A collection of journal entries of two students from the University of Western Ontario, Dallas Curow (June-August 2005) and Jonathan Birinyi (June 2005-April 2006). Feel free to read and explore their journey working on the Western Heads East probiotic yogurt nutriontal project in Mwanza, Tanzania, Africa.

Journal entry for July 17

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This week was full of new experiences, discoveries and tastes.

We have decided to rotate attending the Monday morning Kivulini meetings. They can be quite long and all in Kiswahili, so it is best if one of us attends while the other helps the yogurt mamas or runs errands. In a country where time-efficiency can be challenging, we are still holding tightly to our “Western” ways. We tried to figure out how to get our resident VISAs sent from Dar es Salaam but encountered problems when we couldn’t get in touch with our CIDA contact who currently has them. We are hesitant to just send money when we’re not sure who will be receiving it. After walking around town, we stopped into another internet café to search for further contact information in Dar. We send our contact, Fabian, an email explaining our situation but we have yet to hear back from them. The hunt for the VISAs continues to this moment! After sending more emails back home, we began to discuss our vision for the WHE program. We feel it is going very well, but we have been discussing slight changes of direction that would definitely affect the momentum of the program.
At night we ventured to Tilapia Hotel, a rather posh resort and restaurant. Our NIMR friends agreed to “bite the bullet” and come along. Confused, we inquired as to what could be wrong with 5 star restaurant. They explained that Tilapia tends to attract a more culturally insensitive and generally rude/arrogant crowd of foreigners. While there, we received our first “reverse culture shock” while witnessing several customers be rude and obnoxious to employees. After living and working so closely with Tanzanians, it was an eye-opener to witness people ignoring social customs and being downright rude to the friendly people of Tanzania we have come to care for.
Tuesday morning, Dallas went to NIMR to drop off supplies and speak with Simon. He inquired again as to our contact with home and whether or not our team has made a decision about some compensation for NIMR’s work. I assured him that we would let him know soon. Meanwhile, Jonathan was back at the apartment going over price estimates with plumbers for the next steps of the community kitchen. They left us a list of the figures and we put those alongside those from the electricians. Bit by bit the community kitchen is getting underway again. This progress is good, as the mamas have been asking when they will be able to make yogurt near their homes.
After trying unsuccessfully several times to reach Heifer International--the organization that gives livestock to groups in need--we decided to just make the trip out and see them the next day. After a bit of a wild goose chase, we finally found Heifer and were warmly received by the employees, who remembered Brian and Cynthia. After speaking with the Project development coordinator, Rehema, we found out that WHE does not in fact qualify to receive Heifer’s assistance. We were shocked, as Brian and Cynthia had been told that WHE met the requirements. Rehema explained that Heifer only helps extremely poor people and ONLY in very remote, rural areas. We insisted that the women we are working with are in fact very poor and that their neighbourhood (Mabatini) is outside of town. Rehema insisted that WHE as a project does not qualify because there are several outreach programs available for people in these urbanized areas. Crushed, we realized that this meant back to the drawing board. We were about to leave when Rehema added that Heifer would be able to help us purchase livestock if that became what we decided to do. She gave us the average prices for cows and goats. She also introduced us to a man from whom we could purchase goat’s milk. This, at least, was a relief as we’ve been searching for a source of goat’s milk for weeks without success.
To sum it up, here is the current situation concerning milk sources:
In terms of WHE acquiring livestock, and helping the women acquire it, the only animals we would ever be able to work with are goats. Cows are far too expensive in terms of maintenance and care. First, neither we nor the women have access to the space needed for cows to graze. Second, in terms of sustainability, supplying food and water for the cows would be enormously expensive for the women. Cows are not an option. Goats, a small number of them, are more realistic. They only require a small amount of space and significantly less food. However, Heifer will not provide the goats, so WHE would have to purchase them. Also, we will need full assurance that the women are capable of caring for the animals.
The other option of course is continuing to purchase the milk from external sources. This may be financially difficult for the women to do after the WHE project is established. However, if the yogurt is being sold by that point, the revenue could be put towards supplies.
