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Study Abroad: Sustainable Community Development in Tanzania

COVID-19 Update: Effective March 12, MSU has suspended all academic year 2019-20, spring 2020 and summer 2020 education abroad programs. The Summer 2020 SCDT Study Abroad has been cancelled.

Program Overview

The Sustainable Community Development in Tanzania (SCDT) education abroad program provides the opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to learn about sustainable development through hands-on practice. SCDT brings together students and faculty from four institutions, including Michigan State University (MSU), the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dar es Salaam College of Education (DUCE), and Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) every summer for a seven-week study abroad program. The program and the students – the Kolschowsky Scholars – are generously funded by Gerald A. and Karen A. Kolschowsky.

2018_Group Photo.jpgUndergraduate students learn about community development from faculty and participate in a collaborative research project using a community engagement approach.

Graduate students lead a team of undergraduate students in a collaborative research project with support from faculty from the four partner institutions.

All students will:

  • Have a community-engaged and cross-cultural learning experience
  • Study Swahili
  • Stay in the home of a Tanzanian family
  • Participate in a multi-disciplinary research teams
  • Work with Tanzanian faculty
  • Room with Tanzanian students


Schedule and Content

Students outdoors at MS-TCDC

During the first two weeks of the program, students from Michigan State travel together from the US to MS-TCDC, a training school in Arusha, Tanzania, to learn about approaches to development, the history of development in Tanzania, and to receive Swahili language training. This portion of the study abroad includes a homestay with a local family to orient students to Tanzanian culture.

Next, students move from MS-TCDC to Twiga Lodge in Mto wa Mbu and begin their projects in the nearby village of Naitolia, TPP’s partner community in the north of Tanzania. Here, undergraduate students from SUA and DUCE, as well as graduate students from UDSM join MSU undergraduate and graduate students to organize, manage, and complete sustainable community development projects. The students work in teams to design and carry out a research project. Project themes vary depending on the immediate needs of the community and the interests of the students. Since 2012, students have led over 50 community projects related to:


Education team poses with the teaching aids that they designedIn 2018, graduate student Pauline Wambua (MSU) led a team in exploring the challenges that pre-primary and primary teachers face running classroom activities, with a focus on the effect of teaching aids. The team observed and assessed the use of teaching aids during lessons on mathematics, geography, English, and science. A list of potential solutions to observed challenges and recommended additional teaching aids were shared with local teachers.

Water Quality and Access

Water team conducts surveysIn 2018, graduate student Rahim Sobo (UDSM) led a team in investigating water resource management issues with a focus on the role of women in Naitolia. The team explored local management practices, evaluated the performance, costs, and benefits of existing water sources, and suggested strategies for more equitable and sustainable water resource management.

Human Health

Students participate in a lesson on adolscent healthIn 2016, a team studied boys’ and girls’ understanding and perceptions surrounding adolescent health. The team focused on how parents and teachers educate students about menstruation. The group used their findings to create youth health lessons to teach sixth and seventh grade students at Naitolia Primary School. They also taught older girls how to make sanitary pads using locally available materials.

Agriculture and Food

Students build a kitchen gardenIn 2019, a team investigated food insecurity by researching the quantity and quality of food consumed in households. They also identified local staple foods and explored how age and gender affect food insecurity. To help promote the growth and consumption of leafy vegetables by community members, they helped create kitchen gardens in several households.

Economic Development

In 2018, graduate students Adam Lyman (MSU) and Jonathan Simon (UDSM) led a team to introduce an anaerobic digester that uses cow dung as a source of efficient and sustainable energy (biogas) for household use. They implemented the digesters and trained household members on proper use and maintenance. Students observed and evaluated community members’ use of the new digesters. The team also explored local challenges around the use and collection of firewood.Students and community members stand next to biodigester

Animal Health

Student interviews pastoralistIn 2016, a team conducted surveys and interviews with male and female pastoralists in Naitolia on their use of specific agricultural practices, their strategies to prevent livestock disease, and their perceptions of alternate sources of livelihood. The team also evaluated the use and barriers to use of the local cattle dip.


The SCDT Experience

Students in this program form international academic partnerships and friendships that continue long after the program ends. The SCDT program is designed to be a transformative experience for students while improving the wellbeing of a rural community in Tanzania. 

    2019 Group Photo2017 Group Photo

“This experience has been a dream come true for me. I’ve been able to grow exponentially as a student, worker, and as a person.” – Grant Keyvanmanesh, 2019

“We faced many challenges and overcame adversity every single day. I could not be happier about the outcome of our project; it was the most rewarding part of the study abroad. I was able to foster project management, communication, and data collection skills that will be extremely beneficial in my future educational work and career.” – Drew Frommelt, 2019

“It was such a riveting experience to share knowledge with the community, but also learn from them in the process.” – Holly Pummell, 2019

“This education abroad experience will forever be engraved into my heart. The amount of personal growth experienced is something I will take with me through the rest of my life. Whether it was through cultural classes, my homestay, working with the village, or interacting with Tanzanian students, I was constantly learning.” – Brittany Newfer, 2019

To learn more about SCDT, contact Jonathan Choti or the MSU Study Abroad Office.

SCDT Photos from 2013 to 2017

 Visit our flickr page for more photos!

Recent SCDT Videos


2018 Study Abroad


2018 Community Research Projects