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Tales from the trail

Welcome to Tales from the Trail, the official blog for the Tanzania Highland Challenge.

We followed a team of thirteen leading figures from the UK’s food industry as they took on the Tanzania Highland Challenge in support of Farm Africa. Covering 145km of the Tanzanian Highlands in just 6 days, the challenge pushed the team to their limits, climbing scarp slopes and extinct volcanoes, trekking through wild areas alongside wildlife. 

The team set off for Tanzania on Thursday 26 September and started the trek on Monday 30 September.

You can follow their progress throughout the whole challenge here. 

The trek was part of Farm Africa’s Food for Good initiative which is bringing together the food and hospitality industry to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems: hunger. All expenses - flights, hotels etc - have been met by the trekkers themselves, meaning that every penny went straight to Farm Africa.

Trek hits the headlines

9 October

The extraordinary success of the Tanzania trekkers has been showcased in The Grocer in a fantastic web article and photo gallery. Check it out for yourself.

Impressed? Then why not help the team reach their fundraising target through making a donation

"Why are the most rewarding things in life the most exhausting?"

6 October

Now that the team has had a chance to have a hot bath and sleep in a bed for the first time in days, here are some wonderful reflections from individuals on their experiences over the last week:

Written on Saturday evening, after completing trek...

"A week of extremes, whether terrain, temperature, wildlife or people. An arduous and tough experience that didn't come easily to any of us, but one that has created lifelong memories and ensured we worked hard for our sponsorship." Julian Marks

"A true adventure which pushed us all to our limits of endurance. Fine wit, repartee and superb camaraderie. Friends made and many fond memories. Amazing scenery, stunning views and wildlife out of Attenborough's coffee table books." Tony Baines

"It's been hard and a true challenge of grit, tenacity and endurance but in the end it was team spirit that pulled us together and helped us push forward. Congrats on a world first! It was a privilege to share this with all of you." Brad Hansen, guide

"A unique experience which made me realise how privileged we are to participate in a challenge that will make a real difference to Farm Africa project participants." - Steve McLean

"What a great cause, what a great experience, what a great country, what a great group of people - I couldn't have done it without you." Andrew cracknell

"A journey (a very long journey) of great contrasts. In scenery, in temperature, in wildlife and in people. The contrasts made the highs and lows more obvious but the biggest contrast was in living standards and there is much to do. Thank goodness for Farm Africa." - Steve Ellwood

"A great experience with a fantastic team of Trekkers supporting a really worthwhile cause, Farm Africa. All in all, an unforgettable trip." Charles Reed

"A great trek with a great bunch for a very worthwhile cause. Thanks to the team at farm africa for organising it."- Mark Williamson

"It's been extreme, it's been emotional!" - Richard Brasher

"Tougher than I ever imagined, great teamwork for us all to get there together." - Keith Packer

"Tough. Tougher than Kili last year." - Robert Lasseter

"An amazing tough and often breathtaking experience - a great team in which to have been a part. Warmest thanks to our guides Ake, Brad, godson and Ibrahim." Nigel Dunlop

"What a great week!" Richard Macdonald

"Why are the most rewarding things in life the most exhausting - simply amazing!" Andrew Thompson

And finally.....

"Happiness is a white porridge day!" Andrew Thompson


One last hurdle on the way to the airport...

6 October

Flat tyre

They did it! Team arrives shattered but elated at shores of Lake Natron

5 October

"Having stuck closely together through the whole trip, we crossed the shore line all together, surrounded by flamingoes, wildebeest, camels (surreal) and a cobra! From Lake Eyasi to Lake Natron in 6 days - done!"

The team gather on the shores of Lake Natron to celebrate a huge achievement

This is the moment that the trekkers celebrated completing their punishing 6 day trek across the Highlands of Tanzania.

After another exhausting trek of 6 hours 40 minutes from the top of the scarp, the team arrived today (Saturday) at 2.10pm, exhausted but elated at the shores of Lake Natron.

The word 'awesome'can sometimes be overused. But anyone reading Farm Africa Chairman Richard Macdonald's tribute to his fellow trekkers below will be left in no doubt that this has been at once both a punishing and truly awesome experience.

And thanks to all the sponsorship for the trek, combined with the totals from the Dig for Good and Chef Kilimanjaro Challenges, Food for Good has now raised over £427,000. A huge achievement for the UK food and hospitality sectors and which will, in Richard's words "make a real and long term difference to many people in eastern Africa as all the team will verify."

And after time to gather his thoughts and reflect on "one of the most memorable weeks of my life", here's how team leader Richard Macdonald described the team's outstanding achievement:


We've done it!

