In an attempt to get organized and create more structure for the project, we decided not to cook for the last two weeks. This allowed us to “zero out” the shops so we can start from scratch and be more precise about measuring inputs, calculating costs and perfecting cooking formulas. During this time we have been working on a business plan, which has been quite the learning experience, and we’ve been focused on finalizing the construction of the kitchen so that it is fully functioning and ready for our next cooking session!
Earlier this month we had our first big meeting with the group to talk about the direction of the business (emphasizing the three areas of food production: regular products, new products and nutritious products), our goals and how we can achieve them. One challenge that we have been facing is not having enough work for everyone to do during cooking sessions. This has led to poor attendance and, sometimes, a lack of motivation from group members. When they have so many other responsibilities, it can be hard to justify why something is a priority when you may not actually be needed at every step of the process. We came up with a way to mitigate this challenge and we tried to illustrate (literally) it for the group. Moving forward, we are planning to cook every week, alternating between regular products (chips and tambi) and new products (sugar popcorn and sugar peanuts). The goal is to have a task for everyone and hopefully we can accomplish this by cooking two products simultaneously. The group seemed to recognize the effectiveness of this strategy and they also brought up that everyone needs to show up on time in order to be efficient. This is something that we have been talking about in great length, and it was inspiring to hear it come from the women because it shows that they want to hold each other accountable and work together.
After solidifying a cooking schedule and getting everyone on the same page about multi-tasking and time management, we brainstormed a list of supplies that the group needs in order to have a fully functioning work space. For the past few months, they have been using their own supplies which is often challenging (especially when the person who has the big frying pan doesn’t show up!). So we wanted to create a space that feels more like a work environment and less like their personal kitchens. Collectively the group came up with supplies and furniture including: pots, basins, buckets, spoons, knives, scissors, stools, a mat, shelving unit and table. We purchased the supplies in Korogwe last week (it was quite the piki piki ride back to Tabora in the rain with big loads of buckets and basins and few kilos of potatoes!). And we are working with a fundi (carpenter) in Tabora to build the table, stools and shelving unit. This past week we started to build a wall out of bamboo for the inside of the kitchen in order to provide more privacy during cooking sessions as well as more security during the off-times. We were able to assemble two walls before we had to pause because of a funeral for Mama Mwaliko’s relative. We are in Korogwe this weekend for our monthly meeting, but the group is going to work on finishing the walls this weekend so we can start cooking again on Monday!
During the meeting we also shared some exciting news. We sold all of the big bags of chips in Korogwe and the shops want more! Also, a farmer’s market is starting in Dar and they are looking to buy our chips as well! So on Monday we are going to get back into the rhythm of cooking and we will be making 20 bags for Korogwe and 20 for Dar. The women rejoiced upon hearing this news!
Overall the meeting was extremely productive and energizing. With the help of charades and drawings, we were able to communicate ideas and work together to get everyone on the same page!