tanzania, Kagera Region is one of the poorest in the country with income levels around 50% of the national average (Figure 1). Karagwe District is a hilly area in the northwestern tip of the region at an altitude of 1100-1800m with substantial rainfall (1000mm in two seasons). The population is around 400 000 and is overwhelmingly rural. The district has extensive cash cropping, mainly coffee beans and bananas, so despite relatively fertile soils and good climate, food is scarce.

The majority of the population are smallholder, largely subsistence, farmers. People depend on an environment that is becoming increasingly uncertain. In the last two years there has been severe drought, followed by some of the worst flooding for decades. While life has become more difficult for ordinary people, such difficulties tend to be magnified for older people who are generally more vulnerable to change and are armed with fewer coping strategies.
This article describes work being carried out in Karagwe District, where a programme of work with vulnerable elderly people has been carried out through the SAWATA Karagwe Older People’s Programme (SKOPP) project. This project has been implemented by Saidia Wazee Tanzania (SAWATA) Karagwe and HelpAge International, supported by the UK Department for International Development (DfID). The research that forms the basis for this article was looking at social capital and social ‘safety nets’ as they relate to older people. However the energy-related components of the project do shed some light on these issues.

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