Tanzania is a peaceful country. In spite of its ethnic variety there have been no violent ethnic conflicts since Tanzania became independent, thanks to the clever policy of the first president Julius Nyerere. Dodoma is Tanzania’s capital, but Dar es Salaam (Arabic: “House of Peace”) on the Indian Ocean is the country’s economic centre and the city with the largest population. The official language is Kisuaheli. It means “language of the coastal inhabitants”, for this language was initially spoken by the Arabic people on the Indian Ocean. During the 19th century it established itself as the language of the merchants.
Great Ruaha River and Udzungwa Mountains
Ifakara is situated on the 8th parallel, south of the equator, 420 km south-west of Dar es Salaam in the valley of the River Kilombero, on the southern edge of the Udzungwa Mountains. The River Kilombero is a tributary of the Rufiji, the second largest river in East Africa. In Mikumi on the state road Nr. 1 (called “Tanzam”) leading from Dar es Salaam to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, a road branches off to Ifakara in a south western direction. After 25km on good tarmac, the road is rough and bumpy over a distance of about 80 km. During the rainy season this part of the road is passable only with great difficulties, sometimes it is impassable at all.
Road near Ifakara in the rainy season
“Tazara”, a railway built in the 60ies with Chinese development aid, passes through Ifakara on its way from Dar es Salaam to Lusaka. The passenger trains are lovingly restored relics from communist times. They run three times a week, mostly with enormous delays.
Ifakara has an airstrip allowing small aeroplanes to start and land.
Ifakara mainstreet is now a tamac road
In the past years the town has grown rapidly. At the moment it has about 100.000 inhabitants. Its centre, called “Mainstreet”, is skirted by simple ground level houses interspersed with one-storey buildings from colonial times of the 30ies. Parallel to it, there is “Second Mainstreet” with rather primitive architecture. The major part of the town seems to disappear in the luxuriant green of the tropical vegetation, because houses and huts have been arranged in a very loose manner. Therefore it is very difficult to realistically estimate the true extent of the town.
St. Andrew Cathedral Ifakara
Except for a sugar factory, 50 km away, and two hydroelectric power plants, 60 km and 100 km away respectively, there is no industry at all. Tourism is still in its infancy. A small, but very nice national park has been established in the Udzungwa Mountains.
The “Ifakara Health Institute” (IHI), a research station founded by the Swiss Institute for Tropical Diseases, is a very important institution for Ifakara. Now it is in Tanzanian hands. Here, research is mainly done on Malaria and HIV. It cooperates very closely with St. Francis Hospital.
The Kilombero Valley has a tropical climate with a rainy season from December to May. The average amount of rain per year is 500mm up to 1800 mm. Day temperatures lie between 20 and 35 degrees Celsius with very high air – humidity. In the dry season from June to August the climate is very pleasant, even for Europeans.