A Traveler’s Tale: Here’s What Happens When Impact Meets Innovation in Tanzania

Originally published on August 25, 2015.

The following is an excerpt from a blog post written by 2015 William Davidson Institute (WDI) Fellow Diana Callaghan, Summer Enterprise Consultant with Land O'Lakes International Development. Click here to read the post in its entirety on the WDI Fellows' blog.

Everyone loves a great story. And so far, during my Dar es Salaam-based fellowship with Land O’Lakes International Development’s United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Innovations in Gender Equality (IGE) program, I have accumulated many. In particular, I want to tell you about my experiences meeting innovators competing for grant funds and capacity-building support through IGE-hosted Innovation Expos

The IGE Expos target entrepreneurs with technologies impacting women in agriculture. For the first Expo, I provided the 10 finalists with needs assessments and business development support. To do so, I traveled throughout Dar es Salaam, Arusha, and Mwanza to sit and speak with:
 
  •    A top mushroom-growing maven
  •    An engineer creating customizable crop processing machines
  •    An education-greenhouse organization
  •    A fish-poultry-produce aquaculture company
  •    A palm oil extraction company (palm oil is in Nutella… investment please…)
  •    A company developing solar dryers
  •    A business creating solar bird and animal chasers
Children in Mbeya check out innovations from the Great Expo 5
I was thrilled to see many of these organizations using clean energy sources to do everything from dry produce with solar driers to chase bird and animals away—about the latter, think of it as an automatic, screeching scarecrow with a solar panel. Each entrepreneur I met with had great stories. I eagerly listened to their experiences, and I was equally excited to brainstorm ideas with each of them about how to push their technologies even further. For example, through these meetings we learned that many had no accounting systems set up, and therefore had prices that were many times too low to have a sustainable business. In other cases, we heard that they planned to teach people how to develop their technologies, which contradicts the idea of growing their own business. During these visits I noted many areas for improvement, and with the IGE team, we have now developed trainings to help relieve many of these issues and will be working one-on-one with innovators to help push their development further.  

Just as everyone has a story, every story has its setting.
Zanzibar sunset sail
Oh what a magical place I’ve found myself in! If you haven’t already checked it out, read my other blog post, Entrepreneurship in Agriculture & Impacting Women's Lives in Tanzania. Since I wrote that, so much has happened in my life here in Dar es Salaam.

I’ve traveled around Tanzania working with additional entrepreneurs in agriculture, met new friends from around the world while exploring the tiny uninhabited islands off the coast of Dar, attended a 3-day Strategic Planning meeting to help devise a strategic plan for a new organization, and even met some of my favorite Rossers for a memorable trip to Zanzibar.

Arusha
Mount Meru
During my time working with Land O’Lakes, I was honored to explore some of the most beautiful parts of Tanzania. Arusha is like the Denver of Tanzania. Sitting at the foot of Mount Meru, the city has a temperate climate with lush greenery, abundant produce and veils of flowers. Expats flock here for NGO work and the many tourist attractions the city brings. Hip English-clad coffee shops, restaurants and boutique hotels made me feel less like I was in an African country and more like I was in the Rockies. Points of interest near this city include Serengeti National Park, Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Mount Meru, and the infamous Mount Kilimanjaro.

Members of SIWATO with their indirect solar dryer
Given time constraints (read: I’m not in my most “tip-top” shape), I was unfortunately unable to climb Kilimanjaro. Time also did not allow me to take the long trek to Serengeti but I was able to catch a Safari at the beautiful Tarangire National Park. Arusha is also where I met with the innovator developing a multi-crop processor and the organization building indirect solar driers.

I also spent some time in Mwanza, during which I made a quick visit to Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world behind Lake Superior (Go Michigan!). This is where I was reminded that some people are just natural entrepreneurs.  In speaking with the warehouse innovator, we learned about all of the work she has personally done to develop her business. We heard success stories, saw prototypes, and heard about the awards she has received to date. In speaking with her, we learned that her innovations came from listening to the needs of potential customers and designing solutions to address those needs—a sign of a true entrepreneur.

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