Monday, January 25, 2010

Leaving on a Different Note

We are preparing to leave Kenya once again, and must leave the project in the capable hands of our trusted colleague and friend, Isaac. There have been some hickups along the way as we continue to learn about how to create a sustainable enterprise selling household water treatment systems in Kenya. We have conducted a sales training with the hopes to mobilize active community members to partner with us and sell. Lets hope that we were able to get some people on the ground to sell BSFs!

We have also been learning what it means to "bootstrap" during this most recent trip, due to our lack of outside funding. We did not have our own vehicle, and have learned that using public means for transport may be financially cheaper, and yet very costly with our own time. This has also meant that we have eaten Ramen for dinner and lived more simply than our other trips. :)We have been able to empathize and experience first hand the barriers and hardships our local staff have to face in order to get the work done with limited resources.
Additionally, after our third trip to Kenya, we are so grateful for the friends we've made and look forward to our next trip.

Tanisha, Isaac, & Becky and Lake Bagoria

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Public/ Private Partnerships?

We have met with various local public health offices and other stakeholders in specific communities in hopes to build relationships and promote our main product, the Biosand Filter. We are encountering that it is difficult to position ourselves in such a way that we are able to differentiate ourselves from other NGOs or charitable organizations working in the same arena here in Kenya. When we are introducing ourselves and our mission, we want to emphasize that we are a social enterprise that attempts to stand in the gap where conventional development and charity has failed. This is a challenge, and some questions we are asking ourselves at this point are:

How much do we want to collaborate with the local governments and ministries? Of course we know that we need to work within the given systems and maneuver in the proper channels to be successful. But how much do we collaborate? We are considering the idea of giving one or two filters away each to local Public Health Offices in order to promote the Biosand Filter. How much of our product do we give away to these Public Health Offices in order to market ourselves? Would our collaboration become just another bureaucratic system that may lose effectiveness over time? Or would our collaboration strengthen the organization and position among our target market? Are there more appropriate stakeholders that we can “donate” a filter in order to get a better return on our investment- in respect to BSF sales? We believe an issue like clean water in rural areas can be addressed by a private social enterprise, but the questions is who and how do we partner with stakeholders, and how much do we collaborate with local ministries? Perhaps we’ll find the answers to these issues as we continue this work in Kenya, but when resources are limited and time is precious, how much do we want to invest in these partnerships? Any input from our readers and friends is much appreciated!

A Captive Audience for Installation of a BSF

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting Down and Dirty

On previous visits to Kenya we had the support of the our initial project partner who provided a vehicle for us to go to commute to the major city center, Nakuru, as well as reach outlying areas. Now we are on our own (our former project partner is no longer in operations), we have to rely on matatus (the local public transportation- which are mini-buses), and our two legs to get to our various appointments. This change has caused us to gain a greater understanding of the daily routine of our fellow Kenyans which may often feel, to us westerners, like we’re moving in slow motion. I guess that is why the local people commonly use the term, “pole pole,” which means, “slowly by slowly.” This saying can be used in many contexts, but has often been used to chide western visitors to understand how things get done here in Kenya, slowly by slowly. In a way this reminds us to appreciate the small things and to take care of the things that matter most. At lunch today we overheard a native Kenyan admonish his western visitor that the visitor was too impatient. It is good to be reminded that although we have come in hopes to bring something new to Kenya, we still have a lot to learn from our local friends, partners, and even our interaction with the daily grind here in Kenya.

Progress is being made in respect to the business. Becky and I spent most of the day at the Polytechnic working with our hands and getting down and dirty with our RWI- Maji Salama Staff. We were able to de-mold 2 BSFs, and mold 2 more BSFs. We were able to exhaust ourselves and truly appreciate the work that our team is doing here. Isaac (Kenyan Country Representative) was preparing a batch of 50 BSFs that will be picked up tomorrow and delivered to our customer in Eldoret.

We will be working hard this week and next to identify and develop appropriate sales and marketing strategies. Many meetings have been set so we can start asking local people about potential partnerships in the dissemination of our BSFs Tomorrow we meet with an NGO that may be a potential customer. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, and hope for the best!

Look at all those BSFs!

Tanisha and Becky de- molding a BSF

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back to the Grind in Kenya

So Becky and I (Tanisha) have arrived here in Nairobi and will be making our way to Njoro this afternoon. We are definitely jet- lagged and tired... but energized as we discuss the project to develop creative solutions to tackle some of important things that we want to address with the business while we're here. The familiar language, smells, sounds and people bring back great memories from our previous two trips in the past year, which is somewhat comforting. We'll keep you updated, there is lots to do!!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kenya- bound

Well 2010 has arrived and Becky and I are headed to Kenya! This will be a bittersweet trip since two of our teammates, Sanghamitra and Aseel will not be with us. Thank you for all of your support, and we will continue to update our blog as we travel.

We will be in Kenya from January 6th until the 27th. We look forward to getting back to the equatorial weather!