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Living ‘Below the Line’, Tanzania

It’s Live Below the Line time again, Oaktree foundation‘s fantastic initiative to help Aussies experience in a very small way what it’s like to live below the global poverty line: AUD2 a day.

When I quoted the AUD2 per day stat at a church in Adelaide before our departure a Kenyan friend said to me she cringed a little, because AUD2 goes a lot further in Kenya than it does in Australia.

So, what can you get for AUD2 per day per person in Tanzania?

live-below-the-line1We spend about AUD35 on food per week, which works out to about AUD2 per person if our family is 2.5 people. Except we also provide one meal every weekday for our house-help lady and our gardener (2 pieces of bread, a piece of fruit, a bit of cake and a boiled egg.) Plus we have to have extra food on hand for hospitality – very culturally important! So I reckon I’d call that under AUD2.

Here’s about what we get for that amount in a week:

From the markets:

15 tomatoes
15 onions
20 bananas
5 carrots
2 coconuts
1 small bag mchicha (like spinach)
2kg sugar
1kg potatoes
1 bottle honey
25 eggs
5 avocadoes
1 pkt spice/garlic/ginger
1kg dried beans

From a shop:

1/2kg peanut butter
1L oil
1/2L blue band
1pkt salt
1pkt baking powder
5kg flour
100 mL vinegar

From the western supermarket:

1 block cheese (very extravagant!)
1kg rice (we could get this cheaper from the market but it’s more work to prepare)
200g minced meat
1pkt Weetbix

From the milk lady:

7L milk

Sound like plenty? It is. We feel well provided for.

Let me put it in perspective.

This is just what we spend on food. There’s other money for transport, rent, utilities, phone, education,  tithing, even entertainment. Plus we employ two people. So what is life like for them?

Our house mama (the lady who cleans our house and does our washing) considers herself to have a good job. She works 5 morning a week and we pay her about AUD3.50 per morning, plus we give her a meal and pay her medical bills if she has them. She has food, shelter, basic health care, power, a couple of phones and plenty of clothes. Her own education has been limited but she can read and she recently got glasses. So by extreme poverty standards, she’s doing pretty well. She’s not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, (she’s even a long way from middle class, if there even is such a thing in Tanzania) but neither is she the poorest of Tanzanian people.

I’m no good at economics and the Live Below the Line people have explained how they got to the AUD2 figure. But here are my two conclusions:

1. Yes, AUD2 goes a lot further in Tanzania than it does in Australia if you take a straight exchange rate comparison.

2. But if you think about the experience rather than the amount, AUD2 in Australia will probably give you the equivalent experience of someone like our house-help.

Why not give it a go yourself or sponsor someone who is?


Categories: Tanzania Uncategorized Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

1 reply

  1. Hey Tamie,

    This was a question on my mind, so thanks for the detail! I had a feeling I was being ripped off :o) I’m doing LBL this week and I’m already learning a lot. Firstly, $10 doesn’t go very far. Secondly, when you have little money to spend the choices you make change. Thirdly, you treat food very preciously when you depend on it. Fourthly, we usually spend far too much on food. Fifthly, we’re so fortunate to have access to the flavours and varieties of food we do. And I could go on!

    This is what my $10 got me – Vic market, Aldi, and some other cheap shops…
    Pasta – $1.15
    Rice – $1.00
    Bread – $1.00
    Passata Sauce – $ 0.95
    Fruit and Veg (2 Apples, 2 carrots, 4 tomatoes, 1 eggplant) – $ 1.70
    Margerine – $ 0.99
    4 Potatoes – $ 0.80
    12 Eggs – $ 1.79

    Total – $ 9.38

    Together, three of us from Five Tuition have raised $1,070!

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