With every pot they open, the melange of scents gets more exciting. Elizabeth Mizambwa and Jane Daudi prepare to serve plain rice, pilau, peas with coconut cream, braised beef with a gingery sauce, leafy vegetables with onions, chilli relish and, as a healthy dessert, juicy watermelon. Thirty-nine spice farmers queue up for lunch. They gathered for a meeting on post-harvest management, and already during the tea break enjoyed the fantastic cooking of Elizabeth, Jane and their fellow group members.
“Our group has grown to thirty members – all women. Of course, not all of us participate at once when we have a catering order. Normally, ten to thirteen women meet at somebody’s home to prepare the menu. We cook on wood or charcoal stoves. Most of the ingredients we use come from the SAT Organic Shop” summarises Elizabeth, who is the group’s chairperson.
When food is ready, they use a hired car to transport the thermos pots to the venue. Elizabeth describes logistics as a big challenge for the catering group. “It occurs that everything is prepared, but the driver is late. Most often, this happens when a driver takes the opportunity to work for somebody else on the same day. Sometimes such small jobs take longer than expected. And then, we end up being late to serve the food, which is very bad for our business.”
Luckily, from this point of view, their primary customer is SAT. Therefore, the young entrepreneurs have a friendly environment to get set for the expansion of their business into the competitive market. How has this cooperation evolved? The group Nguvu Kazi (‘Strenght of Work’) started in 2014 as a pure saving and lending group. SAT had decided to offer this successful training on microfinance and entrepreneurship to non-farmers as well.
In a nutshell, this system allows the group members to buy shares every week, which increases the collective fund. Every shareholder can request loans out of this fund for entrepreneurial activities. If the group grants the credit, the borrower needs to pay back the money within three months. Due to quite reliable repayment and the interest on loans, the collective fund grows steadily. At the end of a yearly cycle, the group redistributes the savings. Every saver receives her part according to the shares she has bought throughout the year.
“In the beginning, we mostly used the loans to buy raw material for soap production. But in 2018, we decided to try something new and invested in our catering enterprise,” recalls Elizabeth. “After every order, we decide on how much to reinvest and then we share the rest of our profits. It’s a good source of income and covers a considerable part of my household expenses. Paying our children’s school fees has become easier, and we all buy more shares on a more regular basis.”
This year, the Nguvu Kazi group impressively demonstrated their ‘strength of work’. Thirty women managed to buy shares for about 22.5 million Tanzanian Shillings (approximately USD 10,000). Thanks to their lively lending activities and dependable repayments, they increased the total amount in the collective fund to more than 25 million Tanzanian Shillings (almost USD 11,000). This is a considerable success in terms of return, which is more than 10%, but even more so because it shows that the group members actually can afford to save money for future use.
Asked about her group’s plans, Elizabeth replies: “We dream of catering at congresses or meetings and in offices. In short: to have additional customers apart from SAT. For this, we need to invest in advertisement and also in more decent plates and cutlery.” SAT believes that, with sufficient seed funding and additional consulting, the powerful Nguvu Kazi women could even pioneer Tanzania’s first organic catering. This project perfectly matches the concept of agroecology. Farmers will benefit from higher demand for organic products, and value addition will take place on the spot. Consumers, on their part, will finally have the option to eat fresh and healthy food outside their homes as well.