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Sokoni1 Grant Round

As mentioned in my previous post, I chose to work in Sokoni1 with partnership with LOHADA (www.lohada.org) which allowed me to better control the candidate selection process. LOHADA charity is run by Jacob’s mom, Happiness Wambura, and provides kindergarten (camp Moses) and primary (camp Joshua) education as well as daily food rations to around ~151 children, 94 of which are also resident at the schools (for 2012 year). Although LOHADA provides a great relief for the families living in Sokoni 1, it’s still a far cry from being sufficient. The lucky child, who got the opportunity to attend primary school, will rarely if ever get a chance to go to high school as the government’s school fees are horrendously expensive for Sokoni1 resident at $200+ dollars per year. Usually these children follow in the footsteps of their parents and grow to own low paying jobs or run bare bone businesses unable to satisfy their needs. And let’s not forget the many other children that couldn’t even attend the primary school.

Both Sarah and I were convinced that we could supplement the help currently provided by LOHADA by providing Livelihood opportunities to the children’s mothers thus making a bigger impact on the life of these children. Yakobo, Juliette (Head-Mistress of LOHADA’s Primary school, Camp Joshua) and Mama Wambura are my greatest assets and invaluable helpers: They know intimately all the children parents. Did you know that out of the 151 children at LOHADA, only 2 have a father who actively participate in the life of his children? AnywayZ, I was presented with a list of the most likely candidates for a Livelihood grant: most because of their active involvement in the life of their child, a few out of extreme need.

Conducing initial interview (here with Felista)

I couldn’t really put any weight to the neediness level of the candidate: How could I seeing the poverty stricken neighborhood? Instead we emphasized to the mama’s the importance of developing a complete and honest business plan which will be the key for their successful selection. We also insisted that one of the major reasons we will grant a loan is the fact that the successful candidate will dedicate some of the business profits for the purpose of sending her child to high school (although we are fully aware that this is nothing more than a promise and in the end, life requirements will inevitably take precedence).

Again, as a recognition and thanks to my friends who donated to help these mamas, my younger Tanzanian sister Naomi drew a donor name to be associated with each grant recipient. Please note, the amount granted to each candidate has absolutely no connection with your donation’s amount as all money were put in a pool and I just drew from it as appropriate. Please find below is a resume of each grant recipient.

Quick jump to each candidate:

  • Aquilina Fulgens – – – – – – – – – (Yves & Zena)
  • Biliha Massanja – – – – – – – – – – (Kim & Annie)
  • Evalin Peter – – – – – – – – – – – – (Muafaq & Roula)
  • Evarista Bernadi – – – – – – – – – (Vlado)
  • Felista Fares – – – – – – – – – – – (Alex, Sheryl, Isabelle &  Nicky)
  • Frida Jones – – – – – – – – – – – – (Ramzy & Ines)
  • Josephina Martini – – – – – – – – (Louay & Rana)
  • Mama Eva (or Bibi) – – – – – – – (Adriana)
  • Teresia Karoli – – – – – – – – – – (Arun)


Aquilina Fulgens – Mama Joseph

Thank you Yves & Zena

Aquilina Fuljens

Aquilina proved to be our toughest challenge to-date; Jordan and I had to patiently work with Mama Joseph and guide her through our process until finally she barely made the cut.  Many factors complicated our task which was further exacerbated by the fact Aquilina does not know how to read & write. And her math skills were “basic” at best; you would be astonished how many candidates change their business earning numbers during our many discussions or how some of the costs are not even factored in their profit calculations. On that front too Akilina’s case proved to be the most convoluted; her current business finances left me dumbfounded and are still unsolvable to date. Even after 4 meetings trying to analyze her income, the math still shows her business barely breaking even.  Yet we know it’s not true! Mama Joseph herself told us she makes ~2,000Tsh per day. Even after asking the same questions in a multitude of different ways, based on her numbers, this daily 2,000TSh profit is nowhere to be found. Believe me, it’s that hard trying to analyze many of our candidate’s business.

So why are we still recommending Aquilina for a grant?  Well, as most people in Sokoni1, she is stuck in this endless poverty cycle unable to break free.  In Mama Joseph case, she’s further weighted down by her illiteracy and a drunken husband who’s never around (she’s re-married).  But she’s giving it all she’s got, either at work, with her children or to help us in our evaluation. She’s an honest and hard working woman.  She currently sells fried food: fries, cassava, banana,… in the alley leading to her home. Every morning, she drags her living room table outside and gets on with her cooking until nightfall.  If it rains, her day is over and so too is her small income; her situation is even bleaker now that the rainy season is around the corner.  She can’t afford a 6,000TSh small charcoal grill, so she daily rents one @ 200TSh!  She has 2 kids from her first husband: Joseph (M, 14, graduating from Standard 7 at Camp Joshua) and Riziki (M, 13, not attending school; I am asking Mama Wambura for more details on that front). Question is, will Joseph be able to attend highschool?  Unfortunately, not in his mother’s current business situation.

Aquilina’s home – She was watching over the neighbors’ son

Providing Aquilina with a grant will give a boost to her business: we can offer her a grill, plates, utensils,… a 3 month rent for a spot under a covered sidewalk and of course, increase her fried food stock so she can sell more.  We estimate our grant would allow Mama Joseph to almost double her daily sale and hopefully send Joseph to highschool.  Jordan will have his work cut out in getting Aquilina to fill her business income and stock sheets, but maybe we can invite Joseph to our business training class and get him to fill in the gap?

Biliha Massanja – Mama Hasani

Thank you Kim & Annie

Biliha Petro

Biliha managed to surprise me on a couple of fronts. On the positive side, she is the only mama out of all the applicants I met during my 3 month here to have immediately understood what a business plan is and provided us with a full breakdown of her business expansion proposal.  Impressive to say the least.  She’s very aware of her biz requirements, of her customer needs and their purchasing preferences and it’s obvious she has put serious thought into her business growth idea.  Her stall is also ideally situated: she sells fried fish, fries, cassava, green bananas and vegetables on the side of the main Ungalimited road.  To top it off she owns this piece of land thus saving her rent expense as well as giving her peace of mind in her expansion plans.

Home: 2 rooms, 11 people

On the down side, her home and her stall are very messy and dirty. Even her children were filthy (sorry, but it is true) and the couple of ducks and chicken she owns are in a sorry state (she indicated to us 8 of her chickens died the past 2 month).  I was repeatedly commenting to Jordan: “How can anyone buy from here?”.  Well, many passerbies flocked to her stall and even Jordan “invited” himself to a couple of fried fish.  Hey, whatever makes them happy!  She manages to earn around 4,500Tsh/day a miserable amount considering Mama Hasani family is comprised of 11 members: 8 children (6 are hers and 2 are adopted from relatives), her sick mother in-law and a do-no-good drunken husband.  The later is another concern in Biliha’s candidacy.  But everyone in her family is relying on her and she’s in urgent need to grow her daily income.

Selling veggies and fried fish

Honestly, her business expansion plan sold me immediately and if it comes to fruition, Biliha estimates she’ll earn ~22,000 Tsh per day… that’s nearly 4x her current net income! I have to admit she’s too optimistic and our analysis (still biased since it’s based on her input) shows her daily income to cap at 15,000TSh/day; I doubt her neighborhood is in such need of produce and not to mention the ever present competition. Even so, the one certain fact is her situation will greatly improve with our help and we gladly recommend supporting Biliha with a grant of around 150,000TSh.

Evalin Peter – Mama Patrice

Thank you Muafaq & Roula

Evalin Peter

Evalin is a very bright, quick to understand and extremely helpful widow and mother of four: Agnes (F, 19, completed only Form 1, currently unemployed), Violet (F, 17, Std 7; sponsored to attend hotel management school – not much details on what school or program it is), Patrice (M, 11, Std 4 but his grades are at the low end of the class), Miriam               (F, 4). Mama Patrice also takes care of her unemployed sister (who almost always passionately talks about local politics!) who has 2 children (Shedrock, 7, in nursery school & Alfred, 9, Std 2) and all 3 rely on Mama Patrice daily financial support.  Currently, Evalin works as a cook in Tengeru making 3,000Tsh daily for her family of 8.  They all live in a 2 room adobe house, along an alley which turned into a mud pond in this rainy season (as most of Sokoni 1 streets).

