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Our work in Tabora is constantly in flux. Our orders for chips and peanuts grow and shrink, our daily tasks get interrupted by some unforeseen complication, and our goals are always being adjusted to better suit our partners and the situation at hand. It has been really important for us to take set-backs gracefully and learn to work around them while still remaining as productive as possible. We are learning how to anticipate and plan for complications as well as how to deal with that one overlooked complication that inevitably pops up.

Two weeks ago we were ready to start building solar dryers in Tabora. This was a process that took several months. We went through the long planning stages of getting our prototype built–which involved several meetings with Fundi David, returning to the drawing board half way through to make a new design, and even making edits while Fundi David worked to build our vision. We then purchased all the supplies for four solar dryers, got the supplies, and the prototype, to our house in Tabora and planned our first building day for Fundi David to come and build with our partners. We called all our partners together and planned our schedule. Everyone was ready to go!

Then we could not get a hold of Fundi David. We tried calling over the course of several days and no response. Emma finally had the idea to call one of our Korogwe bajaj drivers, Twaha, and ask him to go to Fundi David’s workshop and see what was going on. Twaha called with bad news. Fundi David was in the hospital!

This was the one complication we did not plan for. We never thought that Fundi would get hurt and be unable to build the first round of solar dryers. And Fundi David is the only fundi in Korogwe that knows how to build our model.

So what did we do? How did we handle this set back?

First, we had to laugh. In Tabora we always find the positivity and the humor in our own mistakes, because it helps keep us going. After we laughed, we realized that there was plenty of other work that could be done in Tabora despite putting solar drying set-back. We were able to spend time with our partners outside of work. We asked Mama Hasani to teach us how to cook our favorite Tanzanian dish, kachumbali, which has tomatoes, onions, cabbage, lots of oil, and lots of salt, and got to have big feast with her family. We had time to focus on large orders coming in for our new product: fried peanuts. We had more time to plan our bi-monthly inventory of kitchen supplies. We were able to enhance one of our Q2 goals by working on a rubric for each partner that outlines her specific job in the business and the tasks to be completed each week.

We certainly managed to stay busy, despite this set back in our calendars. We have planned to begin building this Wednesday and hope that there will be no more unforeseen complications with our building day. Fingers crossed that it stays sunny!

We hope to complete the skeleton and main parts of four dryers before the New Year. Christmas will put a slight hold on our schedule, but we need time to celebrate with the entire community of Tabora and eat some really great food!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone reading! We appreciate your thoughts and words of encouragement as we ring in the New Year!

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Everyday in Tabora is an adventure. We frequently say “There is no dull moment in this village”. When Emma and I wake up we may have a potential plan in mind, but we always remain open to new experiences, twists in the road, and lots of laughter.

Yesterday, Emma and I were able to go with our neighbors to their farm to see their crops and their daily chores. We were finally able to use some of the vocabulary we learned before coming to Tanzania in the 2Seeds Pre Departure Curriculum. The curriculum taught us a lot of technical farming terms, verbs, and vocabulary which most of the projects use every day, but being in the food production business Emma and I have had not had a chance to show off our knowledge!

The farm is a large plot of land that has been with Bibi Miamuna for 30 years! She is currently growing corn, dark leafy greens, okra, and beans. We asked lots of questions about the farm land, and even picked some vegetables that we got to later eat with ugali for lunch!

We were really happy to spend some time with our neighbors and that we had a chance to get to know them, and their work, a little better.

Today, we are in Korogwe to pick up one solar dryer from Fundi David and to go with him to buy the supplies for four more dryers!

We had the chance to see the solar dryer last week before Fundi was able to put the finishing touches on, and it looks awesome! Fundi was able to take our crazy idea of putting the solar dryer on wheels and bring it to life. The dryer has 2 bicycle wheels to make it easier for partners to move the dryers in and out of their homes. It looks a little like a cart for selling food, but the top is a box with a tray covered in plastic for drying fruits and vegetables. Pictures coming soon!

Once we bring back the prototype to Tabora, and the supplies for the first 4 dryers, we will begin planning our building days with the partners and Fundi David. We hope to set up workstations where several dryers can be built at one time giving our partners the chance to construct the dryers themselves. We are going for a very hands on approach, hoping we can all learn something new and valuable through the process.