Fantastic news, at 2.10pm today (Saturday), we arrived on the shores of Lake Natron after a 6hour, 40 minutes walk from the top of the scarp slope. Everybody is excited, emotional, relieved and, above all, completely knackered. It's been an amazing adventure.

Last night having arrived in camp at dusk, we had to wait around for the crew to set up camp after they'd taken all day to drive to meet us, in itself a heck of a feat. Camp was particularly basic and the main features of the night were a constant strong wind and lava dust blowing into every conceivable corner of one's body and tent. Not much sleep!

This morning we headed off at 7.30 for a gentle stroll for 2 hours across high plains and then came the descent of the scarp - donkeys, goats and Masai might find it easy but for us and our tired bodies a 2500 foot descent down a slippery, narrow, rocky track was excruciatingly difficult. Steve referred to it as abseiling! At the bottom we thought we'd finished, only to find we had another 2 hour walk across the lava plain to the lake. Similar to walking on a black beach in 35 degree heat.

Having stuck closely together through the whole trip, we crossed the shore line all together, surrounded by flamingoes, wildebeest, camels (surreal) and a cobra! From Lake Eyasi to Lake Natron in 6 days - done!

Day 6 Map
And now we've retired, completely shattered, to Ake our guide's new camp. Maybe a celebration beer or two tonight and then a 7 hour bumpy journey tomorrow to Arusha with a 5am kick off.

So, now for some reflections. It's been everything I had hoped for and much more. And I think and hope everybody has had a truly memorable week.

Physically, I said to everybody beforehand that it would be tough. I think everybody would say it has been very, very, very tough! We have walked around 150 km, climbed over 4500 metres and ascended much the same - and those figures are probably conservative. Most of this has been done at over 2500metres above sea level - high enough to make you gasp. Underfoot it's been rocky, sandy, thorny, or thick tussock grass. Every metre seems to have required a lot of effort. We've been carrying 7 or 8 kilos on our backs and if you don't think that's enough, it's been hot, sometimes searingly hot, and most of the time, windy and dusty too. Physically it's probably the toughest thing I've ever done, including Kilimanjaro.

However, more things than I can properly recount, have made this one of the most memorable weeks of my life. Firstly, two super days at Farm Africa projects, where we saw firsthand the wonderful work that Farm Africa does in changing the lives of extremely poor African smallholders. I think everybody was impressed and taken with what the charity is doing and I hope it's fair to say  that a previous general support from all the team has now turned into a strong emotional recognition and support.

Second, we have walked across a landscape that I would challenge anybody to better. From low arid woodlands and soda lakes to high grass plains to volcanic craters, high mountains, an active volcano and I could go on and on. Everyday and often every hour has thrown up something different. And we've also seen firsthand the lives of nomadic Masai people, not to mention a sprinkling of wildlife. Scenically it's been breathtaking.

Thirdly, we have been supported by a crew second to none. Led by Ake - strong, very assuring, immensely likeable and always underestimating times and distances, and Brad - a young South African (slightly overweight at the start, but not now) bull with a fantastic knowledge of Africa and an endless line in good craic. Really, really good guys. And their support crew of Trekkers, drivers, cooks, and various others, have worked all hours to make sure that when we weren't walking we were well looked after and prepared for the next day. Ake, Brad and godson have walked all the way with us and you have to understand the true wilderness that we've walked through to understand the scale of the job they've done to get us to and from our camps. We've only seen one road in 150km!

Fourthly, can I thank all of our sponsors, corporate and personal, friends and family for supporting us. As of a couple of days ago, Food for Good has raised an amazing £427,000. I promise you we have worked our proverbials off to merit your support! But none the less, a huge thank you to all concerned. The money you have donated will make a real and long term difference to many people in eastern Africa, as all the team will verify.

And lastly, the trekking team. Some of us knew each other before, some of us had gone up Kili and our common background is food and farming. I had a nervousness before that someone might not like someone else, or that the trip would be too much or too little for some. However I can say without reservation that we have had the most fantastic group of people and I could not have wanted for a better gang to share this quite unique experience. We are the first people ever to do this route, and I couldn't have picked a better group to do it with. Some have been quieter, some louder, some fitter, just about everyone carrying injuries or ailments, but the team spirit has been outstanding, the banter great and we've had a true sense of making sure everyone completed this. I have a particular admiration for the blister gang - Andrew Cracknell and Cathy, leading the wounded by some way. Anyway, to all of you, my fellow Trekkers, thank you so much for joining me - apologies if I conned you into something you thought was a bit easier, but I hope you too feel the same way about the experience, your fellow trekkers and the sense of achievement that I do.