The other issue with goat’s milk is the social stigma attached to it. Although it is known to be more nutritious and is commonly consumed in other cities such as Dar es Salaam and Morogoro, the people of Mwanza shudder when you suggest that it might be good to drink. Throughout our informal surveys, the response to the idea of eating/drinking goat’s milk has been an almost unanimous “Gross!”(English translation). We have decided to test what people actually think of goat’s milk. We ended up going back to Nyakato (where Heifer is located) in order to purchase a small amount of goat’s milk from the man there. We have made the yogurt, will take it to NIMR for Simon to test its quality and then hold taste tests next week. We will tell all of our mamas and the Kivulini staff that we have tried a new technique for yogurt making and ask them to comment on the differences in taste between cow’s and goat’s milk yogurt.
In other news this week, Kivulini’s media department recently purchased all new audio equipment with a recent donation. They are extremely excited, as the higher quality of this equipment will aid them in the dissemination of their messages to the public. They set up the sound system of the roof of the Kivulini building and we all went up to dance to the music and drink local soda. Across the street, construction workers danced while they worked, shoveling, hammering or mixing cement, all to the beat of the music.
That night, Mr. Bunwenge, Mlango Moja’s Ward Executive Officer or “street leader” had us over to his house for dinner. We took the present that Bob Gough had sent for him and his daughter and they were thrilled to receive the gifts! While there, we sat in the outdoor kitchen with Mr. Bunwenge’s wife and mother as they prepared a delicious dinner of chicken, ugali and cabbage. Dallas later found out that chicken was on the menu because Mama Joyce had told Mr. B. that she, Dallas, does not eat beef. She definitely appreciated his consideration. We were very curious about Mr.B’s responsibilities as a street leader and Mr. B. asked many questions about the differences between Tanzania and Canada. After a lovely dinner, conversation and a little MTV, the Bunwenge family accompanied us through the dark night, following well-worn dirt paths, back to the main road to catch a Dalladalla. It was a great evening.
On Thursday, we were invited to attend a Kivulini workshop on Domestic Violence. The workshop was held at St. Augustine University, just outside of Mwanza, and was atop a tall mountain at the University’s seminary. We both agreed that the giant rocks, black stone cliffs and breathtaking views of Lake Victoria and the plains made for one of the most beautiful places they had ever seen. The workshop itself was facilitated by Solo, a long-time employee of Kivulini and a dynamic, intelligent speaker. Through the help of some translators we were able to follow along with the workshop quite well. Dallas was asked to lead the afternoon stretching session and the two of us were encouraged to stand up and share their thoughts throughout the day. It was fascinating and difficult to do group work and hear peoples’ opinions and stories about domestic violence. All the participants agreed that DV is a deeply-embedded part of African culture and they were trying to learn why. Solo explained that patterns of domestic violence begin to effect people from a very young age and that it is up to parents to set a good example, create a loving home and help break the cycle of violence. We learned a great deal from our fellow participants, and also from Solo’s intelligent and sensitive presentation.
The rest of the week was filled with activities that have come to feel normal and routine to us such as bartering at the market, overseeing yogurt production, sending emails in the internet café and discussing the future of the project. We had a very poor dining experience at the nearby Aspen hotel. After waiting an hour and a half for our food (and it was 11:30pm by this point) the waitress came over, served Jonathan his fish and a small bit of rice and told Dallas that nothing she’d ordered was available. Offering no apologies or alternatives, she walked back to the kitchen. Appalled, but too tired and hungry to argue, we split the single meal and called it a night. This place made any Canadian fast food restaurant come into Dallas’ dreams as palaces of culinary delights.
The weekend was incredibly relaxing. We met with our friend Jenny to begin planning a weekend getaway to the Serengeti. We also discovered that Nane Nane, the national public holiday devoted to agriculture will be held in Dar es Salaam this year. The Kivulini employees have assured us that this would be a great trip to make in order to speak to farmers, other companies that might be able to help our project and to learn more about the social acceptability of goat’s milk. After a very frustrating week in terms of milk sources, to find this opportunity was a most serendipitous contrast!

Until next week!

Dallas and Jonathan

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