Apparently European stomachs are not made for Africa, luckily the worst is over and now that I see the smiling face of Nicodemus Mpemba, I cannot help but smile myself. Nicodemus works with the Tanzanian organisation Faida MaLi and is taking us to Mbaseen, a small village surrounded by banana trees near the giant of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. At the village boundary we are stopped by two elder men who would like us to sign their guestbook. Behind the village house, coffee farmers are drying and selecting their beans.
Going up the road we see a collective of beautifully decorated women and men waiting for us. They are all farmers of the Soku group. They grow bananas, coffee, maize and pigeon pears and combine these crops with jatropha. They use the jatropha plants mainly to fence their lands, because animals don't eat from the leaves and have a hard time crawling through the dense bushes. One of the women is working the jatropha press, which extracts the oil from the seeds.
The women tell me that they would like to use the jatropha oil as a fuel for cooking, but Nicodemus explains that the cooking stoves are still being developed. The big problem is that the oil needs to get really hot before the oven will start burning, but getting the oil up to the right temperature is still a big problem. So what do they use the oil for? They make soap, which they successfully sell on the local market just down the hill: this year alone they've earned a thousand dollars.
Nicodemus is happily surprised to hear this and tells me that the Soku farmer group is no longer supported by his organisation. The profits they made this year were totally self-generated. "It seems that the group has become independent, which makes me happy to see", says Nicodemus.
On the way back to Arusha we get to see the outlines of Mount Kilimanjaro and it's baby brother Mount Meru. The purple blossoming jacaranda trees complete the picture. Despite the poverty I am getting more and more convinced that Tanzania is blessed with colour and optimism.