So, a massive thank you to one and all. And for those of you who've been here, I hope you now share the strong sense of attachment I have to this part of Africa and its people.

So, where are we going next?....



Tales from tent 10

4 October

map of the route for day 4 of the Tanzania Highland Challenge

Photo: map of the route for day 4 of the Tanzania Highland Challenge

Well over half way now through the trek and the team have taken a little time time away from the trail to learn something about the communities whose land they are passing through. They have visited a local Masai school and also had a rare glimpse into Masai life thanks to a visit to the family home of Ibrahim, one of the team's young guides.

Having retreated to his tent at 8.30pm on Thursday night, Andrew Thompson takes up the story.

"It's 8.15pm on Thursday and everyone agrees its time for bed. The wind whistles around the campsite and the stars put on a stunning glittering show. I sit in tent 10 and contemplate what has been an amazing experience. Tanzania has not disappointed and everyday provided a wonderful array of sights, sounds and even I'm afraid smells (I have never seen so much animal poo in all my life)

I feel very humble having seen the Farm Africa projects which are using the money you have so kindly donated going towards a great sustainable cause. I've got a bag full of honey and sesame moisturising oil to prove it.

But let me quickly backtrack. With our Thursday trek having finished mercifully early, we were able to visit the local Masai school and a local boma (Masai homestead) which were both fascinating but sobering experiences. In the wilds of a mountain escarpment, 9000 feet up, the school educates children who have to walk up to 10 km just to get a lesson. And it was clear that the 7 teachers did a great job in the most challenging circumstances. We were also privileged to visit the extended family of one of our younger guides Ibrahim. They live in a collection of small mud huts with wooden corrals to keep the animals safe at night. The Masai have been so friendly and welcoming throughout our trip and their smiles will be a lasting memory. Ibrahim's father has 4 wives, 2 in this settlement and 2 further down the valley by lake Natron. We are told this is possible given the size of his cattle herd, although Andrew cracknell failed to mention the 20000 head of prime beef under his control!

At dinner Ake [guide] briefs us on the day ahead, where we will be taking it easy! A small matter of 28 km where we should expect a howling gale, rain and searing heat later. He also lists the kit required which would need an adult donkey to carry! Now let's see if Ake's version of Friday comes true... Over to you Nigel!"

Nigel Dunlop now takes up the story of how the team fared on their 28 kilometres trek on Friday.

The longest day, by Nigel Dunlop

We were awoken at 6am as normal, having slept through our worst night so far due to gale force winds on a mountain top at just over 9000 feet. After breakfast and an over subscribed foot clinic to repair ever deteriorating feet, including my own, we filled our water bottles and rations in preparations for what was to be the longest trek so far on our journey to lake Natron.

Climbing intially to a height of just over 10000 feet, the highest point of the trek, and with some undoubted effects of climbing at altitude, we first passed a small volcanic crater called 'cam nanna'. Our Masai guide informed us that this name has no meaning but is rather an exclamation due to the crater now being totally dry when for years it was filled with water all year round. The result perhaps of climate change or climate disruption and a reminder of the fragility of this landscape.

As we began our long descent we caught sight of Africa's only remaining active volcano - aldenai lengai. This last erupted in 2007/8 and is the cause of the wide dispersal of volcanic dust over millions of years and which now covers the Serengeti plains making them the fertile landscape which attracts so much wildlife and is the cause of the world renowned migration.

To the right of lengai we glimpsed the summit of Kilimanjaro - a poignant moment for many of us who had stood there exactly 2 years and 3 days ago today. The views on our descent were simply spectacular and someone was heard to say it was hard to imagine a better view in the whole world.

The descent however took us through an intensely hot valley deep in caustic volcanic ash, which tested everyone to their limits before we finally reached the Serengeti plains.

After the longest trek of the challenge, and after walking for almost 12 hours and descending from 10000 to 1300 feet, and covering a distance of over 34 km we finally made camp as darkness was falling. One feature of arriving in camp is to find out where your tent has been placed. The prime location is central and closest to the mess tent. To be placed on the outer extremities, closest to the threat of wildlife and the long drop, clearly has certain disadvantages (although not necessarily so in the case of the long drop).

For some reason on each night of trek so far I have found my tent in this regrettable position! Am I missing something?!

Although tired, grimy and sore, we have shared a wonderful experience together and the trekking and support teams have simply been outstanding. We can genuinely see the benefits of what Farm Africa can bring to this great continent and for all the support of our families, friends and colleagues we are eternally grateful.


