Posted by: dmcnicholl | December 1, 2011

Bwana Somba

This post is another installation of the Perspectives of Poverty project. Unfortunately, my SLR died recently and these images had to be taken with a simple point and shoot.

bwana somba as a recipient - small

bwana somba and maize I - small

It’s easy to miss Asomba Kamanga’s small operation in the South Rukuru River Valley. Having driven by it before many times, it was only thanks to the local government extension agent I was shadowing for the day that we stopped.

Mr. Kamanga – aka Bwana Somba (the ‘Fish Boss’) – is a stunning example of ingenuity. Having learned the trade of fish farming from his father, he diverted a small stream from the nearby hills to flow through his plot of land where he developed fish irrigated maize crop - smallponds, irrigated maize fields, and a tangerine orchard. The maize field, in particular, is incredible. Carefully sculpted irrigation channels direct part of the stream runoff through the flourishing maize crop – verdant in the heart of the dry season. 

All of this without the help of NGOs, donations, or the like. He only receives some assistance sourcing infant fish from the government fisheries department. He truly is a self-made man.

Yet at a glance, at the roadside, Mr. Kamanga appears in tatters. His ragged attire suggests a typical image of poverty, not the expectedly grubby work attire or a successful horticulturalist and fish farmer who is putting his three children through private school. It is no small feat for a farmer in this region.

We spent an enthralled hour being guided around the operation before having to excuse ourselves and continue with our work for the day. After a long stint without posting to the Perspectives of Poverty project, ‘Bwana Somba’ reminded me of just how many inspirational surprises can be found amidst an environment commonly characterized as one of destitution and despair. Don’t let his torn shirt fool you.

 bwana somba and fish ponds - small

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