LETTERS

THE TANZAM RAILWAY AND THE WORLD BANK

Re the article by Mr J Roger Carter on the Tanzania-Zambia Railway in Bulletin No 40. As one closely involved with railway development in Tanzania between 1937 and 1961 I found two parts of particular interest.
First, I am amazed, though no figures are given in the article, that the railway has never achieved financial viability. Any railway carrying over one million tons of long-distance freight, not susceptible to competition by road, should have its finances on a sound basis. Rates would have to be equal to or less than rates on other routes with reasonably balanced traffic (say not more than 60% in one direction). Revenues should meet working expenditures, depreciation provision and reasonable loan charges.

Second, though I cannot speak for the World Bank, I doubt whether the statement that the Bank ‘certainly did not consider future prospects to be sufficiently bright to justify their financial involvement’ correctly represents the Bank’s attitude.

Early in 1967 the African Development Bank asked me to take part in the examination of a concept which had been put to it for a railway that could carry all Zambia’s export and import traffic. I took the view that providing a system of this capacity would be unnecessarily expensive and would be detrimental to Zambia’s long term interests which lay in using routes to the East and West coasts. I advised the Bank to consider a link carrying initially about 40% of the traffic.

A few days later I accompanied an ADB delegation to Washington to examine the possibility of both the ADB and the World Bank financing the project. Further invest investigations continued on two major points; whether Dar es Salaam Port could be adapted at reasonable cost to provide for the increased traffic and the method by which a sound road-bed could be secured at reasonable cost on a known section of unstable soil north-east of Makambako.

In June 1967 on a mission to Kenya (where the East African Railways had its headquarters) and Tanzania, we were made aware of the clear potential of the port. Though a visit was not made to the unstable section of the line it was my understanding that consultants were working for the banks on the problem. (Mr Carter’s article indicates that the problem has not yet been satisfactorily solved).

It was also my understanding that the final views of the two banks would be formulated shortly thereafter. Before any statement was issued by the banks, the Tanzanian Government announced that arrangements had been made for the Chinese authorities to finance and build the railway.
Sir James Farquharson

THE COFFEE SERVED AND THE BABY MILK PROBLEM

I attended, some time ago, the Britain-Tanzania seminar on health which found very interesting, enjoyable and varied. However, I feel I must write to say that I was appalled that we were served Nescafe coffee. The fact that we did not have Tanzanian coffee, as the person due to bring it was ill, is quite acceptable. What I found very hard to understand was how anyone involved with helping the Third World could support Nestle.

Nestle provide hospitals in the Third World with free baby milk. This is fed to the babies in hospital, which often results in their mothers’ milk drying up. Once they leave hospital, most of the babies are then bottle fed with feeds made up with unclean water in inadequately sterilized bottles. The feed is often over diluted to make it go further, if the mothers can afford 1 t at all. Such is the profit that Nestle make that they have no morals about the deaths that are caused due to infection or malnutrition. I am writing this letter because maybe there are other members of the Society who are unaware of the Nestle Boycott. I urge all your members to join the boycott of Nestle and all their subsidiaries. Further details can be obtained from the Baby Milk Action Campaign (BMAC), 23, St Andrewo s St. Cambridge CB2 3AX (Tel: 0223 464420),
Lyn Bliss

(In view of the interest this letter is likely to arouse and its controversial nature and to determine the extent to which the issue raised is relevant to Tanzania we called on two other readers to comment. Their letters follow – Editor)

It is Government policy in Tanzania to actively promote breast feeding and to discourage bottle feeding. In rural areas nearly all mothers breast feed. In urban areas most African mothers also start to breast feed but many return to paid employment at three months after delivery. They usually continue to breast feed when they are at home but the baby will need other foods while the mother is at work. The baby might receive baby milk, but fresh boiled cows milk is also often used though the latter is not ideal for young babies since the protein and salt content are too high. Introduction of other foods before four months of age is not recommended but many mothers do start to give Cerelac (a commercial baby cereal) or homemade porridge (usually based on maize flour with cows milk or ground peanuts) from about three months.

Tanzanians of Asian origin are more inclined to favour bottle feeding from birth but hospital staff try to discourage this.

The importation of baby milks into Tanzania is restricted and they are not supplied free to hospitals or mothers ….