Alley leading to Evalin’s home (left side)

Evalin understands the need to earn a higher income now that her children a growing up: school, food, clothes,… all daily life necessities are becoming more expensive.  Evalin does not have any savings and is looking for financial help to start a business.  In her quest, she already managed to convince the home owner to offer her for free the space in front of her home where she would like to setup a stand.  What is interesting with Mama Patrice biz proposal is she intends to diversify her venture and divide the grant amount into 2 sub-businesses: 1) sell charcoal and 2) sell fried fish.  Selling charcoal was a simple idea: She already requires charcoal to fry her fish and other food, so why not go to the market, buy a big bag of charcoal and sell part of it at the same time she cooks?

Evalin’s walls are decorated with old mosquito nets

As for the fish, well the other 2 surrounding fried food sellers only offer the smaller kind.  Evalin on the other hand, would concentrate on selling the bigger fish which she mentioned is in demand but cost prohibits the others from buying them.  Hmmm… not quite sure it’s a sufficient or valid reason why the others do not sell the big fish and we need to further inquire.

Future Location of Evalin restaurant

We encouraged Evalin to think about extra side orders she could sell to her customers alongside the fish, allowing her to earn more on a per customer base.  Example: why not also fry cassavas, bananas and potatoes?  Asking her to choose 1 out of the 3 items, she picked banana, but I am inclined to buy her a small quantity of each of the 3 products.  It’s a small addition to our grant but someone like Evalin will definitely utilize and greatly benefit from such opportunity. One big advantage she has is not only she a chef, she also has all the equipments necessary to cook. To start, we will offer Evalin money to build a covered stand.  Once this is completed, Jordan will accompany Mama Patrice to the market and buy the above mentioned stock.  Total will come up to a grant of 100,000Tsh.

Evarista Bernadi – Mama Jonista

Thank you Vlado

Evarista Bernard

Evarista is a twice divorced mother of 4: twin girls Joyce & Jonista (12, graduated from Std 7 and now in pre-Form 1 @ Camp Joshua), Violet (F, 10, Never went to school !!!) & Karen (F, 1.5 year). Neither of the 2 ex–husbands ever comes back home so she does not have any trouble on that front. However it also implies neither of them offers any financial help for raising the children. While working in Tanzania I thought I saw really poor living conditions but Evarista’s situation was extreme. Her home walls consisted of horizontally nailing long pieces of wood at each house side, with each wooden plank vertically spaced ~5cm centimetres from the other. Cardboard is then nailed from top to bottom to seal the gaps. The roof is a tarp held by nails and stones and the kitchen is a lone charcoal grill in a tiny square wooded room with a few plastic plates.  Her business situation is also in a dreadful state: she buys candy, gum and other sweets from the Kenyan border town, a long journey costing her 20,000Tsh return and sells the boxes in wholesale to her neighbourhood kiosks. That doesn’t sound very logical as transportation is a significant cost in her business and she failed to explain why she even needs to go there vs. collaborating with the stores at the border or with the bus driver. Also, Mama Jonista could not immediately tell me her weekly profit rather we did the math together and it came down to less than 7,000Tsh per week.

That’s the kitchen

Jordan and I visited Evarista a couple of times to try and determine if there are other business possibilities she could explore but unfortunately none of the ideas put forward proved worthwhile.  Our only option is to support Evarista in her current business endeavour by providing her a grant to buy more and/or different types of sweets from Namanga.  Our aim is to increase her profit-per-trip by “averaging down” her high transportation costs. Also, diversifying her offering means selling more merchandise to her regular clients, a group of 8 kiosk owners and/or bringing them items they requested.  I also insisted on Evarista to establish (and follow through) a plan to regularly save money allowing her to further increase her purchasing power and answering her clients need.   The alternative is staying stuck in this long lasting impoverished situation affecting her and her children.  I was especially astonished by the fact Violet does not attend school and perplexed how come she’s not registered at Camp Joshua. I’ll be bringing up this issue Mama Wambura ASAP.

The “prized” candy requiring Evarista’s long trip to the Kenyan border in order to buy!

Back to Evarista’s business plan, there are a multitude of different items she can buy from the border, each with different return.  We sorted through the list and for the moment she prefers buying “bigijii”, a sort of chewing gum.  We noted that she should always listen to her clients need as well as requests and research products providing higher return.  Once she’s does her homework, she should not hesitate in switching the type of items she buys to adapt the new market demand.  As for the grant, we are leaning toward buying her 1 extra box of the regular candy she get + a cartoon of bigijii adding up to 105,000Tsh.

Felista Fares – Mama Mary

Thank you Alex, Sheryl, Isabelle & Nicky

Felista Fares

To improve the situation Mama Mary’s is convinced that by buying a bale of bed sheets (bale is the name given to a big bag of 2nd hand clothes or other cloth items), she could gain an advantage and of course double her profit on a per sheet base even if she admits competition is fierce.  Personally, anytime a candidate proposes buying a bale I balk at such idea: you buy a sealed bag of clothes and you are not allowed to check the content. The uncertainty of the products quality weighs on the whole business plan. She estimates halve of the 150 bed sheets in a bale are of bad quality: torn, stained, over-used,… and probably will get sold for 1,000Tsh each. But what if the number of bad sheets is higher? The uncertainty margin throws the whole biz plan and profit estimates into shamble.  But Felista insists that in a worst case scenario, she will just sell to break even and try again.

Karibuni! (Welcome, please come in)

Even if I am not warm to the bale idea, after discussing with Sarah and Jordan we still recommend taking the risk and supporting Felista.  Another issue is the grant amount: a bale cost 300,000Tsh, double our recommended grant figure.  Both Felista and us tried for a month to find her a partner in Ungalimited/Sokoni1 region with no luck; no one seems to trust the other in a business.  Luckily, Katy also has 1 woman in FutureSense Kioga grant round who wants to sell bed sheets and we proposed them to divide a bale.  I explained to Felista the procedure of distributing the bale between them and Jordan is more than happy to supervise the purchase and distribution process, which we agreed will be completed at FutureSense office.   It is somewhat complicated and requires our involvement for probably 4 to 6 month but it’s definitely worth the effort; Felista is ecstatic at the idea so let’s hope things will run smoothly.  The total amount requested is 155,000Tsh, the price of ½ the bale (the other half is from Katy’s round) plus transportation from Tengeru.

Frida Jone – Mama Samsun

Thank you Ramzy & Inas

Frida Jone

I am constantly surprised at the level of poverty affecting Sokoni1 residents.  Mama Samsun house was yet another rundown adobe house, but hers had a sandbag dike at the front door to block the water from flooding the house after a small pond formed in their doorstep following only 1 week of rain.  I dread to imagine what will happen during the heavy rain season in March-April-May when statistically, it will rain 10x more.

Frida’s sand-bag dike at her house’s doorstep

Frida lives with her husband Bashir and their 5 children: Aruna (M, 21, Form 4), Aisha (F, 19, works at a textile company), David (M, 12, Std 5), Samsun (M, 11, Std 4 @ Camp Joshua) and Rebeca (F, 10, Std 2 & lives full board @ Camp Joshua). Bashir works hauling “stuff” on a big wooden cart in the streets of Arusha and on a good day earns 2,000TSh while Frida alternates between selling greens during the harvest season making around 2,000TSh per day or being a do it all house lady during the dry season which earn her a mere 1,000TSh per day.  Their job instability and low income leaves her family in a very precarious situation. She told us she is in dire need of a helping hand to exit this cruel cycle of poverty.  If she gets a grant, she would like to buy different varieties of Kitenge & Kangas. She will buy them from wholesale in the main market then walk the streets of Arusha to sell her products. She admits the sheer number of kangas and kitenge sellers poses a risk but from her previous sale experience, she estimates she can sell around 10 pieces per week providing her with a higher income than what she earns today.  I am not at all being insensitive, but the reality is: it’s hard to be in a worst financial situation then where they are now.  Picture this: during the painful low/rainy season and adding both Frida’s and her husband incomes, her family of 7 lives on around U$D 1.20 per day… which is U$D 0.17/person/day!!!  Supporting Frida in her new endeavour is estimated to more than “double” her weekly income. Still a small sum but hopefully it’s the start to something bigger.