First step, is getting all the supplies with us safely back to Tabora! Wish us luck as we load up a gouta (a truck bed that attaches to the back of a piki piki) and head into Tabora!

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Hello from Tabora! Quarter 2 is officially under way! We have been working hard to set and begin making progress on our Quarter 2 Goals. These goals tackle some of our larger project activities and hopes for the next few months such as strengthening the business, working towards promoting leadership within our group, seeing an increase of sales in both Korogwe and Dar, and of course, better access to nutritional food through solar drying!

The business has seen an increase of sales in recent months and the partners are working harder than ever to continue to fill all the orders coming in. Just last week a shop in Korogwe asked the partners to make fried peanuts (made with salt, similar to peanuts back home) and they rose to the challenge! We were able to sell 30 bags of fried peanuts, as well as make three samples to go to other shops in the market. We are hoping this new product will take off this month.

We are going to continue to reinforce the business roles that the partners have taken on. We have struggled to help our partners understand the importance of taking an inventory of all kitchen supplies before we begin cooking. We want to try and hold everyone more accountable to their roles (such as sales and distribution of products, kitchen supplies inventory collection, attendance tracker, etc) and will be creating rubrics for each partner. We hope the rubric will be a guide for the partners so they can see what we are expecting each week and can more concretely track their individual progress.

For leadership and business curriculum trainings, we are working with the Network to have advanced sessions with our partners who are transitioning from a project to a business. This advanced curriculum is new to the Network and allows partners to be more involved in project discussions about Tabora as a whole.

Today, Ana the country director, came to Tabora to lead a session in which the partners completed a SWOT analysis of the project. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Prior to this session, we had to conduct this analysis about the Tabora on our own project where we considered these different categories as well as placed them into internal and external categories. For example, an internal strength of the project is our partners’ dedication to the work and their high attendance at cooking sessions and at meetings. An external threat to the project is the road from here to Korogwe where we sell products. The road is poorly maintained, especially when it heavy rains come, and transportation along this road is very expensive.

The fact that our partners sat down and did the work that we have been doing these last few months was very impressive. These experiences are what sets 2Seeds apart from other organizations doing this kind of work. We are holding our partners to a high standard and allowing them to think through the project as much as we are. We are not hiding anything from them, but instead including them in the whole process. It was really cool to see all our Mamas think about Tabora as a whole, outside of just being a group of women who can cook some really awesome chips. By doing this work, we hope that one day they will run their own business that not only handles production of food products successfully, but thinks about food security and income security for their families while taking action to combat these larger concepts.

Finally an update on solar drying! We finally have a design that we feel confident is going to work really well for our partners. We needed to make a design small enough to fit into our partners’ houses every night and during heavy rains. We considered the possibility of partners having to move the machines themselves and being able to support the weight of the entire dryer. We have drawn up a blueprint of a solar dryer with wheels and handles that will function as somewhat of a cart. We are really excited to keep working with our “Fundi”, or handyman, on the design. We had a meeting with him to go over some changes (such as adding bicycle wheels to the design!) and asked him to build a prototype while we were away visiting the Masoko Project in Dar. The prototype was not quite what we hoped it would be, but he had fortunately only built the skelton, which gave us a great jumping off point to negotiate some changes. Emma went into Korogwe yesterday to present some of our idea for design changes (mostly making the machine much smaller) to Fundi David. The meeting went well and Fundi David seemed to gain a better understanding of what we want the machine to look like and how we need it to function in Tabora to best suit the needs of our partners. We will be taking a look at the new prototype this upcoming week! We hope everything was communicated properly to Fundi and that he will be able to make some great dryers for us.

Looking ahead to next week, we are taking turns visiting Tanga for the first Off-site meeting. This meeting gives us each a chance to visit Tanga, receive some feedback on our work so far (both from eachother and Ground Team), and spend time with 7 other PCs in a smaller group setting. While one person is in Tanga the other will stay in Tabora flying solo! We hope that we will each get to spend some one-on-one time with partners to help strengthen our relationships here in Tabora. It should be an exciting week and it will by far be the longest time we have been apart from each other since we started this adventure.

Wish us luck as we head into this next week full of travel and some alone time with the partners. Thanks for following our updates and for being a part of our network!

the Tabora Project

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It is hard to believe that Quarter One is almost over. Emma and I were lucky enough to have four very clear and strategic Quarter One goals set for the Tabora Project. A lot of exciting things have been happening as we continue to try and accomplish these goals. Our calendar is quickly filling up with meetings and dates and we have some stories to share with you all today.

