Monday, June 14, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Date: Tuesday June 8 to Monday June 14
Day 8 to 15
Quote of the week: "Give me freedom, give me fire, give me reason, take me higher. See the champions take the field now, you define us, make us feel proud." - K'naan's 2010 FIFA World Cup song

The first week in Oyugis was amazing. It was busy, challenging, memorable, and SO MUCH FUN! On Tuesday Emily and I hopped on a matatu (the minibus packed like sardines) and headed to Kadongo (about 30 mins away) to visit the second yogurt kitchen. I had no idea where it was or what the place looked like but I wasn't worried at all...we had some fellow passengers help us out :) It was really great to see Roy, the project coordinator, waiting for us when we arrived. Kadongo is a much smaller town, or a large village, in comparison to the bustling town of Oyugis. I recently found out that Oyugis is the largest town in between Kisii and Kisumu (2 major cities along the same highway). When we arrived at the Kadongo kitchen the Mamas greeted us with singing and dancing. We got a tour of the kitchen and saw their record keeping books which were very impressive. The renovations look great and the operations of the kitchen are running very smoothly. However, the kitchen is still very new and their expenses are still being covered by funds from World Bank. The Yogurt Mamas in Kadongo are hardworking, committed, and aggressive salespeople and it is rare to find any yogurt packets left in the freezer at the end of the day, which is amazing. I'm so happy to be back doing what I love working in my dream job with the Yogurt Mamas. I know that this summer will be just as exciting as last year with new tasks, a new team, and new challenges to overcome. I can't wait!

Life in Kenya is pretty normal for me now and I feel at home in Oyugis. Emily, Ellena, and I have been keeping busy doing lots of exciting things in our free time and I am having the time of my life here once again. I love how different the experience is from last year and I love learning more each and every day about the culture, the people, and their lives. We met a girl named Aliza in our hotel from the US who is documenting how Africans watch the FIFA World Cup. She brought a large inflatable screen with a projector to show the games in a nearby village, called Kotieno, where people do not have the opportunity to watch the games. I love the idea of providing the people of Kotieno with the opportunity to watch football, something that they are so passionate about, especially when it is the first World Cup in Africa. Even though the World Cup is in South Africa, every African country is so excited and so proud. I'm so happy for Africa. I'm happy that the people of Africa get to be proud of something so incredible and that they have the opportunity to show the world that Africa is much more than disease, poverty, and violence. I'm excited for the future of Africa and the opportunities that a successful World Cup will provide.

I have been speaking Luo, the mother tongue of the Luo tribe, as much as possible whenever I can and sometimes I have full conversations with people in Luo which is awesome, I love it! A lot of people still laugh hysterically when I speak Luo because they are so surprised that any mzungu knows their mother tongue, usually mzungus would learn Kiswahili instead. I greet as many people as possible with oya ore (good morning) and nango (how are you) and when people smile and laugh at me because I'm speaking Luo I love using waynera (stop laughing at me) and then they laugh even harder, it is a lot of fun :) Many people comment on my Luo and I'm really happy that they appreciate my efforts to speak their language. I still only know the basics so I can't wait to learn even more!