Inside her home

Frida repeated to us how much she’s determined to succeed: she’ll work harder, walk longer and adapt her product offering to the market’s need.  Throughout our meetings, I got confidence she’s researched the market and knows what the customers need. Following our training, she did a wonderful job developing her business plan & sales estimates and together we easily were able to adjust her offering to remove 1 type of Kanga from her products list and invest that money in buying a bigger quantity of the other sorts, which will allow her to display a more diverse selection of color and patterns.

Questioning how her business will fare now that the rainy season is coming, she had already thought about it: Mama Samsun will switch to selling plastic slippers during these 4 month when Kangas/Kitenge are in low demand. But for now and to start her new venture Frida is asking for 141,000Tsh to buy her a selection of Kanga and Kitenge.

Josephina Martini – Mama Raziki

Thank you Louay & Rana

Josephina Martini

Josephina is a remarried mother of 6 living in the poor slums of Sokoni1: Aminata (F, 14, Std 5), Theodor (M, 13, Std 5) & Raziki (M, 9, Std 2 @ Camp Joshua) are from the 1st husband and Mary (F, 4), Esta (F, 2 ½) & Anthony (M, 3 mth) from the 2nd. Her living situation is deplorable and the first question to come to mind was: “Why did you have another 3 children?”. I didn’t dare ask her but would have loved to hear the answer. We only saw the 3 kids from her 2nd marriage as the older one were “living around with neighbors”. The kids are lovely, especially Esta who has become quite fond of me (this after the first time she saw me, she was afraid of my hairy arm :)).  But you should just see them: they were dirty, wearing ripped cloth, playing in the mud & open drain/sewers. As for Anthony (3 mth), he’s constantly crying; he’s hungry and Josephina breast-feeding does not give him enough milk. Their situation is only going to get tougher: Mary will need to go to school next year and Josephina confesses that both her and her husband Bashir lack money to send all the kids to school.  She’s hoping camp Joshua can help by taking another one of her children, hopefully also as a full board resident.

Joseph (on the bed) and Mary

Bashir sells gadgets walking the streets of Arusha.  Josephine doesn’t know how much he really makes, but she mentions he daily buys food for the family.  As for Mama Raziki, she sells “special” cloth in the streets. But what are these “special” shirt? (or “spesho shati” as it’s pronounced & written here :)). Well, it refers to NEW and locally or East African produced clothe vs. the usual 2nd hand clothe brought to the country by “charitable” organization which is then bundled and sold (and comprise the bulk of clothe trade in Tanzania). Note that 2nd hand clothe is responsible of shutting down nearly all of Tanzania’s clothe manufacturing. Back to Josephina: how can she work walking the streets with 3 toddlers in the home?  Well her neighbours and her sister take turn a couple of hours in the morning and another couple of hours in the afternoon watching over the kids while she goes making a living.  She informed us a great help to her business and life is if she can offer a wider choice of “special” cloth for sale: “I need to attract people and if they come to see the merchandise, some of them will buy. If I have 60 or more items to display, I will definitely attract more people and sell more. A friend of mine has more than 600,000Tsh worth of clothe; she sells a lot more then I do”.  I don’t like someone venturing into something because his friend mentioned how good it is but I don’t see how else Josephina can improve her living situation. The other advantage is she will be building on a familiar business, having been working at it for the past 3 years.


I have concerns Josephina might pull a quick one on us like Mama Alex, so I repeatedly explained the benefits of her sticking to the business plan.  The grant we are issuing her might be a temptation and she could cash it and spend it now. This will render our grant a 1 time help. What will happen the following months? If on the other hand she sticks to her business plan, she will make significantly more money in the very near future and consistently keep making more.  In the end the victims will be her children as the cost to raise them will only increase; she needs to start planning now for that inevitability.  On our side we will constantly monitor the clothe amount she regularly buys and make sure we do not fall in bad situation again.  We recommend buying Josephina around 15 to 20 extra item of “special” cloth to increase the 40 or so she currently have in stock.  This will equate to around 90,000Tsh.

Eva J. MoshiMama Eva  or  Bibi

Thank you Adriana

Mama Eva

Everyone loves grandmothers and Mama Eva is one of those sweet, loving and funny grandmas.  Ask Jordan 🙂 every time we drop by to visit her, Mama Eva treats him to bananas, oranges and other fruits from her stand.  We affectionately started calling Mama Eva: “Bibi” which means grandmother in Kiswahili. And she speaks some English too!  I worked with more than 50 mamas and Mama Eva is the only one who speaks English allowing me to chat and joke with her.  And at 80 years old, she’s still running strong: she wakes up at dawn to go the market to buy her greens, vegetable and fruits before coming back to Sokoni 1 and sell them, tending her stand until dusk.  But the main question is: how did Mama Eva find out about us?

Jordan trying not reach Mama Eva’s home at the end of this alley. I bought rubber boots

Well she didn’t; her daughter, Mama Halima did. Mama Halima’s children: Eva (F, 6, Std 1) and Joseph (M, 9, Std 4) attend Camp Joshua. According to neighbors and even some of the teachers, both Joseph and his mom (Mama Halima) suffer from mental issues and people label them “crazy”: I saw Joseph and from what I can tell he suffers from anxiety problem and severe attention disorder. He sometimes (although rare) snaps in class and starts shouting. What Joseph needs is a professional evaluation and care before everyone rushes to seclude him even more.  As for Mama Halima (Mama Eva’s daughter), her “craziness” is nothing of that sort: OK, I am no doctor, and yes, Mama Halima is very slow to understand and confuses even the simplest numbers or have trouble distinguishing between the different bank notes but it’s ridiculous to call it “crazy”.  Sure, conversing with Mama Halima tends to be painful but with a little of patience we managed to find out a few important pieces of information: I believe she suffers from epilepsy. She’s afraid of losing consciousness and/or control and she sometime forgets where she is.  She doesn’t venture far from home and when she was a kid, she couldn’t really attend school, let alone learn anything; being illiterate only aggravate her situation to the point where she’s stigmatized by society.  Mama Halima’s condition might be worst than what I could guess but she was able to guide us through her thoughts. Listen to this: She would like us to help her mother, Mama Eva, which of course means her children and her will also benefit. Yeah, pretty crazy don’t you think? (sarcasm intended!).

Can barely squeeze in. Mama Eva, Floria and her 2 children live here!

OK, back to “Bibi”: Mama Eva not only takes care of Mama Halima and her 2 grandchildren, she also fully support her other daughter Dina (F, 38, sponsored to go to hostelling school) as well as financially help her married son and his children.  That’s a lot for anyone let alone for Bibi.  Mama Eva, her 2 daughters and 2 grand children live in the smallest of home. I could barely walk inside this 5m x 3m room made of mud and sticks, crammed with mattresses, chairs, water gallons, bags of cloth, kitchen tools,… and every day they have to pack and unpack this stuff depending on the task.

15 chickens can live in there

After discussing with Bibi, we determined the best way to help her and her daughter is to expand their chicken coop which lies on the far side of her small house.  Her daughter, Mama Halima, is capable of taking care of the chicken while Bibi keeps tending the veggies and fruit stand.  We strongly recommend helping Mama Eva: we could award her 12 chickens and a rooster plus a supply of food for 1 month as well as all the necessary medicine and vaccines.  The grants total will approach the 160,000Tsh mark.

Teresia Karoli – Mama Honest

Thank you Arun

Teresia Carol

Teresia is a divorced mother of 2 (Honest, M, 11, Std 7 and attends Camp Joshua) & Baraka (M, 9, Std 2)) living in a 1 room house right on the main busy & noisy Sokoni 1 main street.  Her ex-husband doesn’t help and maybe comes once a month to visit the kids and Teresia has to be self sufficient when dealing with her family.  Mama Honest sells fried pig with ugali for a living and rents a shack a few blocks behind Shoprite. Unfortunately, her business is not running very well.  On good days she makes 3,000Tsh but it’s not consistent; it’s difficult to buy pig meat and the prices keep going up and negatively affect her small business.  On the other hand, her shack is in a pretty good location, big with a covered roof & walls all around and many benches for patrons to sit. 

Probably the most disgusting fried pig I ever tasted. Even Jordan felt sick.

I would have thought she would ask FutureSense to help improve her restaurant or expand her menu but none of that.  She likes the pig business but she seems to have given up on it. Or is she? Depending on which question I ask, for example if I ask about her future plans, owning a restaurant comes back to the picture.  She even let slip she would like to hire a helper to tend her fried pig business! However, when discussing how we could help her, Mama Honest only wanted to discuss selling 2nd hand shirts.  She showed us a pile of shirt and said she already do go out selling shirts whenever she can’t buy pig.  