The Tabora Project aims to focus on income security as well as food security, and human capital development. The business, which has had a very successful month of orders, is an activity focused on income security. The hope is that the business will continue to flourish, and that Emma and I will be able to continually strengthen the business while we are here in Tabora.

One of our next big activities on the horizon, that we are both really excited about, is solar drying! The hope is that this activity will begin to tackle issues of food security in Tabora. One of our Quarter One goals has been to build home solar dryers for each one of our partners. Emma and I have been able to read the research from Hailey and Eliza to help discover what solar drying is all about! These homes dryers have the intention of allowing each of our partners to have access to more nutritional foods for themselves and their families, as well as provide a way to store nutritional foods for up to 6 months at a time. We have spent a lot of time this month thinking about this next step for the project and what it will look like for each individual partner. We have been discussing the best ways to finance these solar dryers as well as figuring out how to construct these individual driers. As you can imagine, there is a lot that will go into this process. Just to give you an idea, we are considering different designs, materials, security of the dryers, placement, etc.

We had a meeting with a solar drying expert and a “fundi” (or handyman) as well as two of our partners to begin to talk logistics about the construction phase. We took a trip into Korogwe to have a meeting and were able to bring everyone together to discuss the construction of these small solar dryers. The fundi had seen a large dryer in Korogwe and had taken measurements of the machine as well as drawn up a sketch. He understood that we were looking for something about half the size and will be contacting us next week with a list of materials as well as a price estimate for each dryer. We hope to schedule a time for him to come to Tabora and help us build our first dryer with all of our partners. With the help of the solar drying expert we will hold a training on how to properly use the dryers. It was really great to see our partners take initiative in Korogwe and include them in the discussion about the type of dryer we hope to build. Mama Mwaliko and Mama Salome both expressed their happiness and excitement when the meeting was over. Even though we were not able to bring all of our partners to the meeting, we wanted to generate excitement and ownership in this process. These dryers will be part of each partner’s family and home life and we want each of them to be invested from the beginning.

For the human capital development piece of the project, our partners are getting ready to teach local Tabora shop keepers three business curriculum classes. Each partner completed the 10 step business curriculum this past spring and are now ready to bring their expertise to the wider Tabora community. We are having a session with Ana (the Country Director of 2Seeds) in the coming weeks to plan the sessions and help our partners feel prepared to teach others about record keeping, profit calculation, and revenue. We know our partners are going to be great teachers and we cannot wait to see them tackle this next task.

As you can tell there is a lot on the horizon here in Tabora, but we are feeling confident in our next activities and ready to take on the challenges and victories ahead!

The Tabora Project

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Emma and I had a very exciting week in Tabora! We are feeling more at home in the village and have really enjoyed getting to know our partners, neighbors, and community members who often greet us and invite us in for a meal. We have been delighted to share in meals (such as ugali and maharage) with the people of Tabora, as well as mastering our small kerosene stove. We were lucky to inherit many spices and seasonings from past PCs that make even a simple dish of rice and vegetables exciting and satisfying!

Emma and I found letters from past PCs, as well as a small package from Hailey and Eliza, full of colorful inspirational quotes to hang inside our house. It is really starting to feel like home as our routines become more stable, and as we continue to decorate our space.

This week Emma and I were able to participate in our first profit calculation and distribution with our partners! We have been anxiously waiting to find out how much profit the business generated for the month of August. August was crucial because the women handled the business on their own before we arrived and after Hailey and Eliza left Tabora. In August, the business received some of the largest orders ever, and the demand for Tabora products was high in Korogwe and in Dar.

On Thursday Ana and Cam (the 2Seeds Ground Team) came to Tabora with the Tabora profit books as well as all the Tabora “banks”—including personal savings accounts, group savings accounts, money for kitchen maintenance, and all the profits from chips, peanuts, and popcorn.

Mama Asha and Mama Mwuliko, two of our partners, are in charge of calculating profits and figuring out important information like revenue, profit, number of work days in the kitchen, all sales costs, percentage of money for the group savings fund, and ROI.

