About Farkwa

The village of Farkwa is located in central Tanzania, about three hours by rough road north of the official capital, Dodoma, and two hours south of the next town, Kondoa. The population is about 2000, made up mostly Sandawe people, but including people from neighbouring tribes such as Gogo, Barabaig and Maasai.

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The Sandawe people

The Sandawe are unique in Tanzania, as their language is unrelated to any other of the 120 languages spoken in the country. It is a click language, distantly related to that of the San (Bushman) people of southern Africa. The Sandawe believe that they migrated from South Africa in the distant past, but it possible that they are descendents of San people who may have inhabited a large part of sub-Saharan Africa but who were gradually pushed into the more inhospitable regions by the Bantu and Nilotic pastoralists and cultivators coming from the north and west. Cave paintings similar to those of the San in South Africa are dotted around the Kondoa region. It is believed these artworks were made by the ancestors of the Sandawe between 800 and 3000 years ago. The Sandawe population is about 70,000. They use Swahili to communicate with non-Sandawe people.


The Sandawe until about 100 years ago were hunters and gatherers, living amongst settled farmers and herdsmen. They are still renowned for their skills in finding and surviving on bush foods in drought times. They are now farmers, growing food mostly for their self-sufficiency, with occasionally some left over to sell. The main crops are sorghum, millet and cassava, supplemented with beans and various vegetables. Some people grow maize, which is preferred as a grain, but it is less reliable in bad years.

The climate at Farkwa is precarious. Rainfall varies from 250mm in a bad year to 1000mm in a good year. Sometimes there is too much rain, causing severe erosion and making roads impassable. During the dry season from May to November there is rarely any rain at all. Sowing crops starts early in the wet season so that there is enough time for growth and ripening. Often the rains come late, or there may be a lengthy dry period during the wet season, causing crops to fail. There is no irrigation. All cultivation is done with a hand hoe.

Wild animals take a proportion of the harvest. Farkwa is surrounded by bush, and many of the plots of farmland are a long way out in the bush. Wild pigs, baboons, porcupines and birds are most destructive. Crops have to be guarded as harvest time approaches to minimise losses. Elephants occasionally come.

Farmers usually keep some goats, pigs, poultry and occasionally cattle to supplement their diet. The Sandawe eat more meat than neighbouring tribes, a legacy of their hunting ancestry. Goats are housed at night to protect them from leopards and hyenas, and are taken out during the day to graze on the grass and browse on the shrubs. In the dry season they survive on fallen leaves and dead grass.

Community Life

Most of the people are Catholics. The church was established by Italian priests in the 1920’s, and is the main meeting place in Farkwa. There is also a small Muslim population but no mosque. The church runs a small hospital and dispensary and a kindergarten, and sometimes offers sewing classes. The primary and secondary schools provide education. World Vision has an office in Farkwa to assist the community with development needs, and there is a local government office.

There is a monthly market that brings buyers from large towns far away. Farkwa has a few small shops selling a limited selection of fruit and vegetables, drinks, biscuits, flour, sugar, kerosene and basic household hardware items. Clothes are made by local tailors. A guest house accommodates travellers. Daily buses, which carry goods as well as people, go to Dodoma and Kondoa where there are big markets and better services.


Houses are mostly made out of mud bricks and have a soil roof which must be replaced every five years. The roof is made by placing sticks close together, thatching with dry grass or crop stubble, and covering with soil. Some people plant couch grass on the roof to help stop the soil washing off. More affluent people build with concrete blocks and roofing iron. Houses are scattered among farmland, usually in family groups. Water is supplied by a community bore and is pumped to four locations around the village, where people come and pay by the bucketful which they carry back home. Water is used very sparingly. Hardly anyone can afford guttering or a rainwater tank.

The Future

Farkwa people face problems such as lack of adequate health and education facilities, food insecurity, no or insufficient cash income for basic necessities, and unreliable water supply. However it is a peaceful community where children are safe and valued and people are cheerful in a clean natural environment free of noise except for the occasional truck passing through. Life is gradually becoming better for Farkwa. The secondary school opened in 2005, a phone tower was erected in 2006, and low cost mosquito nets are available. Many families have members working in distant towns and cities, sending money back to their relatives. No tourists come but there is great potential, for people to appreciate a unique people, a beautiful environment, the cave paintings and wildlife at the nearby reserve.