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In to Africa: Cougs contributing to Tanzania’s economic growth

Michael Lege standing at the door of WSU's office in Tanzania before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although cougars aren’t indigenous to Tanzania, Cougars are making their presence known throughout the country.

They serve as part of a partnership among Washington State University, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service and USAID Tanzania. As one of its first deliverables in the partnership, WSU established WSU International Development Tanzania (WSUID TZ), a non-governmental organization, to support USDA and USAID Tanzania’s Office of Economic Growth in its work to build agricultural sector growth, food security, energy, natural resources management and improved nutrition in the country.

WSUID TZ staff provide program management, technical services, training and mentoring. Before the pandemic, they also hosted about 50 meetings a year in their office, and since have arranged and facilitated virtual meetings and participation in virtual conferences.

Michael Lege, WSU International Projects manager and USDA liaison based in WSU’s Office of International Programs’ Global Partnerships and Research Services, said, “Our mission in Tanzania is capacity building. We are training and empowering the local population to manage their country’s development to the point where we can step out.”

To illustrate the importance of WSU’s engagement in Tanzania, Lege noted a particular accomplishment.

“Through our relationship with Tanzania’s Private Sector and Trade Development Partner Group and Agriculture Working Group secretariat, WSUID TZ provided input directly to the country’s President’s office on its five-year plan.”

WSUID TZ has been on the ground in Tanzania since 2016, after the first three-year agreement was signed and then extended by two years. In 2020, a new agreement for another three years was signed.

The new agreement includes continued support for monitoring and evaluation (M&E), nutrition, trade and development and natural resource management. It adds technical assistance in fundraising and new business development, M&E and communications for the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania Centre, LTD (SCL).

As a public-private partnership supported by USAID for agricultural development and extension in the country, SCL creates and fosters partnerships among Tanzanian agribusiness companies, farmer organizations and smallholder farmers, civil society organizations and government agencies to break down barriers and incubate initiatives around inclusive, sustainable and viable agricultural value chains: dairy, potato, soya, tea, tomato, avocado, poultry, rice and sunflower.

Even the weather is within bounds of their work. In early 2021, in collaboration with USAID, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA, a government agency), WSUID TZ procured meteorological equipment from the United Kingdom, managed the logistics for its delivery to Tanzania and hired staff to build and run the database. WSUID TZ then handed over the system to TMA.

Outside of the NGO, WSU’s work in Tanzania includes providing services directly through contract specialists and direct hires who support USAID’s efforts and supplying M&E expertise. The team also works with WSU scholars and scientists who have an interest in research in the country.

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