Jiko La Jamii Dairies - Western Heads East:• The industry and competition: the dairy industry is doing very well in Kenya and fresh milk dairies are popping up everywhere. There is an establishment that recently opened right down the street from Jiko La Jamii - Oyugis that sells fresh milk. This isn't great for our business but we are confident that we have a high quality product, Fiti Yogurt, with a significant advantage over the competition. As well, none of the local dairies make yogurt, so the only other yogurt products are produced by large corporations and sold in Shivling Supermarket for a much higher price. Fiti Yogurt's direct competition is fresh milk which is cheaper than yogurt and people are more accustomed to it. The Oyugis Mamas sell fresh milk as well from Jiko La Jamii which seems to be more popular than the yogurt. We will be working hard to effectively market Fiti Yogurt and increase awareness about the product.
• The Oyugis kitchen: the first Jiko La Jamii Dairies in Kenya is the business that I helped start up last year with the Orande Women's Group and it has now been in operation for almost one year. The record keeping looks pretty good, but still needs some improvement, and operations seem to be going pretty well also. However, while some of the Mamas are extremely dedicated and hardworking, others are not and we are seriously lacking Mamas in the kitchen on a daily basis. The main challenge in the Oyugis kitchen is motivating the Mamas to show up on time, work hard, and get out in the field to sell the yogurt. This is extremely challenging with the slow paced Kenyan culture combined with the Mama's other responsibilities such as their young children at home. The hot sun really doesn't help either and we get exhausted easily after a couple hours outside.
o The Oyugis kitchen has two very dedicated Yogurt Mamas, Sophia and Diana (aka Mama Dee), who are at the yogurt kitchen 7 days a week and they are usually the first ones to arrive around 6am and the last ones to leave around 7pm. They are amazing and very committed to staying open late and on weekends for their loyal customers. There are 9 other Yogurt Mamas who come in throughout the week, but it becomes very difficult when two are expecting children soon and some of the older women cannot read or write preventing them from doing record keeping. As well, many of the Mamas do not have the confidence and/or social skills to sell yogurt in the field or sit at customer care (i.e. serve customers at the front of the kitchen). Mama Dee stays in the kitchen greeting customers and clients all day and she does almost all of the record keeping while Mama Sophia is the kitchen's top field sales Mama. We have recognized that they really need some support and they need rest but they are both too dedicated and they refuse to take any time off at all.
o The Oyugis Mamas have started selling flavoured strawberry yogurt with sugar which is a big hit especially with the younger customers. Instead of increasing the price for the flavoured yogurt we have decided to decrease the quantity slightly (by 25 ml) to make up for the added value and cost of the flavouring and sugar. In this price-sensitive market, increasing the price is the last thing that we want to do.
o Selling in the market: the Mamas take 1 bucket of yogurt and 1 bucket of fresh milk almost every evening to the market to sell. Emily and I went with Mama Sophia to the market on Saturday which was a lot of fun and definitely very helpful for research and observation. She sells at the same location every time so her customers can easily find her. The market operates very differently from a supermarket or a retail store and the customer determines the quantity that they want rather than selling the pre-packaged yogurt. Customers like to see the quantity of yogurt/milk poured in front of them and record keeping in the market is pretty much impossible. There were lots of people around our table purchasing yogurt and milk and we sold 1,800 /= (approximately $25 CAD) in just over an hour, which is incredible!
• The Kadongo kitchen: The second Jiko La Jamii Dairies in Kenya has been in operation for almost 3 months now and there are 24 Yogurt Mamas from two different women's groups, Baraka & Besigre, working together to produce the high quality probiotic yogurt. The kitchen is very advanced in comparison to the two yogurt kitchens in Mwanza and Oyugis. The Mamas have a large electrical vat for making the yogurt that can process up to 200L of milk at a time. Water inside the vat heats and cools the milk making the production process a lot simpler and more convenient without the hassle of changing the water frequently to cool it. However, until the Mamas scale up production the vat is not very cost effective or efficient in comparison to the method of heating the milk on the gas elements and cooling the milk in tubs of cold water. The electrical vat is not being used on a daily basis for numerous reasons and the production process takes just as long as the original method, if not longer.
o *For the purpose of sustainability and expansion in East Africa, it is important to note that it is much more feasible for future yogurt kitchens to be simple and less advanced than the Kadongo kitchen to reduce start-up costs and required maintenance. As well, a less advanced kitchen will be easier for new Yogurt Mamas to use since they most likely won't have the technical food/dairy scientist background. Ideally, we hope that women's groups will approach WHE with the interest of starting up their own yogurt kitchen. As well, interested women's groups should contribute a portion of the initial investment so that they have some financial commitment and stake in the business. This will ensure that WHE has dedicated and hardworking women who understand the importance of a sustainable micro-enterprise business without ongoing funding.
• Packaging/branding: Ellena had started looking into branding for the packaging and we looked at some samples the other day. We are working on getting a couple different designs/prototypes before making a final decision with the Mamas from both kitchens. This will definitely be a huge step for Fiti Yogurt as customers will be able to identify our product and it will look a lot more professional. This is necessary before we start selling Fiti Yogurt in supermarkets and other small shops. We plan on branding the packaging, all of the coolers, the Mamas' aprons & lab coats (which they wear when selling in the field), and the buckets.
o We are also working on securing a good reliable packaging supplier for the polythene bags that we use to pack the yogurt. It is difficult to find a good supplier who consistently provides a high quality product and we have had lots of trouble with faulty packets.

