geita, tanzania

 

In 1952 on a ship sailing from the UK to Cape Town through a Kenyan port, a passenger asked South African-born Ralph Kruger about Geita, Tanzania.  Mr. Kruger was believed to know a great deal about the entire continent of Africa, and he answered the fellow, “Geita is at the end of the earth, the last place God made, and everyone contemplating spending life there, is out of his mind.”

tanzaniamapgeita


Located 100 kilometers southwest of Mwanza, Geita town is the administrative center of the district that shares its name in the Mwanza Region of Tanzania.  Its population is estimated to be
over 120,000 people, though you’d never know by looking.  The district is home to some 800,000 Tanzanians, and rests just south of Lake Victoria.  The town is mostly surrounded by villages of the Sukuma, the largest people group in Tanzania, numbering an estimated 6 million.  They are mostly a hospitable and passive people, known for their drumming and dancing.  Many of the Sukuma keep cattle, while millet, sorghum, cassava, and maize are their staple crops — though cotton has entered the economy as a (rather unsuccessful) cash crop of late.

Before the Sukuma entered the Geita area in the 1940’s, it was inhabited almost solely by the Zinza and Rongo peoples.  The Rongo are responsible for the Geita moniker, though originally the name referred not to a town, but a particular cluster of hills in the area.  The Rongo were known as blacksmiths, smithies if you will, skilled in the metallurgical arts — and often travelled into the hills to mine ferrous rock.  Because of their poor mining methods, though, many of the craftsmen were buried alive in landslides.  The Rongo called the hills that regularly swallowed men Keita-Abhantu, which meant “the killing hills. Later it was shortened to Geita.

Geita first came into prominence in the colonial period as the site of a gold mine. Geita was not established as a town proper for another half-century.  In 1955, after the mining industry had already seen a great decline upon the ceding of lands to the British after World War I, a town was born.  Geita was not of much importance again until the late 1990’s when the Tanzanian government opened its gold industry to foreign investors.  Today Geita is home to the largest gold mine in Tanzania — a joint venture between South African and Ghanaian companies.  Already in this century, Geita has been outfitted with electricity and a paved road, as its population has more than doubled.

In addition to an influx of would-be employees, the gold mine has brought economic prosperity to Geita.  But with this prosperity has come problems.  For the first time, a large number of itinerant workers have disposable income and don’t know what to do with it.  Unfortunately in many cases, this leads to the abuse of alcohol and to prostitution.  The number of people in Geita with HIV/AIDS is estimated to be as high as 50%, while estimates in some of the district’s smaller mining and fishing camps reach numbers as high as 80%.

Geita is on the main road from Mwanza to Bukoba, which is a main port and entryway into Uganda and Rwanda.  The newly paved (and almost complete) road is not only making the drive more pleasant, but is greatly increasing Geita’s importance in Tanzania; it is also serving to sustain the steady stream of people into the town whose infrastructure is already having difficulties supporting its citizens. Geita town proper is a melting pot of Tanzanian ethnicities — many of whom have come in search of wealth, only to find long lines for what few jobs are available, and not enough water to go around.

geitatown

Christie and I visited Geita in 2005 as we were surveying possible locations for future work in the areas of church planting and sustainable development.  After being here only a short time, we were convinced this was the town to which God was calling us.
We believe he has placed us here to be a light in a dark place, and to reclaim for him a people that are his. We desperately want the people of Geita and its surrounding areas to know God as we know him.  We desire for them to experience life as it was meant to be lived, and to enjoy the God who created them for his own glory. Please pray for Geita, Tanzania.

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16 responses to “geita, tanzania

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  6. Kiril Kardashev

    Hi,

    I’m in desperate need of information.
    I’m planning expedition in the beginning of May 2011 and I must to find a place named Tshamgaera swamps or something like this. According to my map it must be near Kagunge village located not far from Geita. I will be very grateful if you help me with some information. The map I’m using is from 1895 and it’s possible the name Tshamgaera to not be in use…But any information about swampy area around Kagunge is highly appreciated.
    Thank you in advance!

    Best regards
    Kiril

    • kiril, i don’t know where kagunge is, but i’d be happy to ask around a bit. send me an email with more information, and i’ll see what i can find out. my email is harrisonsingeita[at]gmail[dot]com

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  8. Thank you for the work you are doing there. We have a church there called The Sign of the Dove Geita. We will be visiting the church this summer June 19-27. I would love to have an opportunity to connect with you all. Please email me at coryrat@gmail.com Would love to chat more. Bless you.

  9. susan

    Hey brett I came across your blog, wow what a great opportunity, I cant tell if your still there but how are things. I was in Mwanza Tanz. 7 years ago to volunteer at an orphanage, and my life was changed forever. I’m hoping to go back in Jan or Feb. Keep up the good work, you and your family are truly blessed.

  10. Pingback: rave run: the mountains of geita, tanzania | aliens and strangers

  11. Hello Brett, Are you and your family still living in Geita? I’d be very interested in talking to you about the area and its history. Daragh Moller

    • Daragh, yeah, we’re still here. I just don’t use the blog or check it very often. What’s up?

      • Daragh

        Thank you so much for replying. I’m researching the area and your’s was the only site I found with reference to the area in English.

        In the 1950s my grandpa ran a goldmine in Geita for his father who owned it, or a managing stake in it. The details are sketchy but what does survive is a letter from my father to my mother, from a visit he made to Geita circa 1952, describing the mine, the living conditions, the miners and their families. The details are fascinating especially as it seems as remote an existence as can be imaginable during that time. Until I read your description of the environment at Geita I didn’t fully grasp how tough a place it must have been for my grandpa let alone for the miners. My grandmother couldn’t tolerate Geita and returned to live in England. My father’s letter makes reference to a school that my grandpa established to help teach the children of the miners but he doesn’t elaborate. Anyone who knew of Geita in the family are now long dead; the letter only surfaced because we discovered a box in the attic. I never heard anything about it until I found the letter.

        I have no idea if it is remotely possible to research a story like my grandpas but I want to try. He loved working with the Africans, according to the letter. After Geita, he moved his family to Belfast which established the Irish connection; I was born in Dublin in 1963, and he g lived there until his death in 1975.

        It might be impossible to link the past with anything present but I thought you might be a person to ask. Your description of Geita on your website was inspiring!

        Thank you so much for reading my email.

        Yours,

        Daragh Moller

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

        • Daragh, can you write me at my email address. I don’t know really if there’s anything much I could do, but I don’t mind talking further. You can find my email address under “Our Contact” on the “Partners” page.

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