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Grant will help student get water flowing in Tanzania

By Alexandra Wertz '12
April 26, 2010

Monica Southworth '10 will graduate this spring with a major in political science, plus concentrations in Middle Eastern studies and statistics.

Monica Southworth '10 has received a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace initiative that will enable her to spend the summer in Saadani, Tanzania, building wells to establish sustainable water sources for the small coastal city.

The Davis Projects for Peace is an initiative that funds students who create grassroots projects that promote peace. The program accepts applications from students at partner schools of the Davis United World College Scholars Program that St. Olaf was selected to join two years ago. Southworth received $10,000 for her project.

Saadani is a small fishing village of 800 inhabitants located 200 km north of the major commercial city of Dar es Salaam. The town depends on the ocean and coastal agriculture for its main source of revenue, but the fishers struggle to catch enough fish for subsistence and the agricultural workers are unable to effectively access the water.

Southworth will be working with Logan Stuck '09, who studied abroad in Tanzania while he was at St. Olaf. Using his connections in Saadani, Southworth has created the "Saadani Water project," a program that will install wells and micro-irrigation pumps that will benefit not only farm workers but also the general public of Saadani who are currently suffering from malnutrition due to a lack of clean water.

Grassroots organizer
"Something I learned from grassroots organizing is that the idea and the solution need to come from within the community, and it needs to be something that everyone wants and will strive for," Southworth says. "We can't just swoop into this village and throw money at the problem. We need to work with them to make their village a better place."

Southworth, a political science major, also will be teaching English in a local school during her two and a half months in Tanzania. But her main passion and goal is to provide clean water for Saadani — a project that she hopes will last far beyond her stay.

While the wells are constructed, Southworth will write a maintenance manual for the villagers so that they can repair the pumps in her absence. In addition to the installation of the pumps (made from cheap materials in Dar es Salaam), two 5,000-liter reservoir tanks will be placed next to the pumps to allow villagers to store water that they can use for agricultural purposes.

Southworth spent this year's Interim studying French (and checking out the tortoises) in Senegal.

Southworth hopes to see improvements not only in water quality, accessibility, and sustainability but, ultimately, in health and education.

"We will definitely see improvements in health, which will lead to higher productivity and general contentment," Southworth explains. "And improvements in agricultural outcomes will lead to increased revenue for Saadani families. This revenue may then be used for food, education for the children, expansion of agriculture, etc. The benefits are endless."

While this program will help Tanzanians, Southworth also is concerned with increasing awareness domestically. She plans to establish a letter exchange program between the school in Saadani and her hometown schools in Unalaska, Alaska.

"There will be a reciprocal process of educating and increasing awareness for the students of Unalaska and the students of Saadani," Southworth says.

While the villagers of Saadani undoubtedly will benefit from Southworth's work to build and sustain clean water sources, she looks forward to what she will get out of the experience in return. "I don't think a day will go by without learning something new about Tanzania, its people, or myself. This is a wonderful opportunity."

Check out Southworth's ongoing blog about her work in Saadani, and read more about last year's Davis recipient, Subhash Ghimire '10, in the spring issue of St. Olaf Magazine.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or