Snaps from the Trail

4 October

Check out our gallery of the trekkers trudging across the Tanzania Highlands. The team are doing a spectacular job of taking on this huge challenge!

With just a few days left to go, why not give the team a boost and help them reach their fundraising target through making a donation

"Nothing could have prepared me for walking 10 hours a day through rainforest, desert and grasslands"

3 October

The team began day four of their fundraising trek across Tanzania’s Highlands surrounded by heavy dew and the coldest temperature so far, around 2 or 3 degrees celsius. Yesterday they were walking through rainforest along a path circling the Ngorongoro crater with the ever present threat of elephants or buffalo crashing through the foliage. Today they walked across tussock grass plains with the hot valley stretching out into the distance below.

Their guide Ake has earned the nickname ‘The Underestimator’, so at their briefing over a breakfast of millet porridge the team are sceptical when they hear that "it's definitely less than 25 km..."

Keith Packer, Chief Executive Officer at Typhoo Tea sent us this report:

“Spirits are always high at the start of the day as we set out after a night's broken sleep and today they were enriched by a mesmerising encounter with a herd of zebra, who came to within 20 metres of us.

When I volunteered to join the Farm Africa Tanzania Highland Challenge I knew that my level of fitness was good as I regularly run half marathons (I had just completed the Great North Run for Farm Africa).

But nothing could have prepared me for walking over 10 hours a day through varying habitats, from rainforest to desert, from thorny scrub to grasslands. At the end of the day our legs and backs ache and injuries need to be attended to.

It has been a pleasure to tackle this challenge with the team, we have all made new friends as well as helping a great cause. Thank you to everyone that has supported and sponsored the Farm Africa team and I, you are making a difference to people's lives in Africa.”

Tony Baines, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi, also mentioned the amazing wildlife they have seen in his message:

“This is a true adventure which will be difficult to explain when we get home but it's a real privilege to witness wildlife at amazingly close quarters in its own habitat, away from the tourist Land Rovers and to see Africa from an angle which is not available to most people.

Eventually we arrived at camp, relatively early this time, on the edge of a Maasai village at 2700m. The sound of children playing at the school could be anywhere in the world with your eyes shut, but when your eyes are open the desolate beauty of this place is quite stunning - the sun is very strong but the wind is blowing hard and it's going to be freezing tonight.

Many thanks to everyone who generously sponsored me and the team so that Farm Africa can continue to make a difference to the lives of people in this part of the world.”

The team have already raised an incredible £431,936 through the trek. Why not help them hit their target of £500,000? Every penny goes to support Farm Africa’s work.

PS The trekkers have been experiencing very patchy telephone signal and asked us to add a note here so that their relatives don't worry if they don't reply to a message.


This is Tough

2 October 

Photo: The team trekking in the blazing heat on Day 3 of the Tanzania Highland Challenge

The team have now successfully completed day 3, covering 24km of this enormous challenge but not without its costs. The signs of wear and tear are now fully visible with blisters and exhaustion ripe across the team. Blister surgery after breakfast with Julian Marks has become incredibly popular, and his needle and thread technique has successfully removed some, but not all, of the pain.

The trekkers arrived at camp at 4pm, some 3 hours after schedule. They are finding the challenge incredibly tough. Far tougher than any of them anticipated. Far tougher than Kilimanjaro for some.

Reflecting on today’s trek Richard Brasher, the Chief Executive Officer at South African based company Pick n Pay, said:

 “This isn't one of those challenges that sounds harder than it is. It is the complete opposite and justifies any sponsorship that has been generously made to the team.

The days have been hot and we have climbed and walked above 2000m carrying 4lts of water which was a delight that many of us hadn't banked on.

As I was quietly feeling rather sorry for myself I came across a Masai lady who was carrying fire wood on her head which, at a conservative estimate, was more than carrying me and my pack. It put this trip into perspective.

Despite the trauma of experiencing the reality of being properly exhausted at the end of each day, it has been a privilege to walk in the footsteps of early man and the Masai tribesman, to see the Serengeti planes meet the Ngorongoro crater and to see life at its most simple.

My thanks go to Farm Africa, our camp team, rangers and not forgetting our amazing guides whose sense of direction is uncanny but whose idea of distance in often disappointing!”

Dorset's NFU Chairman Robert Lasseter reiterated a similar sentiment:

“This is tough. A routine is developing. The day starts with a pre breakfast blister clinic.  Julian is proving popular with his long needle and the price of Compeed is rising.  We then fuel up on a big breakfast, and set off at 7.30am. We set off in thick mist, through dense forest, with buffalo, elephant and baboon poo littering the animal tracks we follow.