Honest, son of Teresia, didn’t mind eating the leftover fried pig

Currently she buys the shirts from wholesaler around the main market and sells them in the streets of Sokoni1. But this doesn’t generate a significant profit which is why she would like us to help her buy a bale (yep, another bale candidate) granting her lower purchase price. As with any bale product quality tend to be low and she estimates out of the 150 shirts in the bale, ~100 will be of bad quality require her to sell them fast and cheap.  After analyzing Mama Honest’s plan, a bale will take her around 1 month to sell with an estimated profit of 120,000Tsh.  That is better than her current fried pig biz with added difference of income stability.

Selling cloth

Mama Honest is one of the 3 candidates which we hesitated to choose (Aquilina & Evarista are the others).  Even if she says so, I doubt she will close her pig business and solely concentrate on selling clothe.  Still, whatever her intentions are, we will be around to offer support and adapt to the situation. We thus recommending buying her a bale costing 130,000Tsh plus 5,000Tsh for transport to Sokoni 1.

Ilboru Grant Round – Update

Ilboru, 7-Oct-2011

Business Training – Day 1
Sam explaining basic business principals

Sam, assisted by Jordan and myself, conducted the final business training session for our Ilboru candidate and he did a great job. The training session went very well: Sam has a keen ability in teaching and he always managed to get the candidates engaged in the discussion. We also did many exercises on the black board, based on the assumption that we are all running a convenience store business. This allowed the women to better grasp the points we were trying to make. By the end of the 2ndday, I asked the Mamas to fill-in a stock and asset sheet for their initial business investment, as we did during our example. It was also (re)putting in writing the exact same business plan Sam and I have been developing with each Mama for the past months.  But to my great surprise, it was extremely difficult for most of the candidates to complete the form: Sam, Jordan and I spend the next hour helping each candidate (re)list all the equipment and stock they need for their business as well as indicating what they wanted to purchase with the grant awarded.

Business Training – Day 2
Hands on

Still it wasn’t easy. For example, both Fatuma and Cadhrini (Catherine) still presented a request for more than 1,000,000Tsh! Fatuma realised quickly enough that she has to stick to the grant amount and business plan we previously developed together. However, getting Cadhrini back on track proved to be a mission impossible.  For some unexplained reason, leaving both Sam and I completely flabbergasted, she got swept into a dream-become-reality of opening a fully fledged saloon, plus hiring an assistant if you please. Gone was the plan she wrote in her own hand about starting to work as a braid and rasta hairdresser on the sidewalk of Sanawari Juu. AnywayZ, we had no choice but to request another face-to-face meeting with Cadhrini, hopefully tomorrow.

Lunch time (Jordan)

In our Ilboru grant round, a total of 992,000Tsh (or 583 U$D or 381 GBP) in grants will be issued to 8 candidates. Our group is comprised of: 2 hairdressers, 2 vegetable vendors, 2 fried vendors, 1 chicken breeder and 1 man, Alex, the upholstery tailor.


Please find below a description on the initial grant disbursement:

Quick jump to each candidate:

  • Agnes Faustini– – – – – – – – – (Mark & Kathy and Julia)
  • Alex Luka – – – – – – – – – – – –  (Alisson and Barry)
  • Anna George – – – – – – – – – – (Albin)
  • Berth Alex – – – – – – – – – – – – (Nada, Eric and Yasmina)
  • Catherine Mesa – – – – – – – –  (Tony, Linda and Victor )
  • Fatuma Shabani – – – – – – – – (Ziad & Mireille)
  • Miriam Joelle – – – – – – – – – – (Jason, Becky and little Violet)
  • Theresia Alfonsi – – – – – – – – (Francoise)


Agnes Faustini

Thank you Mark, Catherine and Julia

Agnes was awarded 52,000Tsh to diversify her vegetable offering as well as to fix her food stall & slightly increase its size. With her award, she decided to buy green cooking bananas, the yellow bananas and coconut. Unfortunately Agnes had to urgently go to Moshi to be by the side of her sick mother and only once back we could award her the grant.


Alex Luka

Thank you Alisson & Barry

My idea for Alex is to give him a 3 months probation in his upholstery job. We will rent him a sewing machine for 3 month, buy him a stool and cushion and stock him with needles and thread to start his business.  If he succeed and proves responsible by Xmas time, Sarah and I will give him 1 sewing machine. To start, I wanted Alex to attend an upholstery sewing training session for which we will cover the costs.  Even if Jordan and I found a sewing class for Alex, I still asked him to go search for a trainer himself; it’s a simple matter of getting him to start owning responsibility of his employment. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed; when I returned to see him a week later he told me he was not able to find anyone who provides sewing classes/training. Hmmm… it took me, a white guy with broken Swahili, 10min to find a trainer.  Not a good start, is it?

We still enrolled Alex with our tailor’s training and rented him a sewing machine. Adding the cost of the initial stock required Alex would be awarded 67,000Tsh. The gift sewing machine will top 200,000TSh and will not be included as part of the grant.

Sam and I will be following up with his training as well as regularly visiting him at his furniture shop to properly decide our future course of action.


 Anna George

Thanks Albin

Fresh veggies @ Anna’s kiosk

What will be the best approach to re-start Anna’s vegetable sale business? She would like 140,000Tsh to diversify her product offering with her primary choice being potatoes & onions followed by green banana and charcoal.  Although I believe Anna’s idea is sound and have no doubt on her ability to expand her business again, both Sam and I felt constrained in accepting her plan: Agnes ‘s vegetable stall is 50 meters away and she is only requesting 52,000Tsh from us.  Granting Anna her wishes would be unfair to Agnes.  I thus recommend buying half the quantity solicited by Anna and only for the products Agnes currently does not already sell. The final revised grant amount stands at 65,000Tsh.

I visited Anna’s veggie stall last week to buy some of her newly purchased onion and potato and she was extremely happy, relentlessly thanking us for the help. As for the potatoes, ask Bruno, Sam’s brother, he devoured them all prior to us getting back home to eat!!


Mama Alex

Thank you Nada, Eric & Yasmina

Mama Alex business expansion plan was to double her daily fish sale.  As I mentioned before, I had high hopes in her accomplishing this feat; she sells good fried fish and her food stall is always busy.  Unfortunately something must have been lost in translation between Mama Alex, Sam and I.  We awarded 117,000Tsh to Mama Alex to fix her food stall and for her to buy the extra fish, oil, cassava, wood,… The deal was: she will buy her usual amount of fish and we will match her purchases thus doubling her total. Yet when Sam when to the market Sam only bought the usual amount of fish Mama Alex buys: ~150 small and 15 big fish, yet Mama Alex didn’t buy anything (I couldn’t go; if they see a white man, the price doubles!). And she subsequently refused to buy more fish! She played us and just cashed in ½ of our grant money.  To further complicate things, a few days later Sam also awarded here the remaining loan amount to buy material necessary to fix her banda. Unbelievable!

I was caught off-guard, couldn’t believe Sam could let something so obvious happen. It’s not like Mama Alex wouldn’t have stole our money anywayZ, even if she bought for 1 day her amount of fish. Sam just made it easier for her to get away with it. Last week, I tried talking some sense into Mama Alex but then she fell and injured her arm and had to follow treatment for 1 week.

I have my work cut out explaining the simple math logic of how profit will grow if sales grow as it seems we failed the first time.

Cadhrini Mesa

Thank you Tony, Linda & Victor

The situation with Catherine got complicated when she got swept away (probably due to her friends influence) into imagining herself owning a fully fledged beauty salon.  Even if together with Catherine we had developed a step by step business plan to initiate her hairdressing venture, starting with a sidewalk stall, she completely diverged and started following her fantasy.  She asked 1,400,000Tsh from Futuresense even if she knew that our range is max 150,000Tsh. Neither Sam nor I could really comprehend this extreme change of behaviour… nor her stubbornness in insisting

We discussed in details the issue with Catherine and she finally, hopefully, “agreed” to go back to the original plan. Her first task is to look for a street side covered sidewalk where she could conduct both her hairdressing job and used cloth sale. Only at that time we would award her the grant: 3 month sidewalk rent plus the beauty supplies and equipment needed for her job, for a total of: 126,000TSh.  Sam and I will continue meeting Catherine on a bi-weekly basis to provide her with support and advice and we are looking forward in seeing her career progress.

