Today Zanzibar is a part of the country of Tanzania, but the island still retains remnants of its centuries of separation from the mainland. After hundreds of years apart, it’s been just 51 years since the island joined with Tanganyika, and this history still shows in the semi-autonomous governance of the island.

So when Tanzania decided to abolish school fees in 2002, offering its students a free primary school education, Zanzibar didn’t immediately follow suit. As of July 2015, however, Zanzibar’s children can look forward to a free primary and secondary school education.

Zanzibar has long emphasized the importance of education. Its first president after unification with Tanzania, Abeid Amani Karume, announced free education within months of his election.

Ali Mohamed Shein, Zanzibar presidentAli Mohamed Shein, Zanzibar’s current president, proposed the new plan

But over the decades, budget shortfalls made the program more and more difficult to maintain. By the late 1990s, parents were obligated to pay school fees for students of all ages, a move which has led to increasing absenteeism ever since.

In the last few years incomes on Zanzibar have risen substantially, as much as 38% per capita since 2010. This increasing prosperity has led to a more robust tax base, according to current president Ali Mohamed Shein. He plans to use these government windfalls to finance the new education program.

After the mainland made the switch to publically-financed education, the number of primary school students in the country more than doubled in just a decade. The Zanzibari government hopes to see similarly positive results from this new program.

Every tourist has heard the rule: only drink bottled water in foreign countries. That maxim is especially true for travelers in Tanzania, a still-developing nation where lack of infrastructure often means bottled water is the only safe drinking water.

But the reliance on bottled water comes with one significant drawback: huge amounts of plastic waste in a nation that is only now taking the first steps towards recycling.

One group, however, is turning trash into treasure for their community. Meeting Point Tanga (TICC), a community development organization with a particular focus on education, decided to build an internet café for students entirely out of discarded bottles.

bottle house tangaThe building in progress. Photo: TICC Meetingpoint Tanga

According to TICC director Rugh Nesje, the decision to build using bottles served two purposes: showcasing a better alternative to burning plastic waste, tossing it in dumps, or simply throwing it along the roadside (all of which are common practices in Tanzania); and creating a community space where students can gather safely outside of school hours.

The group used a total of 3,450 bottles of different sizes to create the structure. It’s a small dent in the worldwide issue of plastic waste—the US alone goes through a staggering 29 billion water bottles a year—but it’s a start in a country where thousands of bottles are used every day.

Best of all, the building has some structural advantages; the relative flexibility of the bottles means they can take heavier loads and withstand shocks more easily than rigid building materials like brick.

This low-cost project will have a huge impact on youth in the community, who will be able to freely access the internet outside of school hours, now. Hopefully it can also serve as a model throughout Tanzania, and the rest of the developing world.

Significant investment in agricultural education, followed by targeted micro-loans, is having a hugely positive effect on Tanzania’s agricultural sector, according to Robert Pascal, the head of agri-business for Tanzania’s National Microfinance Bank (NMB).

Operating primarily in parts of the country where farming is still the main source of income, the NMB currently has over 170 branch offices in 90 different regions nationwide. Thanks in part to a $588 million loan from the U.S., the bank has been able to issue micro-loans to over 261,000 farmers throughout Tanzania.

Before issuing these loans, however, the bank invests in a more far-reaching, structural fashion, providing educational opportunities on topics ranging from fertilizer benefits to improving overall farm efficiency. About 500,000 farmers nationwide have attended the seminars.

The seminars are helping spread best practices in a sector that still comprises some 30%+ of Tanzania’s GDP.

Currently just 16-17% of Tanzanian farmers employ basic fertilizers to improve crop yields, and 92% of farmers still rely on hand hoes to harvest their crops. Training on how to employ more modern technologies, followed by loans that allow the farmers to invest in them, have already been showing positive results.

The NMB has been working closely with agricultural research institutions and farm equipment suppliers to ensure the program is functioning smoothly from start to finish.

To date, the NMB has issued upwards of $150 million in targeted micro-loans at every level of the agricultural production chain.

“Substantial finance to agriculture, particularly in the latest and most relevant technology, is an important component in commercializing” the business, Pascal said. “The NMB will continue to support farmers to make farming a highly paying business.”

Too often, our idea of daily life in a developing country says more about us, the viewers, than it does about the individuals we’re looking at. Our preconceived notions make it hard to truly understand others’ experiences, the first, necessary step to helping them take positive steps forward.

The Disposable Project puts the power of that all-important first impression in the hands of the people best-equipped to tell their stories: the children of Tanzania.

Started by Raul Guerrero in 2011 in Moshi, Tanzania, the project began when Guerrero simply handed 100 disposable cameras to nine schoolchildren, asking them to document their daily experiences.

Guerrero went on to offer basic photography training to the students, teaching them not only how to frame a shot, but how to use the medium to tell a story.

Credit: The Disposable Project

Guerrero collected the images the children captured—a collective portrait of their community—in a book: The Disposable Project. Proceeds from its sale go to Born to Learn, a Moshi-based NGO that gets disadvantaged children off the streets and into classrooms. Though still small and locally focused, the group has big goals, including its own dedicated school that can take in many of the thousands upon thousands of Tanzanian children currently receiving little or no education.

The images in the book offer a fascinating glimpse into the day-to-day lives of this often overlooked population. Not only are the kids involved in the project gaining valuable skills that will help them have a brighter future, they’re sharing an intimate, revealing portrait of life on the fringes.

As part of ongoing efforts to improve worldwide health, in particular in poor and underserved areas, Global Handwashing Day was held on October 15th.

Tanzania was one of 100 countries worldwide to participate in the event, which aims to bring awareness to the necessity of this often neglected (or poorly understood), but highly effective practice in reducing the spread of disease.

Over 200 million people worldwide participated in events and education programs related to Global Handwashing Day.

Especially in poor areas where access to clean water and adequate sanitation may be limited, the importance of thorough handwashing with soap and water is critical. Studies have shown that even with unclean water, washing with soap greatly reduces the spread of illness. Studies have also shown that even in countries where the average standard of living is high, and the link between human feces and disease is well understood, individuals often neglect to wash their hands.

WaterAid (formerly WaterCan) was one of the most prominent NGOs participating in the worldwide event. The group, which focuses on improving access to clean water and safe sanitation worldwide, considers the event an integral part of their annual efforts.

Past efforts by WaterAid to draw attention to clean water issues and to raise funds to help improve access have included awareness walks, philanthropic gala events, and worldwide adventure trips that double as fundraisers (including a Kilimanjaro trek with Thomson Safaris).