Joseph Shigulu, the program coordinator for World Renew’s local partner in Tanzania, the Sengerema Informal Sector Association (SISA), was one of the most dedicated and friendly Tanzanians I have ever met.
On November 30, 2013, Joseph was robbed and killed while driving home from work on his motorcycle. His sudden death came as a shock to his family, to everyone in his community, and to all of us at World Renew, who saw him as a man who was loved by everyone. Joseph was doing so much to help his community, had a passion for serving God, and seemed to be at the peak of his effectiveness. This was probably the hardest news we have ever received in our Tanzania country program, and World Renew and all of our partners are still in shock about this tragic loss.
In 1996, Joseph Shigulu was working in a small workshop in Sengerema, making equipment for hospitals and farmers. At the time, World Renew was partnering with the Lutheran church in Sengerema, supporting men and women who were trying to run small businesses by providing entrepreneurial training and helping them form savings groups to raise capital together. Joseph joined one of those groups and his leadership skills stood out immediately. Margaret Njuguna, a World Renew staff member, facilitated a trip to Kenya for him to learn from some entrepreneurs there who were recycling waste material into usable products, like kitchen knives or toys which could be sold in the market.
Joseph came back from that trip and immediately started to train people without incomes on how to do the same thing. He helped them form a group to start a business. This first learning trip was then followed with others which allowed him to bring back ideas for strengthening small businesses in Sengerema.
In 1999, World Renew was collaborating with Partners Worldwide to support entrepreneurs in Tanzania. Partners Worldwide’s president, Doug Seebeck, and two members of the organization’s network, Aud Shaap and Rod Huisken, met Joseph in his village during one of their project visits in east Africa. When they stepped away from that first encounter, they said, “Now, there is an entrepreneur!”
The meeting inspired these men to build a partnership around Joseph and his vision. The following year, Partners Worldwide facilitated a trip for Joseph to visit an organization in Kenya that provides savings and credit support to entrepreneurs. Joseph’s response was, “Ah, now I get it. I am going to go and organize a similar thing in Sengerema.”
Six months later, he had formed the Sengerema Informal Sector Association (SISA), an association of more than thirty groups of men and women entrepreneurs. These groups of carpenters, metal workers, and tailors had been working in dilapidated workshops or along the side of the road. Partners Worldwide was inspired to build a center so that twenty of these groups could have an improved place for production, and other groups could display and advertise their products. Joseph became one of the leaders of the center’s managing board, with World Renew’s staff advising them.
Sengerema Informal Sector Association (SISA) – entrepreneurs at the Center The project was warmly welcomed and supported by the local government as a way to strengthen the community. Thirteen years later, the entrepreneurship center, under the management of SISA’s board, is still going strong and being used by carpenters, metalworkers, and some technical training schools.
Since that time, World Renew has worked with SISA to support the groups and to build up the work of farmers and entrepreneurs in Sengerema, with Joseph as the program coordinator and leader. Over the years, Joseph’s leadership and teaching skills continued to grow as he got more involved in showing those around him ways to improve their businesses and their lives.
In 2010, Joseph envisioned further addressing some of the systemic causes of poverty and weak agricultural practices in the area through the partnership between SISA and World Renew. For three years, SISA used a small grant from World Renew to train farmers across Sengerema on how to get land titles for their farms and use better agricultural practices to improve their yields and income. This included food processing, introducing new crops like sunflower and sweet potato, and teaching collective marketing skills.
The project was more successful than Joseph and I ever dreamed possible! The success stemmed largely from Joseph’s passion for helping improve farmers’ lives, and his charisma with farmers and government leaders. More than 5,000 farmers from 32 villages (including 2,000 women) attended land-rights trainings. In addition, 1,500 of these farmers were trained in improved agricultural practices and have begun implementing what they learned.
All of the participants have reported an increase in their food security, with many doubling or even quadrupling their harvests. All 126 villages in the district have been surveyed and have received their land titles, and almost 4,000 farmers (including 1,500 women) have filed applications to get their individual plots surveyed in order to receive their titles. Already, 76 farmers have received their titles (including 26 women), and the rest are at various stages of the process.
SISA is producing a weekly radio program to broadcast information to farmers in Sengerema and much of northern Tanzania about the land rights acquisition process and improved agricultural practices. The district MP [Member of Parliament] has taken the issue of land titles to Parliament to push for more government backing and less waiting time through decentralization of the land-title process.
Because of these successes and his leadership skills, Joseph was recently chosen to manage a newly-constructed Business Development Training Center for entrepreneurs in Sengerema that was built with funding from the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).
In 2013, as the three-year program was wrapping up, World Renew worked with SISA to apply for funding from the Foods Resource Bank to expand the successes of the project to more communities across Sengerema. We had just finished the first quarter of the project, which started in July, when Joseph was killed. Other members of SISA’s board and staff are working hard now to step up and collectively try to carry on Joseph’s work, but they recognize it will be a challenge to find another leader of his caliber.
Please pray with me for Joseph’s wife and children and for SISA’s board and staff. I will never forget Joseph’s enthusiasm for learning new ideas and improving things he was doing, and his eagerness to give advice to help anyone he met. May his legacy live on.
by Chris Enns, World Renew Program Consultant, Tanzania
Foods Resource Bank’s Tanzania Sengerema Program is led by World Renew and local partner Sengerema Informal Sector Association (SISA).