The Rev. Linus Buriani is not the sort of person who draws a lot of attention to himself. But during a weeklong visit to the diocese of Masasi by a delegation of volunteers and staff from the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the Anglican Church of Canada’s relief and development agency, he is a visible presence.
Serving as both interpreter and guide to the work the Anglican church is doing in southern Tanzania, Buriani has an affable, down-to-earth manner. He is possessed of an infectious sense of humour, constantly on display as he leads the delegation around the diocese of Masasi from May 13-20 to learn more about how it is implementing the All Mothers and Children Count (AMCC) project, now in its second year.
On long drives between villages with the delegation, he slips easily from explanations of Tanzania’s decentralized political structure to digressions on how previous PWRDF projects have impacted health care in the region, to anecdotes about his years as a project planner for the seminary he attended. (A passionate amateur musician, he spent his whole first paycheque on a sound system and subsisted on rice for the next two weeks.)
But behind Buriani’s easygoing banter is a serious work ethic. As an AMCC project staff person, he works six days a week, Monday to Saturday. On paper, this means 48 hours. But given that his work requires that he travel long distances on roads that are in poor repair, meeting with program beneficiaries, government workers and village councils across the diocese, it is not unusual for him to exceed this. On Sundays, he fulfills his obligations as a clergy person in the diocese.
Despite his relative youth, the 28-year-old Buriani has proved himself to be a dedicated and energetic development worker. The Rev. Geoffrey Monjesa, development officer for the diocese of Masasi, is preparing him to take over his role upon his retirement in 2020.
Buriani is part of a younger generation of Tanzanians who came of age after the economic turmoil that accompanied liberalization of the economy in the late 1980s, and the worst years of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and 1990s.
He grew up on a farm in the Masasi district and studied development in the capital, Dodoma. At 24, while still pursuing his degree, he was ordained a deacon and then a priest. After a stint working at a seminary in Rondo in the neighbouring Lindi Region, he was hired as assistant to Monjesa in the development office.
Buriani is optimistic about the future of his country, but he believes strongly that if his generation is to thrive, they need to take their future into their own hands. In a country with a population of 55 million (according to the United Nations), more than a third are under age 35, and according to Buriani and many of the other Tanzanians who spoke to members of the delegation, unemployment is a serious concern.
“I have to raise [their] awareness to use opportunities we have to create jobs,” he says. “We don’t have formal sectors to employ us, but we have different informal sectors that can be used to create more jobs in this country.”
A large part of Buriani’s work, both within the AMCC program and outside it, is cultivating a more entrepreneurial outlook among young Tanzanians. Given that the dream of many students is simply to land a government job when they finish university and draw a regular salary for the rest of their lives, this can be something of a challenge.
“This country is not a poor country, in terms of resources,” he explains. “We have big portions of land that are not being cultivated, so we can use the resources available to create jobs and think outside of the box.”
One of the practical ways he is doing this is by helping students set up community-based organizations, or CBOs, which use land donated by village leadership to set up small-scale farming operations to cultivate crops like peanuts.
“It started with coming together, talking together, and opening their minds to see other opportunities,” he said. “My role is just encouraging people.”