 Fatuma Shabani

Thank you Ziad & Mireille

Fatuma always showed excellent business flair and she managed to find a saloon where she could sell her products while she continue her hairdressing job in front of a convenience store on the sidewalk of Ilboru’s main road (still a dirt road).  Fatuma’s grant was divided in 2 parts: An initial 90,000Tsh has been awarded to her to buy saloon and beauty products necessary to conduct her job. It will allow Fatuma to increase her client number and thus her weekly income.  The deal will be for her to save 240,000Tsh in the busy 3 month leading to Xmas, at which point Futuresense will award her the remaining 110,000Tsh, at which point she will be able to buy the 350,000TSh saloon hair dryer she so badly wants.

I met with Fatuma 2 weeks after the initial grant award and she was very happy with her situation. Even if she admits she’s not on track to meet her saving’s target, she expressed great confidence that in the November and December time frame she will catch up. We will be following closely her progress. 


Mama Joelle

Thank you Jason, Becky & Violet

Mr. Evarest inspecting Mama Joelle newly constructed “Banda la kuku”

We offered Mama Joel complete liberty in buying her chickens. With our 163,000TSh grant, she bought a mixture of thirteen chickens, ranging between 5mth and 7mth old as well as 1 rooster. The chickens were vaccinated and we provided her with a 1 month supply of food, anti-bacterial and vitamins.

I visited Mama Joel a week after she got her chicken and she is ecstatic. She’s getting 2 eggs per day but it’s only a matter of time before the other chickens grow to be able to lay eggs.  Mama Joel also headed my calls: The house surrounding has been cleaned, the vegetable garden is now better utilized and planted ahead of the rainy season and she got rid of the cow which wasn’t producing milk. All in all, Mama Joel is doing great.


Theresia Alfonsi

Thank you Francoise

Theresia Alfonsi is still very much in the hunt to find a place to open a small restaurant.  We both agreed on the following plan: once Theresia has rented a place, we will contribute 200,000Tsh (the maximum grant amount possible) toward the purchase of fridge estimated at 350,000Tsh.  2 weeks have gone by and Theresia still hasn’t found a suitable place yet but both Sam and I have full confidence in her abilities.

The Professor

Break Time

Arusha, 15-Sep-2011

My co-worker and Community Coordinators: Wilson, Evarest and Jordan

Damn time flies fast! A month and a half went by while I am working on my Ilboru Livelihood program and grant round. For someone who’s used to living it up, visiting new places every week and taking the long road, it is quite a shock. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the work I am doing and I am happily burning the midnight candle to get things done faster but I needed a bigger brake then the regular dinners and night out in town.

Our gang

I was in luck too: my host family, the Kimambo, was the best one out of all the other volunteers’ families including the ones from other organizations. I build up a fun and great relationship with my brothers and made sure we’re always together whenever I was out in town with my volunteer friends. All in all the group was composed of: Ishan, a teenage Californian working with me, Matthias, Andrea and Tobias, 3 fun Danish volunteers working in an orphanage and my 2 brothers Wilibrod and Gady. I even sometimes managed to get permission from Mama to have my younger brothers, Dominic and Gody, join us on an outing. Soon enough we all gelled together and we started planning bigger excursions.


That bodes well since I took it on myself to set-up a Safari company for Gady and Wilibrod to allow them to reap the benefits of the tourist industry vs. being at the mercy of the big Safari companies.  Imagine that as professional registered guide, Wilibrod makes $10/day while a 1 day camping Safari starts @ U$D150/day (at least double the price for lodge stay). The difference in income between the majority of Tanzanian and the top percentile of rich entrepreneurs is staggering (96.6% of Tanzanian live at less than U$D2 per day >> see WIKI – click on the sort arrow in table and Tanzania is worst between the 125 polled countries). You should just walk Arusha’s rich neighborhoods where villas rival anything you see in Westmount (Montreal) or the Bridal Path (Toronto).   And while I am working on the logistics, costs and marketing of our new company, Wilibrod and Gady were preparing trips for their first “clients”: us :). We wanted to climb Kilimanjaro and go on Safari. But as a start we set our aims on a more modest targets: before Kili, let’s start by training our sore legs with hikes in & around Arusha’s beautiful surroundings and before we drive into the Serengeti’s endless plains, how about visiting a couple of nearby National Parks?

Join me on these trips by checking the pictures

Photo album




Round One – Ilboru

For Ilboru’s grant round many mamas came along fishing, looking for easy money from the “mzungu” and it proved harder than expected to identify genuine candidates. My initial aim was to elect 10 mamas but I had to settle in helping 7 women… and 1 man!

The Draw

Each grant recipient has a donor associated with her/him.  What do I mean? Well, as a special thank-you to all my friends & family who donated to make this project a reality, Naomi, my younger Tanzanian sister, drew each candidate’s names and assigned it a donors.  These are the first 8 grants, more to come later. Please note, the amount granted to each candidate has absolutely no connection with your donation amount, as all were put in a pool and I just drew from it as appropriate.

Below is a resume of each grant recipient. A couple of notes:

  • Tanzanian people are often called by their eldest child’s name, regardless if it’s a boy or a girl. For instance, Agnes eldest child is Maggie, thus she’s called Mama Maggie.
  • I you catch my drift… I removed the HIV status of each Mama.

Quick jump to each candidate:

  • Agnes Faustini– – – – – – – – – (Mark & Kathy and Julia)
  • Anna George – – – – – – – – – – (Albin)
  • Berth Alex – – – – – – – – – – – – (Nada, Eric and Yasmina)
  • Catherine Mesa – – – – – – – – (Tony, Linda and Victor )
  • Fatuma Shabani – – – – – – – – (Ziad & Mireille)
  • Miriam Joelle – – – – – – – – – – (Jason, Becky and little Violet)
  • Theresia Alfonsi – – – – – – – – (Francoise)
  • Alex Luka – – – – – – – – – – – – – (Alisson and Barry)

Agnes Faustini – Mama Maggie

Thank you Mark, Catherine and Julia


Agnes is a very quiet and shy, divorced mother of 3 living in the Ilboru region. Her living situation is quite poor, sharing a 1 room house of mud and stick construction with her children: Marguerite (F, 16, mentally challenged and was taken out of school), Antonia (F, 14, Form 1) and Evodia (F, Std 4). As a business Agnes rents a small and basic “4 poles and a roof” stall on the side of the main Ilboru Juu road where she sells vegetables and fruits. She’s been running this business for 5 years and makes around 15,000Tsh/week, barely enough to suffice her family.  Agnes doesn’t seem to be able to exit her low earning biz cycle. Recently, she took Marguerite out of school (it seems Magi couldn’t cope with her class education level) and Angelina, a seamstress and one of our success story from the 2010 grant round, took Magi under her wing and is teaching her how to seam.

Agnes's home

Agnes wants around 60,000Tsh from FutureSense to expand her vegetable offering by providing products her customers are currently requesting: cooking bananas, sweet bananas, coconut… and other seasonally available produce.  Although many other vegetable vendors are present nearby, Agnes have a faithful customer base including Sam and Sister Lucy (and temporary me ;)). She mentioned she wants to concentrate on selling products which Ilboru residents do not grow.  Personally, I have some concerns on her business expansion plans, most importantly the fact she will have difficulties increasing her customer number in this small neighborhood and with many competitor nearby. She could expand into other markets and diversify her offering (more than fruits and veggies) yet a seemingly lack of enthusiasm weight her case down.  On the bright side, people familiar with Mama Magi mention she works very hard on her business and is dedicated to raising her family: within her limited means, Agnes always makes sure her living situation remain stable.

Veggie stall

After discussing all the pros and cons with the team, we recommend issuing a loan to Mama Maggie based on her living situation and the fact that although the potential of biz growth is small, her ability to run a stable business will assure a small and steady income increase for her much in need family. At the same time, Sam and I have been pushing Agnes to provide us with more ideas to expand her business: can she grow her stand size? Can she offer more products to sell? Or maybe diversify into new product lines on top of her veggies?… unfortunately it is hard to get Agnes engaged, with one of her biggest concerns being the owner of the shack; he will substantially increase her stall the rent (currently a mere 2,000Tsh/mth) if he noticed she’s making a higher income. I will even go as far as describing this fear as being a “blinding handicap”, overpowering any thoughts Agnes have in term of expending her business, leaving her frozen in her current living condition.

