Water Security

In a small village of farmers, one can understand the importance of consistent access to water. In Kwakiliga, the source of water is most often rain. However, the rains in Kwakiliga are inconsistent to say the least. This season, it hasn’t rained since November 2nd and 2 years ago it barely rained for the entire year. The unpredictable rains often lead to variable agricultural harvests and hunger seasons. Although many community members would prefer to participate in a less variable and rain-dependent activity, most do not have the means to explore other enterprises.

Although our group is not farming, we rely on water everyday for our integrated system to thrive. The chickens at a single banda drink an average of 30L of water a day, and we have estimated that each of our gardens needs a minimum of 80L of water a day to thrive. This means that for each integrated system, our baseline water usage is 110L per day. Currently, we are not water secure and do not provide 110L of water to our integrated system everyday.

In order to become water secure, we have been considering two options. The first is harvesting groundwater. The second is building pipes and spigots to each of the integrated systems. As Project Coordinators, we have been leaning toward implementing a groundwater solution because we believe it provides a long-term, self-sustaining, and consistent water solution. However, this project will take a lot of creativity, time, and money. We have done exhaustive research on the likelihood of groundwater presence and systems to harvest and transport the water, and the next step is to contract a professional groundwater surveyor for about $425 USD. On the other hand, our partners have been leaning towards building the piping system for the reason that it is a right-now and accessible solution. However, we are skeptical of the pipes because building them is costly (estimated at $1,500 USD) and the pipes that already exist in Kwakiliga are inconsistent and seem to be broken more often than they are working in the dry months.

Although there are many ideas for what a water solution should look like in Kwak, we all agree that a solution is long overdue. Thus, we have decided to officially pursue both options. We are hoping that the pipes will provide a timely solution while the groundwater survey is a step in the right direction towards finding a reliable and sustainable source of water in the future. Our next steps are to figure out a timeline for both projects and how we will finance them, so stay tuned!

-Brandon and Jeremy

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The Power of Personal Finance

Those of you who have been following our project over the last couple of months may remember posts congratulating our partner, Mama Mwaka, on being the first member of the 2Seeds Network to reach a personal savings goal. As we now celebrate our second partner, Mzee Adamu, reaching his personal savings goal, we want to take a moment to talk about what it is that we hope to accomplish in setting up these goals, why we think it’s so important and what this all means for our partners and their families moving forward.

As has been mentioned in previous posts, most of our partners relied on small-scale farms as their primary source of income before joining the 2Seeds Network. In a village like Kwakiliga, where the sun is hot, the rains are unpredictable and the soil is far from fertile, one can understand why it would be difficult to find great success in agriculture. Unfortunately, with very little means to establish savings, it is next to impossible for people to invest in alternative entrepreneurial endeavors. Thus, Kwakiligan families have been trapped in a cycle of poverty for decades. 2Seeds’ aim of breaking that cycle by investing in opportunities to diversify income sources has found a good deal of success over the last two years. As the egg-selling business continues to grow, so too do our partners’ incomes. With this newfound income came a new challenge, however. Many of our partners suddenly had personal savings to manage and had very little experience doing so.

I highly recommend to all of you – particularly those of you who have, are currently or may one day live in an African nation – the book African Friends and Money Matters by David Maranz. In it, he looks at matters of personal finance through a largely anthropological lens in a variety of African nations. His observations are often general, but many of them are very relevant to what we’ve seen here and they have major implications on personal savings habits. Here are a few that stood out:

  • The financial need that occurs first has first claim on the available resources
  • Resources are to be used, not hoarded
  • Money is to be spent before friends or relatives ask to “borrow”
  • Africans tend to be very sensitive and alert to the needs of others and are quite ready to share their resources
  • The response, “No”, to a request for money, a loan, or a material object is understood as an insult, indifference to need, a lack of respect, or a sign of rejection of the petitioner.

Again, these are largely generalizations and obviously do not apply to all, but we have seen first-hand the stress that one might feel having money in an environment where most do not.

Uncompleted structures are very common here, as people will begin construction of new rooms and buildings in order to liquidate assets. Should a neighbor or family member ask for a loan, there is a strong obligation to help if the money is there.

