Thursday, June 10, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
So to make the best of the situation, Daniel and I went to the TechnoServe office the next day (with our newly acquired bike) to follow up with the contact Hillary told me about the week prior. It turned out that the person I was looking for, Iddi, was based in Kyela (about 1.5 hours further south).
I stopped by the Tanganyika Farmers' Association (TFA) next and met the branch manager, Henry, who agreed to let us hold a demonstration in their parking lot at the end of the week. In the few days leading up to the demo, I printed out flyers and rode the bike around town pubbing our demo to every cell phone shop and agrodealer I saw. Friday, the day of demo, turned out to be a bit of a disaster as issues with the bike and sheller delayed the start for several hours. Once we got things working, we demo'd the sheller and charger in front of our modest crowd for another 15 minutes before we had to pack up and head to the next site up the road. In total, we gave 6 demonstrations over three days and were well received by the villagers. Fortunately, the subsequent demos ran much more smoothly than the first.
Pleased with our work in Mbeya, we left the sheller and bike at TFA on the 12th as Daniel headed north (with a sheller) to Iringa to visit the remaining TFA's and I headed south (with a charger) to meet Iddi in Kyela. Kyela is remarkably much warmer than Mbeya (I didn't need to wear my sweater at night for example), produces much less maize, almost everyone rides a bike (probably due to the flat landscape and few amount of dala-dalas servicing the town), and lacks power in many of the villages --> a perfect target market for the charger. It just so happened that the TechnoServe office was in the same building as PRIDE and Tujijenge Microfinance (TMF), so Iddi arranged for me to meet with the branch managers of each.
Over the next 2 days (Thurs and Fri) I visited several groups of villagers with TechnoServe and TMF to talk about the phone charger. TechnoServe has a cocoa farmers program and the farmers I met with were very eager to begin selling GCS chargers. Similarly, the TMF farmer loan groups (councils) I presented to were just as impressed. Over the weekend, I tried my luck in town by showing the charger to some store owners. It was a tough sell becuase the charger I had wasn't working and my swahili still isn't all that great. Nevertheless, I tried to explain that they wouldn't have to pay now and landed 6 orders in the end.
The feedback I received from the microfinance (mf) groups got me thinking about doing the same thing in Arusha. If we can partner with a few mf organizations, we'll be able to reach a large number of villagers and likely have an easier time landing bulk orders. This plan will have to wait until next week at the earliest however because I will shortly be on my way to Sumbawanga (via Mbeya). CNFA has secured funding so I will soon be hitting the road with them.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
Friday, April 09, 2010
My neighborhood, although just a few minute drive to town, has a very rural feel to it. It's fairly common to share the dirt roads with a herd of cattle or goats looking for pasture, or a mother hen and her chicks pecking for food. I've become quite accustomed to waking up to the crow of our neighbor's rooster and the occasional flock of chickens that raid our front yard looking for food scraps. However, despite the ruralness of our village, most everything you could possibly need is readily available. Around the corner from our house is a "strip mall" of duka's that hosts a seamstress, a barber (who also doubles as the electricity bill collector), a video store, and a convenient store. And within a few minutes walk are various bars, restaurants, and other service providers. As I have discovered, most villages are setup in a similar manner making each one a self contained community.
One final observation is our village's collection of ~5 stray dogs. Each occupies his own area like the bums you see in Central Sq. - Cambridge, MA -- and every night we hear them howl in unison. One of them, whom Daniel named Ijumaa (Swahili for Friday), follows us home each day as we pass by the village bar after work. Apparently, we are the few people who don't throw rocks at him so he's taken quite kindly to us.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Afterward, we showed the group how they could use the leftover corn husks and cobs to make charcoal in a metal drum. The process is relatively simple: you layer the cobs and husks inside the drum, light it on fire from the top and bottom, burn off the water, cover it, mix it with cassava, and press it to briquettes. The group was very impressed with the charcoal (more so than they were with the maize sheller) and interested in exploring the business opportunities our devices presented. We left a maize sheller with the group and they told us they would do more testing once the maize dried for a few