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.

November 1st - 12th

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As the months and weeks have melted away, I find myself looking at my wall calendar wondering how it could be November already. These past five months really have flown by. Yet, I realize that I can’t reflect too much on this issue, as I know there is a whole list of tasks that need to be covered before I depart. These jobs include:

- Completing a formal funding proposal form with detailed capital and overhead budgets for the next two years.
- Writing a second proposal for funding for the annual Mwanza Charity ball, which takes place on the 12th.
- Arranging the further completion of the community kitchen. This includes building a steel door, cabinets, sinks and getting our electrical wiring inspected and approved. (However, I don’t expect that we will have the funds available to complete all of this before I go).
- Ensuring that Barulya and the yogurt mamas have a complete understanding on how to run and manage production on their own – quite possibly the most crucial part to do.
- Opening a bank account for the yogurt mamas, so they have access to money and a means of saving it.

I arrived back in Mwanza after my Kilimanjaro trip in the afternoon of the 31st. As my taxi approached the Kivulini building I was hoping that there weren’t any major problems that happened in my absence. After getting debriefed by Barulya, there in fact weren’t that many troubles that had occurred. One glaring problem however was the changing of the gas tanks. Normally you can just turn the knob on a regulator and the tank becomes free from the hoses. However, instead they unscrewed the clamp that ties the hose to the regulator – something that shouldn’t be done because it wears the hose and could cause leaks. Recognizing that they had made a mistake, the mamas resorted to cooking the milk in our kitchen rather than the yogurt room. I realized afterwards that I usually handled the gas tanks when they needed to be changed because of their extreme weight. The gas tanks will need to be switched once more before I go and after showing them what to do, it will be up to them to complete this task independently.

After consulting with Barulya and the yogurt mamas we decided that the best thing to get out of the way now was to open the project bank account. Up until then, I had always withdrawn the money from my personal account and paid expenses accordingly. Having the ownership of the account for the mamas is a huge responsibility, but I trust that they will adhere to its importance. In addition, each one has already received training on business and microfinance skills from Kivulini.
Opening an account for a business requires some work, but the process doesn’t take too long. We had to prepare a constitution for the yogurt mamas, a letter of intent stating that we wanted to open an account, a reference letter from Kivulini and an initial minimum deposit of 50,000 TSh (~50 CDN). We realized that the constitution would probably take up the most time, so we decided to work on that first.
Since the constitution had to be written in Swahili, Barulya took care of most of the writing and collected information from the mamas. The first version was ready by the 5th. Soon afterwards, Barulya and I went over the document and made a few changes to help improve it. However, overall we agreed with most of the points – by the 8th, the document was finished and we were almost ready to open the account. On the 10th, Myself, Barulya, Mama Elizabeth (who was elected treasurer within the yogurt mamas), Joyce (secretary) and Paskwalina (chairperson) headed down to the bank for was overall a pretty quick procedure (by Tanzanian standards!). Within 1.5 hrs we had the bank account and we were in business! If the mamas want to take out any money in the future, all three will need to sign the withdrawal slip.

Another very important aspect of having a bank account and a constitution is that it qualifies you for many more funding opportunities. These two items are requirements for several donors, including if you want to register as an NGO. Before this point I never really considered registering the yogurt production program as an NGO because it’s a business and should be sustainable on its own. However, while working through our future budget I’m realizing that the capital costs to get this project to its full potential will be an expensive venture. Becoming an NGO may be the only way for the program to receive the full funding it needs. Maimuna has helped in directing me to several foundations that concentrate on these assets and hopefully after more research we’ll be able to come to a full decision.

In other news, the first week of November was the last week of Ramadan – the Muslim’s month-long act of fasting. The two day celebration “Eid El Fitri” marks the end of this occasion. It was originally expected to be on Thursday 3rd and Friday the 4th, however its day can change (right up to the day before) according to presence of the moon – which is exactly what happened and was “postponed” to the 4th and 5th. These two days had been by far the quietest both in the streets and in the office I’ve ever seen. Even on Sundays, there are usually people from Kivulini coming into the office to work on a few things, but not on Eid. This let me have a good opportunity to sit at the computer and get work done without being interrupted! During this time, I managed to work on the constitution, budget setting, proposal writing and composing these blogs (which I have somewhat neglected over the past few weeks!).
However, by the mid-afternoon on the 4th my silent working period came to an end. At that time a young-street child entered the Kivulini office where I had been working. The boy (named Omani) had come by the office several times earlier in the week and some members of Kivulini staff had given a set of clothes and some food to eat. The one characteristic feature of this youth is that he is addicted to inhaling industrial glue – which he carries around in a water bottle. Omani (not more than 10) was quite high when he entered the office; the scent of toxins which follows him aroused my attention to turn around.
I asked him a few questions on various things including the glue he was inhaling. To purchase a bottle is around 100 TSh/ ~10 cents, which lasts one day, yet could be enough to pay for a foodstuff. It’s hard to get the bottle away from this boy (several Kivulini employees tried before) – he clutches it like a stuft-animal, saying that “it keeps him warm”. It’s always hard what to do in these situations – especially in this one where I was the only person around and the boy wouldn’t leave the office. Since the boy kept returning for more food throughout the week, I was under the impression that we weren’t to give any more. However, after talking for a bit and showing various pictures from the Kivulini computer, Omani shook my hand and left the office.