• Most of the first week was spent observing the operations at both yogurt kitchens to get a better understanding of the current situation and the issues and challenges that we need to address. As well, it is very important that we spend a lot of time with the Mamas to gain their trust, establish our credibility, and create a personal relationship with them before making recommendations and suggestions for the business. The Mamas at both kitchens love when we come by and they really don't like it when we leave...they expect us to stay at the kitchen the entire day.
o Afternoon tea is the best! The Mamas at both of the kitchens have chai and bread every day around 4pm and it is amazing. I love the chai which is mixed with 1/2 milk and 1/2 water.
• Emily and I did some costing and breakeven calculations to determine the amount of yogurt that the Mamas need to sell in order to cover all of their variable and fixed costs. When calculating the breakeven amount for 1 product (125 ml) it comes out to approximately 200 packets of yogurt that the Mamas need to sell every day to cover their expenses before making a profit. It was fun and exciting to apply some of the tools that we had learned at the Ivey Business School to a real life situation.
o For all of those Excel nerds out there...we even used Solver for an optimization problem :)

Challenges• Meetings! Although all of our meetings are very interesting and a great learning experience they tend to be very long and difficult to get through. Emily, Ellena, and I tried really hard to encourage and motivate all the Mamas to speak and share their thoughts and ideas during the two meetings that we had this week but many of the women are very quiet and do not say anything at all. We are usually the ones leading the meetings because everyone else expects us to and waits for us to start. We acknowledged the importance of getting to know the Mamas on a personal level and speaking to them one-on-one to hear their thoughts and opinions which are important. We are working hard to ensure that we are collaborating with the Mamas and assisting them with their business rather than telling them what to do or imposing our ideas on them. We have continued to emphasize that it is their business and that we highly value their opinions because they know the market much better than we do.
o Meeting #1: Oyugis & Kadongo, Wed. June 9
• Standardize prices and quantities at both kitchens for consistency in the market with a standard product.
o Meeting #2: Kadongo, Sunday June 13
• Discuss any issues in the Kadongo kitchen: the end of funding from World Bank, packaging/label, theft in the kitchen, meetings, etc.
o An interesting part of our meetings...a prayer is said at the beginning and end of every meeting.
o On African time: meeting #1 went on for almost 2 hours and meeting #2 started 3 hours late and lasted 3 hours. It doesn't help when we have to translate everything in Luo and English.
• Yogurt sales are weather dependent and it is difficult to sell on cold and rainy days. It has been raining pretty heavily in Oyugis almost every day which affects the Mama's sales.
• There will always be gossip with a large group of women.

Most Memorable Moments:• Joseph, who works at the VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing Clinic) at the Rachuonyo District Hospital, showing us his photo album which had the photos that I gave him of us last year :)
• Watching a primary school track meet at Agoro Sare Secondary School (where I played football/soccer last year) in Oyugis with Mama Sophia and Mama Consolata (aka Mama Conzy) while they were selling yogurt. I feel very close with the Mamas and I love hanging out with them. I love how we can laugh and have so much fun together even though we are very different ages and we come from such different backgrounds and cultures. Most of the time it is the Mamas laughing hysterically at me because I'm speaking Luo or just being silly. We have a lot of fun together!
• Playing cops and robbers with the kids out was an awesome workout. This young boy named Nicholas had this really cool car toy that he made out of wire and rubber straps with a steering wheel. Iti s one of the few toys I have ever seen around in Oyugis.
• Taking Tracy (the 3 yr old little girl who lives next door) to school one day after lunch.
• Going out to a bar/pub in Oyugis with live music! I have always wanted to go somewhere in Kenya with live music so I was really happy that I finally had that experience. The music is amazing here and I love it!
• Mama Dee telling Emily and I about how the yogurt has changed people's lives including two young orphans down the road who the Mamas have decided to sponsor. The two young boys (about 4 and 6 years old) come in every day to receive a packet of yogurt and Mama Dee said they have improved significantly. It makes my day when young children (some as young as 4 years old) come into the kitchen to purchase yogurt or fresh milk.
• Carrying a bucket of yogurt on my head to the market. Yup! The Mamas were laughing hysterically at me as usual. It was AMAZING but it got heavy very quickly so Mama Dee had to help me. The women here are professionals though, and they have incredible balancing skills.

