Since arriving back in Zanzibar, I’ve been swept off my feet by the scale and amount of work we’ve had to do. It’s been totally beyond any expectations I had, but all hugely rewarding and exciting. Aside from teaching 3 different classes, I’ve been helping Gasica advance plans to build a new school, expand the ZL4LF businesses and organise the finances. This is on top of the work we’ve been doing in Unguja Ukuu with the students there in classes and the immersion camp (see other report). Whatever happens now, through my time at Uni and beyond, I know this is a project I will be involved in for life. I have so much love and energy to put into ZL4LF and I’m genuinely thrilled to be able to participate, I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to Gasica who has been a brother to me and to everyone here in Zanzibar and at home in the UK who have supported me.
Aside from all of this, one of the things I’m most proud of is the microfinance project. Over the past 6 months as some of you know we have had two projects running which both had failures and successes. It was a learning process for me and all the students and entrepreneurs involved and allowed me to work with Gasica and other leaders at ZL4LF to reassess the process and how it can be improved. Before elaborating on this I want to talk a little bit about the first two projects.
Team Kuku. This was a project planned and carried out by ZL4LF students and senior members with experience working on the ZL4LF chicken farm. The plan was to create a source of income for them and their families to help fund their ambitions for the future that would be solely theirs. Having picked up expertise from time working the chicken farm, they wanted to put that knowledge to use into their own business, so that they could become more independent from the school.
The loan they received from us at Microfinance 4 Life paid for the feeders, food and drinkers for the chickens. They were loaned the chickens by the ZL4LF chicken with the amount to be repaid based on the worth of the chickens that were loaned. Initially the project was very successful, the chickens which were lent were layers and had already been matured to the right age for eggs, the sale of which started quickly and was easy due to the popularity of eggs in Zanzibar and their use in a classic East African dish, “Chips Mayai” (egg and chips in a sort of omelet, one of my staples for carbs and protein).
However, the chicken team soon encountered some problems. Zanzibar experienced particular heat and this particular breed of chicken were found to be quite vulnerable. Two of the chickens died in the intensity of the heat around March time. The next problem was that chicken food prices started to rise inZanzibar, eating away at the profit margins of the team. Finally, many of the chickens were falling ill, which meant their egg productivity was weak and inconsistent. This, combined with the other challenges, meant that it was impossible to make a profit.
With all of these unforeseen circumstances, Team Kuku decided with Gasica and the rest of the ZL4LF that it was best to cut their losses. They sold the chickens and their equipment so that they could pay back the rest of the loan, a very noble gesture which has been very helpful in enabling us to grow the project in the next round of applications, it also allowed them to apply for a new loan this time around.
The failure of this project taught us a few lessons, the primary one being the need for constant and effective communication. The idea was that the teams were to write a report every month that would be sent to the donors and allow them to receive help with the problems they were facing. This didn’t happen and as a result, I hadn’t been aware of what was happening. This is why this time, going into the next round there has been a strong emphasis on communication. This has been one of the major lessons learnt for me, as a result after discussions with applicants, each team will have a “communicator” who will be responsible for monthly reports. There will also be small penalties for teams that fail to return their reports on time.
Girls 4 Life. This team is a group of students from the Girls 4 Life club. This is the ZL4LF women’s group who run workshops and various programs to meet and discuss women's issues such as health, family and empowerment. They do fantastic work with women in the local community, passing on information that they learn and working to build a strong community of women in Fuoni.
Girls 4 Life applied for a loan that would help them to start a business making and selling clothes. They already had a fabric supplier and a relative of one of the girls was able to provide a space for them to sell their clothes and other projects like handbags which are shipped in from Dar Es Salaam. The aim of this business is to provide funding for some of the projects that the girls run such as workshops and days out, but also to provide a source of income to girls who live in difficult financial situations. Some of them come from single-parent families which can be a very challenging place to be in Zanzibar for a variety of societal and financial reasons. This project is empowering for them as it allows them to have income to help support their families. So far they are doing a great job paying back their loan, about half of which has been repaid. To date they have not missed a payment. Once again, we did have some issues with lack of clear communication, and again this has influenced how we have decided to move forward with the next teams and why we are stressing the importance of monthly reports and communications.
Round Two: Moving Forward
On the 12 September 2017 the next 3 teams received their loans. Three of the 5 applications were chosen due to a variety of factors. Firstly, none of these teams applied for more than 1,000,000 TSH (about £340). This means that we can offer opportunities to more groups and therefore stretch the benefits of this project further. Secondly, the teams were judged on the quality of their applications, meaning how well they answered the questions, how well their project was presented to us and how well they justified and argued that they deserved to receive a loan.
The final factor was how viable we judged their idea for a business to be. Mostly we opted to go with the businesses with simple concepts with less variables. We believe that for these businesses to be successful it is best for them to start with a small amount of capital and investment, then to create growth into more complex ideas and business models is down to them to reinvest their profits wisely. Some of the projects were very well thought out but seemed to be very complex and require a large amount of capital and work before they could start making profits which is worrying when these students do not usually have the financial security to back up such a project.
The New Teams
Team Kuku 2.0. Team Kuku are back! Having successfully paid off their loan the previous time they have returned with a new business plan. This time the idea is to diversify their income. They are purchasing chickens that already lay healthy eggs as well as expanding into trading meat birds. Last time mostly layer chickens were bought as chicks which meant that there was a period of waiting before they starting laying eggsDuring this time money was still being spent as they had to be fed, whether or not they were laying. This time the split between chicks, matured layers and meat birds means that there’ll always be a source of income to cover costs and when the market is good, money will come in faster. Meat birds can be a lucrative business around the time of holidays and festivals as everyone rushes to buy chicken and the price they can be sold for skyrockets. The team leader of Team Kuku is Abdulling.
Smart Shop. Smart shop is a team led by Mamodo and Fatma which aims to run a clothes selling business. They cleverly cut out the rent and permits required for a shop (which is a key expense) by using social media to advertise and arrange sales. Through Instagram and Whatsapp they sell clothes from their houses and deliver direct to buyers. This is a fantastic example of how the mobile phone has revolutionised business in Tanzania and opened up new opportunities, and an excellent case of young people using these opportunities brilliantly. Thanks to this creativity, the amount of capital needed for the project was relatively low and we were able to reward them with the loan.
Coconut Suppliers. This team is led by Keyrah and Diso and aims to use their contacts in various areas around the island to sell coconuts and other spices. In Fuoni there are few coconuts and the prices fluctuate due to a lack of reliable wholesalers. They plan to take advantage of this gap in the market and also to supply to traders in town. There’s potential to explore deals with hotels and tourist-orientated businesses around the island.
Now that all these businesses have received their loans, we will be checking up on the teams as they establish themselves and look forward excitedly to their first reports in late October! We wish them all the best of luck, and would like to thank all of you for reading and for your ongoing support. This whole project would have been impossible without the money that was generously donated to us from friends all over the world, nor would it have been possible without the constant support from friends and family in the UK that I have received, the assistance of Arsheen from Daraja Foundation, Ann from Zanzibar Schools Project/Brighton and Hove Soiree Rotary Club and of course Gasica for opening all the doors and laying the grounds for this project with his continuously wonderful organisation ZL4LF.
Rob Lindfield; 14 September 2017