Three hours later we hit the ridge, and slowly the mist begins to clear and we start to see the crater of the Ngorongoro, 20km across. It's a vast caldera, teeming with 20,000 head of big 'game', 600m below us. This is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and it is breathtaking. The prevailing wind is from the east so the western slopes pick up the cooling air which shrouds the slopes in mist resulting in the tangled forest of vegetation we walk through.”

Later we cross a wide plain of tussock grass, which is a great deal easier than the knee high thorns we encountered on the first day, which bought a new meaning to the phrase "Acacia Avenue."

To be the first group to walk through this ancient vulnerable landscape, is undoubtedly a huge privilege, but with it comes significant pain.  Be under no illusion this is tough, and without our great support team, not doable. If we make it, it will be an achievement worthy of your support.”


Photo: The trekkers crashed out and feeling the heat after walking 24km on Day 3 

Despite the aches and pains the trekkers are still eager to engage and learn about the lifestyle and culture around them. Reflecting on his experience so far, Robert spoke about what he has learned of the Masai culture:

“At supper Professor Sidole, a well respected Masai Elder in full regalia of earrings, bracelets and obligatory blanket, discussed the challenges of retaining the Masai culture of keeping cattle, eating only meat and growing no crops.

Their population has swollen from from 5,000 in 1960 to 70,000 today, just within the crater.  With more people come more cattle, and with more cattle comes overgrazing, threatening the wildlife and the whole ecosystem on the incredibly beautiful, but vulnerable landscape.”

The team are not ready to be defeated by this challenge just yet. They will be up early again tomorrow to continue the job.  

Why not give them a boost and help them reach their fundraising target by making a donation

The Grocer reports the Tanzania Highland Challenge

2 October 

The Tanzania Highland Challenge's efforts to raise money for Food for Good is turning heads throughout the UK's food industry.

You can read an article published today in The Grocer which highlights the extraordinary lengths the team are going to to raise funds for the Food for Good campaign. 

"Far harder than Kilimanjaro"

1 October

The team clocking up a whopping 30km walk on day 2 of the trek

Photo: the team clocking up an impressive 30 km on day 2 of their Tanzania Highland Challenge.

It's the end of day 2 of the Tanzania Highland Challenge and the team staggered into camp for the night "utterly exhausted, but exhilirated".

And as the boots were peeled off, blisters were popping up everywhere. Hardly surprising really as the team covered 30 kilometres over 11 exhausting and gruelling hours today, the furthest they will have to walk on any individual day of the trek.

For the second day running they have walked through awe-inspiring landscape, spotting herds of giraffe, zebra and Thomson gazelle. 

But they are all agreed that the sheer physical effort required to trek uphill over such vast distances in the searing temperatures is far more demanding than anything they have done before. Seven members of the thirteen strong team climbed Mount Kilimanjaro two years ago for Farm Africa, and they are all agreed that the Tanzania Highland Challenge is an altogether tougher challenge.

"It's far harder than climbing Kilimanjaro, and far harder, I think, than any of us could have imagined" observed Charles Reed of William Reed Business Media as the team rested at their camp after sun down.

"We're all completely exhausted, and blisters abound. But we've got through an incredibly tough day and spirits are high now that we are back in camp."

"Today was the toughest day I've ever experienced"

30 September

Today was the day our intrepid team of trekkers have been preparing for – the start of their 145km journey across Tanzania's Highlands. They kicked off a gruelling day of walking by heading to the shores of Lake Eyasi on the edge of the Nogorogoro Plateau, facing a climb of 1,300 metres over 21 kilometres.

Making headway on the first day of the trek

Andrew Cracknell, Commercial Director at Anglo Beef Processors, told us about an extraordinary encounter the group had as they began their trek:

“As we walked through the bush we met some Hasabe tribesmen preparing to go hunting armed with spear and bow and arrow and wearing animal skins across their shoulders. They were very proud and very friendly - two warriors guided us up the rift."

Steve McClean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries at Marks and Spencer, added:

"The Hasabe tribesmen showed us how to make fire and explained a little about their lifestyle. Reflecting on the differences between their nomadic existence and our Western culture, the values we westerners place on non-essentials seems so out of place in this society.”

Huts of Hasabu tribesmen

The team are a world away from their daily lives back home in the UK, something which was underlined during today's trek as the team passed giraffes, zebras and eland (a species of antelope).

But this is no safari, the Food for Good trekkers are giving it their all to raise money for Farm Africa's work, as Steve explained:

“We started our climb and soon the worst fears I had were realised - today has been the toughest day I've ever experienced. If you haven't already sponsored us, please do so as this is a true extreme challenge. Farm Africa does make such huge differences to the lives of some of the poorest of poor and more importantly, the lives of their dependents.

