Updates from February

Posted by Eliza

February

Early Rains! (5th)

February brought in a new wave of weather that no one was expecting…rain! From what we had been told by past project coordinators and all of our neighbors and partners, it was not going to rain until the end of March. The first few days of February showed us that this month was set to be much the same as January and December, hot and dry. But come February 5th, the skies opened up, as did our arms and our buckets. We spent hours on our porch dancing with the kids who live near our house and catching the rain falling off our roof in large buckets. We only took shelter inside when we started shivering from the cold water.

With these early rains, all of our community members suddenly disappeared to their farms to prepare the land and while the rain may have been unexpected, we were amazed to see how fast people responded to take full advantage of the good fortune. Now we have seen a drastic change in the landscape around Tabora. Farms have come to life with tall stalks of Maize appearing overnight!

Filling the first Bosman Order (6th + 12th)

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, we were fortunate enough to connect with John Bosman, a man who runs a large Butcher shop in Dar es Saalam. After Eliza returned to Tabora, we set to work to fill the largest order we had ever received: 30 bags of regular chips, 30 bags of spicy chips, 40 bags of peanuts, and 20 bags of popcorn, all at significantly higher prices than we could possibly sell at in Korogwe. With this one sale we received a total revenue of 266,000 tsh.

From February 3rd to the 13th, our partners faced a monstrous work schedule and the urgent pressure that comes when trying to coordination a sale of this size in Dar es Saalam (some 5 hours away). Our partners showed up each day excited and ready to go as they saw how this order could significantly impact their individual profits and our business as a whole.

Since this sale in Dar, our partners have jumped at every potential opportunity to expand our market reach and continue to look for new places and people to sell to. We have realized that we are quickly reaching production capacity, but somehow our partners continue to find time to squeeze in another cooking session here, or business training there.

Training with Wageni (17th)

With these new sales in Dar and larger orders coming from our buyers in Korogwe we began to really see partners grasping the concepts we had been learning in the business curriculum trainings. In the weeks leading up to February 17th and the days after filling this big order, our partners began asking us about our plan for our group savings fund. They understood that with these larger orders and increased revenues, we had been slowly increasing our group savings fund.

On February 17th we finished our 6th training in the Business Curriculum, which focused on personal and group savings. Through this training, our partners learned not only about the importance of having a savings “piggy bank” but also the distinction between a group savings and personal savings. We began talking about having each partner begin their own personal savings account which we will then come up with individualized plans for how that money will be used and replenished. We are proud to say that now five out of our eight partners have begun individual savings accounts and we are in the process of creating personalized plans.

During this training we had the good fortune to host several wageni (guests) James Meeks, 2Seeds Founder, Amy Baker, 2Seeds Executive Director, as well as Bridget Meigs, Farm Manager at Stonehill College (Hailey’s alma mater) and a potential project mentor. Our guests had arrived in Tabora to visit each of the project sites and see the progress of our work on the ground. The experience was amazing for our partners to see how people across the world are so fully invested in our project and work together.

Bungu Network Site Meeting (22nd)

On February 22nd we traveled to one of the mountain project sites, Bungu, for the 2Seeds Network Site visit, an annual meeting that brings together partners of every 2Seeds project. The Bungu Project Coordinators, Cam and Mitch, hosted over 50 people and showed all of the Project Coordinators and project partners what they had been working on in Bungu. In the Tabora project, we do not focus on planting crops, but that did not stop Mama Salome from asking how to create an organic pesticide. She knew that it was still something she could use on her own personal farm. Nor did it stop Mama Hassani from asking how to grow broccoli. The Network Site Meeting in Bungu created a space for the partners in Bungu to show off their hard work over the last 5 months and it gave all of our partners the chance to collaborate and share ideas.

Solar Drying Mangoes + Pineapples

Our goal for the month of February was to understand the process of drying mangoes and pineapples. We wanted to focus specifically on these fruits because it was their season. We knew that after February we would be hard pressed to find any pineapples in the market and mangoes of good size and quality would be scarce. After a couple of test runs we saw, in comparison with dried fruit we had seen in Dar es Saalam, we knew how to dry mangoes. Our products looked and tasted great and could sell in some markets for as much as 5,000tsh for a small bag!

Pineapples however proved to be more difficult. With such high water content, it became clear that they required more time in our solar dryer. The only problem standing in our way was the early rains! We had not been prepared to receive rains so early in February, but moving forward we realized that we could continue to go through the process steps to learn how to cut the fruits but recognizing the results would not be great. This had been frustrating for all of us however, because with no clear results we cannot know if our process is correct. Since February, we have been able to take advantage of hot, dry days as they come, but we have been feeling more frustrations and pressure from our partners to be experts and have the answers to solar drying.

Individual Profits hit a high!

Some of our biggest news to come out of February was that our individual profits hit an all time high of 18,300 tsh per group member. Check out our partners’ reactions here!

This increase marks a 400% profit increase since we started our profit calculation process in November. In just four months, our partners saw how much their hard work and our dedication to finding new markets could change the business. The five partners who received 18,300tsh all showed up to work all six workdays of the month. Each workday had a value of over 3,000tsh. Our partner who was away from Tabora for a few days had missed two workdays and received 10,600tsh. Still a remarkable improvement from what we had seen in months prior.

We know all this talk of “tsh” is a little confusing, but there is no clear way to describe what our partners can do with 18,300tsh. We can convert it into US dollars, but even then, money works in different ways here. To give you some perspective, when we sat down with our Country Director and Senior Project Coordinator we all decided that if each partner was receiving a consistent monthly revenue of 5,000 tsh in one year’s time (by January 2015) that would be an impressive start. Our partners and community could do a lot for themselves and their families with 5,000tsh, even though it translates to just over $3. So we created short term one year goals that reflected this conversation. Through incremental steps we planned to slowly increase individual profits so that by the end of next January they would be receiving 5,000tsh. We now found ourselves having completely surpassed that goal with 11 months left to go. We are excited to see what the next months bring, but we are also a little nervous when we think about how we need to sustain the progress and make it a consistent reality.

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