It was very rewarding to sit and watch our partners calculate profits on their own. These two women are handling crucial details of the business that are even difficult for Emma and I to understand. We watched quietly as our partners did the math for each product separately, and then calculated the overall profits from the month to be divided among the eight group members based on attendance at cooking sessions. Once the calculations were complete, and all the individual bundles of money were assembled, we had a group meeting with all of our partners. Ana announced that August generated the 2nd highest profit in the history of the Tabora business! Everyone was excited to hear the news! Emma and I are thrilled that the business is thriving!

Over 100,000 shillings were added to the overall group savings and each partner received profits between 25,000 and 37,000 shillings for the month!

It was another small victory for Tabora and we are hoping September will be even stronger.

Now that Emma and I feel confident in our partner’s ability to teach us the details of the business and the market in Korogwe, we are ready to begin researching solar drying and other Tabora project activities we hope to act on this year. We are still trying to wrap our own minds around the process of drying fruits and vegetables, but we are hoping to begin the testing phases of some leafy greens currently in season.

Stay tuned for more Tabora updates in the coming weeks!

Our First Week In Tabora

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Emma and Siobhan on the mic! We made it to Tabora and have had a whirlwind of a week so far! We will take a brief minute to introduce ourselves before updating you on the exciting news of Tabora. Siobhan is from Chapel Hill, NC. She graduated from George Washington University in 2013 with a degree in Anthropology, with a focus in Public Health and Women’s Studies. She spent this past year in Portland, OR, working for a non-profit that focuses on helping at-risk families transition out of homelessness. Emma is from Mansfield, CT. She graduated from Providence College in May of 2014, with a degree in Public and Community Service Studies with a concentration in Community Economics. We are both really looking forward to spending this year with 2Seeds in Tabora.

We arrived on Friday morning, to a group of screaming, smiling children. We spent the morning with Cam and Ana, taking a tour of the village. We got a chance to meet all of our business partners, and to see the kitchen where group cooking sessions take place. We spent the rest of the day exploring and getting settled into our house. In the evening we decided to visit some of our partners, ending up at Mama Hasani’s house. To our surprise she escorted us into a community drum circle, where we were pulled into the middle to dance. We had a wonderful time, even though our dance moves made us the laughing stock of the village! It was a fabulous welcome into life in Tabora.

Yesterday we joined our first cooking session with the women, working from 10:00am until 7:00pm to cook 100 bags of chips. We have never peeled so many potatoes in our lives! The cooking went smoothly, with each woman taking lead on a specific task. Thanks to their patience we learned all of the steps necessary for cooking these delicious chips. These 100 bags were sent on the back of a pikipiki (motorcycle) to shops in Korogwe, the nearby city.

Today we spent half of the day in the kitchen cooking candied peanuts, popcorn, and chips for an order from the capital, Dar Es Salaam. It was great to see how all of the individual products are made. We were able to take part in the business transactions such as transportation and record-keeping. Through broken Swahili, we were able to get a better idea of how the business is run and contributed to the process.

In the coming week we are really looking forward to continuing to develop relationships with our partners, as well as challenging ourselves to strengthen our Swahili and our knowledge of the business.

Wanawake Wanaweza!

Final Updates and Closing Remarks

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Greetings from the U.S.! When our year as Tabora Project Coordinators ended on July 11, we parted ways to pursue new and exciting adventures! Eliza traveled to Nairobi and London to visit friends before returning to Troy, NY and Hailey went straight home to Plymouth, MA to visit friends and family before returning to Tanzania for another year as a Senior Project Coordinator. Now that we’re both settled at home we’ve had a chance to reflect on this past year and we’d like to give you all a brief recap of our last few weeks in Tabora. We are also excited to formally introduce the new team of PCs!

New Product Labels

We worked with a graphic designer in Dar es Salaam to design new sticker labels for our products. These labels feature a description of the Tabora business as well as the ingredients in each product. We are excited to give these labels a trial run over the next few months!

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Personal Savings Plans

In 2Seeds we often use an analogy that portrays all of us, everyone in the network, on a bus heading towards Maisha Bora, or the Good Life. Maisha Bora is not a physical destination, but rather it is a higher quality of life. We used this image to frame our conversations with partners about goal setting and personal savings. Each group member shared their goals about how they want to improve their lives and we worked with them individually to develop savings plans, which will hopefully help them achieve those goals. We were humbled by this experience, as it gave us deeper insights into personal financial challenges as well as the aspirations that each group member has to create a better life for themselves and their families.