Uncompleted structures are very common here, as people often begin construction of new rooms and buildings in order to liquidate assets. Should a neighbor or family member ask for a loan, there is a strong obligation to help if the money is there.

You can see in Maranz’s observations that there is a strong sense of solidarity at play. Breaking away from that, even if it means positive personal growth, can be very difficult and come at the cost of personal relationships, which are extremely highly valued here.

Having detailed and structured personal savings plans helps to alleviate some of this pressure. Virtually all of the profit generated by our egg business is put directly into a shared bank account, with records to keep track of both group and individual shares. All of our partners have also already developed goals for what they hope to do with their share of profits. Some of them are like Mama Mwaka’s goal of making crucial home improvements and will lead to happier, healthier lives; others are investments in future ventures that will help to build even greater financial security. Some of the goals are rather modest or incremental, others are quite large and may take years to reach. No matter the specifics, our goal, as Project Coordinators, is to help our partners to establish savings plans that they can take full ownership over.

Not only do these savings plans mean partners aren’t sitting on large amounts of cash, but they also help to create budgets and spending projections, which maximize savings and actually increase financial freedom and independence. Our partners work extremely hard and are accomplishing truly amazing things – we want to see them reap the full benefit of their efforts.

One of the primary objectives of the Kwakiliga Project – and 2Seeds in general, for that matter – is to see our partners achieve income security. That’s just the beginning, though. We want our partners to be able to reach their own personal maisha bora, or “better life”. Whether that’s Mama Mwaka having the house she’s always wanted, Aziza getting her women’s fashion business off the ground, or Mzee Mcharo investing in bee hives to produce and sell honey, we believe strongly in the power of financial literacy and goal setting as a catalyst for personal development.

Thanks for checking in!

Until next time,

Brandon and Jeremy, KwakStars

Click here to check out an abbreviated list of Maranz’s observations from his book African Friend and Money Matters.

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The Rains, They Come and They Go

Hello from Kwakiliga!

We are very pleased to announce that after 3 weeks of consistently climbing egg production, our sick chickens have turned the corner and are now producing in the normal range again! Happy to have healthy chickens once again, we have made plans with partners to that will allow us to anticipate illness amongst the chickens so that we can limit drops in production in the future.

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After a couple of weeks of rain, the rains in Kwakiliga quickly became predictably unpredictable. Luckily, our meeting with Mr. Kweka, the irrigation specialist in Korogwe could not have come at a more relevant time. He arrived in Kwak ready to talk with the partners about Kwak’s water history and survey for the presence of groundwater. Although his conclusions were not exactly what we were hoping to hear, he provided us with great information. He believes that there is groundwater in the field set back behind banda 2 and 3 that was diverted to a greater depth after the road was built. However, even if groundwater exists and we are able to extract it, he is skeptical that we will be able to pump the water the necessary distance to all of the bandas. His recommendation is to, instead of harvesting groundwater, petition the local water authority to offshoot a pipe so that each of the bandas will have a personal spigot from which to collect water. As a rough estimate, we calculated that implementing this solution would cost around 2.5 million shillings! With a price point this high, we are thinking very critically and carefully about the water problem in Kwak. As of now we are still researching the possibility of harvesting groundwater while we obtain more concrete details about the process of implementing the pipes. Hopefully we can find a cost effective and reliable water source!

Stay tuned for more details on the developing water saga and continue to follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

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A Visit from the Vet

The past few weeks have been a little challenging here in Kwakiliga. Just as the chickens began to approach their optimum laying levels (27 eggs per chicken, per 30 days), we saw the numbers plateau and then, one banda after another, begin to drop. While the decrease in production hit some worse than others, we had a dramatic fall across the board. At one banda, production fell to as low as 15 eggs per day – a fraction of the 89 per day that our hens are capable of.