As it stands now, the grant amount requested is still unchanged although it might be reviewed as we help her develop her business plan.

Anna George  –  Mama Grace

Thanks Albin


Anna is a previous grant recipient back in 2010. Anna has a “mboga-mboga wa matunda” (vegetable & fruits) stall and she used the initial grant round to expand her business offerings. Based on her and Sam’s feedback, her business was doing pretty good… until a piki-piki hit her while she was crossing the street. The accident left her severely injured and Anna required 6 months of hospital, rehabilitation and rest which took its toll on her business. Not only she could not attend her business, she had to downsize and borrow money to pay her hospital bills.  On a bright note, she got financial support from both DINKWA and the other grant recipients! Unfortunately the accident also had indirect victims: Anna’s children! Grace (F, 15, was in Form 2) had to abandon school because Anna couldn’t afford the tuition fees. As for her son Moses (M, 22) he left technical school and now is an apprentice motorcycle/moped mechanic and. All 3 live in a small 1 room mud and stick house which Anna rent for 15,000Tsh. Today, Anna is back selling vegetable but her offering is very limited due to lack of capital. Any money she saves is used to repay her medical bill loan which still stand @ 50,000Tsh, a year after the accident.  Discussing with Sarah, we feel Anna would greatly benefit from our help, allowing her to get back on her feet again.

All we want to do is to replenish Anna’s stall with a top up.  She asked for 150,000Tsh to buy 50Kg bags of potato and onions (1 bag each). However, I am not sold on that sum not the least it’s supposed to be a further help. Beside, Mama Maggie’s stall is 50m away and we granted her 60,000Tsh to expand her business. We just have to follow the same treatment be fair to both women.

Berth Alex – Mama Alex

Thank you Nada, Eric & Yasmina

Mama Alex

Mama Alex is a happy and popular owner of a fried fish stand not far from DINKWA office. She has also become my favourite lunch spot in Ilboru.  Her stand is pretty rundown: 4 poles and a very dirty tarp as a roof (previously white and full of holes). A small bench is all she can offer her customers yet it doesn’t stop them from coming regularly to eat; many repeat customers from the nearby businesses and small workshops flock to her stand at lunch time. It’s not uncommon for Mama Alex to sell most or all her fish by early afternoon.

Space management: behind the curtain is the bed

Berth lives in a rented room just behind her stall and shares it with her daughter Helena (F, 14, Form 2) and her grandson Leonard (M, 7, std 2) who was abandoned by his mom Monaicha (Mama Alex’s daughter) when she ran away. Mama Alex was very emotional and cried when she told us the story of her son Alex: he was a piki-piki driver (small motorcycle used as taxi) until Alex got into an accident a couple of month ago which left him with a multiple fractured left leg. His severe injuries are a disability and Alex is currently unemployed with a bleak future ahead. Alex and his family fully rely on his mother for their daily life needs (food, cloth, medicine,…); Mama Alex even pays their 1 room rent. So I went ahead and approached Alex to evaluate if he would make a good grant candidate. See bellow 🙂

Once it's fried, it doesn't matter

All of the above leaves Mama Alex in a very weak financial situation. Alex’s medical bills took their toll and consumed all her savings, not to mention she has to provide for 6 persons (incl. her) now. She’s requesting 100,000Tsh to buy more fish from the market as well as cassava, fries, banana, oil,… allowing her to sell more plates per day. We have no doubt in Mama Alex’s business growth plan and her ability to handle the increased number of patrons: her stall is ideally located on a busy alley connecting Ilboru to Mianzini.  However we would like to further help Mama Alex by improving the stall itself. With the rainy season approaching, her business will take a hit as the shack will not be able to shelter her cooking area, let alone the customers. Based on previous years, her monthly income will be significantly cut and Mama Alex is really worried; she has so many family members depending on her.  Currently Mama Alex is heading our advice to look at ways to restore her shack and we are doing the same on our side.  We should all be ready to analyze her latest proposal this week or at the biz training course.

Catherine Mesa

Thank you Tony, Linda & Victor


Catherine (real name: Cadherini. Tanzanian write phonetically using their alphabet pronunciation) has a very difficult life and she cried many times while we were talking to her.  She has been abandoned by her family after her marriage (for religious reasons) and her husband then abandoned her and their 3 kids for the rich owner of the home they used to rent. Her husband did not only abuse her, he also refused to provide any financial help to their 3 children: Peter (M, 14, finished Standard 7 but now out of school as she cannot afford his Form 1 tuition; he’s depressed and wants to head back to school), Steven (M, 7, Std 3) and Anna (F, 6, Std 2 who told me while I was playing with her: “I love to go to school”). Currently they all live in a rented, small 1 room house in a field of banana trees up in Sanawari Juu. Even a rooster, a gift from her neighbours, lives inside the house for fear of it being stolen.

What 13,000Tsh rent (the leftmost room with the white draped door)

Catherine used to be a waitress in a restaurant making 2,000Tsh/day but the restaurant closed and she was left with no job other then roaming the streets selling used cloth as well as doing the occasional hair braid.  She earns around 7,500Tsh/week, a far cry from her previous income and an impossible sum to sustain her family’s daily life needs. She relentlessly asks everywhere she goes if anyone can offer her a job, but no luck.  Catherine is stuck in this poverty cycle and badly requires our help to break free.

Catherine and Sarah @ home. Everything in 1 room

During our many meetings with Catherine, we realized that the starting cost of her new biz will top the higher end of our grant amount at about 200,000Tsh.  We are working on ways to reduce or postpone some of these costs but still, we strongly suggest helping Catherine exit her poverty cycle.

Note: Catherine was sick the past couple of weeks and we couldn’t meet with her. As if things couldn’t get worse, it turned out she got hit by Malaria. She’s recovering however we suspect Catherine’s current business took a severe hit on her already dismal financial situation and poor living condition.

Fatuma Shabani

Thank you Ziad & Mireille

Fatuma rents a 2 room house in Mianzini where she lives with her 2 children: Zahara (F, 13, Std 7) and Maliki (M, 9, Std 4). However, when we visited Fatuma, a “wife of a cousin” with her baby daughter were also living “temporary” there.  Fatuma’s living condition can be described as OK: the house is tidy and clean, and the rooms are fairly big. The question is: why 2 rooms when other Mama’s in similar situation have only 1? I could only assume someone else also lives here.


Fatuma’s husband “disappeared” (read: left her) a few years back and Fatuma is still very affected by this fact and couldn’t hold back her tears when I initially asked about him.  However she soon gathered back her composer and showed enthusiasm when she explained to us about her work; Fatuma is a hairdresser and works in nearby Ilboru. She sets up shop on a rented sidewalk in front of a convenience store. Sitting on a bench while her customer sit on the floor, she does braids, rastas and other hairdressing requests. She manages to earn an average of 25,000Tsh of weekly income in the high season and a low 10,000Tsh after Xmas and during the rainy seasons.  Fatuma really impressed us with her hairdressing skills: she’s extremely knowledgeable in a multitude of hairdressing requirements and has the knowhow to apply them even without any fancy equipment.  Of course, these are cheap workarounds she adapted to face hers and her client’s financial situations. Fatuma mentioned she is well sought after in the community and I can confirm that fact: I pass in front of her sidewalk almost daily and Fatuma is always hard at work with a client.

This is Fatuma's saloon

Fatuma’s aim is to open her own hairdressing saloon and she boasts the business knowhow to do so. She was one of the few women who provided us with a business plan within a few days of asking her to do so. And once we limited the grant amount we could provide, she knew immediately her priorities and where the revised smaller figure should be spent. I approached her with the idea of teaming up with another person to share the costs of the saloon and maybe even the equipment (I have Catherine in mind), but to my surprise, a biz partner is not at all an appealing idea to her. Many problems seem to arise in such a case and Fatuma had a previously bad experience, partially responsible for her situation now. Even after I introduced both ladies to each other and let them discuss in private this collaborative business idea, it was a no-go.

For now, Fatuma is asking for a grant of 300,000Tsh, with the amount divided between buying a 2nd hand hairdryer (150,000Tsh) and saloon/hairdressing products: Oil, Rasta, makeup, combs, scissors,… We understand this amount is still 50% higher than the max amount FutureSense can allocate and we will be working with Fatuma during the biz training to analyze different options and elaborate a biz expansion plan through time.