To bottle feed a baby here is very expensive. To exclusively bottle feed a three month-old infant would cost Shs 90 000 per month. The minimum wage of Tanzanian workers is Shs 4,000 per month.

I am aware of the problems raised in the letter and have heard of its effects in many Third World countries but I think the situation is rather different here.
Prudence Eliapenda
Dar es Salaam

HOW DO PEOPLE IN THE THIRD WORLD DEFEND THEMSELVES?
Lyn Bliss has raised a very complex problem viz: How do people in the Third World defend themselves adequately from aggressive Western sales promotion? We in Britain are used to it. But people in the Third World are not.

The organisation Lyn mentions – the BMAC – provides some facts and figures to demonstrate that baby milk products may be marketed so aggressively that mothers are persuaded – even conned – into bottle feeding their newly born infants, particularly it seems, in those countries which have recently industrialised.

But our main concern is Tanzania. Does it happen there? There is no mention of Tanzania in the sorry catalogue of firms which have contravened the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Europe is top of this league table (135 contraventions described) followed by Asia (98) and the Americas (89). Africa has 70 contraventions listed, one of which is in East Africa (and that is not Nestle and not Tanzania) while 50 are in West Africa and 5 in South Africa.

The overall concern of the BMAC is that baby milk substitutes might be provided FREE to mothers in hospital so that breast feeding is never established. But, said one Tanzanian whom I consulted, “There wouldn’t be time”. In Tanzania some 85% of the population live in rural areas, and might, for a difficult delivery, be admitted to the district hospital or to the two or three maternity’ beds’ (ie: floor spaces) in their local health centre, but the pressure on beds is such that the mothers walk home with their babies the day after delivery. Neither could they buy baby milk once they return home. They couldn’t afford it.

Alas, babies and young children still die from diarrhoea. The infant mortality rate is 104 per 1000 live births, but this can be caused by poor hygiene rather than dirty bottles or infected water. Baby milk products are still needed in Tanzania eg: for orphan babies, for twins, for babies of malnourished mothers and other babies for whom wet-nurses cannot be found.

A boycott against only one firm seems very unfair; Ostermilk and other brands can be bought in Tanzania as well as Nestle products; and Nestle’s multi-national and multi-product firm includes Rowntree Mackintosh so it is chocolate and toffees, as well as instant coffee, that Lyn would wish us not to buy.

For myself, I would rather put my (limited) time and energy into a positive programme for health and nutrition education in the Third World. For instance, I would support the WHO’s suggestion of appointing an Ombudsman to arbitrate between opposing interests and also, where necessary, to draw the attention of health authorities to the problem. Fortunately, African mothers, being wiser than some of us, actually prefer breast-feeding.
Mary Boyd

ON THE EDGE OF A PRECIPICE
Re the article by Steve Vaux on sisal in Tanzania in Bulletin No 38 I would like to add that there is another important factor worth a mention: the use of a high-yielding hybrid (work initiated by George Doughty and continued by George Lock) at many estates at low to medium altitudes.

Unfortunately the use of this plant is not without problems. It 1s susceptible to Phytophthere nicotiana in wet conditions and must not be used in areas likely to be waterlogged for several weeks. More recently, there have been problems with rogue plants (some of these are another hybrid whilst others may have arisen from seeds); and the high yields are associated with high demands on soil fertility.
Although I join Steve in hoping that sisal will regain its place as the ‘white gold’ of Tanzania, I fear that the immediate future is not bright. A review published by Wigglesworth & Co Ltd in December 1991 said: ‘The sisal market, in many ways, is probably in its most precarious position for more than twenty years … the industry is on the edge of a precipice and, without outside assistance, a good part of it may topple over’.

The review attributes the problems to the worldwide recession after the Gulf War, the lack of funds in Eastern Europe for purchase of sisal fibre and the extremely low prices of Brazilian sisal. Some estates in Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar have been able to continue to sell at reasonable levels as they have built up a demand for their name mark but many large estates have not been able to do this. The review considers that support is required from Government and international bodies to avoid a dramatic reduction in the number of estates exporting fibre. The review concludes that ‘Action is necessary now to avoid this politically, socially and economically unacceptable situation:
John F Osborne

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