Monday, December 8, 2008

Week 1:Case Studies at Ground Level (CCS)

Here in Moshi, I only spend about 1/3 of my time teaching computer skills to the girls in the WEECE vocational school; the other part of my time are spent in field visits.

WEECE loans start at 50,000TSH, or approximately 40 USD to a qualified woman. But before she can get the loan the application process is intensive. There is a check into her background and people who know her locally are questioned extensively, to make sure that she is a reliable individual and will contribute back to the group. There is a progressiveloan ladder which allows larger loans to be taken out after the initial loan is taken out, all the way up to 100,000 TSH. Once she is past 100,000TSH, she moves to a larger loan sub organization called SACCOS. SACCOS was started in 2004 and currently has 79 members.

With every loan, a percentage of the interest paid back actually becomes "shares" which the individuals holds and the money is put in WEECE's bank. She can use the shares in the future toward a larger loan once the inital loan is paid back to WEECE. The advantage of becoming part of WEECE is significant - not only does get a loan at a better rate than the bank, she also receives support and education from WEECE to help her run her business. The WEECE loans are 5 month cycles at 15% interest, in contrast to the local bank which is at a whopping 28%. Because the bank loans are so high, in order to grow WEECE, most of the funds have been supported by corporate or foreign government donations, such as the canadian embassy.

Every week, we visit 3-4 businesses that supported by microloans from WEECE. I think this is probably the most exciting part of my time here. I have experience in business but every business is different, so it's really hard for me to know what my role is as a volunteer. You only get about 45 min to an hour to speak with the women who run the businesses, and to understand how they run the business and what their pain points are. Coming up with ideas on the spot is really challenging but I like it.

But, more importantly - I am writing these stories to illustrate how the loans are used, and how it helps impact their lives. A small loan does make a difference.

In order to visit each business, a woman named Ester takes me to each place. Her job at WEECE is to check in on a regular basis with each of the businesses, and to make sure they revert their loans. She also is there to keep track of the health of each business.

Timber Seller/Poultry feed Business


The first visit we make is to a lady called Yolanda Maro who sells feed for animals and timber. She doesn't really speak much English, so Ester acts as my translator for all of my questions. The wood is used mainly for construction of houses and some furniture. It is traditionally a man's job in this area and takes a thick backbone/skin for her to deal with the guys. As a SACCOS member this is her third shop, and is called Matarimo Shop & Timber. She is an example of a WEECE success story. Her shop is located in a good place - on KCMC road - a really busy tarmac road that is close to the main hospital. This road, by the way, is really dangerous. There is no gravel to keep the drivers from going at top speed. By passing cars happens on a regular basis and pedestrians have no respect what so ever. We walked down this street to get to the store and along the way I saw two accidents. It is madness. One large dirt dumping truck has a huge boulder wedged under it. The guy is trying to push it out from under the fender. Good luck to him; if he even manages to move it, the truck weighs at least 2 tons.

Her business is in a niche area; this location is away from the town of moshi, so there is no tax for the chicken feed. She has about 5 different varies of feed, each of varying degrees of quality. The cost for feed is 40,000 TSH/50KG . She also sells feed at 7000TSH/1KG. The feed is for hens, pigs, goats, sheep. Feed is comprised of coarse maize, wheat. It is a competitive industry. She started the feed bsuiness only 6 months ago with 6 different types of feed. Rent for the space is 50,000TSH x 2, because she is using the lot in front as well as the store within.


The timber sales has been around longer but the sales is slower. Timber has been in business for 4 years. However the sales has a bigger margin. Her customers are fairly loyal and advertising is mainly word of mouth. Customers are mainly local businesses in construction, some artists, some furniture makers. There really isn't a need for marketing the timber, the material is sitting there by the road and highly visible and most locals know about the business. In order to prevent theft of wood, she has a night time guard and the wood is marked with chalk on the sides and counted daily. The chicken feed is new but again, people spread the availability by word of mouth. She is also a reseller of the large sacks of feed. Her store name isn't on the feed but they don't really do rebranding here.

Why is she running this business? She wants to send her children to school. While education through grade 7 is mandatory here in Tanzania, most parents can't afford the book and uniform fees. In addition, she would like to improve and build a better house for herself and her children.

At this point in time, she is debating if she should take out a new loan so that she supply a special kind of timber that one of her best customers likes. Before we leave, she has a customer visit her and buy some wood. The guy can't pay in full but only partial. She lets him have it and makes a note for the amount he has to pay. Ester tells me that this is a frequent practice here; most people can't afford to pay anything in full - they are too poor - and they are living off of tomorrow's money. As for owing back, everybody knows where everybody else lives, so it is not difficult to track them down if they don't repay within a reasonable amount of time.

Chips and Chicken Business
November 28, 2008

We visit a Chips (french fries for you Americans) and Chicken business today on Mapipa Street (in reality, dirt alleyway). Joyce Simkanga owns this business. She is older, and has medical complications. She was sick for 3 years at one point and completely unable to work. Most of her children are fully grown with the exception of the youngest. He is 7 years old, in primary school. We don't know the details of her illness but it appears to be ongoing. Her feet are swollen and it is suggested that she may have diabetes and heart complications.

The food service/cooking/restaurant business, anywhere, is a lot of hard manual labor. It isdaily works and difficult for someone to keep it up, especially if they are physically weak. Joyce lucks out because her food stall is located in an alleyway right next to KCMC medical school. The medical students come down to the alley to buy lunch and other goods on a regular basis.

KCMC (Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center) is the best hospital they have here. It is where major surgeries take place and most people can't afford it. You can only afford it if you have money. In Joyce's case, as I understand it, she is special case with fees waived. It is also in collaboration with Duke Medical School here in the USA.

A breakdown of the supplies goes as such: 100TSH for water daily, 60,000TSH for a sack of potatoes, 3 times a week. The potatoes are then peeled, sliced and washed by hand. The business operates 7 days a week, with 1 helper when Joyce can't hold it down herself. It costs 5000Tsh pre tray of eggs, and 5000 TSH/chicken for a total of 10 chickens and 1 tray of eggs that is purchased daily. The materials have to be bought at market every morning, very early and then walked miles to her shop which is a ways outside of town. Trash service costs 40,000TSH per year for pickup. Oil costs 12,000TSH for 5 liters, used daily. The rent is exceeedingly high at 50,000 TSH for just a small outdoor stand approximately 5" x 5" of space, but like anywhere in the world, it's all about the location, location, location. There is a lot of competition for the market space and again, she is lucky to have this prime location.

The chicken with chips is sold at 2000TSH to the customer. Fried eggs and chips are sold at 1000TSH. Sales are typically good, however it is hampered by rainy weather. Job risks is also present - charcoal inhalation and raw food handling. Theplace where the potatoes are cut and washed are covered in flies. However, with a lot of customers, she says she is turning a decent profit. Her main pain point is being ill. She also is running this business to support her youngest who has just started elementary school. Ester tells me that she visits her on a regular basis to lend her a hand.
After we leave Joyce, we walk down the street look for the fresh produce shop we are supposed to visit today but they are not there. Like everything here in Tanzania, you cannot expect anybody will be there on any given day. Perhaps another day.

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