Around midnight, when most people have long finished their busy day and have retreated to their beds for rest, Ms Jasmin Abdi (37), a resident of Vingunguti in Ilala district, has a different schedule.
As a new day is being ushered in, Ms Abdi, along with a group of other women, head to Vingunguti abattoir carrying buckets on hands ready to collect blood from cows, goats and sheep, when slaughtering process is in progress.
Ms Abdi and her group of women, known as Watengenezaji wa vyakula vya mifugo (Wavimi), consisting of people with HIV and widows, also carry some bed-sheets to keep them from cold and mosquitos as they collect blood during the night.
The increase of demand for domestic animal blood in the local and international market has been a good sign of hope for them and other blood collectors in the abattoir.
According to Abdi, she has been selling processed blood for 8 years now, accommodating her basic needs and raising her two children.
She is HIV positive, taking care of her two children; Haisam Nkoningo, 15, and Aisha Nkoningo, 12, after her husband Abdallah Nkoningo passed away many years ago.
Her business helps her stay aloft of basic requirements including school fees for her children. Her first child is a form two student at Vingunguti Secondary School, while the second born is in class five at Miembeni Primary School.
Through her booming business, Abdi managed to finish building her house and now lives there with her two children.
“The blood business is now becoming a hot-cake in Vingunguti and other abattoirs as its market demand keeps escalating after being discovered that blood is a nutrient feeding to poultry and other domestic animals,” she told Woman.
She explained that at the beginning, blood was collected as waste in the abattoirs, flowing on the dug-pipelines to Msimbazi River, but today, it has turned into a good business that traders are fighting for.
According to Abdi, poultry and animal keepers use processed blood in food while feeding their live stocks including hens, cattle, pigs and fish.
She sells at least 200kg of processed blood per day locally and exports 18 tonnes a month. She sells Sh1000 per kilogram in the local market and Sh1,200 for exported one.
The entrepreneur added that animal keepers believe that blood has potential nutrients that regulate body temperature for hens and livestock. It is also a nutritious food for infant fish that helps them grow fast.
“Since blood turned into a nutritious food to those poultries and domestic animals, its demand is now doubling, it has gone up to 120 from 57 tonnes per year at Vingunguti abattoir, according suppliers,” she noted.
However they normally fail to meet the demand as the market has been expanding to other neighboring countries including Kenya and Uganda, who buy processed blood from Tanzania.
Abdi joined Wavimi fifteen years ago when she was just a widow, but not infected with HIV.
She said she turned HIV positive six years later, when she got a second baby after remarrying a second husband, who later died of the same disease.
At the beginning, Wavimi had a task of collecting and cleaning grounds which were covered with blood and flow it through the dug-pipelines and they were paid by the in the abattoir.
According to Ms Abdi, suddenly a huge business opportunity was uncovered and the blood started being sold as animal and poultry feed. Demand for it skyrocketed.
From there, men and youths whom some of them were also HIV positive joined Wavimi group. The business became more rewarding as blood collectors started earning more.
“Many things have changed since then; the government provided us a place in the abattoir to process blood and built us a cooker that we use to boil the blood,” Ms Abdi says.
Wavimi group started to pay the slaughters Sh50, 000 per day contrary to how it used to be previously when slaughters were the ones paying the group. This was because blood had now become a profitable business and slaughters also wanted to benefit.
The market demand for blood is currently too high that most times the women fail to meet it on time.
Ms Abdi says the demand is high due to increase of animal and poultry farmers. Also exportation to Kenya and Uganda is among the reasons for market demand to go higher. Ms Abdi is one of many women who enjoys the profit of the business. She makes at least Sh120,000 as profit per day by selling 200kg, and Sh8.9 million per month for exporting at least 18 tonnes.
“Paying Sh50,000 fee does not affect my business at all, however problems arise when the blood is scarce,” she explains, adding that the market is not a challenge but sometimes blood is not enough because the number of collectors keeps on increasing.
Traders at the Poultry feeding market found at Tazara area are among buyers of processed blood at Vingunguti abattoir. Most poultry farmers don’t purchase feeds that do not contain blood in the mixture.
Good animal feed
Jackson Charles, a feed wholesaler at Tazara poultry market says he purchases at least two tonnes of processed blood every week.
“The business is very good since each customer wants feeds that are mixed with blood, claiming that it regulates body temperature of hens and it helps in the growth process,” he said.
Mixing blood in the poetry feeds is very important. “My veterinary expert has been insisting on the use of blood in the feed, and I have seen the positive effects of mixing a bit of blood,” says Eruhumbika, a poultry farmer.
“Our conflict originates from the struggle of trying to meet local and foreign demands while the blood is not enough here at the abattoir. We also have few traders with lion share trying to monopolise the business,” says Abdi.
She said that after the blood turned into a good business in 2014, other individual traders entered in to the market and from then on slaughters also started to demand more money from the blood-collectors.
Wavimi faces challenges from other traders involved in the business. “There are some traders who decide to pay huge sums compared to what we pay to slaughters, so that they may be given a lion’s share of the blood,” claims Joseph Abdallah, another member of Wavimi.
Throughout the business, there have been a number of other challenges that have forced women involved in the business of selling processed blood to lower down the price.
At times, due to high demand, blood becomes scarce and so traders fail to earn their daily bread. With other foreign markets also looking to Tanzania for their blood export, local market suffers severely.
Currently, Abdi and her Wavimi members collect blood from other abattoirs within the city, such as Mbezi, Mbagala, Pugu and Ukonga to meet the high demand.
Ms Abdi and other HIV victims together with widows, face some discrimination and harassment due to their conditions.
“Sometimes people insult me because of my health status. Their insults affect me a lot because this is my place of work so their words really hurt me,”Abdi speaks.
She says the reality of being HIV positive has seen her, and other colleagues live an unbearable life working at the abattoir. “People point fingers at me and anyone else who’s HIV positive.
This puts us on the mark and we become the talk of the place,” she further laments.
Furthermore, due to medication, those infected with HIV find it particularly difficult to work under harsh conditions, and are often times required to rest.
But due to the nature of the work they do, resting is seldom an option. This causes their health to deteriorate. They get very few hours of rest. On top of handling their business, when they get home they have house chores waiting for them. Mothers have to prepare food for their children and clean the house.
They only manage to rest hours later after they are done with all the chores. “The situation affects my condition, but I don’t have any other means because I need to take care of my children,” she noted.
Other challenges include availability of blood boiling point and lack of proper storage of the processed blood.