Miriam Joelle – Mama Joelle

Thank you Jason, Becky and Violet

Mama Joelle

Mama Joelle is a widow and mother of 8 living at the far upper end of Ilboru Juu. She’s a very funny woman, full of life and always making Sam and Jordan laugh. She makes artesania for a living, crafting bracelets and necklaces from beads but is facing increased difficultly to sell. She also joined a cow farming scheme where she will fully take care of 2 cows, split their daily milk production and make them breed. The 3rd offspring of each cow is hers to keep. Since she lives next to grassy and wooded area, she does not need to buy cow food as she goes twice a day, morning and evening, to collect grass and shrubs and feed the cows. The problem is: 1 cow seems to be impotent while the other barely makes 2 litres of milk per day, not even enough for its own offspring. I still do not understand why she’s still in this scheme since neither of these cows are producing enough; I never managed to get a logical answer to my many questions but I requested decisive answers/solutions she will take on that front prior to us granting her a loan.

Beautiful but doesn't bring food to the table

Currently only 4 of Miriam’s children live in her house: Lucia (F, 22, didn’t do well in Form 4, stopped going to school and currently unemployed), Shales (M, 20, masonry but work is rare and even if he has a job, does not contribute to the family), Cecilia (F, 18, also did not finish school, currently helps her mom in doing artesania) and Lengarivo (M, 15, stopped school at Std 7, wants to be a mechanic). Miriam owns her land where she spent the past 9 years building her house: it is fairly new yet in disorder. Actually, her whole property is in disorder.  The garden is littered with rubbish and not fully planted even if she’s extremely lucky, having 2 streams of water passing by her house. The cow “barn” is in a sorry state and not regularly cleaned. The chicken coop can’t be called as such: it’s a bunch of corrugated metal sheets on one side and wire mesh on the other. I think Mr. Everest will fervently oppose such a coop to raise chickens.

That's a sorry looking chicken coop. Must rebuild or it's a no go.

But this is exactly what Mama Joelle wants to do: raise chickens. She is facing many dead ends in her businesses thus she wants to start anew. I talked to several other maker of similar artesania (bracelets and necklaces), as well as in the Maasai market, it is clear this is a dying business; definitely not a sustainable way to provide a living. During the tourist or festive seasons Miriam makes at most 30,000Tsh per month yet almost nothing in the rainy seasons. Most of her sale comes from hotels who call her when they have interested tourists otherwise she sometimes joins the hoards of other sellers who line-up outside churches and halls when a ceremony or wedding is taking place.  Add to that the aforementioned cow and garden situations and it’s obvious Miriam is having a very tough time making ends meet especially with her children still depending on her.

Several facts makes me hesitate granting Miriam a loan and I discussed them with her: why isn’t the garden fully planted for food? Why are the coop and cow barns in such a bad state? Why is the house surroundings filled with pile of dirt and litter abound?… in short, how can I gain enough confidence in her commitment to work and compel me in issuing you a grant? In particular, how do we make sure the chickens will be well cared for, thus assuring you a steady revenue stream? She kept assuring me that she’s working as hard as she can to tend to her work & home and I have no doubt on that front.  My concern is she’s stretched out thin and her many daily tasks are too much for any one person to handle alone.  So why don’t the kids, other than Cecilia, lend a helping hand? Not that they are really “busy” anyhow.  Personal opinion: The children’s school records indicate they are below average and combined with what I witnessed during my visits, there seem to be a factor of laziness from the kids. It’s a pre-conception but on several occasion, Miriam mentioned to us: “I raised my kids well; I hope they will be there when I really need them”.  That said, she also seem to lack basic & fundamental business knowhow: She did not even know her artesania cost per item and thus, her profit. For example, she couldn’t explain why she sells a bracelet at 5,000Tsh vs. any other price? She just follows the market price and seems quite content doing so.

Only after my 4th visit that I realized that Mama Joelle cannot read and write which explain much of her troubles as people take advantage of her. Although I noted my reservation in approving a grant to Mama Joelle, I have to admit she is in a dire need for support. Miriam always showed an enthusiasm to learn and she insisted she knows and understands the need to take extreme good care of her chickens, “Otherwise they will die!”.  She even tried to improve the chicken coop in between our many visits which shows commitment and resilience…  Upon further discussion with our team, we believe the best course of action is to invite Mama Joelle to both the biz training and the chicken breeding class we will provide.  In the meantime she will be working on her land and coop, and her friend Stella Emmanuel (a great & successful business woman whom we also interviewed) will be helping on these fronts.

If Mama Joelle shows further progress, we would recommend providing her with a grant for a minimum of 10 chickens and 2 roosters as well as the initial vaccines and medicines needed to care for her livestock.

Theresia Alfonsi

Thank you Francoise


Theresia is very hard working widow who lives in the Ilboru area.  You can always see her commuting to and from the main market or tending her veggies and fish & fries stalls. She rents both the stalls and her 1 room house for 40,000Tsh/mth and 25,000Tsh/mth respectively. A total of 6 persons live at home. Theresia has 4 daughters: Yosephina (F, 18, studies in college for teachers), Scholastica (F, 16, Form 3), Siya (F, 13, Std 7) and Neema (F, 9, Std 2). She also takes care of Esta (F, 14, completed Std 7) who doesn’t go to school anymore but rather helps around and tend the stalls when Theresia is away. Esta (phonetic Swahili for Ester) gets a monthly salary of 20,000Tsh and seems to be a happy girl, always smiling.

That's home for 6 people

From a business point of view, Theresia is one of the best women I interviewed: very enthusiastic, hard working and determined to grow her business through diversification. She earns around 10,000 to 15,000Tsh/week from selling vegetables and around 35,000Tsh/week from selling fish. She wants to concentrate here effort on expanding her restaurant business, noting: “I will not have all this energy for long”. She has ambitious dreams: she’s looking to rent a place nearby and depending on the location and its size, she either will open a small kiosk or a very small restaurant + seating area. In either case, her grand plan is to have a fridge which will allow her to sell soda and beer alongside her food. She’s also considering buying a bigger quantity of fish for a lesser price per kilo, which she would be able to keep fresh in this fridge.  Not only she thought about ways to bring in more customers to the fish & fries stall but most importantly I really liked the fact she wants to earn more money from her current patrons by simply selling them mores.

Samaki wa chipsi (fish and chips!)

Even if Theresia has less clients then Mama Alex whose stall is 50m away, I have little doubt on Theresia’s abilities to succeed. We researched fridge prices and unfortunately even the cheapest one tops our maximum recommended grant amount. We are looking at a 320,000Tsh for a regular fridge while a small one costs 220,000Tsh; a freezer runs into the 240,000Tsh. Theresia insists on the fact she only likes us to support her in buying a fridge as she can take care of all other items. Not all is lost though: We approached Coca-Cola and they will be interested in supplying Theresia’s new business with a small fridge… with a few strings attached: for one, they need to review the restaurant or kiosk and 2) their fridge can obviously only be used for Coke products.  As I explained to Theresia, it’s OK: she can have the small Coca-Cola fridge for the soda and we will concentrate our research on finding a cheaper smaller fridge for the beer and the fish. She definitely agrees as she also remarked: “Whatever the outcome is, I want to open the restaurant”.  As the say: Attitude goes a long way!

Esta tending the mboga-mboga stall

We strongly recommend supporting Theresia; she has many dependent children and school will only get more expensive as her girls enter Form 1 and above (primary school cost 40,000Tsh while secondary 300,00Tsh+). She also showed strong will and demonstrated business wits and we should support such attitude. Finally although understandably a difficult request, I would like to see Esta back in school. We will invite Theresia to our training session and help her develop her business expansion plans.  In the mean time we will all continue searching for a fridge which falls within our budget (or maybe split the cost with Theresia) and be ready to contact Coca-Cola when she opens her kiosk or seating area. We are requesting to allocate Theresia the maximum grant amount, ideally 200,000Tsh.

Alex Luka

Thank you Alisson & Barry


Alex is the son of Mama Alex (my favourite fried fish vendor). Unfortunately he too was a piki-piki (small motorcycle used as a taxi) victim, although in his case Alex was the driver.  I approached Alex following my interview with Mama Alex as both Sarah and I decided to further inquire upon how we could help his living situation. If you recall, Mama Alex indicated that financially Alex and his family are fully dependent on her, his accident having left his right leg severely injured. Currently, Alex requires crutches to move around and his injured leg suffers from dystrophy. Alex is recently married and his wife is also unemployed, taking care of their newly born daughter.