Unable to fill the orders that we had secured just one week prior, it became necessary to prioritize our buyers. This was a difficult task for a new and growing business, as these relationships will be extremely important to us moving forward. The last thing we wanted to do was make promises we couldn’t keep and risk losing buyers for good. It became necessary to actually just cancel all orders for a week, knowing that we had orders to fill in Dar es Salaam the following week, which is a market we absolutely cannot afford to lose. This decision also allowed us to save a lot on transportation costs, as we would have struggled to break even shipping such small amounts of eggs. With revenues down and costs higher than usual due to additional veterinary costs for the month, we had to be as cautious as possible with spending in order to salvage as much profit for the month as possible.

On top of dealing with the market side of things, it was also necessary to figure out why the chickens were universally producing so much less. As two new PCs still fairly unfamiliar with chicken care, we found ourselves a little out of our element. It luckily didn’t take long for us to be reminded of the tremendous strength of our network, at all levels. Upon noticing the drop, Raymond – our Bwana Dawa, or Medical Chair – was contacted to assess the situation. He then utilized our network to contact our go-to veterinarian and arrange a visit. Within just a few days the veterinarian was in Kwakiliga to tend to our birds and make recommendations. He returned two days later with the appropriate medications and gave demonstrations to each group member on how to properly administer them.

We are constantly being reminded that there will always be tribulations that come with life and work here. It’s moments like these, though, that we are filled with confidence and pride as we see our partners rise to meet and navigate every challenge. From every obstacle there are lessons to be learned and small victories to be celebrated. These last few weeks were no exception. While we are not totally out of the woods yet, our numbers are climbing and our spirits are high as we look to our next major tasks at hand – our groundwater harvesting activity and the vuni planting season.

Stay tuned!

Jeremy and Brandon

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New Fences and New Markets

Hello again!

A lot has been happening since our last post, so we’ll try and give an update without forgetting anything. The fences at Banda #3 and Banda #1 are finished and we are beginning to work on Banda #2 this week. We want to thank all of our supporters as the Kwakiliga Project financed the fences and all of the materials cost approximately $600 USD. Although we were hesitant to make this large of a purchase only weeks after arriving, we are sure that the repairs are crucial in providing a deFENCE against disease. Healthy chickens are our first priority! We set a schedule to have all 3 fences finished by the beginning of October, and so far we are right on schedule. Furthermore, we set a personal goal to have at least one partner from each banda attend everyday of construction. We were blown out of the water Day 1 when 8 of 9 partners showed up to build! It may have been the smell of sweet maandazi (doughnuts) and chai that provided an extra incentive, but either way, everyone’s commitment is great for group dynamics.

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With fence repairs going smoothly, we focused some of our attention on the eggs. We are producing about 60 trays of eggs each week, which means 1800 eggs a week! With this amount of eggs, we gladly began exploring a couple new market options to get these eggs moving! Like a true business man, Mzee Rubeni, the group’s designated market man, hopped on his phone calling local buyers and making plans to visit Handeni and Mombo to explore market opportunities. With little luck finding local buyers that needed eggs immediately, we decided to send 50 trays to a buyer in Handeni, buying at a wholesale price. Although selling at a wholesale price isn’t ideal because it limits the group’s profit, we didn’t want eggs to start backing up in Kwak. To avoid having to sell at any price lower than 8,000 TZS per tray again, we hopped on a bus to Korogwe last weekend with a tray of sample eggs. Walking around chatting with street vendors and debuting our golden yolks, new buyers were scrambling to make a deal. EGGscelent! Going forward, we are trying to organize a community of committed and regular buyers in Korogwe so as to limit the moving pieces every week. Hatua kwa hatua (step by step) we are learning.

Stay tuned for more exciting news from Kwakiliga!

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Learning the Ropes

Quick note: due to our limited internet availability, blog posts are often delayed by a couple of weeks. Thanks for understanding!

Hello from Kwakiliga!

After our first week in Kwak, we are finally getting settled and getting into the swing of things. We spent much of the first week meeting our partners and hanging out at the chicken coops, getting a feel for the daily tasks.

