Welcome everyone to Karagwe, a rural district located in the northwestern highlands of Tanzania between Lake Victoria, Uganda, and Rwanda. Karagwe's hills are covered in the banana and coffee trees that many of the region's small farmers rely on, and its valleys are filled with lakes and rivers. Kayanga, the capital of the region and where The Ota Initiative conducts its programs, is a rural town growing rapidly as improved roads and increased trade bring business to the area.
Karagwe is populated by Bantu people, the largest group of which are called the Wanyambo. The Wanyombo have strong cultural and linguistic ties with their Rwandan neighbors because both were part of the historic Karagwe Kingdom, which rose to power in the early 19th century and became an epicenter of trade in the Great Lakes Region. The kingdom's last ruler, Rumanyika, maintained strong political and cultural influence through the mid-20th century despite Germany's and then England's colonial rule in Tanzania. The region's shared historical bonds with Rwanda were strengthened in the 1990s when refugees of the Rwandan Genocide fled to Karagwe. The Wanyambo's tribal language, Kinyambo, is in many ways more simlilair to the Rwandan languages than Tanzanian ones, and it is not uncommon for elders in rural Karagwe to only speak Kinyambo. Even now, many children in Karagwe grow up speaking their tribal languages at home and begin to only truly learn Swahili - Tanzania's national language - when they enter school.
A majority of Karagwe's people are subsistence farmers living off of the bananas, potatoes, cassava, and millet they grow at home. Bananas are the most important of these crops, and a rapidly spreading blight that destroys entire banana tree fields is a growing concern in the region. Coffee is Karagwe's major commercial crop, but unfavorable international trade policies and foreign companies controlling the market mean the industry has not greatly contirbuted to the region's development. Karagwe's farmers often cannot afford to send their children on to secondary school, and attendance is not compulsary, so students often leave school after the 7th grade to help with thier family's farm.