Smallholder Farmer Market Options: Part 1

Imagine you are a smallholder farmer living in a rural Tanzanian village. It takes you 2 hours by bus on dirt roads to reach Korogwe, a town of roughly 45,000 people. If you want to go to Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania with the wealthiest consumers, you must first travel to Korogwe, then take a bus for another five hours to the city.


Now imagine you’re traveling to sell your green pepper and cucumber crop and have four large, heavy sacks with you.

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How do you decide where to sell your crops? Do you sell them locally at your weekly village market, where prices are low? Do you pay the transport costs to send them to Korogwe? How do you know if the price is high enough in Dar es Salaam to cover the transport costs?

This is a decision our Partners have to make on a weekly basis.

2Seeds is creating opportunities to help our Partners make informed and profitable decisions. Stay tuned to learn about how our SMS-based price dissemination platform is part of that solution!

Photos courtesy of Whitney Flatt and Abby Love. 

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Introducing the Team of Quarter 2: Lutindi!

It is a pleasure to introduce a team that has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their roles as Project Coordinators, securing the title of Team of the Quarter! Coming off of their second place victory in Q1, congratulations to Ross Carstens and Jennifer Weidman of the Lutindi Project! Way to turn it up!

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Ross and Jen have not wasted a single minute as each assumed the role of Project Coordinator for a second year. They have set an exceptionally high standard for their work on the project that has really helped Lutindi hit a stride. But beyond their own dedication, they have been an inspiration to Project Coordinators and Partners alike. It is common to find Ross and Jen helping a fellow PC design a social media plan or invite their Partners to their home to plan a crop rotation for the coming season. They are considerate thought partners who selflessly put the needs of the project before themselves.

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The Lutindi team has not just integrated into their community—they are genuinely a part of it. Jen helped to start a netball team with some of her friends in Lutindi, while Ross joined a church choir that has even recorded their own CD! From wedding photographers to god parents, they have assumed many trusted roles in the Lutindi community and have earned unprecedented respect from their Partners.

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They also earned a trip with a few friends to climb Korogwe’s local Everest, Mashindei! Congratulations!

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The Bungu Project and Kwakiliga Project teams also deserve recognition for their second and third place victories in this quarter. Keep up the good work, teams!

Mid-Year Investor Reports

To investors and stakeholders in 2Seeds Network,

Since August, the Class 5 Project Coordinators and Project Partners have been working ceaselessly across the network. Through capacity building and construction, learning and laughing, challenges and a lot of chai, your support has contributed to an invaluable experience for everyone involved.

While there is no sufficient way to show our gratitude, we’re still going to try.

First, the Project Coordinators have prepared a Mid-Year Investor Report that encompasses progress and spending through the first half of their year on the projects. These reports provide some insight into the nature of our work, including highlights, challenges, and goals. They also give an update about the current state of finances and fundraising on the project, demonstrating just how far every dollar can go.

Bombo Majimoto Project Mid-Year Investor Report, February 2015

Bungu Project Mid-Year Investor Report, February 2015

Kijungumoto Project Mid-Year Investor Report, February 2015

Kwakiliga Project Mid-Year Investor Report, February 2015

Lutindi Project Mid-Year Investor Report, February 2015

Magoma-Kijango Project Mid-Year Investor Report, February 2015

Magoma-Kwata Project Mid-Year Investor Report, February 2015

Tabora Project Mid-Year Investor Report, February 2015

Second, these words can only convey a small portion of our enthusiasm. As a way to show our sincerity, the wanamtandao (“network members”) got together to express our thanks to you directly! Watch the video below to get a glimpse of the upendo (“love”) we experience every day.

2S Day is a day of celebration every month from our friends in Tanzania, hoping to share a bit more of wonderful progress happening in our network. Please donate to 2Seeds Network to ensure our impact can continue to dig deeper.

Asanteni sana from the 2Seeds Ground Team,

Ana, Hailey, and Cam

Spotlight: Hamisi

Hamisi is a businessman with a lifetime of experience in agriculture. A man in his early 30’s, he has been happily married for 15 years. Together with his wife they have two sons, a daughter, and a spotted friend Lucky. Hamisi resides in his mountain hometown near the rest of his relatives where the firm bonds of family are present each and every day. Just last year, he received a promotion in his work that provides new responsibilities, experience, respect. He works hard to provide for his family, especially saving money as he prepares to send his first son off to school. He is excited for the future of his family and anxious to push his business to new heights.

Hamisi may sound like someone you know just around the corner, but he is actually a partner of the Bungu Project in Tanzania. The walls of his home are made of reinforced mud-bricks, not stucco. His agriculture experience comes from necessity, not choice. And Lucky is actually a cow named Bahati, not a dalmation. But none of these differences inhibit Hamisi’s determination or ability to build a better life for his family. His story is familiar and inspiring, showing that we are more alike than different.

