When you come to a new county, as a new project leader for Yoba for Life, everything is new and exciting. It takes you some time to settle in and learn the basics of the Ugandan people, language and culture. Subsequently, since job as full-time travelling country side project leader is newly invited, it takes even more time to define my own tasks and find some routine and efficiency in conducting them. Therefore it took me two months to train the potential groups in Masaka area, where in the next area, Jinja, I was finished within one month.
Just before the routine gets too much; before you can exactly forecast how many hours after the agreed-upon time the training actually will start (1.5 hours the first day of the training, and because of strong encouragements that day, the second day only 1 hour delay), which questions the farmers will ask, and how they will start chuckling upon hearing my name, which means ‘woman underwear’ in the local language; just before it becomes slightly boring, new challenges announce themselves.
It is time for follow up! In Masaka I selected five potential groups, or better: those groups selected themselves by showing enthusiasm and the intention to produce yoghurt. Two of those groups currently occasionally produce Yoba in small volumes and sell the yoghurt in sandwich bags accompanied with a straw. This type of packaging is common for fresh milk or locally made juices. However, in order to seriously start yoghurt production in noteworthy volumes, the groups feel they are in need of official packaging material.
Middle-class yoghurts in Uganda are packaged in polythene bags with a label printed on it. However, the packaging companies have set large minimum order quantities, making it hard for farmer groups to make the initial investment. This is how the ‘Yoba united initiative’ came up: the five groups have signed an agreement which states that they will purchase the packaging material together, sharing the cost as well as the material.
So things are on the move. My work is diversified with organizing meetings, designing labels, placing orders at the packaging company and go around Kampala to look for simple sealing machines. And also here I got some routine, because the United Intitiative is repeated in Jinja.
In my previous blog post I already devoted some words of praise to the farmer groups in Jinja, who seems to be even much more eager to become Yoba producers then the Masaka groups. And again they have proven to be worthy of my praise.
Four trained groups in the vicinity of Jinja were instantly ready to meet their fellow groups to discuss the matter. In that meeting they agreed that they would like to have the material within 2 weeks (they would do their utmost effort to collect the money within that time) such that they could be producing heaps of Yoba before the Christmas days arrive.
So by the beginning of coming week I will hand over the packaging material in Masaka, and by the end of the week repeat the same meeting in Jinja. In Uganda, Christmas will not be celebrated with turkey, but with probiotic Yoba yoghurt instead! Merry Christmas without diarrhea.
(From the tree kids that die in Africa, one of them dies because of diarrhea. Consumption of Yoba reduces the incidence and severity of diarrhea, and thereby can have a great impact in the lives of many families.)