Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Awava Project Kicks Off with First Grantee!

by Hanna Schwing

The Awava Project (TAP) is Awava's fledgling sister organization. Currently funded out of pocket by founder Kate von Achen, TAP aims to award grants to women entrepreneurs in Uganda, provide skills training in areas such as computer literacy, marketing and accounting, and help form a network of independent Ugandan women business owners.

Grace Muttara is TAP's first grantee. Grace founded Flavor Botanicals Enterprise to grow fresh herbs and market them to restaurants, supermarkets and individuals throughout Kampala. She is currently growing basil on land managed by her auntie and is looking for land in Kampala on which to grow more fresh herbs, including rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley and dill. TAP supports Grace by providing funds for start-up costs, starter seeds and materials for accounting. TAP also guides Grace in the use of accounting materials, purchasing affordable packaging and labeling for the herbs, marketing Grace's products, and producing and selling pesto from unsold basil.

Last Tuesday, I visited Grace and her auntie at their farm in Luzira for her first harvest of basil. I met Grace at the Bugolobi trading center, bustling in the middle of the day, and we took a matatu (minibus) to Luzira, where we found two boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) to take us the rest of the way to the farm. It had been raining for most of the morning, and at one point we needed to get off our bodas to carefully walk across a muddy road that was under construction. When we arrived at the farm, Grace's auntie and cousin were busy roasting simsim and ground nuts (sesame seeds and peanuts) to grind and sell to a nearby school.

Grace's family greeted me, and after we rested shortly in the living room, Grace, her auntie and I crawled under the chain-link fence around the farm. On a small patch of land, raised to allow the soil to drain, stood several rows of basil about one foot tall. I started picking off a few leaves and asked Grace if I was picking them correctly. She very frankly told me that I was not, so I watched her quickly pinching the stems about an inch below flowering groups of leaves and started to mimic her. When we were done harvesting the basil, Grace's auntie offered Grace and me a bowl of freshly roasted simsim and groundnut. After eating, Grace and I headed back to Bugolobi to meet with Kate to count the bunches of basil and discuss how to store it.

We decided to wait to sell to restaurants and supermarkets until we knew how frequently the basil could be harvested and how much could be expected at each harvest. Kate and I then embarked on a guerrilla style marketing campaign around Kampala, sending out mass emails to friends, talking to a friend who manages a restaurant, even peddling basil at yoga classes. When half of the remaining basil were wilted and our individual marketing contacts were exhausted, I picked out the healthy leaves and made pesto to sell.

Working with TAP, Grace has been able to access resources to found her business. As soon as Grace produces a regular supply of basil and we have made connections with supermarkets and restaurants, she will be responsible for storing and distributing the basil as well as making and storing pesto to sell. Within six months, she will be running her business independent of TAP's financial support.

While 10% of Awava's annual profits go to supporting TAP, TAP is primarily funded out of pocket for the moment. Because TAP is currently funded out of pocket, we are limited in our ability to support Grace, and we cannot take on more clients. If you'd like to support TAP, you can purchase Awava products at www.awavamarket.com or donate directly to TAP via donate@theawavaproject.org .

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