“Getting to the top of the first major climb gave us all a feeling of achievement - though many miles still lay ahead of us! We finally got into camp as darkness was falling and are now sitting in the camp site with possibly the best view in the world. I'm fortunate to be able to participate in this fantastic challenge, I want to thank my wife Bec and children Lauren and Jack who supported me.”

And Andrew Cracknell confirmed just how hard day 1 of Tanzania Highland Challenge" had been:

"The terrain up here is tough. There are lots of very sharp and strong thorns and those of us who wore shorts have had our legs shredded. It started to cool down later in the afternoon and gave me my second wind. We reached our camp at 6 o clock, 9hrs after leaving. Its been a hard day but spirits are good to get going."

Day 1 of the trek

As the team sit around the campfire and reflect on their amazing and exhausting first day, why not help them reach their fundraising target by making a donation?


The eve of trek

29 September

Waking up at the crack of dawn, the Tanzania Highland trekkers hit the road to visit one last Farm Africa project ahead of their enormous challenge – this time a sesame seed cooperative.

Despite a broken down vehicle and a lost watch (unlucky Steve Ellwood), the group made it to the project on time.  

As sesame can be worth more than twice the price of other crops, such as maize, it can really drive change within African farmers’ lives. This was clear to the team who were most impressed by the project and commented on the members high levels of professionalism and enthusiasm.

Photo: The trekkers visiting Farm Africa's sesame seed project

Non-executive director Steve Ellwood described his experience of the sesame project visit:

“We enjoyed an hour or so in the Farm Africa funded store, hearing how the use of new varieties not home grown seed had increased yields significantly. The ability to store the crop and market together is a classic cooperative model and it has delivered very tangible benefits to members with many being able to construct concrete and iron (tin roofed) homes to replace the traditional houses made from sticks and mud. There are now 4000 acres grown and 900 plus farmers involved. Well done Farm Africa, a fantastic example of what a little seed corn capital and know how on the ground can do”.

Following their visit the team stopped by the Ngorongoro visitor centre to catch a glimpse of a detailed scale model of the trek route. Buzzing with excitement and nerves, they then made their way to Lake Eyasi where they set up camp and prepared for the final night before trek.

Photo: The trekkers checking out the scale model of the challenge ahead

Last night it had been the sound of hyenas that had stirred the group, but tonight it will undoubtedly be the thought of what lies ahead. It is no easy feat and will be tough from the start, involving a 1,000 metre climb to the top of the scarp on day one alone.

The realisation for Steve Ellwood came during the trip to the visitor centre:

“Having heard that Mary Leakey had found footprints of very early pre human trekkers close by the cradle of civilisation, this was quickly followed by the dawn of realisation as we began to appreciate just what a challenge we had taken on!”

Yet we have every confidence that this team of intrepid trekkers will rise to the challenge ahead.

Photo: The trekkers on the eve of the trek

As the team bed down for the final night before trek, why not give the team some extra encouragement by making a donation?

In the thick of it: meeting beekeepers and mushroom farmers

28 September

Before they hit the trail proper, the Tanzania trekkers have spent a fascinating day visiting Farm Africa projects in the Babati forest so they can have a real look at the work they're raising money for.

First up was a visit to mushroom farmers. Like other farmers in the Babati forest, these farmers are working with Farm Africa to turn the tide of deforestation by finding ways of earning an income from the forest's resources that does not involve felling or burning trees for timber and charcoal.

The trekkers also met farmers that Farm Africa is working with to produce honey. Thanks to modern hives provided by Farm Africa, these farmers are now able to produce eight times more honey than before. The trekkers learned how the farmers are not just producing honey, but also processing it before bottling and branding it so as to make it more marketable and profitable (see picture below).

After lunch they had a walk through the forest which revealed to the trekkers both the impact of deforestation and the importance of the work Farm Africa is carrying out in the area to preserve the forest's resources.

It was a beautiful walk through the forest with the trekkers reaching 2200 metres, a good warm up for the tougher trekking to come.

Photo: Rahabu, a mushroom farmer who met the trekkers today. Her income has doubled since joining Farm Africa's project 4 years ago. She is now able to educate her 3 school age children and is also building a new brick house with a tin roof that will give her family far greater protection.

Summing up the day, trekker Julian Marks of Barfoots said:

"A fascinating first day seeing 1st hand how Farm Africa project teams are making a real difference on the ground. First a visit to the Nou Forest project where farm Africa is working with local groups to preserve an area of forest, whilst enhancing the incomes of the communities that depend on it.

