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 for August 1-14

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August 1-6

We have decided to combine these two weeks since one week was pretty ordinary and the next was spent traveling…

It all started on a Monday morning when Dallas did not feel like herself. She was completely zapped of energy and could barely stay awake during the Kivulini meeting. Jonathan made the trip to NIMR to pay one of our milk sources and to speak to Iddah, our contact, about the quality of the milk. She assured us that she would speak to her workers and ensure that we would be getting milk of top quality. The good news on this day was that Kahabi, a yogurt mama who had been absent for 3 weeks had finally shown up. She explained that her son had been ill and that she lived to far away to make the trip and leave him alone. She had not been picking up her yogurt very often either and we were worried that it would go to waste; therefore, we let her take 4 day’s worth of yogurt.
It’s very frustrating for everyone when one of the mamas is consistently absent. However, they have become very good at filling in and helping each other out when needed. We are very happy to see this as it demonstrates that yogurt production itself is sustainable.

This week we realized that the goat’s milk yogurt we had made was not in fact good to eat, so we will have to try again in the future. Dr. Hekmat has told us that it should be fine to mix goat’s milk with cow’s milk probiotic yogurt, so we are unsure of what went wrong. The consistency was very watery and lumpy and had a different smell. We will have to try again if we can get our hands on more goat’s milk.

Dallas was really not feeling well so we went to the Hindu Union clinic to get a malaria test. It came back negative but she was still feeling very ill. After spending the night with a fever and more illness, Dallas tried another clinic and found that she did in fact have malaria parasites. She spent the day in bed (reading the newest Harry Potter) under the watchful eye of the mama’s and Kivulini while Jonathan ran some errands. On Wednesday, Dallas was still not feeling well so Jonathan made the trip to NIMR to speak to Simon. Our microbiologist was feeling very frustrated as the yogurt had separated once again. This week he had to buy powdered milk in the hope that it might work a bit better. He had done a number of tests which showed there was no contamination of any kind and was truly at a loss as to what was going wrong. He pointed out that the incubator was still broken and inquired once again about possible funding from WHE in order to fix it. This would really be helpful if we would be able to contribute. After all, high-quality probiotics are at the centre of this project; if we have consistent problems with the yogurt each week, it throws everything off.

For the remainder of the week, Dallas was convalescing and trying to get better while Jonathan was being a great help and picking up meals and even renting a few DVDs at night. On Saturday afternoon we went to Mwanza’s small but interesting Nane Nane festival. Nane Nane stands for eight eight (August 8th) and is the national public holiday celebrating developments in agriculture. Mwanza is not a large agricultural centre compared to other Tanzanian cities, so their festival was rather small. However, we learned that several Tanzanian companies are breeding the small, local goats with much larger goats from Pakistan. The farmers find that this practice significantly increases the milk yield. We also spoke to the keeper of a Nyati (water buffalo). Although the animal consumes large amounts of water and food each day, it produces milk that is 10% fat! After the festival, we headed up to one of the nearby museums on the native Sukoma people and learned about their traditional drumming, architecture, and dances (some with live porcupines, and snakes!). The next day we prepared for our trip to Dar es Salaam, Morogoro and Zanzibar…

August 7-14

Sunday morning our plane left Mwanza for Dar es Salaam. Overall, the plane ride was very enjoyable. We even managed to see the peaks of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro from our seats!

The next morning we took a 3 hour bus ride to Morogoro (the site of the national Nane-Nane festival). There, we were hoping to gain a better understanding of some of the agricultural practices in dairy/yogurt production. There was a lot of literature, but limited direct communication with any businesses or charitable organizations. Nevertheless, we ended up getting a lot of information needed to gain a better understanding for owning and taking care of cows/goats.

Our time spent at the nane-nane grounds was cut short after Jonathan’s phone was pick-pocketed; we took the 3 hour bus back to Dar that evening.
The rest of the week we basically spent traveling.

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