Thursday, June 24, 2010

The AIDS Epidemic in Tanzania

On my way to the kitchen, I walk past rows and rows of stone sheds that serve as both homes and disorderly shops, offering a variety of produce/merchandise. The pathways are so littered and covered in potholes you find yourself looking down most of the time so you avoid stepping in something. There are people everywhere, standing in doorways and on their dirt porches, excited to greet you. During the days you most often see women with the children, as they are typically the caregivers. It is rare to see the father at the home with the child in the day.

I want to share some attention-grabbing information to throw some context over why WHE chose Tanzania as its initial start up location for probiotic yogurt kitchens.

The country of Tanzania is facing devastating effects from the growing AIDS pandemic, as evidenced by a national prevalence rate of 7% --other issues include prevailing poverty, recurring drought, and soil degradation. The majority of the twenty million people worldwide who have already died from AIDS have been African. Each day in Africa, 6,000 people die from AIDS, and an additional 11,000 are infected with HIV. With 25 million citizens who are HIV- positive, the countries in the Sub-Saharan region are facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions.

Aside from the direct physical impacts, HIV/AIDS takes a toll on communities as it leaves family members and orphaned children to deal with ostracism, stigma, and the inevitable cycle of poverty and disease. The larger impact of AIDS will yield food crises, increased number of orphans, and depleted human capacity (UNAIDS, 2004). Whole societies are affected by disruptions in schooling, work patterns, and human productivity, limiting their ability to develop or maintain previous progress (Macintyre, Brown, and Sosler, 2001; Elder, 2001). HIV/AIDS continues to diminish social networks, leaving entire societies unable to cope with the crippling and debilitating health and social effects of the disease (UNAIDS, 2004).

The pandemic in Africa is also gender based. Particularly, young women aged 15–24 years are approximately 2 to 5 times more likely to be infected than men of the same age. Generally, women are more vulnerable and severely affected than men. Women aged 15–49 years are about 1.3 to 2 times more likely to be infected than men (WHO, 2005; DHAPP, 2005).

“Nowhere is the epidemic’s ‘feminization’ more apparent than in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 57% of infected adults are women, and 75% of infected young people are women and girls” (UNAIDS, 2004). Specifically, in Tanzania, of the 1.6 million infected adults between the ages of 15-49, more than half of those infected, 840,000 are women (UNAIDS, 2004).

Progress with the Yogurt Kitchen

Last Monday was a big day for all those involved working with the kitchen. SIDO –Small Industries Development Organization—came by for a scheduled inspection to check the general hygiene of the kitchen and its processes for making the yogurt. SIDO provides business services on demand to promote the development of private small enterprises.

Now that we are in the stage of developing the distribution segment of this business, we are trying to obtain a license to sell our product in various stores and restaurants. However, before we can do this we must have our product approved by the health authorities. We initially looked into obtaining approval from the TFDA –Tanzanian Food and Drugs Authority—but this proved to be more difficult than we anticipated. The TFDA deals with larger enterprises, so the kitchen fell short of meeting a few of its qualifications on account of its smaller size. We then sought out SIDO’s assistance in authorizing our product. We went to their office, explained Fiti Yogurt’s business model in conjunction with its social objectives in hopes of catching their interest to partake in this process. The meeting went well and they agreed to come to the production facilities and complete a health inspection.

Once approved by SIDO, they will recommend our product to TBS – Tanzanian Board of Standards –so Fiti Yogurt can obtain a seal of approval. This behaves similarly to how an FDA approval would work in Canada. Once SIDO has a good understanding of the procedures they will write the Mammas a letter recommending them to the market.

The meeting went very well on Monday and the inspectors seemed to enjoy our product. The Mammas had two fridges full of yogurt and were very enthusiastic when interacting with the company representatives. The inspectors were also pleased with the way the yogurt was being packed. We are waiting to speak with them again later this week to receive their feedback from the inspection.

This last week Jesse and I focused our efforts on creating more accurate record keeping templates to document the kitchen’s yogurt production as they expand to grocery stores and additional markets. We will keep track of production rates over the next little while and look into creating growth charts for the women, so they can understand where existing production is relative to projected targets. This will assist the Mammas in running the kitchen as a business with targets, growth and planning.

The Mammas are no longer running their side operation during the summer months –the breakfast kitchen—so we are hopeful they will be ready and motivated to commit themselves to growing sales and distribution of the yogurt. Right now they have one junior mamma selling 12 L per day in the main market downtown Mwanza. She sells out every day, illustrating an existing market for our product. However, the kitchen only had one portable tub to transport the yogurt and the women did not understand the need for external distribution as a fundamental component for upping our sales. The outcome of our meeting today was positive—everyone concluded that an emphasis should be put on getting our product out into the market so as to generate a brand name that resonates with different communities and increases our overall market share.

We also have existing funds remaining from the Charity Ball Grant, so next week we begin subsidizing yogurt consumption for 25 people living with HIV/AIDS.

On Wednesday we will be meeting with the Director of the Kivulini Women’s Rights Group to discuss getting other groups involved with the expansion of additional yogurt kitchens. We know there are several groups in the Mwanza region that are interested, so the more difficult aspect will be locating funds to get them up and running.

We worked on a proposal for a grant donor—that supported the Touch foundation—looking for an entrepreneurial-based project in Mwanza, but they found another project. Locating start-up funds is quite difficult in Mwanza, so I have been looking into the option of applying for a loan from organizations that provide micro financing. The primary concept with micro financing lies within the initial group formation of the individuals applying. The composition of the people within the same group is very important as it determines how effectively each member can cater to his or her own needs. When applying in a group you also generate this pressure among the social collectors to pay off any debt—a mechanism that has proven to work quite well considering default rates are averaging well under 5 % in micro credit scenarios within the MF industry.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with the Director of Catholic Relief Services in Mwanza to discuss microfinance in Africa. CRS is an American organization founded to assist the poor and disadvantaged outside of the country. They operate in over 100 countries. Their Tanzanian offices focus on their AIDS Relief program. This program aims to provide high-quality antiretroviral therapy and other medical care to people living with HIV. Majority of its funds come from the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

We exchanged information about the project I am working on here and its viability as a candidate for microfinance. He has a lot of experience working in the micro finance industry so his insights were extremely valuable and greatly appreciated.

No comments:

Post a Comment