Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Week 10: Good things come...

Monday 25th November was Madame Toe’s 54th birthday, so she very kindly invited us for dinner at her house on Sunday night. We were joined by Mme Toe’s family, including Seraphine and her four cheeky children as well as some Djigui members. Mme Toe completely lived up to her reputation as an incredible cook, and the spread of food had to be served in stages because it wouldn't all fit on the tables at once!

The feast at Mme Toe's house

Most of the activity at Djigui this week has been centred around JAAL, the 9 day long agricultural food fair running at the Maison du Peuple. The Djigui members have been producing brochettes every day this week (instead of the usual two days a week), to cater for the demand at the stall. Eveline, Seraphine and Beatrice have been doing daily shifts at the stall, with help from Ives and Val.

Preparing Somariz (3 grain cous cous) packaging in the office

Brochettes and our newly packaged soy milk

Superstar Seraphine being interviewed at JAAL

Unfortunately disaster struck on Saturday in the form of a day long power cut. Several of the women were on site working in the soya production room when the power cut hit at around 9am. The day’s supply of soya beans had already begun their transformation in to soya milk, but the power cut halted the whole process and meant that gallons and gallons of product was left to spoil in the heat. This was a big loss for Djigui and for the women. The power cuts cause regular problems, and not only on production days. Power cuts greatly decrease the efficiency and administrative capacities of the organisation; hindering us from becoming a professional, reliable business. Installing solar panels at Djigui would eradicate these problems by allowing us to become energy self-sufficient, and significantly cut our overheads, which would allow us to direct more funds to where they’re needed.

Spoiled soya... Urghh

We finally heard back from Speed Tech this week with a full quote for solar panels. For a full transfer to solar power, the cost would be around £25,000. This is obviously a great deal of money, but we would easily make it back within a few years from the savings made by cutting our electricity bills. We will endeavour to raise funds towards this via the Corporate Supporters scheme, and the previous cohort identified potential renewable energy funding pots that Djigui could apply for.

As the days go by time seems to be moving faster than ever, and frustratingly, our office work feels like it‘s moving slower than ever. Most of what remains to be done consists of website updates, uploads, and sending emails with attachments. So we have been wholly reliant on the internet, and unsurprisingly, our poor connection simply hasn't been up to the task.

This has meant that we cannot yet launch the Child Sponsorship scheme as Rowan is still trying to upload the amended child profiles. It’s a painfully slow process, and especially frustrating because we feel so close to being able to complete all of our tasks.

However, the Corporate Supporters brochure has finally uploaded to the website, which means that for all intents and purposes, it has now been ‘launched’.

A page from our Corporate Supporters brochure

We have already received a donation from Simple Lending Ltd, and have added them to our supporters website page (which is looking a little bit sparse at the moment… but watch this space!) and we have also been speaking with Dorset Tech Talk, who have agreed to make a donation of desktop computers and various other bits of IT equipment. So the scheme has seen a very successful start, all things considered.

Corporate Supporters webpage

Seraphine, Val and Ives attended two separate ‘B2B’ (Business-to-Business) meetings for speed-dating style networking events with other businesses. The idea is that you sit down at a table for two, present your business activity and the problems you face, and hold a discussion on possible solutions and ideas. They really enjoyed the event, exchanged a lot of business cards and made links with some organisations who they think will be beneficial in the future.

Food producers 'Speed dating' event

Thursday saw us attend HSB’s Espace Bambino event. Espace Bambino is a programme run by HSB every week, where disabled children come and receive physiotherapy and play for a morning. A local artist ran the event and all of the International Service volunteers were invited to spend the morning playing, painting and drawing with the children. It was moving to see how brave and positive many of the children and their parents are about their disabilities, despite the prejudice and numerous hurdles they have had to deal with.

HSB's Espace Bambino

At the last minute, Val and Mme Toe decided to take part in a prestigious food festival in the village of Komsilga 5km from Ouaga. At least 30 food producers took part in different categories, to be judged by the Ministry of Agriculture, the mayor, and other officials. After sleeping on the floor of the village council house, many of the competitors were awake at 4am to cook their dishes. Mme Toe (with the help of carrot peeler Val) submitted an incredibly delicious and amazingly mouth-watering tokan and vegetable ragu in to the main dish category. And how do we know it was incredibly delicious and amazingly mouth-watering?…. Because we won 1st prize!!!! They arrived back to the office on Friday afternoon with big smiles, and the 50,000 CFA prize money. Achievements like this are a huge boost to Djigui. And the event was televised, which meant some high profile publicity for Djigui, too.

The now infamous tokan ragu
More publicity for Djigui - we're famous!

And if we needed more cause to celebrate, we also found out this week that our funding application to Frederick Gough school has been awarded! We will purchase a motorbike with the fund, which means we will now once again be able to make deliveries to clients. Since the Djigui vehicle was damaged in floods in September, our transport options have been limited and we have lost some regular customers because we haven’t been able to deliver our products. Having a brand new, fully functioning motorbike will mean we can re-build client relationships and open up new avenues for sales.

To top it all off, we had our first glimpse of Christmas lights in central Ouaga, which instilled us with a bit of festive cheer. Even though being here jars with our festive associations of wooly scarves and gloves, frosty mornings, winter coats, hot drinks, rain, snow, wind, ice…

...Actually, I think we’d rather be in sunny Burkina!

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