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Tanzanian Engineer Keeps Skills Sharp Assisting Michigan Farmers as an Earth Team Volunteer

NRCS District Conservationist Edwin Martinez conducts a wetland determination assisted by Earth Team Volunteer Tula Ngasala near St. Johns, Mich. Ngasala, a Tanzanian engineer, assists the St. Johns Field Office one day a week.

NRCS District Conservationist Edwin Martinez conducts a wetland determination assisted by Earth Team Volunteer Tula Ngasala near St. Johns, Mich. Ngasala, a Tanzanian engineer, assists the St. Johns Field Office one day a week.

Tulakemelwa Ngasala is a Tanzanian civil and water resources engineer currently living in Michigan. While in the United States she is caring for her three young girls while her husband works toward his Ph.D. in geology at Michigan State University.

She is also an Earth Team volunteer. Earth Team is the name given to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) volunteers. Earth Team volunteers work side by side with NRCS employees on conservation projects to improve their local environment.

Tula, as her friends call her, says she is excited to volunteer with NRCS because the agency is involved in many of the same engineering and environmental practices she mastered to earn her college degree.

“I really love what I am doing volunteering with NRCS because I am helping people help the land. I also have a chance to learn new things compared to what I did back in Tanzania,” she said.

The 30-year-old engineer helps the NRCS St. Johns Field Office with many projects, including conducting site investigations and surveying and designing grass waterways, waste storage facilities and roof runoff outlets.

Juanita McCann, an NRCS field engineer, works with Ngasala. McCann said, “It’s incredible Tula spends the gas money and makes arrangements to work with us. The exchange in cultures is really neat and it is inspiring that she is so dedicated. Her background broadens our horizons and brings us a different perspective.”

McCann says Ngasala has been a very effective Earth Team volunteer. “Tula can engineer a roof runoff project or a cattle crossing on her own. Tula knows what to do and that’s a huge help to us,” said McCann.

Sometime in the next three years, Ngasala and her family expect to return home. She says she wants to help her country’s rural residents.

“There is a lack of educated people to tell Tanzanian farmers about conservation practices and how to protect the environment and their own health,” she said. “I want to go back and help them.”

She says her Earth Team experience will help her do just that.

In 2010, more than 32,000 Earth Team volunteers donated 641,549 hours of service to NRCS estimated to be worth $13.4 million. Since Earth Team was formed in 1985, over half a million volunteers have donated an estimated $327 million worth of time, in 2010 dollars, helping NRCS with its conservation mission.

Learn more about Earth Team.

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Check out other conservation stories on the USDA blog.

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