Hamisi shows off his new sales record book that tracks the details of each and every group sale from the Bungu Project.

Hamisi shows off his new sales record book that tracks the details of each and every group sale from the Bungu Project.

In the Bungu Project, Hamisi strives to go the extra mile as the Market Coordinator for their weekly crop sales as they transition from project to business. If the group has more crops for sale than they received orders for, Hamisi checks into his network of buyers to make sure their inventory sells. He loves to experiment with different varieties of seeds and cultivation techniques to maximize the production from his land. Hamisi frequently encourages the group to take calculated risks with their business and isn’t afraid to go against the current. If he isn’t crunching numbers in his head, he’s drawing them in the dirt. He even writes his own business cards on scraps of paper to make sure that new contacts receive his information, leaving a lasting impression on buyers who may not be used to this level of professionalism. The Market Coordinators of other network projects have learned from his example and now write business cards of their own for distribution.

Hamisi embodies human capital development. The partners of the Bungu Project recognized the leadership potential in Hamisi and provided him an opportunity to be the best he can be. Trainings in business and finance have unlocked his mind to the endless possibilities for his work and directed his big ideas to make a measurable difference. He is equipped with the skills to make a real change in his own life and the lives of others. The Bungu Project is the perfect environment to exercise his dynamic ability to overcome new challenges as they arise and inspire a culture of success among his peers.

Hamisi employs excellent agriculture best practices such as crop rotation and terraced farming to respect the soil while maximizing productivity. Just look at that Chinese cabbage!

Hamisi employs excellent agricultural best practices such as crop rotation and terraced farming to respect the soil while maximizing productivity. Just look at that Chinese cabbage!

2Seeds Methodology – Project to Business

There are currently seven village-based 2Seeds projects in Tanzania of which three, Bungu, Kwakiliga and Tabora, have started a long-term transition from project to business. But what does transitioning a project into a business mean within the 2Seeds methodology?

In order to reach Maisha Bora and achieve human capital development, 2Seeds Network incubates community-based projects to turn income-generating activities into thriving businesses run by 2Seeds members.

Our methodology:

We develop these businesses through a long-term process:

  1. Engage the community

We only work in communities that have invited us to partner with them. Project Coordinators from international backgrounds spend at least one year living in a community, building relationships and engaging with community members. These Project Coordinators and community members develop deep, trusting relationships with each other that lay the groundwork for ongoing 2Seeds work, engage community members in the broader 2Seeds network and allow 2Seeds members to take risks together.

  1. Look for the income-generating activity that will work

Incorporating local knowledge and leadership with creative approaches, Project Coordinators and local Project Partners identify income-generating activities that might be suitable for that community. This process may take time. 2Seeds members build resilience as they try different activities, face threats from a changing natural environment, and learn to work together.

  1. Put in the hours to make it work

Once the income-generating activity has been identified, Project Partners and Project Coordinators work together to build the basis of a sustainable business. This means learning new skills, strengthening group cohesion, and accessing markets.

  1. Increase productivity

Once the business model is in place, it’s time to ramp up productivity to solidify market connections, lay the foundation of a self-sustaining business and generate life-changing income.

  1. Draw in the community and integrate other activities into the core business

The business is established and the core 2Seeds members are all successfully working together. Business operations are routinized and local value chains are integrated into operations, creating opportunity throughout the community and spurring local economic development.

  1. Create freedom to produce conscious choice

The result of this process is that 2Seeds members are able to make meaningful choices about their lives. They have money to cover everyday costs and save for the future; they have business acumen and an eye for strategic decision-making; and they have a network of support to try new things together.

 

This process of human capital development has long-term effects as Partners expand their skills, earn higher incomes, and bring new models of creative thought and action to their communities.

2Seeds Projects start out like clay, easy to be molded and shaped, as flexibility is necessary to experiment and risk. Once projects transition into businesses it is like the clay turning into rocks, which are a solid foundation that can be added to without easily breaking. When a project transitions into a business, a trial transitions into reality, a subsistence farmer transitions into a businessperson, a dream transitions into a step towards Maisha Bora.

The project-to-business transition is the necessary turning point to professionalizing the activities performed by Project Coordinators, then Business Consultants, and Project Partners, then Business Owners.

2Seeds Feedback System

2Seeds works for Human Capital Development, targeting two streams: Project Coordinators, volunteers that come to Tanzania from various countries, and Project Partners, our Tanzanian beneficiaries. Today we will talk about the HCD of 2Seeds Project Coordinators (PCs).

2Seeds PCs commit to a minimum of a year volunteering in Tanzania, coming from various countries to work and live in a Tanzanian community. It’s a very intense job, with high-expectations of professionalism and countless work hours.
PCs receive monthly training through the 2Seeds On-Ground Curriculum in areas like Professional Development and Career, Project Management, and Strategy – as Project Coordinators are both beneficiaries and agents of Human Capital Development, it is important that PCs are given all necessary tools to operate at high performance and to grow as individuals and professionals.

