Dylan McDowell is a junior at Oregon State University, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife with a minor in Education. Dylan is studying abroad during the Fall term ’12 in Tanzania, Africa, with SIT Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology program. Below is a entry from Dylan’s blog reflecting on his experience in an unfamiliar, but amazing environment.
Halfway across the world in the mountains of Tanzania, the Mazumbai Tropical Forest takes me back to foggy hikes growing up in the temperate forests of Oregon. The fog turns to rain turns to brief sunshine all in the span of minutes, just like back home. While the feel is the same, a closer look shows the differences. The ferns here are raised on stocks, there are leaves more than 4 feet long, vines dangle from trees just asking to be climbed, and a sweet smell accompanies a walk through the forest. And, unlike Oregon, colobus monkeys move through the canopy riling up hornbills.
Our group sets up camp on the lawn of a Swiss chalet turned research station. Over the next few days we research plant variation both vertically and horizontally within the tropical forest as part of our studies. The real topic of discussion is the village below the forest and the issues surrounding their resource use.
The eastern face of the Western Usambara Mts. Have an astonishing growth rate of 4.2% per year without immigration, and the average number of children per women is 8! This rapidly increasing population is straining the forest resources of wood and water.
We drive into the village to chants of “Wazungu” (white person)from children chasing the car. In the village we break up into groups to discuss issues with the local people. I am astonished to discover many aren’t sure of their own age.
Spending time at Mazumbai showed me a unique view of Tanzania not normally seen by outsiders. In a country known for sprawling savannahs, this rare glimpse into a tropical forest and its people is what studying abroad is all about.