Kazunzu comes from the Zinza tribal language and means a promontory. It is an apt name for the piece of land that juts out into Lake Victoria, a cape around 20 km west of Mwanza, Tanzania that is in the process of becoming a self-sustainable ‘Village of Hope’ for around 40 families.
Those who have been aboard Jubilee Hope or visited the islands of Lake Victoria will be aware of how tough the living conditions are in this region. The HIV levels are amongst some of the highest in the world, sanitation is almost non-existent and despite being surrounded by water, a lot of it isn't clean enough for safe cooking and drinking. The area’s scenery and sunsets may be idyllic, but this is a harsh environment for raising children and finding food, income, and home security.
The Kazunzu project is an ambitious venture that grew out of a desire by our partners to build a self-sustaining and community-minded village in this region, a neighbourhood that reflected the place-based approach championed by various socially progressive regional governments across the world.
What is a Place-Based Approach?
The theory behind a place-based approach is two-fold.
Firstly, this approach can be a theoretical lens through which to conceptualise a certain town, region, or location.
What this means, in layman’s terms, is that when analysing certain issues with (or future plans for) a place, we should take into account “the specifics of the local context, as well as the personal circumstances of (the) individuals (involved).” The theoretical argument is that some, more “resilient” places can absorb and withstand socio-political, economic, and environmental challenges better than less “resilient” places.
This resilience is built by factors in four key areas: economy (strengthened by factors like employment and vocational training), governance (effective and constructive leadership), society (strong community links), and environment (good basic infrastructure, diverse and healthy ecosystem).
The second part of the place-based approach theory plays much more into the implementation side of things.
When a governing body or project team adopts a place-based approach, its leaders emphasise the need to not only understand and respect the “specifics of the local context” (see above) but also to actually “engage local people as active participants in development and implementation.”
This focus on collaboration and engagement with community members is the defining factor of a true place-based approach: the project team must work hard and consistently to understand the needs of a community when developing proposals and implementing services, buildings, and infrastructure.
How Does This Theory Translate into Practice at Kazunzu?
There are a number of ways in which the project team at Kazunzu has theorised and implemented a place-based approach when drawing up (and carrying out) plans for their “Village of Hope.”
Perhaps most obvious among these is the understanding that our partners have of developing a village that’s “resilient” in several key areas:
An important aspect of the plans is the Vocational Training Centre, an innovative space that’s specifically designed to teach valuable skills like craftwork to those who are growing up at Kazunzu, helping them to make the most of their formative years and building a strong platform for future career and life success.
Teachers at Kazunzu’s new school will follow the English Medium mode of instruction, whereby classes are taught in English even though it is not the children’s first language. This method of teaching helps students to pick up a useful second language effectively and efficiently and is normal practice for many non-governmental schools in Tanzania.
More generally, the construction of the village lends itself to generating a variety of potential income streams for residents, from craft-making and crucial vocational training to school fees and teaching opportunities.
All of these plans reflect a commitment by the project team to build an economically resilient space by increasing the qualifications and employability of teenagers and young adults in the area and encouraging internal income production.
The Kazunzu project also emphasises the importance of creating, maintaining, and prioritising community-based spaces, whether that’s the completed “Boma” (Community Hub) in the centre of the village or the “shambas” or yards where different families can keep chickens and grow crops in a shared space between homes.
This emphasis on fostering community is something that builds the social resilience of Kazunzu by allowing the space for members to build connections and set up networks within the village.
Collaboration and Engagement
It’s also important to note that, in true place-based method style, the spirit of collaboration is at the very heart of Kazunzu “Village of Hope.”
The project itself is the result of an international partnership between Africa Inland Church Tanzania (who came up with the initial vision), the District Commissioner in Sengerema, and Vine Trust.
The plans drawn up by AICT at the beginning of the project included up to 40 family homes. These are now being built in small clusters of three or four: each home accommodates foster parents and up to six children, many of whom are orphans. This system of bringing orphans into pre-existing family units is one that not only enables these children to experience a strong and secure familial connection but also reflects the desire of the project team to create an integrative and tight-knit village community that’s rooted in human partnership and connection.
We’re excited to keep you updated on the progress at Kazunzu over the coming months and years, and can’t wait to follow the development and implementation of this place-based approach in real time.
“A framework for place-based approaches” - https://www.vic.gov.au/framework-place-based-approaches/print-all
“Kazunzu.” - https://www.vinetrust.org/about/kazunzu
“What is a Place-Based Approach?” - https://www.ourplace.scot/about-place/place-based-approaches