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(Mama Mwaliko evaluates her monthly cash flow and set the goal of building a new house)

Mama Mwaliko, Mama Hasani, Mama Tabia and Mama Salome all want to build new houses while Mama Asha wants to expand her restaurant business in Tabora; Mama Agi wants to purchase a motorcycle that she can use to buy inputs for her business of selling clothes and Mama Kitojo has dreams of building a small structure where she plans to show soccer games that community members can pay to watch; and Mama Mudi plans to save money for her two oldest kids to complete secondary school.

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(Mama Salome wants to save up for a tin roof for her house!)

After evaluating their individual cash flow and assessing how much money they need to meet the daily needs of their families, each group member committed to putting away a designated amount of their monthly profit into savings until they reach their goals. We are impressed with their level of dedication and we are confident that they will all achieve their goals!

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(Mama Agi fills out her personal savings plan with the goal of purchasing a motorcycle)

Solar Drying

A standing ovation is in order for Eliza for completing the Tabora Solar Drying Handbook, a comprehensive document that includes information about which fruits and vegetables are available in Tabora, the specific ins and outs of drying and storing, and the nutritional information for each food item. This will be a great resource for future teams and the group as they pursue individual and group solar drying activities in the future!

Business Curriculum Graduation

We are pleased to announce that, on June 22nd, all eight group members graduated from the 2Seeds Business Curriculum! We couldn’t be more proud of all of their hard work throughout the curriculum and the construction of the Tabora Business Plan. Concepts such as return on investment and cash flow are difficult to grasp, but the Tabora group members excelled at retaining the information they learned and applying it to their business. Congrats!

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(After everyone received their diplomas!)

May and June Profits

In May, five partners earned 37,000 shillings in profits, a new record high! And in June six partners earned 28,000 shillings! Over the course of the year, the group has seen a profit increase of over 700%!!!

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(Group members after receiving their May earnings!)

New Shops

In June, the group’s Sales Coordinator, Mama Tabia, built relationships with new shops in Korogwe and we started cooking for them the very next day! We were so impressed with Mama Tabia’s ability to connect with shop keepers, spread information about the work we are doing, and ultimately find new markets for Tabor products. We can attribute the decrease in profits between May and June to the slight dip we saw in orders that were coming in, particularly from the shops in Dar es Salaam. During June and July many shops in the ex-pat areas are closed, including the ones where we sell our products. However, with these new shops in Korogwe, we are certain that profits will stay consistently high!

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(Mama Tabia on her way to Korogwe with piki piki driver Alikoka to deliver products to the new shops she found!)

 

New Group Members!

This year the Tabora group expanded its membership as we welcomed Hali ya Hewa and Timi. Mama Mwaliko gave birth to Hali (left) in April and a month later Mama Kitojo had Timi (right)! Both partners eagerly jumped back into work after several weeks of helping their newborns adjust to their new environments. We like to think that Hali is going to take after her mom and be the next chairwoman of the Tabora group and we know that Timi’s first words will be “Wanawake wanaweza!” (yes, women can!).

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And with that, we are concluding our term as Project Coordinators in Tabora and we want to sincerely thank you all for your support over the past year. There aren’t enough words to adequately express how much it has meant to us to have so many people–friends, family members, co-workers, coaches, and professors—actively following our social media pages, expressing a genuine interest in the progress of the business, and investing themselves in the work that the Tabora women are doing. At times the work was challenging, but overall the year was filled with many successes, playful moments with the kids, and the construction of strong relationships that will last a lifetime. We want to thank you for being with us through it all. We hope you will continue to support the 2Seeds Network and especially the Tabora Project, as the work is not over and the business will continue to grow and reach new heights. Stay tuned for future updates from next year’s team about solar drying, new products and new markets!!

 

And now, without further adieu, we’d like to introduce the new Tabora Project Coordinators! Siobhan McGowan, a recent graduate from George Washington University will be joining Emma Lane, a Providence College grad and together they will continue the work that Eliza, Hailey, Ashley, Jamie, Ros and Rachel have started! We have the most confidence in their abilities to infuse creativity into the project and to continue to make lasting change on this journey towards Maisha Bora. Welcome to Tabora, Siobhan and Emma and best of luck next year!

Amani na Upendo,

Eliza & Hailey