During the summer and fall of 2017, I am living and working just outside of Arusha, Tanzania, through the Human Needs and Global Resources Program (HNGR). My life here is centered around my large host family and my work is with ECHO East Africa, a Christian conservation agriculture organization that promotes sustainable agriculture practices among smallholder farmers.
When I wake up, I spend time preparing for the day and praying for what God lays on my heart. Then, I head out to the kitchen, a separate building from my bedroom, where I eat breakfast - chakula cha asubuhi in Swahili. Usually, this consists of eggs, bread, peanut butter, and milk tea (ditching my college coffee habit has been a challenge, but I'm learning to manage!). Then I am off to work, which is a fifteen-minute walk down the hill to ECHO's office and gardens. Some mornings are spent in the garden alongside my coworkers, turning compost piles, weeding rows of perennial vegetables, or planting tree seedlings. Other days, I am at local farms interviewing farmers and assessing levels of biodiversity in order to understand the impact of ecology on agriculture for the research project that my advisor from Wheaton and I co-designed.
At mid-day, I walk with my co-workers to a small food stall nearby for lunch. Back at the office, I work to tabulate the results from the morning's surveys and develop the marketing for ECHO's tree nursery. The workday ends with me heading back up the hill, often passing the same people on the road each day. After getting home, I change out of my dirty work clothes and study for my classes before dinner. Dinner is usually served after 8 pm, so it is pitch black outside by that point. Dinner typically is rice and beans with vegetables on the side (cooked amaranth or pumpkin leaves) and a couple pieces of fruit for dessert. After eating, I often linger at the dinner table chatting with my host siblings. Then, it's time for bed and preparing for the next day.
The opportunities that I have to live, work, research, and learn here in Tanzania through Wheaton are a huge blessing to me and are unique from anything I could have experienced while on campus. As I study biology and business for my interdisciplinary degree, I see my work here through those two lenses:
- assisting with streamlining the sales of trees from the tree nursery here, and
- understanding how native trees affect the biodiversity of farms and livelihoods of the people who rely on them.
I’m incredibly thankful for the faithfulness of Wheaton Fund supporters in who helped to make my experience here in Tanzania possible.
Sean Lyon ’18, biology and business major
Pictured: (top) Sean after climbing mount Kilimamoto with his host sister, and (bottom) the ECHO East Africa headquarters.