Monday, July 13, 2009

Exploring Luoland

Sunday we spent hanging around the house and visiting Maseno and the Nyanza Club, both of which are places that Steve and I might stay after Clarice leaves. She has been kind enough to have both of us stay at her house the whole week while she is in town, which has been a lot of fun. Agri makes us lemongrass tea with milk (so good!) and we eat an obscene amount of mangoes every day. It’s really not bad.

Monday we went to KIRDI to check out what type of fabrication equipment they had. It was rather disappointing as they had pretty much nothing other than a small workshop in which they were making fish leather to turn into pairs of sandals. A cool idea because they are using a waste product to make something of value, but they have been around the area almost 20 years and have little to show for it. However, they do have certified partners who help them with fabrication, so we’ll be checking out Appropriate Technology Project (ATP) later this week to see if they can help us.

Afterwards, we went to lunch with Clarice’s “uncle,” who is actually her second cousin, but he’s an uncle according to African kinship. It was funny because he is younger than her, so he loves to tease her by making her call him uncle. His son does the same thing to Clarice’s daughter Alice, so I’m told. Collier works as a lawyer in Kisumu, and has been there a long time, even through all of the rioting in January 2008. He’s a Luo, so he wasn’t in danger, really, because Luos outnumber Kikuyus by such a large margin in the Kisumu area. It’s referred to as “Luoland” by the locals, and though everyone speaks Luo and Swahili, people prefer to speak to one another in Luo when they are in this area. They call it “mother tongue,” probably because it is the language that their mothers speak to them in. I might have mentioned this before, but everyone in Kenya knows at least two languages: their tribal language and Kiswahili. This is even true of the uneducated. Anyone who is educated knows English, and the better educated you are, the more English you know.

We came home late in the afternoon and Steve and I spent the better part of the evening asking Clarice more questions about her business model so that we could understand how it works as it is a bit complicated. It’s a blend of a couple of different models, but is mostly based on the franchise model, where we have a central organization and then many franchises that sell our brand and are up to our quality standards. All of the franchises will be run by Kenyan entrepreneurs who will work in their home areas. Each franchise outlet will sell grain, produce, and tools to the local people and will provide capacity building and repair services. The central organization will manage the overall finances, R&D, assessment of impact, and recruiting U.S. students to design the technology. It will hold workshops to continue training the capacity builders from all of the outlets so that they can go back to their areas with increased knowledge of new crops and technologies. It will also look for big suppliers who are interested in buying large quantities of crops, especially Amaranth at first, so that even if a lot of farmers are growing it and selling to the outlets, they will still have a place to sell their flour.

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