An Appetising Business

Catering with mostly organic ingredients
Lunch break at a meeting of spice farmers: Elizabeth Mizambwa and Jane Daudi are serving food cooked by their catering group. They already mostly use organic ingredients.

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.

Transport of food by hired car

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.

Coordinating the service at the buffet
Preparations before the guests arrive: Three members of the Nguvu Kazi group are coordinating the necessary steps at the buffet.

How Pastoralists Spread Their Agroecological Skills

“This is my bike”, says Pendo Ndemo pointing at a bicycle that peers between a group of Masai women. They have gathered in the shade of a veranda. Outside, the light is dazzling. Now and then, a hot and dry breath of wind tells how harsh it would be without the roof. “I use the bike to visit the members of Tupendane group”, Pendo continues. She is a Pastoralist to Pastoralist Facilitator, and therefore one of the crucial persons in multiplying the skills she acquired before.

Tupendane pastoralist group gathering in a veranda's shade

Pendo’s group, Nameloki (‘Good Luck’), started their training with SAT in 2017. “Since then, we made a lot of progress. We have 30 crossbreed goats and three cows that are offspring of our traditional sort and a beautiful Mpwapwa bull.” These animals are more heavily built than the Masai’s customary livestock but well adapted to the environment. “Of course, these cattle eat a bit more. But thanks to our stock of hay, this is no problem anymore.”

What Pendo refers to here, is part of a fundamental change of habits. Traditionally, Masai would roam the savanna with their herds to search for grazeland and waterholes. Especially during the dry season, this involves wandering long distances. Through the Farmers and Pastoralists Collaboration (FPC) project, they learnt how to cultivate their pastures with nutritious grasses, and to bale hay for the following period. “Of course, we had our ways to relieve this problem a bit”, Pendo explains. “We fenced off suitable areas so that the fodder grasses would remain for tough times. Then, we would let our cows in for grazing. But these areas usually didn’t last for long.”

In addition to that transformation, FPC also encourages pastoralists to grow crops. This raises their awareness of how it is like when cows invade a crop field. It is a goal of this project to reduce conflicts between farmers and pastoralists. First impressions imply that it works well, evaluation is underway. There is no doubt, though, that the Masai remarkably improved their variety of food through farming.

Eventually, however, water is the source of life. That is why SAT supported the pastoralists with digging a reservoir big enough to quench the thirst of their cattle. Nameloki’s watering-place lies amidst the labyrinth of bald trunks and mostly naked branches in all shades of brown, yellow and ochre, characteristic for the dry season. The pond is surrounded by the typical fencing of thorny twigs and branches, which truely shows its efficiency if only one tries to open it. When needed, a pump drives the water to the concrete trough.

“This is what we need too,” explains Nambeya Nyange, referring to her group’s plans. Tupendane group was founded in April 2019. “We were inspired by what happened in our neighbourhood,” Nambeya Nyange goes on. Asked about the progress, they have made during the first six months, the Tupendane women pick out two improvements. They never had as much milk before during this time of year. And they say that they engage more actively in trade. Through their saving and lending groups, FPC beneficiaries mutually grant loans that must be invested in business. “The men”, describes Theresia Makoretu, “use the credits to buy goats in the neighbourhood and to sell them with profit on the market. The women, on their part, buy wholesale products like soap in town and sell it retail to the villagers.”

young goat of improved breed
Peer-to-peer facilitator, Pendo Ndemo, is struggling with a young cross-breed goat for the photo shooting.
Managed Pasture

Pendo Ndemo, who coaches the Tupendane members through her experience and her skills she picked up in the specialized training for trainers, leads the group to the tuition pasture. The untrained eye could barely make out this area except for the prickly branch fencing and the lower density of trees. Here, Johnson Mwakyusa, SAT facilitator, chips in. He suggests how the group should deal with this grassland that has not thriven as expected because of little rainfalls. “Let the cows in to graze here. This will fertilize the pasture and later encourage the nutritious grass species we sowed to grow faster. They prefer clear spaces.”

Leaving the women in Mingo village, Johnson manoeuvres the motorcycle along the winding paths tightly lined by the bare wood of this time of year. Farmers and pastoralists engage in protecting this fascinating maze. They practice agroforestry, which includes reforestation, and they learn how to produce sustainable cooking fuel. Looking back, the houses in Mingo fade in the web of twigs and branches. Soon, one believes to be miles away from settlements. And indeed, without a vehicle, this place is very remote.

Nameloki, Tupendane and all the other 49 groups of FPC with their 1660 members stay connected with each other and with SAT through a messenger platform on their mobile phones. And before long we got back to Morogoro, there flies in a video showing how Pendo Ndemo instructs the Tupendane group in compost making.

The FPC project is kindly supported by Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, and LED Liechtenstein Development Service.