Life in Oyugis• Our walks around Oyugis are the best! We've been on two nice long walks which I absolutely love. I enjoy talking to my Kenyan friends about their lives and culture while walking around the quieter beautiful parts of town. We talked about the slow-paced lifestyle in Africa, children, population growth, and development. My friends enjoy the walks as well because they usually don't spend time walking around their home town and they don't even notice how beautiful their country is until we point it out. This came up a lot last year and has come up a lot never appreciate what you have and you always want what you don't have.
• Just a refresher from last year in case you forgot...every Sunday morning we wake up to extremely loud music and preaching blasting through our bedroom window from across the street. It can get pretty bad at 9am in the morning when people are trying to sleep.
• High unemployment rates and underpaid jobs. A lot of my friends refuse to work in Oyugis because they don't want to be taken advantage of being underpaid for the amount of work that they do when the guy at the top takes it all for himself.

Life in Kenya
• I love the children...the majority of them are so amazing, so intelligent, so responsible, and they look so happy most of the time with very little. Most of the kids are very shy and will not even look me in the eye when I smile at them or talk to them. They turn their heads or look at the ground. Most of them don't get the same encouragement, affection, and praise that other kids in Canada and other countries are used to which leads to lower self-confidence. Of course they are especially shy when it comes to talking to mzungus.
• One of my favourite kids who I played football with last year, named Boston, had the most amazing big white smile :) Unfortunately when I saw him this year I noticed that his teeth had been completely discoloured. The dentist is a luxury, something that the majority of families in Kenya cannot afford.
• In the larger cities, like Kisii and Kisumu, there are quite a few street kids that spend their days looking through the garbage, begging for money, and sniffing glue. It is so hard to see the street kids because they deserve so much more than that. It is one thing to be living in poverty with a family and a place to call home, but it is another when you don't have a family or a home. Every child deserves a good family and every child deserves a safe home. No child should be born into this world without that. That is another thing that I am so thankful for that we sometimes take for granted. An amazing family and a great home.
o When we were in Kisii Ellena, Emily and I were approached by two young boys who were street kids about 9 years old. They looked weak, one wasn't wearing any shoes while the other boy's shoes were ripped and torn, and they were wearing oversized tattered clothes. The boys' faces were covered in dirt and they were both gripping bottles filled with glue. I later found out that they sniff glue because it makes them feel full so they can go days without feeling hungry. We purchased some fruit, bread and milk for the boys. We couldn't leave them without doing something and we didn't want to give them money that might be put towards glue or something else. At least we could help them a little bit. It was so hard, I couldn't help thinking about what those two young boys could have been...a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. No child deserves that life.
o A couple days later in Kisumu we saw 15 - 20 street kids down by Lake Victoria where we went to eat Tilapia for lunch. It was so terrible when we really couldn't do much. This time we couldn't give out food to just one child or even a few. There were numerous other wealthy Kenyan professionals around but we were an easy target. I left some tilapia on purpose and told the waiter to distribute it to one of the kids after we had left. Some of the boys grabbed our sodas as soon as we left our table to gulp down the last few sips in the bottles.
• The majority of the large supermarkets, hardware stores, electronic stores, and other businesses in Kenya are owned by Indians. I have an Indian friend who owns an electronic store in Kisii and I was asking him about it...he replied saying that Indians are good business people, and if an African were to start up their own business it would flop in a few years. That may be a stereotype but I don't agree with it at all...I'm going to prove him wrong.

Life here can be very difficult and challenging at times but I still love it. Home sweet home :)

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations Amanda for your work in Kenia,what you're doing is commendable,best wishes