Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is one of Africa's Great Lakes, and was named by the first European to discover the lake, John Hanning Speke, in honor of Queen Victoria of the U.K. Lake Victoria is Africa's largest lake, and crosses the borders of Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. The Tanzanian territory of Lake Victoria is located in the country's northwest region, where Compassion's ministry is primarily located in Mwanza and Shingaya - two of Tanzania's 30 regions. Many people in Mwanza, located along the shore of Lake Victoria, work in the fishing industry.

Tanzania Lake Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Christian, Muslim, indigenous beliefs

The Weather

  • Homes of poor families in this region are small, makeshift constructions that cannot hold up to the elements. Tanzania Woman and Children Outside Home
  • Children enjoy writing letters to their sponsors, sharing their gratitude and what’s going on in their lives. Tanzania Children Drawing Pictures
  • In Shinyanga, children spend many hours locating and collecting water for their families’ consumption. Often the only water they can find is from contaminated sources. Tanzania Women and Boy Gathering Water
  • Children eat nourishing porridge from cups at their Compassion center in Shinyanga. Tanzania Boys Drinking Out of Cups
  • The Compassion program’s curriculum, adapted to Tanzania’s context, gives center tutors the confidence that they are providing children the lessons they need the most. Tanzania Older Children in Class Listening
  • Many men in Mwanza work on the docks of Lake Victoria. However, their hard work earns only a meager wage. Tanzania Man Carrying Large Bags

Overview: Lake Region

Located on the southern coast of Lake Victoria, Shinyanga is the most populous city in Tanzania’s lake region. This region is covered primarily by forests and game reserves that are suitable for agriculture and livestock, with a few outlying areas that are rocky and mountainous.

The area’s main source of income is agriculture, including farming and livestock. Most of the country’s cotton is grown in the lake region, and other crops include sorghum, cassava, tobacco and peanuts. Apart from agriculture, gold and diamond mines are another major source of income.

Although most people in the lake region make their living as farmers, it is one of the driest areas in Tanzania. The groundwater is not fit for human consumption, and the government has begun efforts to supply Shinyanga with water from Lake Victoria.

The lake region of Tanzania is a mix of crowded dockyards and small farms. Like much of Tanzania though, it is plagued by drought, and more farms are failing, leaving families struggling to survive.

People living in towns like Shinyanga in the lake region are increasingly dependent on what is available at the local market for their daily food needs because they don’t own their own farms. Young men, like the ones pictured here buying bags of grain, try to sell their wares in the market, but few of their neighbors can afford the rising prices of even the most basic food items.


Culture Corner

Tanzania Culture


(fried bananas or plantains)

Prepare ndizi kaanga (fried bananas or plantains), a typical Tanzanian dish.


  • 8 whole plantains or green bananas, peeled
  • Lemon juice
  • Brown sugar (optional)
  • Butter, melted
  • Nutmeg


Melt butter in a frying pan. Cut and quarter the bananas or plantains.

Dip the banana pieces in lemon juice and place them in the buttered frying pan. Lightly brown, remove, and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with nutmeg and brown sugar, if desired. (Ndizi is typically not sweetened in Tanzania.)


Life in Tanzania's Lake Region

Crossing over the borders of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake. The Tanzanian portion of the lake lies in the country’s northwest, where Compassion’s ministry is found primarily in Mwanza and Shinyanga, two of Tanzania’s 30 regions.

Most poor families in Shinyanga work as small-scale farmers or livestock herders. About 60 percent of the country’s cotton is produced in this region. The region also leads the country in cattle raising. In Mwanza, located along the shore of Lake Victoria, many people work in the fishing industry. However, unemployment is high, and the average wage in these two regions does not exceed $20 per month.

The primary ethnic group in the Lake Region is Sukumu. The Sukumu people are known for their traditional drum music and dancing.

Children at Home

Children in Tanzania’s lake region come from nomadic families who move around frequently. Their homes are rudimentary huts or even temporary tents. At the child development centers, children — often for the first time — feel what it is like to have four sturdy walls and shelter from the elements. Partner churches in this region are, quite literally, a home away from home.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Tanzania

Every year, 60,000 people in Tanzania die from malaria. Eighty percent of these people are children younger than age 5. HIV and AIDS are also prevalent here, and when the government launched a testing campaign, nearly 6 percent of those who participated tested HIV-positive. The stigma surrounding AIDS is severe, and many people refuse treatment in order to keep their diagnosis secret.

Local Needs and Challenges

Children in Tanzania’s northwestern Lake Region face many daunting challenges. In Shinyanga, one of the country’s driest regions, access to water is limited. Children have to walk long distances to collect water, often from unsafe sources that lead to life-threatening illnesses. Malaria is also a threat to children in both Shinyanga and Mwanza, as is HIV/AIDS, estimated to affect 5.8 percent of Mwanza’s adult population. In addition, schools in these regions are typically overcrowded, and qualified teachers are few.


Schools and Education Education in Tanzania

The lake region has some of the poorest quality schools in the country. The number of children enrolled is low, despite the government’s efforts. The main reason for low enrollment and attendance is the nomadic lifestyle of those living here. Families move from place to place in search of grass for their livestock, and children cannot settle into a school routine. The few existing schools in the lake region are understaffed, as qualified teachers are hesitant to move to these remote areas where farmers and their families live.

In order to meet the demand of the number of children living here, an estimated 300 more schools would need to be built. Currently, the average class size is between 50 and 60 students.

One consequence of the lack of education here is a growing sense of superstition. Witchcraft is common, and human sacrifice is still practiced in some communities.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Child development centers in the lake region are a place of safety and security for registered children. While their parents spend their days harvesting and selling in the market, Compassion-assisted children attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies at the center. They also feel the love of sponsors, who help provide for their daily physical needs.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion and local churches partner together to rescue children from poverty. Because of its resources, cultural expertise and local knowledge, the church is in a unique and vital position to put in place Compassion’s holistic child development curriculum. Such curriculum focuses on children’s spiritual, physical, cognitive and emotional needs. Teachers use games, music, drama and other methods to share the gospel with children who are eager to learn about Christ’s life and love for them. Children also learn about hygiene, nutrition, leadership and other crucial lessons they share with their parents at home. Such interaction improves communication in families.

How Compassion Works in Tanzania Compassion in Tanzania

Compassion’s work in Tanzania began in 1999. Currently, more than 67,000 children participate in 269 child development centers.

Compassion partners with local churches, helping them provide Tanzanian children with a long-term program of physical, educational, social and spiritual development. Through this partnership between Compassion and local churches, children in need have the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and fulfill their potential in Christ.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

The Partnership Facilitator is the key link between Compassion and the local church. The facilitator shares Compassion’s vision with church partners and oversees its implementation at centers. Partnership Facilitator Godbless Mwanga, for example, strives to ensure a respectful and trusting relationship between the church and families so that all involved are blessed.

Godbless must travel 12 to 14 hours by bus, motorcycle taxi or car to reach some of the 12 centers he oversees, but he is passionate about children and eager to work to further Compassion’s mission. He frequently interacts with students, pastors and child-care workers to organize training, activities and meetings, as well as to solve various types of communication problems.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the problem of witchcraft that still lingers in this region.
  • Pray for the albinos, a minority group facing abuse and prejudice.
  • Pray for the church to be strong and face the challenges of Islam.
  • Pray for the church partners and child development center workers to serve the children of this region with love and compassion.