Friday, June 19, 2009

African Time!

I am finally here! After traveling almost 10 000 miles via planes and cars I am finally here! It was an exhausting journey but it has been great so far. Oyugis already feels like home. I had planned on writing earlier because I wanted to talk about what it is I will be doing here in Oyugis, a rural town in Western Kenya, but due to the short life of my laptop and lack of internet access while I was travelling, that plan did not succeed.

I am going to be living here in Oyugis, Kenya for about 2 ½ months as an intern through my university’s NGO, Western Heads East and my program at the Richard Ivey School of Business. I am going to be working, alongside my two peers Jennifer and Amanda (also from my program), with two local women’s group in helping them establish a sustainable business operation. We are going to help the women set up a yogurt production facility that is currently being funded by grants from the World Bank for researching the health benefits of the yogurt produced at this facility. This pro-biotic cultured yogurt when consumed, increases ones immunity against infectious diseases and improves overall quality of life. It is similar to Activia in Canada for those of you who are familiar with the brand. The strain for this particular yogurt was developed by a few professors at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and is now going to be used at the kitchen (yogurt production facility) here in Oyugis. It is already being used at the original site in Mwanza, Tanzania (started about 4 years ago).

This internship will be based and supervised by the Ministry of Health at Oyugis, which is working with the women’s groups in the area of health, nutrition and social entrepreneurship, in collaboration with Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)and the World Bank. In addition, key players from organizations such as African Medical Research Foundation, Mildmay International, and other government departments will be involved. Continued support from such partners has enabled women’s groups to establish viable and sustainable income generating activities.

My responsibilities for the purpose of this internship are going to revolve around benefiting the various women’s group as they start their operations. Specifically, I am going to be researching the possibility of replicating the business model across other communities once the Oyugis site is successful so other local groups can get involved in this venture. Next, I have to study the intercultural differences and issues when researching on reaching a larger market base of consumers for the pro-biotic yogurt. Research will also focus on increasing collaboration with NGOs and government levels to help with increasing the product reach to more rural and urban areas through funding provided which will subsidize the cost of the yogurt for consumers. Finally and also more importantly, I have to focus my efforts on developing social marketing tools to increase the acceptance and usage of the pro-biotic yogurt. In Lehman’s term I will have to find out what it is that is going to make the locals here spend money on purchasing the yogurt, and are willing to spend, as opposed to putting it towards another household expense which may be important for survival.

:o) Rani

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