The country is at the height of the dry season and the smallholdings are dusty and barren. There is little feed available for cattle and pressure of the grazing would be intense without the combined efforts of the local communities and input from Farm Africa. Secondly a visit to a hugely successful apiary where Farm Africa is helping farmers use technology, improved husbandry, branding and marketing to add value to the honey produced in the area. A great example of income enhancement through all the above techniques. All of this done at very low capital cost and with tremendous opportunity for new producers to scale up after initial help from the Farm Africa team.

We move tomorrow to the start point of the climb out of the Rift Valley onto the crater. The team is working well together, the next test will come in the heat and dust in the next six days."

Mark Williamson also reflected on a fascinating day visiting Farm Africa projects:

"Jambo" was the unfamiliar greeting that awoke me this morning at 6 o clock. My first night under canvas since scouts had been surprisingly restful. After Tanzanian porridge (just as good as Scottish) for breakfast, we made our way to the first farm africa project which is successfully reversing some for the damaging deforestation which has taken place. Persuading farmers, whose main aim is to provide food for their family, to think longer term about the local environment can take time. It is important that they see the benefits quickly and also that the whole of the community makes this collective decision, which is why it seems to be working.

After a walk through the forest we sat down to a picnic lunch with spectacular views across the plains.

The second project in the afternoon was already thriving with the production of honey from locally made improved hives. Farm Africa had provided funding to assist the start up of an apiary and has plans to roll this out into many more villages. The honey provides a better income for the villagers and has an exciting future.

Photo: honey produced by the forestry communities that met the trekkers earlier today. Much work goes into branding and packaging the honey to ensure the beekeepers get as good a price as possible for their product.


Settling in

27 September

The team has been on the ground in Tanzania since this morning and has lost no time at all in getting themselves as  ready as they can be for the trek.

No sooner had they landed in Tanzania than they went to a trek briefing at Farm Africa's office. Everyone received a copy of the map of the trek, and there was more than one raised eyebrow when it became obvious just how steep some of the climbs are to be on the trek.

Photo: perfectly aligned tents, despite having to pitch in the dark!

And after a busy day making some of their final preparations for the trek, the team started to pitch tent in the dark, anxious to get a good night's sleep.

Nigel Dunlop assessed the team spirit after day one in Tanzania:

"Made it! We made it through the first day travelling from Kilimanjaro airport - by extremely bumpy roads for several hours to reach our first overnight camp near Babati. Back to camping - small tents and hard ground! The team all getting to know one another and there's already a great sense of comradeship and early signs of (much needed) good humour apparent."



Touchdown in Tanzania

27 September

Photo: The leading executive trek team arrive safely in Tanzania

Good news! Our team of valiant trekkers have arrived safe and well in Tanzania. They touched down in Nairobi airport in the early hours of this morning, before embarking upon a short flight transfer to Tanzania.  

Photo: The flight map from the UK to Nairobi airport.

As the plane flew over Mount Kilimanjaro, some members of the team were reminded of a previous 'Food for Good' challenge. This time two years ago, some of the them would have been stood on that mountain, only a few days away from the summit, during what was the first ‘Food for Good’ sponsored Kilimanjaro climb.  

Photo: The plane that would take the team over Mount Kilimanjaro and to their destination in Tanzania. 

The team will now have some time to relax and refresh ahead of their visit tomorrow to one of Farm Africa’s forestry projects.

As the great challenge approaches, why not give the team some extra encouragement by making a donation


26 September

Robert Lasseter (left) and Andrew Thompson at the departure gate

Photo: Tanzania trekkers Robert Lasseter (left) and Andrew Thompson prepare to board the flight to Nairobi.

The talking's over. And the training - hopefully - is done. It's time to board that plane and head off to Tanzania.

Next stop Nairobi. A quick transfer, then the connecting flight to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

We caught up with Richard Macdonald, Farm Africa Chairman, just as the team were boarding:

""It's great to be here after such a long time in the planning. All are in good spirits and looking forward to getting started. Everyone is so delighted at the funds raised so far - a great way to start our challenge."

And so they should be: so far, the food and hospitality industries have raised a whopping £420,000 for Farm Africa's Food for Good campaign.

And if anyone was in any doubt about how seriously the trek is being taken back here in the UK by colleagues of the trekkers, perhaps the last word should go to trekker Tony Baines' colleagues at Aldi:

Poster created by colleagues of Tony Baines at Aldi so they can follow his every move.

