September 6, 2015

The storage room is painted! It was a great bonding experience for me to spend an afternoon with the women doing something they’ve never done before! We finished quickly as they were all excited to get their hands dirty. Now with the painting complete, the storage room should have better lighting during the days and late evenings.

I had a meeting with Hailey this week to go over ideas for streamlining the business. We definitely have our work cut out for us. There is a great need for better organizational strategies and I couldn’t help but be reminded of my operations management class in college. There are a number of processes that are involved which each item we cook. Some of the processes take longer than others and keep us from moving forward at an efficient speed. On Wednesday and Thursday we spent ALL day in the kitchen (9am-8pm). It was insane, and they do it every week! I was amazed to see how they all worked well together and managed to package all that was needed for the week’s orders. However, much of what is done is on the floor and in a messy manor. I’m hoping to introduce the idea of an assembly line so the women have a better understanding of how the tasks can be done most efficiently. I did learn this week that efficient is not a word in the Tanzanian language, and as I’m reflecting on the cooking shifts, it makes sense!

For this next week we’re hoping to build a sink with sufficient drainage. The Tanzanian government has been requesting that we dispose of our wastewater in a more professionalized way as they’re working on health and safety standards in the country. Overall I’m full of fervor to get the organization of the business underway. Until next week!

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Week One: September 2, 2015

I’ve arrived in the busy village of Tabora! In my first few days I’ve been getting acclimated, visiting partners, neighbors and getting a feel for daily life. I’ve been very kindly welcomed. TONS of food and I’ve attended two parties! The parties are full day events–mainly spent prepping the food. The set up of the parties reminded me of a concert. There is a DJ and a stage where various people take turns going to the microphone to talk, and dance. I loved being apart of it all and observing, though I was the first one to go home to sleep. The parties last until around 4:00 AM, which is far past my bedtime.

In terms of business, we’re planning to get the storage room painted white this week to invite more light in. Another task we have is to reorganize the storage room. We’re hoping to professionalize what is already in place. We’re in need of tables to package on, better storage for the input items (peanuts, potatoes) and a better means to store the pots. Hailey and I spent some time yesterday brainstorming ideas on how to ensure the layout is best fit for the business.

Today we have our first cooking shift for the month! I have yet to spend a full day cooking and I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about.

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Year-End Investor Report 2014-2015

Dear investors and stakeholders,

As another year comes to a close for our Project Coordinators, we would like to take the time to review how your contribution helped make a difference in this year. Please download the document below for detailed information about the exciting developments from the past year.

Tabora Project 2014-2015 Year-End Investor Report

If you are inspired by our work, please consider renewing your commitment to 2Seeds. Your donations and continued support are what makes this life-changing work possible.

Wishing you the best from Tanzania,

2Seeds Network Ground Team

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Tabora followers, donors, and friends,

Sincerest apologies for our lack of blog posts in these recent months. Time got away from us and we spent as little time out of Tabora and away from our work as possible. We have been busy working towards our transition period coming up in just one week! We have been preparing partners to be on in Tabora without PC support for the month of July and August. This means we have been working to solidify our schedules and processes for collecting orders, cooking orders, delivering orders, as well as recording sales, and completing a weekly inventory of supplies. We have been working all year on these important processes to steam line everything and create as much clarity as possible. Partners have been really patient through the year, adding in their ideas as well as listening to us when we want to shift the way we handle the business or schedule. We are grateful for their critical thinking as well as their dedication to their business. We have been having what we like to call a “good problem to have!” with our business over the last few months. The business is growing too quickly to financially cover the growth. This means that as PCs we have invested a lot of money into the business for inputs, but it also means that orders keep growing and revenue is bursting through the roof! It has not been easy to explain why the partners are working harder with longer hours than ever before, but seeing little increase in their own profits.  We are working to keep the energy up as well as trying to work together through the numbers and possible solutions to our rapid growth.

As we account for this growth on the ground within our budget and business finances, we are trying to account for the growth in physical ways as well. We began building a large storage unit (12 X 15 ft) next to the group kitchen. This will be a place to organize and measure supplies before they reach the kitchen. It will also be a space for packaging products before they are shipped to Korogwe or Dar Es Salaam. We sincerely hope that this unit will be completed this week! We are really excited about this addition to the project and think it will help to further professionalize our cooking process.

We also wanted to take a minute to welcome our new project coordinators to Tabora! We feel confident that the Tabora project is in good hands as Isabel (and her to be determined teammate!) take over the project in late August. The new PCs will be taking over blog, twitter, instagram, and facebook communications. We cannot wait to watch their progress and successes over the next year.

Thank you for keeping in touch with us, Emma and Siobhan, as we worked in Tabora and with the 2Seeds Network during the 14-15 project year. We are forever grateful for your support, both financially and emotionally, as we spent one amazing year in Tanzania. We are looking forward to telling the world about Tabora and our partners. They make us proud every single day.

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We cannot believe that Quarter 3 is almost over! April 30th marks the end of this quarter and we are already planning our goals for Quarter 4. A large part of our work this year has been solidifying the business and getting the solar drying initiative off the ground. We are going to continue to monitor and evaluate these two large activities with our Quarter 4 goals. We want to ensure that the business will be able to continue normal activities during the transition period (the period in which we will have left Tanzania but the new PCs have not yet arrived). And we want to make sure that partners feel confident using their solar dryers.

