Photo courtesy Sioux City Journal
Patricia Bahati (’16) sold over 60 baskets made by women in Tanzania during one day at a church bazaar in Decatur, Neb. Though the baskets have been selling well, the Enacts team discovered the women would rather raise chickens as part of their Zidisha project.
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — When four business-minded students traveled to Tanzania, they were expecting to talk about baskets, not chickens.
Three years earlier, Briar Cliff University’s Enactus team worked to establish a business cooperative that provided funding and training in basket weaving to six women in the village of Mbuguni.
They formed the Zidisha project, which is Swahili for business success, in partnership with Siouxland Tanzanian Educational and Medical Ministries. About twice a year, they’d receive shipments of baskets, sell them locally and return the proceeds to the women, which accounted for more than 40 percent of their annual household income.
It seemed to be going well.
In January, Clare Hollman and three other Enactus officers went to Tanzania to work with the Zidisha basket weavers for the first time. During their 12-day trip, they were planning to talk about project growth, recruitment and market expansion.
“When you get to affect the life of a family halfway around the world, that’s life-changing for these students.”
—Judy Thompson, Enactus advisor
“We went in with the idea of telling them which baskets sold better, which ones were popular, and finding out which ones were easier for them to make,” Hollman said. “Instead, we started talking about chickens.”
They discovered basket weaving was not part of the regional culture and that the women didn’t really enjoy the craft. They were also faced with the reality that they were marketing a one-time-purchase product with a feeble business model.
“We knew we needed to change something with the program,” said Jeraldo Montejano, an Enactus member who went to Tanzania. “Us selling baskets in the states is not really something that can go on forever for them. We needed to shift focus and empower them and create something more sustainable.”
The women already had a project in mind: raising chickens. What made it an attractive new venture is that there’s a market for poultry products right in their village.
Hollman, a sophomore, and another Enactus member will be researching microloans in order to establish a workable solution to move forward. At least one woman will continue making baskets, and the plan is to use profits to finance the microloan program.
“When you get to affect the life of a family halfway around the world, that’s life-changing for these students,” said Judy Thompson, the Enactus adviser and professor of business administration.
Help the Zidisha project:
Are you interested in helping with the Zidisha project? Email advisor Judy Thompson to learn about ways you can help or support the BCU Enactus team impact lives halfway around the world.