As part of the HCD for PCs, 2Seeds has a quarterly Feedback System. Every PC is evaluated every three months by his/her teammate, a peer, the Senior Project Coordinator, and the Country Director; and every other quarter the TZAC representative of her/his project joins the group, forming a constructive 360º strengths-based system, as we believe that strengths are the best tool to mitigate weaknesses. The main outcome of the Feedback System is feedforward, or the plan for improvement generated after the evaluation.

But why a Feedback System?
Project Coordinators operate outside their comfort zones, within a foreign culture, a foreign language and, several times, working in areas in which they have no previous expertise – these are the most challenging, yet the most unique and exciting traits of the 2Seeds experience. Therefore PCs need to develop their self-confidence and to increase their capacity in order to create the opportunity for lasting change that is expected from them.
The 2Seeds Feedback System gives PCs the opportunity to compare their self-evaluation with the perceptions of others over their performance, and to align it with input from previous experiences. Based on the feedback, PCs can create a plan to improve while in Tanzania and to develop skills that they will need for their career as whole.

It is not unusual to see uncomfortable PCs receiving their first feedback, working hard to process the information and to use it constructively. It is even less unusual to see PCs making the most of the Feedback System and leaving Tanzania as mature and solid professionals, with a career plan in hand.

One of the most impressive strengths of 2Seeds is the capacity of bringing together amazing individuals to work for a common cause. The 2Seeds Feedback System allows amazing individuals to push themselves even further and to intentionally grow and improve.

Spotlight: Grace

Every two weeks, students, teachers and community leaders in Magoma come together in an inclusive, interactive, and collaborative learning environment to participate in the 2Seeds Business Curriculum. During each two hour lesson, we strive to find creative ways to communicate complex concepts such as tradeoffs and profit to a room of over 20 people whose ages range from 9 to 78. Every week we are impressed by the students who actively participate and eagerly offer responses to tough questions. They are always up for the challenge and they can’t help but share a smile of pride and satisfaction when they beat the adults at answering a question correctly. In every lesson we see young entrepreneurial leaders emerging and we imagine how each student is going to use these business lessons in future endeavors. Some may go on to open their own restaurant or clothing business; others may pursue a university education. Regardless of which path they take, we know these lessons are equipping them with the skills they need to pave a future path of success and financial security.

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One student who has shined exceptionally bright from week to week is third grader Grace. Just over three feet tall, Grace exudes a sense of tallness in her maturity and confidence. She calmly sits in each lesson, poised, contemplative and ready to tackle any question. Never missing a beat, Grace is attentive and focused. She is assured in her responses and she hardly falters. On numerous occasions, one of the parent leaders has answered a question incorrectly and Grace immediately steps up to the plate to offer a correct answer, impressing everyone in the room. She is always two steps ahead of everyone and you can see the wheels turning in her head with every question that is posed.

Grace Kwata

Recently, during a lesson on decision-making and tradeoffs, she was asked to make a decision between starting a motorcycle or clothing business after the pros and cons of each had been discussed within the group. She stood at the front of the room and quietly pondered for several minutes. Despite the whispers from her peers to choose a particular option, she remained unfazed and concentrated on her own thoughts. After some time she expressed that she could not make a decision just yet and would tell us her choice at the end of the lesson. We carried on with a few more activities and, although she actively participated, it was clear that she was still racking her brain to come up with a meaningful answer. Finally, at the very end of the lesson, Grace stood up at the front of the room and declared her choice of the motorcycle business, explaining that, aside from having less costs than a clothing business, it would be more fun!

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Although Grace is only nine years old, she has demonstrated a keen sense of entrepreneurialism as she consistently grapples with challenging business concepts and successfully applies them in real-life scenarios. She proves that watoto wanaweza, or children can do it, which is especially important in a culture where kids are told that they cannot be leaders or change agents. We are incredibly proud of Grace and all that she has accomplished in the Business Curriculum and we are excited to watch her grow as a student leader and entrepreneur this year!

Leadership

In Tanzanian culture, leadership is typically defined by titles. People are often viewed as leaders if they hold positions such as chairpersons, secretaries, or treasurers and these titles instantly command a sense of respect from others. In 2Seeds, however, we strive to dismantle this one dimensional notion of leadership and instead shed light on the idea that action is a greater indication of leadership than titles. We do this by hosting monthly meetings with different groups of leaders (chairs, secretaries, treasurers) and in each meeting we discuss the importance of their roles and the ways in which the group depends on them to fulfill certain responsibilities. For example, in Tanzania, chairpersons are expected to open and close meetings and, in many cases, their responsibilities do not extend much further than that. When we meet with the chairs, however, we seek to ignite a fire within them to show that they are capable of much more than simply opening a meeting. We encourage them to lead by example, to hold their peers accountable when it comes to meeting group expectations, and to inspire others to be leaders.