Not only is it hard to find a job in Tanzania, imagine if you suffer from a disability.  Even so, Alex spirit is high and is eager to work and support his familly.  Listening to him describe his situation seems as if the accident also knocked some sense into him: “I wasted all my time on piki-piki”; “I have my daughter to live for”; “I will do anything for work, a man in my position doesn’t have much choices, so anything is good”,…Too good to be true?  Maybe. To be honest, I still have my suspicions. Still, we are inclined in taking our chances with Alex by helping him find a job or start a biz and hope he’s true to his word.

Alex initially wanted to sell vegetables outside his home, however neither Sam nor I were warm to this idea. First, in the small alley leading to his home there are no less than 5 other vegetable sellers but my biggest concern was who will actually do the job? Who will go get the vegetables and fruits from the central market and tend the stand? I walked these streets long enough to notice that rarely if ever a man is working as a vegetable seller.  He made a very good pitch about it though: “Definitely I will be there, my wife will just help me when needed. I will buy a little of everything and adapt my offering to my clients needs. I will differentiate myself from the competition by offering diverse and fresh fruits and veggies…”. Impressed but not convinced, I pitched the idea of maybe working a more “sedentary” job so as not to overstrain his leg. Tailor for example?

Jordan helping Alex during the our business class exam

During the training, Alex came forward with his new biz idea. A while back, he used to work as a carpenter making wood furniture. Well, that same shop would like to hire him as a sofa upholstery tailor.  He will be paid 2,500Tsh per couch set (a set is comprised of: 1 triple sofa, 1 love seat and 2 single seats). Jordan and I did investigate with other sofa makers in Arusha and can confirm this rate. The stores also told us that a good tailor can do 2 or even 3 sets per day, earning him/her a respectable 150,000Tsh per month. So how many sofas can be sold in Arusha? Well according to the sofa makers, a lot and they strongly recommend this job. I failed to grasp their logic and they couldn’t answer me how come an upholstery tailor profession is not a thought after career? One more note: none of the sofa fabricators wanted to actually hire a tailor although we found 1 lady which is ready to teach Alex how to sew upholstery: a 2 week training will cost 14,000Tsh.

We will be meeting soon with Alex to discuss these development prior to deciding our next move.


Thank you all!


The Apprentice


For the project I signed-up for I will be working with Sam, FutureSense Community Coordinator in the Ilboru, Sanawari and Mianzini neighborhoods. So what will Sam and I do? Well, first we headed out to meet the neighborhood elders, group leaders and local Tanzanian partner organization to gage the general need of the area.  They, in collaboration with Sam, have spread the word among the women and mothers whom are in need and would like to start or expand their business, to come and meet with us. All were waiting this mzungu (white person) who will give them money.

Local Ilboru office

But that’s not what we do! We never hand out cash and the project is much more structured and has more depth as they will soon learn. Painstakingly and one by one, we explained to the mamas our role, our purpose and the way we work.  We then interviewed each women privately to gather as much info as possible regarding their personal life and work: I want to know all about their families, their health (especially HIV status), if they afford getting appropriate treatments, their living conditions, their kids and do they attend school, the husband and if he’s abusive,… bref, I was not only trying to determine the neediness level but also the ability to cope with the extra responsibilities that accompany any new business venture and most importantly, the ability to succeed in their new endeavor.


You soon realize that one of the major cause contributing to the mamas’ poor living conditions stems from the countries social background: many in rural Tanzania still live in a patriarch society, clinging to their tribal past were inequality of women is a defacto status, were abuse and violence against them is rampant, were access to education is practically non-existent and so on.  Unfortunately these women are not helping their cause either. Yes, I do understand the power of a culture and its social traditions or the repercussions stemming from a lack of education; but still few women get organized to change that misconception and most bow to their husband’s behavior.


They also fail to really take care of themselves: many get pregnant at a very young age, have multiple relationships (as do men) but rarely if ever practice safe sex (even if Tanzanians are religiously devout, whether Christian or Muslim, few follow abstinence). This is the daily situation we face and we try to improve it on multiple fronts, concurrently while conducting the grant round: we give seminars and talks on Human rights, Women rights and on HIV/AIDs & how to protect against it.

Cow barn

Coming back to my livelihood project. After the above mentioned subject analysis we do an initial candidate selection, eliminating the non-starter (mostly based on having a “good” income or a livestock: 50+ chickens, 3+ cows,… or a land to cultivate and sell its crops, etc… Technically, we are aiming to help candidates in poorer conditions to attain the aforementioned levels!). Sam and I will now visit each mama’s home, talk to her family & kids and then head to evaluate her work or business. Most are self employed while a few live from whatever her garden or home’s surroundings can provide.

They will manually water these lands from the nearby streams...

...to grow green onions

Let’s be clear her, we are talking bare-bone basic businesses: frying and selling fish, frying or roasting banana or cassavas on the side of the street, selling 2nd hand clothes door to door, raising chickens to sell eggs, working as seamstress in front of a convenience store, hair braiding or rasta on the front porch, etc.  But believe me when I say it’s not easy to grasp their state of affairs; it takes time to figure out their true business state: few really know their actual profit or even daily revenue or why they sell a particular product at a certain price. Doing the math is definitely not their forte and unfortunately a few of them are illiterate.

Same idea

After struggling to gather as much info as we can, we move on to the most important question: “How can we further help you?” …and the real challenge starts. Being patient does not even come close to describing what I went through with these mamas. First, I needed to know the fundamental of their new business idea, yet that core plan is often made up as we go along. If I re-phrase the same question or ask it again the next day, half the time I get a different answer. As simple as “How much will you sell your item?” or “How many items can you sell per week?”… and from 1 day to the other an unprofitable business become a cash cow.  Yet Sam & I had to perceiver: we do role playing scenarios, I used coca-cola bottle caps to do math analogy, we gave examples which they can relate too in the hope of finally “succeeding???” in extracting an answer. Throughout our discussions nearly half the mamas realized their business idea was flowed… only for them throw another idea out of the blue.

Imported 2nd hand cloth killed the local economy

Selling fries won’t work? “How about if I sell vegetables? Or you know, I can do hair braids. But no, I think selling kangas/kitenge is better (traditional colorful garments worn or wrapped around the body). Oh wait, underwear! 2nd hand underwear is good business, everyone must wear underwear”. It doesn’t matter if there are 100 other vegetable sellers in the neighborhood, if so many people wander the streets selling used clothes or if they don’t realize how many underwear someone needs to sell to make a living… “Hey, the neighbor said it was a good business. Besides, I can assure you it will work!”.  Anything since it’s not their money they are gambling with. Sam and I met at least 5 times with each mama, some of them up to 10 times. I had the advantage of time as my stay here is long enough and I was determined to establish a good working base. Not to mention I could not give up on some of the candidates who were in so much need.

Yet even with my best efforts, I will be had by a few mamas (you will read about in my future stories).

Hi mzungu

The hardest part of my work? I had to choose who will make it to the final stage. Imagine having to say no to someone who makes U$D0.80/day for each child, because I have many other candidates making less than U$D0.50/day. Or how can I be really sure a kangas + kitenge business would not succeed?  In other instances I am left flabbergasted: some women as needy as they can be, just refuse to do any effort: they do not attend classes, don’t show up to our meeting and so on… like nothing really matters to them.  Let them be? Yes, I have no choice and we are flooded with other applicants. But it is heart wrenching when you see the situation their own children live in.

Class is on

We narrowed down our candidate list to the few who seemed most adept to receive our grant and Sam & I start conducting the trainings. Everyone had to attend a 2 day basic business and entrepreneurship class and we also offered specific training in each candidate field of work (when applicable): e.g. a veterinary to teach farmers the basics to raising livestock, tailoring course for seamstresses/tailors, hairdressing techniques for braids and rastas,…

Once concluded and in light of the training outcome we conduct one final review with each mama, now that she has a better understanding of the situation: we re-evaluate her business case and improve her plans. Unfortunately, sometimes we also had to stop our engagement with a few candidates.

So who succeeded in receiving a grant?

Read my next blog!   .