Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Young stovemakers changing Mpwapwa

Eva explains to visitors from Switzerland and

Eva explains to visitors from Switzerland and Rwanda how she has gained confidence and business-skills the last few months. PHOTO I HANSJURG JAGER  

By Hansjürg Jäger @jaegerhj hansjuerg.jaeger@gmail.com

In the centre of Mpwapwa village in Dodoma region, from far you hear the sound of someone hammering on metal. Following the noise, you will end up in front of a shack, with a grey brick-wall and a tin-roof.

The door and the windows are merely rectangular holes in the walls where the light is coming in the room. Inside, Eva Lufunyo and her colleagues aged between 21 to 30 are working on the next stove, which should bring warm food to another family around Mpwapwa.

One of the four young men bends the piece of tin to a round tube; another woman - one out of 14 in the group - has cut off from a big plate. The larger and smaller tin-pieces lay around on the floor. In the middle of the room, a shovel lies next to a pile of cement. A hammer and a tin-scissor are also on the floor, waiting to be used again.

One child, wearing dirty black shorts and a dirty black shirt is playing with the dry cement. Another one is just hiding behind his mother, as he does not understand why strangers are interested in the work, his mother is doing.

Eva Lufunyo and her colleagues are producing improved cooking-stoves, which also help them to develop other businesses in Mpwapwa village, Dodoma Region. And in this part of the country, cooking-stoves do play a major role. But it is not just any ordinary cooking-stove; it is an improved one. One with a nicely painted blue tin bottom, in which the heating chamber is located and surrounded by a 2 cm-thick layer of concrete.

On top, where the radius of the stove widens and where the pot may be placed, some 4 cm of clay well-burnt and painted red is surrounded again by tin. Additionally, two handles - on each side one - allow to carry the handcrafted stove, if it needs to be moved. No doubt, such a stove is helping every day to boil water, cook ugali, beans, cabbage or spinach and other foods. And above all, due to its mantle of clay and concrete, it allows you to do so while using less charcoal or wood and therefore allows you to save some money. Around Mpwapwa, where electricity is not always available and money is scarce, it is, what you definitively want to have in order to improve your life.

But someone has to provide this nice piece of cooking-stove that heats your meal and saves you in the meantime some charcoal. Someone has to cut the tin and to bring it in shape. Someone has to build the clay-mantle of the heating-chamber. Someone has to paint the stove red and blue or any other colour you may dream of. And that is exactly what Eva and her team do. A few minutes ago, Eva stood in front of this brick-walled shack to share some insights of how she and her group are making and selling the stoves. She is wearing blue jeans and a violet shirt, with a big „OYE“-Logo printed on the front.

“We sell our stoves for Tsh20, 000. As the material costs Tsh12, 500, we do have a gross-margin of Tsh7, 500,” she says.

Eva, who dropped out of school after 7th grade is now able to track costs and benefits of her small business and finally defines the profit she and her group make.

“If we need external labourers, we hire them for Tsh1, 500 per stove,“ she adding that in the last couple of weeks, her group sold 16 stoves mainly to family and friends.

Eva explains that being able to generate a turnover of Tsh 320,000 is the result of some training she attended the last couple of weeks. She is one participant of OYE-Project in Dodoma-region, funded by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by Dutch development organisation SNV and its local service providers since January this year. And she and her colleagues are becoming stovemakers rather by accident.

They all met first during the basic life skills-training, which is the first training session offered by local service providers. Prior to the first session, Eva and her colleagues applied, as all other participants, to the program.

If one is between 18 and 35 years of age, left school between 7th and 11th grade and does have a trustworthy reputation within the community, he or she was likely to be selected by a committee put together from local government officials and the local service provider. As they met for the first time, they did not know that they will finally produce improved cooking-stoves.

Attending the training, Eva first learnt about the basics in business-life - such as sticking to contracts and deadlines. After that, she was taught how to build a stove and finally got training with the basics of accounting, business planning and more. Prior to the training, she was selling Mandazi, second hand clothes, sugarcane, cassava and other goods, which didn’t earn her much. “I never learnt, how to stand on my own feet, as I do not have any secondary education“, she says.

But now, for the first time in her life, she feels that she is doing something right and that she is going the right pathway. “Now, I do have records. I know, how much money our group is earning and spending,” she proudly states.

But that is not all. Even with her other businesses, she is now doing better.

“Now I know how to write a bill and how to calculate my own costs,” she says. Before the trainings, she bought and sold the cassava for Tsh5000 each, without making profit but bearing the costs for transportation and her working time.

Thus, there was no money left to think about future plans and business growth. But now, after selling 16 stoves, and having a turnover of 320,000Tsh already, Eva and her colleagues are thinking about reinvestment. “We want to diversify our business,” Eva says pointing out that it will give her and her colleagues a new level of freedom. The stovemakers from Mpwapwa seem to be happy. Thus, being asked how Eva feels now, she says, “I have really improved,“ she laughs and says “Yes!“ while pushing her right hand to the sky.