Director of non-profit MAVUNO speaks on African sustainability


The Beacon/Cabrini Rudnicki

Charles Bahati spoke to a variety of classes during his time here, including Dr. Winkler’s Global Health course and Dr. Adekola’s International Business course.

From March 11 to March 25, Wilkes University hosted the director of a grass-roots African sustainability nonprofit organization.

Charles Bahati Bitakwate is the director of MAVUNO, a non-profit in Eastern Africa with focus on ending poverty and health concerns in the area.

Bitakwate has spent the past two weeks on campus holding lectures for different academic schools, including anthropology, business, and environmental science. Bitakwate also held a talk for the Rotary Club of Wilkes-Barre.

Bitakwate held a lecture open to the public on March 19 in Dr. Winkler’s Global Health class titled ‘Talk on Sustainable Vision for Rural East Africa: Projects in Karagwe Water, Development and Community Health.’

In the lecture, Bitakwate discussed the different initiatives and projects his organization are currently employing in eastern Africa. Some of his initiatives include food security, sanitation and health, social welfare, and education. Much of his work is focused on women’s education and the creation of safe water.

“Most of our area of concentration has been water,” said Bitakwate. “We’ve also been working on creating toilets, and the distribution of sanitary pads.”

“Water is contaminated, continued Bitakwate, “So when the children go to the natural resources, and when they get the water it is very difficult to control. When they are thirsty, sometimes you can’t control that they need to get water. In the end, when they drink the water they get sick.” Much of the health issues in the area have been attributed to diarrhea caused by contaminated water.

“We have tried different methods of cleaning the water but now it seems that we have found one that seems to be efficient,” said Bitakwate. “We are now working on using a UV filter.”

The UV filter uses solar-radiation to sterilize water when it passes through a filter.

“The UV filter helps not only the students in the schools but the community at large,” continued Bitakwate.

Winkler, a professor of anthropology, has known Bitakwate, for more than 8 years. Bitakwate’s work is focused in Tanzania, where Dr. Winkler has her long-term health project.

Wilkes brought Bitakwate via a J-1 visa, a sponsor visa for individuals to have cross-cultural experiences as scholars. He was sponsored by a donor due to his involvement in Winkler’s Tanzanian project.

“When we hear about international development we often hear about policy. We often hear about United Nations and people who are working from the top, but we often don’t focus on people who are driving it from the bottom,” Winkler said.

“What Charles is an example of is somebody who keeps up with policy and international economics, but he then interprets it in a broad local community to help improve the lives of everyone there.”

“The lecture was really good and informing,” said Ashley Baker, a freshman criminology major.

MAVUNO, Bitakwate’s organization, has a vision statement of “Strong communities with ability to control resources for their sustainable development.” More information about the organization can be found on