City’s boost for field centre

The field centre in Tanzania.
The field centre in Tanzania.
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A field centre aimed at tackling poverty in East Africa has been opened following a fundraising campaign by generous supporters of the University of Sheffield.

More than £20, 000 was raised over a four-year period for the SIDshare/KEDA Alumni Field Centre in the village of Njia’panda in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania.

It will be used by Sheffield students visiting as part of their research projects, and there are also plans for education courses for people who live in the village.

Planning for the centre started in 2012 but the fundraising campaign started to gather pace after Dr Deborah Sporton, senior lecturer in the university’s department of geography, was introduced to a supporter of the University of Sheffield - Tanzanian-born Murt Merali.

Mr Merali donated £10, 500, the university’s Alumni Fund gave £10, 000, the department of geography handed over a small donation, and Tanzanian charity KEDA donated a plot of land. Building work started shortly afterwards.

Dr Sporton said: “We employed 50 people from the local area on the build and retained a couple of them who continue to work on-site alongside a cook, full-time manager, maintenance man, cleaner and another two cooks for when we have a field class visiting.

“All of the furniture, furnishings, murals and artwork were sourced locally. We commissioned 32 beds from a local carpenter, bought fabric for the curtains from the local market and we source food from local smallholders.”

SIDshare, a student-run social enterprise, is working with KEDA to run the facility.

A group of Sheffield students has already visited and has been engaging with the community on a number of local development schemes, including a bee-keeping project, which has seen training and equipment given to local people. There are also plans to run IT classes and workshops, plus a field class for alumni teachers in the future.