Further, we aim to unleash leadership potential in our Partners who have historically been told that they cannot be leaders because of their age, gender, socioeconomic status, and education level. Mama Salome, for example, is a single mother of four who cannot read or write and she has never held a formal leadership position in the Tabora group. That is, until last year when the Project Coordinators discovered that there was more to Mama Salome’s shy and friendly demeanor. They could feel her leadership potential nearing the surface and wanted to create an outlet for her to shine. When the business responsibilities were being divided among the group to help the business operate more smoothly, it became clear that Mama Tabia would be one of the sales coordinators given her charismatic personality and her relationship with buyers and Mama Mwaliko was a natural fit for calculating profits because of her strong math skills. Mama Salome, however, was a little trickier to place. After much thought and discussion, the PCs thought she would be a good fit for the attendance record keeping position. Although this position may not seem as glamorous as chairperson or treasurer, it is just as important, as it determines how much money each group member earns in profits each month. As someone who always shows up to work on time and diligently encourages others to do the same, Mama Salome was the perfect person for this job. The PCs worked with her to create a record-keeping system that aligned with her skillset and to this day Mama Salome still holds her group members accountable and encourages timeliness at all cooking sessions.

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By unlocking the potential of Mama Salome and so many of our Partners like her who have been told that they cannot lead because they do not possess certain skills, we are able to foster an environment of collaborative leadership and equality. We send a message to our Partners that they can be leaders even if they cannot read or write. We show them that their participation in the group is valuable because they bring knowledge and wisdom that may not fit squarely into the chairperson and treasurer boxes. By recognizing each Partner as an individual, alive with possibilities, we embrace the strengths of every single person in the Network. And, by doing so, we create an interdependent network of leaders who are all using their strengths to reach a common goal: Maisha Bora, or a better life.

Savings Spirit

December is a time when the jingle of bells on the street replaces the jingle of change in your pocket. But no gift from Santa will ever be as satisfying as our partners making their own dreams come true. Even through this season of spending, 2Seeds’ partners continue to diligently bank their hard-earned shillings.

Several projects have seen so much success with their work that they have decided to start group savings funds. As taught in the 2Seeds Business Curriculum, a savings fund can be used to plan for future investments, take advantage of promising opportunities, and provide security in case of emergency. These funds grow steadily with each and every sale, bringing our partners’ holiday wishes one step closer to reality.

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A little patience, planning, and determination are the secret ingredients for anyone to save money. Bombo Majimoto plans different savings contributions months in advance according to their seasonal cashflow, while Bungu has a standard monthly contribution that dependably trickles in each month. Kwakiliga and Tabora set aside fixed percentages from their monthly revenues. As the pioneering project in the network, it is only appropriate that Kwakiliga was the first project to open the first official project bank account! After blazing the trail, Bungu was able to follow shortly after, signing for their own account just last month. Meanwhile, Bombo Majimoto and Tabora have found that a well-secured lockbox and trusted hands are enough for the time being.

Regardless of the strategy, the ends are the same: money in the bank, peace of mind, and a sense of accomplishment.

The Kid That Can

Thanksgiving in Tanzania is a unique experience for the American Project Coordinators and other international partners alike. It is a holiday that embodies many aspects of 2Seeds, such as cooperation, cultural exchange, and gratitude (not to mention “delicious,” like the products created in many of our projects). It demonstrates how coming together and a little extra effort can result in something truly special.

After some reflection about the underappreciated pieces of life in Korogwe, I would like to dedicate this post of gratitude to something that really “drives” our work in Tanzania: our loveable car, Bwana Mtoto.bmmm

The name Bwana Mtoto means “Mr. Kid” in Swahili — a moniker that perfectly personifies what this car represents. He is always ready to have a little fun, but is responsible and trustworthy. He likes to romp through big puddles and dance along the long dirt roads, but he always arrives to his destination safely. The children in the villages always come running when they hear his rattling arrival, but sometimes he’s got work to do, like helping with a big crop shipment or delivering supplies for a business training. This is a car that isn’t afraid of the slippery mountain roads, but is cautious and steady during every ascent. Bwana Mtoto’s long “safaris” to the project sites provide an environment for important strategic discussions, but he also isn’t afraid to play the music just a little too loud and beep at his many friends along the road. These friends also mean something to this car’s diesel-fueled heart because they are always willing to help pull him out of the mud whenever he’s stuck just a bit too deep. That’s the power of the network, right?

So this Thanksgiving, I give thanks to Bwana Mtoto: the kid that can. What is something unexpected that deserves your thanks this year? Please share your story in the comments below!

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