The Kujenga Collaborative is an international research-design-build organization. It works with the Olive Branch for Children (TOBFC), an NGO based in rural Tanzania and registered in Tanzania and Canada, to facilitate the construction of needed infrastructure and buildings that are in service of TOBFC’s goals of community-led rural development. Simultaneously, it serves as a platform for research into processes and materiality of rural design; the intersection of design and strategies for in-place rural development; design outreach and education; and techniques for local skill building.
The decline in commodity pricing and the increasing growth of urban labor markets in Tanzania have fueled Tanzanian rural-urban migration in the last two decades. In addition to being “pulled” by the promise of a better life and economic opportunities, many rural communities are “pushed” out of their homes by extreme economic hardship, lack of access to medical care or education at home, and environmental degradation. In turn, this rapid urbanization has had a familiar effect on Tanzania’s metropolises – it has intensified many of the infrastructural and socio-economic difficulties faced by the urban poor while also causing the dismantling of previously well-rooted communities and a homogenization of once diverse traditional cultural practices.
The Olive Branch for Children’s initiatives provide economic opportunity, needed education and health care, and hope for the residents of one of Tanzania’s poorest and most isolated regions. By working closely with many small, rural villages on a wide variety of initiatives, the organization promotes an improved quality of life that reduces the chance of residents being “pushed” to urbanize because they have no other choice. This strategy gives communities the opportunity to develop economically on their own terms while retaining important cultural, family and community bonds.
The Kujenga Collaborative is invested in exploring the architectural and design implications of this strategy. What is the meaning of rural design in the 21st century, when the conversation is dominated by globalization and urbanization? The Collaborative works through several intersecting avenues:
1. Designing and constructing needed buildings for TOBFC in a rural context
2. Creating construction skills training programs
3. Creating design outreach programs that engage community members and students in the design and development of existing communities
4. Researching and publishing on indigenous construction techniques, rural architecture, and the intersection of rural development and design
5. Educating and creating opportunity for cross-cultural dialogue with the engagement of students and young professionals through a fellowship program and other educational initiatives such as design studios and workshops.
6. Increasing the capacity of TOBFC’s communities to thrive in rural settings through off-grid sustainability projects