The business has seen a spike in sales with our three new buyers in Korogwe. These buyers approached us in February and have been placing large and consistent orders for all of our products. We were really happy to see this consistency, with our new and old buyers alike, and were hopeful for our March profits. Unfortunately, peanut prices spiked in the market this month. The rainy season has begun which means that farmers all over this region have begun planting their crops. We are now in a waiting game. Crops will not be harvested for the next few months. This means that market prices have increased for almost all staple foods and produce, and fresh foods in Tabora are harder to come by. This increase in prices meant that we still cooked and sold peanuts, but our profit margin for peanuts was diminished. In March we cooked over 1,000 bags of peanuts. Our fried peanuts have been a huge success in Korogwe! But our profits for March ranged between 15-27,000 TZS per partner. The partners have been learning about the concept of “breaking even” in the buisness curriculum. We reazlied that although profits were low, this was a great teaching moment. We did make a profit this month. We did not break even on our products. Our group leader, Mama Mwaliko, did a really great job explaining this to the whole group. She read out all the numbers we calculated together and explained that peanuts turned a profit, even though it was not as high as we wanted it to be. The business understands that high profits are not a guarantee every month. We will see some great months and some harder months, but we are still in this together!

Because of the rains we have not been able to use the solar dryers as much as we wanted to this past month. We are still drying goods as much as possible and celebrating when we see the sun! Emma made a great solar drying video to highlight some of the work we have accomplished so far. The link is on our facebook page—check it out!

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I wrote an email last month to a group of my (Siobhan’s) donors. I updated them on our progress on the solar drying trial and error period. One of my donors sent back a list of questions. I responded to her personally, but I thought that her questions and my response might be of interest to all of you.

Here are the questions from my donor:

I am interested to hear more about the dried food. Where do the partners keep the food once it is ready for storage?  In what kind of containers?  Are there issues with protecting the food from nuisance animals?  I know that this life with cars, packaging, freezers, refrigerators and supermarkets is so far removed from what your partners experience.

And here was my response:

Thank you for your questions! I love getting responses and having a chance to explain the project further. I am so glad you are well.

Right now we are in our trial and error phase of solar drying which includes testing fruits and vegetables, but also includes storage methods. There are several challenges with storage. 1st, Tanzanian culture (at least what I have observed in Tabora) does not practice food storage of any kind. For the reasons you listed like pests, the hot weather will rot produce, and there is not usually extra food to go around. In Tabora many people have small shops where they sell dried goods like beans, flour, sugar, rice etc as well as vegetables. Onions, tomatoes, okra, and small eggplants are usually available all the time. Sometimes coconuts, carrots, green peppers, spicy peppers, cabbage, leafy greens, and bananas are available as well (once or twice a week depending on when the shop keepers visit outside markets to obtain goods). It is common practice to go out everyday and purchase produce or flour/rice for the one or two meals you will be preparing for your family. No one keeps leftovers (lack of storage options) and not many families can afford to buy several days of vegetables at a time.

For now, Emma and I are purchasing the fruits and vegetables to be dried. Since we are in a trial and error phase we want to be able to dry goods often, and if they go bad, or something goes wrong in the process, our partners will not be financially responsible for the loss.

We have been trying to talk about the importance of saving dried goods for the rainy season when produce will be unavailable most days. But it is hard to describe a pantry, or surplus, to a culture that has never practiced such a thing. But we are trying and hope that it will catch on!

We have been successfully drying leafy greens. When they are dried we seal them into plastic bags. This is the same storage we use for our chips, peanuts, and popcorn. So all the partners know how to seal the bags and we know that the plastic is available locally. This does not keep air out of the products, which could be a problem for mold. And the plastic is easy for mice to get into. We hope partners will store their bags into large plastic buckets with lids (everyone has these at their homes for water storage and storage of dried corn.)

We are researching glass jar storage methods as well. But getting a large number of glass jars for each partner might prove to be difficult!

Do you have any ideas of what we can use to store goods? Mice and weather proof options.

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As we celebrate the completion of all of our home solar dryers (!) we are beginning to think about our upcoming solar drying trial and error period. Our partners began experimenting with solar drying at the end of Hailey and Eliza’s time in Tabora in June 2014. Their experience will be helpful as we begin to guide them along through several different drying methods this month.

We are heading into this adventure together as we try to discover how to best dry fruits and vegetables as well as store them in the Tabora climate. Tabora is very hot and does not often receive rain. Luckily, the climate is not too humid, but we need to develop a storage method that allows our partners to store these dried good for at least one month at a time. We hope that by solar drying all together we will be able to learn from each other’s successes and failures and discover some successful methods for storage.

This upcoming week we have a nutritional and solar drying expert coming to Tabora to teach us all about drying fruits. We had this expert, Bibi Lishe (Grandmother Nutrition), come to Tabora in December and teach us about drying leafy greens. Her training was really fun and we got to practice on one solar dryer. This week we will be able to learn a new method for fruits as well as try drying fruits on nine different dryers!

We have been on the edge of this trial and error period for so long that it feels really satisfying to finally begin.

Wish us luck and lots and lots of sun as we start drying this week!

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