Today, we had our first meeting with the partners and it was very productive. Along with the ground team, we went over the egg sales in Dar es Salaam and Korogwe from last week and calculated each coop’s share of the revenue according to the new payout system. Calculator in hand and diligently crunching numbers, it was great to see all of the partners helping one another. After finances were tackled, we moved onto a subject that was on everyone’s mind – repairs. Each coop’s fences are in desperate need of repair as the wire has rusted and much of the bamboo has rotted. Agreeing that each coop should maintain high standards, we made plans to purchase the supplies needed to repair the fences. We are headed on a boys’ trip with Mzee Mcharo and Mzee Rubeni to Korogwe tomorrow to visit the hardware store, with a quick pit stop at the bank!

Everyone here in Kwak is eager to get the ball rolling and we’re rolling with the punches, excited to be a part of a group so invested in success.

Before we forget, this week’s Standing O goes to the fundi that built our 5 new egg boxes in such a hurry. The new flock of chickens started producing beautiful eggs at such a high rate that we didn’t have enough boxes to transport them all to the market. As problems go, what a great one to have! We called the fundi, placed an order for 5 new boxes, and miraculously, they were finished in just 4 days!

Until next time!

Brandon and Jeremy

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A Brief Introduction and Our First “Standing O”

Hello everybody! We are extremely proud to be joining the Kwakiliga Project this year. Last year proved very successful for the community of Kwakiliga, as the project and our partners made tremendous strides forward. Entering with this momentum is extremely empowering and we’ve both been working very hard to make sure that we really hit the ground running. Before that happens though, we want to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves briefly.

My name is Jeremy Harding. Originally from Syracuse, New York, I attended the University of Rochester where I studied Public Health and International Relations. I was originally drawn to 2Seeds by their refreshing set of values. Humility, compassion, resource stewardship, self-awareness, partnership and results are listed as the values that drive how 2Seeds operates. The more I learned about the organization and the people behind it, the more clear it became that all that we do is deeply rooted in these core values. I knew early on that this was a group of people that I wanted to be a part of, doing work that I truly wanted to do and in a way that I respected. I am incredibly excited to get to Kwakiliga and begin working with, learning from and connecting to our partners there.

My name is Brandon Smith and I was born and raised in Oakland, California. I recently graduated from Harvard University where I studied Human Evolutionary Biology and Spanish. Much like Jeremy, I was truly drawn to 2Seeds by the organization’s innovative approach to development. By focusing on human capital development rather than specific solutions, it was clear to me that 2Seeds is having a meaningful and lasting impact in Tanzania. Each of 2Seeds’ projects, including the Kwakiliga Project, builds upon the success of each year. This continuous growth is evidenced by the variation of activities taking place in each of the project sites. I am excited to finally arrive in Kwakiliga and continue on the path to maisha bora (the good life).

Finally, we wanted to share with all of our amazing supporters something cool that we’ve been doing over the course of the last week. As our challenges may be overwhelming at times, we believe that it is extremely important to celebrate each other often. Therefore, as a way to acknowledge and show appreciation for the small things that people do to improve the lives of those around them, we like to give standing ovations. A “Standing O,” as we like to call it, is a fun little exercise that puts a smile on everyone’s face, and helps remind us that we are all in this together. For our first (of many, I’m sure) Standing O, we’d like to nominate Twaha, one of our dedicated 2Seeds bijaj (3 wheeled-taxi) drivers. Not only does he do his job extremely well, making our lives infinitely easier, he has also been such a warm and inviting presence during this first week. Every time we see him, we are greeted with a huge smile and a heartfelt habari yako. Twaha likes to test our Swahili during our rides around Korogwe and is so amazingly patient and helpful, which helps to calm the nerves of learning a new language. He’s the kind of person that gives you the sense that you are in amazingly good hands, which is a very powerful feeling at the outset of this adventure. We appreciate him tremendously and want to invite you to celebrate his warmth and compassion with us.

Keep an eye out for updates from the ‘Kwak’ team! We’ll be in touch often!

Best,
Brandon and Jeremy

Keep up-to-date with the Kwakiliga Project by subscribing to this blog and following our social media accounts! Follow @Kwakiliga2Seeds on Twitter and @TheKwakiligaProject on Instagram!

 

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