Along with preparing our bank account, much of the second week in November was centered on furthering construction of the community kitchen. One of these tasks included going to the Tanzanian electrical supplier, Tanesco, head office in Mwanza. I had been here several times before and it’s quite the site to see. This small building is the centre of payment for electricity for much of Mwanza City. If you go any time after 11am, you’ll be in queue all day. I thought I would get an early jump on it and head down at 9am on the 8th to speak to the person in charge of “turning on” electricity. We had arranged for the inspector to come while I was away on vacation and I was coming to see how the inspection went.
After waiting almost two hours for the person to arrive to her desk, I was told that the person never went to inspect it and I would have to return the next morning at 8am to accompany him to finish this task. The next day, bright and early I returned to Tanesco and arranged with the inspector to come to Mabatini. On the way, I suddenly realized that it would have been a good idea to bring a translator (i.e. a Kivulini employee) with me to help explain any problems there might be and make sure I wasn’t being ripped off in any way! However, after the “inspection”, that lasted no more than 30 seconds (and consisted of flicking on-and-off light switches – that had no electricity to power them) I deduced that our inspection was a pass. The only thing we need to do to get the electricity on is to “pay the manager of Tanesco” I was told by another person who was to have his property inspected next. Whether or not this fee is legitimate, will be known next week.

Besides working on our bank account opening and coordinating various construction plans for the kitchen, I also helped Kivulini design a pamphlet they were to use for an upcoming conference. At the same time, I decided to make one of the yogurt project too – I figured it will be a good asset to have and hand out to guests and potential donors.

On more of a national level, you may have heard that the Tanzanian presidential elections were postponed until December. This was because one of the vice-presidential candidates died (of what was apparently from the effects of severe diabetes). The law allows the party to choose a new candidate before the elections take place. However, the elections on Zanzibar still went ahead because they elect their own leader in addition to the Tanzanian president (somewhat similar to electing a premier in Canada). You also may have heard that the results were questioned by members of the opposition – which resulted in some riots and fighting. I won’t get into the politics of it more, but I was very interested to see the continuation of this present itself in Mwanza. I was walking home from downtown one afternoon where the police, dressed in riot gear blocked off a street and did not let any cars or people pass. Several hundred people had gathered around and were, like me, curious to see what was going on. Apparently, a member of the opposition party (CUF) had broken into an incumbent party (CCM) supporter’s house and destroyed some personal items. No major rioting or bloodshed happened, nevertheless it was a fascinating thing to see.

One last problem presented itself this week: NIMR notified me that they were out of inulin – a required ingredient to produce the probiotics. We will need to either have more delivered from Canada or find a supplier in Africa (which hasn’t been pursued before) as soon as possible. In the meantime, NIMR will have to suspend making probiotic cultures until further notice, which means only plain yogurt will be made. With the cooperation of Inulin suppler, I’m confident that we should have this issue within a of couple weeks .

The day of me posting this journal (November 12th) is the day of the Charity Ball – which is to take place at the Bank of Tanzania Training Centre. I managed to purchase a nice pair of trousers, a dress shirt and even a suit jacket all in Mlango Moja and all for under $20. Right after making this posting I’m also heading to the barber – which will be my first hair cut in nearly 5 months. I’m contemplating shaving my beard as well – which has been growing (untouched) for approximately 2 months. Lately whenever I’ve been walking down the street people have been calling me “Chuck Norris” or “Jesus”, although I’m flattered to bear resemblance to such esteemed individuals, it does get annoying after a while. (Plus I miss being called Mzungu).

Regardless, you’ll just have to wait and see for my next posting to see what happens to all this hair…

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