For the past ten days, SFS Tanzania has been out in the community collecting data for Directed Research projects. While some groups set out into the protected areas to study wildlife, or drove down the Tarmac road to study the roadkill upon it, I had the opportunity to visit ten different villages and collect data on the locals’ perceptions of wildlife and zoonotic diseases in the area.

Accompanied by five other students and three translators, an average of 24 interviews were conducted each day to gain as much knowledge as possible.

The first five days were spent in the highlands, in villages surrounding our camp. We spent several hours exploring these areas, hiking up and down rolling hills and walking through corn fields. Houses were found in the most scenic places, with views of Lake Manyara in the distance or seas of green spanning for miles.

Photo courtesy of Danielle Bettermann

Our last five days were spent in the lowlands, which were settled mainly by Maasai people. These flat lands were hotter and buzzing with many flies, but the people were welcoming to our presence and our 40-minute-long questionnaire.

Photo courtesy of Hayley Benson

Photo courtesy of Hayley Benson

In both areas, with a simple exchange of “Hodi” (a knock at the door) and “Karibu” (welcome), the residents of the home would start bringing out stools for us to sit on before we even explained our purpose.

Not only did we compile a study sample size of almost 250 individuals with plenty of information for our research, we also gained an incredible amount of knowledge for our own sake. The villagers gave us a sense of community, even though we are not a part of theirs, and an increased appreciation for the Tanzanian culture. They welcomed us without question or hesitation and were happy to spend an hour of their time with us.

This experience, along with what we have encountered since our arrival in Tanzania, has left us all with a lifelong admiration of the Tanzanian people, their lifestyles and their culture.

→ Wildlife Management Studies in Tanzania