An African Hospital Garden

by Babette Gallard
(Arusha, Tanzania)

Hello Gardeners,

Most of what I have to say won't be relevant for your gardens, but I hope you'll find what I have to say interesting anyway.

For the past 18 months, I have been working as the Construction Project Manager for a 44-bed Maternity Centre in Arusha, Tanzania. In essence, I have done my job - the building is meeting the requirements set out by the commissioning team - but I have also been allowed to add three, fundamentally important items for its ecology and footprint.

In brief these are:

1. A solar system to replace the traditional mains supply with diesel generator back up when the supply is cut, which is frequent, can be anything up to 48 hours and causes power spikes that are critical for sensitive hospital equipment.

2. Replacement of the septic tank system with a biogas system that will not only absorb the waste, but also provide gas for the kitchens.

3. A rainwater catchment system that will utilize the abundant rainfall in the area, while reducing the risk of fluorosis in the children born at the hospital (studies have indicated that most people from Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Singida, Shinyanga, Mwanza and Mara regions drink water with fluoride levels well above the WHO drinking water quality guideline value of 1.5 mg-F/l).

The next stage in the project is to cultivate a garden in the 10 acre plot. A garden that will produce fruits and vegetables for the patients and staff, provide a model for women coming to the hospital, showing them how their garden can be fundamental component for the health of their family, enable the growth of indigenous and endangered species, and finally provide a shady sanctuary for women coming for the long-term care needed after fistula surgery.

All of this, my motivation, progress, failures, doubts and fears, are explained in my blog but of course a blog is nothing if no one reads it .... which I hope you will!!

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