Yes, they have put up a wall chart to track his every move in Tanzania. Good luck Tony!

Why not give the team some encouragement as they head out to Tanzania by making a donation?


Good Luck Team!

25 September

As the Tanzania trekkers prepare for their final night in the UK ahead of their mammoth challenge, the Farm Africa UK staff got together to send out this message of good luck: GOOD LUCK TEAM!


Final preparations for Tanzania trekkers

24 September

Our team of intrepid Tanzania trekkers are making their final preparations before flying off to Tanzania on Thursday. The final press release before departure has gone out and The Grocer magazine has published an article on Food for Good, looking forward to next week's adventure. 

Remember to check in for daily updates and images from the team from this Thursday.

There's much more on the trip in  the press release below which we sent out today.

Top UK food executives’ charity trek across uncharted Tanzania wilderness

145 kilometre trek in searing heat to raise funds for Farm Africa

Some of the biggest names in the UK food industry are to swap the comfort of their corporate boardrooms later this week for a gruelling trek through one of Africa’s harshest and most untamed landscapes.

A crack team of 13 corporate leaders are making their final preparations before flying to Tanzania for the challenge of a lifetime. Their endurance will be pushed to the limits as they take on a physically demanding 6 day expedition through some of the wildest sections of the Great Rift Valley in the Tanzanian Highlands.

UK food industry effort to play its part in tackling hunger

Dubbed the Tanzania Highland Challenge, the trek is clear evidence of the UK food industry’s determination to play its part in tackling one of the most pressing problems facing the world today: hunger. All sponsorship money raised from the trek will go to Food for Good, a campaign set up by the food and hospitality sectors to support the leading UK charity Farm Africa and its work to end hunger in eastern Africa, for good.

Food for Good has been turning heads all year, making Farm Africa the charity of choice for many of the leading companies in the food and hospitality sectors. Thanks to a variety of challenges that have already taken place this year, the extraordinary total of over £380,000 has so far been raised for Food for Good.

The Tanzania Highland Challenge trekkers are determined to add to that total. And with senior executives from some of the biggest names on the High Street, including Waitrose, Marks and Spencer and Aldi the team is not lacking in fundraising firepower.

Looking forward to the challenge, team leader, Farm Africa Chairman and former NFU Director-General Richard Macdonald said:

“Trekking 145 kilometres in searing heat for six days at altitude

across some of the planet’s most untamed landscapes will be

unbelievably tough. But the scale of the challenge underlines

our determination to support Food for Good which is promoting

global food sustainability. And as food industry leaders we

understand just how important that is for us all.”


The trek:

They will set out on September 30 in sweltering temperatures to trek for six days along a route that until now has only been walked by local Masai tribesmen and wildlife. They will climb steep scarp slopes and extinct volcanoes and trek through untamed landscapes alongside wildlife in a region of the Great Rift Valley that is more volcanic than any other in Africa. After trekking for up to eight hours a day under a scorching African sun, the team will sleep each night on the path under canvas.

The team:

Tony Baines, Managing Director Buying, Aldi

Richard Brasher, Chief Executive Officer, Pick ‘n’ Pay

Andrew Cracknell, Commercial Director, Anglo Beef Processors

Nigel Dunlop, Chief Executive Officer, Moy Park

Steve Ellwood, Non-Executive Director, AH Worth, EFFP

Robert Lasseter, Chairman, NFU South West Regional Board

Richard Macdonald, Non-Executive Director, Moy Park, Dairy Crest

Julian Marks, Managing Director, Barfoots

Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture & Fisheries, Marks and Spencer

Keith Packer, Chief Executive Officer, Typhoo Tea

Charles Reed, Group Managing Director, William Reed Business Media

Andrew Thompson, Commercial Director, Booker

Mark Williamson, Commercial Director, Waitrose


You will be able to follow all the action from the trek via ‘Tales from the Trail’, the team’s dedicated blog:

Images from the trek will be available on request.

For more information, and to arrange interviews with members of the trekking team, please contact the Farm Africa Press Office:

Matt Whitticase, 020 7067 1237 /

Laura Oakley,    020 7067 1252 /


Notes to Editor:

About Farm Africa

Farm Africa supports farmers living at subsistence level, constantly at risk of crop failure, to build food and income security so that they can grow a better and reliable future for their families.

By focusing on ‘climate smart’ agricultural and forestry techniques, building market links and adding value to production, Farm Africa unleashes the entrepreneurial abilities of the farmers and rural communities they work with.

This is the time to turn challenge into opportunity for African farmers. Farm Africa believes passionately that smallholders can and will play a key role in achieving rural prosperity in Africa.

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