Well, I’ve been in Tanzania for another week full of new experiences! If you haven’t read my first blog post, you can find it here: https://go.aces.illinois.edu/VoicesofACES
We left off last Sunday, the only day I have “off.” We travel to a new village Monday through Saturday, so Sunday is “off.” I spend my Sundays catching up on entering surveys into Excel, bagging fertilizer, portioning soap, and enveloping coins! I also go over my budget, catch up on emails and ACE Graduate Student Organization matters (I am the secretary), and plan with Dr. Michelson and Dr. Manyong. That’s something I have now noticed about this international research – I don’t know if it is specific to this particular project, but I don’t actually have any days off. I will probably take a nap when I get back to the United States.
Monday and Tuesday were much the same. We went to Kungwe and Kibangile, respectively, and were able to interview twenty farmers in each village. So far, we are hitting our target mark of twenty farmers per village! Tuesday evening, however, was different. I would be travelling to Dar es Salaam on Wednesday and returning on Friday, so I wouldn’t be able to go out with Josh and the enumerators. I spent Tuesday evening making sure there was enough bagged fertilizer, portioned soap, enveloped coins, and surveys for three villages.
I travelled to Dar es Salaam to attend the second day of the two-day Annual Review and Planning Meeting for NAFAKA (Cereal Market System Development) and Africa Rising. Both, along with IITA and others, are partners for a USAID Feed the Future-funded project on developing scalable models of technological innovation all along the value chain for maize and rice farmers. Dr. Manyong arranged for me to attend the meeting, as he would introduce me to some people involved, who would be able to collaborate with me on the research I am doing.
Wednesday rolled around, and in the morning and early afternoon I drove to Dar es Salaam. Due to the construction of many more lanes of highway around Dar es Salaam, I arrived at around 3:30. I stayed at the Passionist Fathers Guesthouse, a tranquil guest house close to the IITA offices. I rode a bajaji, a three-wheeled taxi, to the offices, then drove with Dr. Manyong to the Ramada Resort in Dar es Salaam. The meeting was held at the Ramada, and Dr. Manyong introduced me to a few key people at the cocktail hour Wednesday evening. Wednesday really was a roller coaster – I started in a cramped hotel room and ended the day schmoozing influential development officials over cocktails overlooking the Indian Ocean at one of the nicest resorts in Dar es Salaam. Crazy!
Thursday was even more interesting.
I’ve never been at a review and planning meeting for a large, multimillion dollar project, so I had zero idea what to expect. In the morning I rode a bajaji to the resort and bought the first black brewed coffee I had in over two weeks. I paid about three dollars for it, but I would have paid ten. Talk about consumer surplus. The morning session was more of a recap of different areas – some people presented on how scaling was going, others presented research, while others gave a general overview of the previous year. We took a break for tea – I was able to have another coffee, and some snacks served as my breakfast. After tea we broke into small groups – Rice, Maize, Post-Harvest, and Planning Group (the main officials). As my research is more relevant to maize, I chose that group. In the small group we went over the plans from last year point by point. Each point we discussed and either kept it, amended it, or got rid of it for the coming year’s plans. I didn’t participate, but it really was interesting seeing how actual planning decisions were made for a large development project. After small group we had lunch – it was the nicest lunch I have had so far! I ate with the head of NAFAKA and one of the research scientists for NAFAKA. After lunch each small group presented what they had planned, then we adjourned with some closing remarks from the officials. After exchanging contact information with just about everyone, I went back to the guest house and ate dinner.
Friday I drove back to Morogoro and prepared for going out to a village on Saturday. Saturday we went to Diovuva and it went without a hitch. I worked more when I returned from the village on Saturday. Yesterday was Sunday, and – you guessed it – I worked some more. I was able to sleep in for an entire extra hour, then spent the day emailing, budgeting, and preparing survey materials for the week.
Today we went to Kibwaya and interviewed another twenty farmers. I was served a dish of bananas and cassava – it was pretty good! After finishing the interviews we started on our way back without Aika – I assumed we would pick her up just around the bend. Lo and behold, Aika was at a house just around the bend but was helping prepare some food! The woman who lived at the house was like “another mother” to Aika, and we had an amazing lunch there. We had spiced rice, chicken coconut soup, greens, and a tomato onion salad. What a treat! After getting done we returned to Morogoro and I bought some soap wholesale for the surveys and water wholesale for the team. I just finished up portioning and packing all the soap, and now I am writing this as I wait for dinner.
What a week! I got some great contacts and have planned to travel down to Mbeya to meet with the contacts at NAFAKA during my last week here. I hesitate to jinx myself, but so far things are going very well. Thanks for reading!