Monday, July 13, 2009

Guiding the Flock: Pastoring through Chickens

(Summary: the link between work, faith and community is explored.)

Today my friend Steve Snider introduced me to a chicken operation in northern Mozambique near the city of Nampula. The entrepreneur, Andrew Cunningham, was a pastor in Zambia. He had a long illness that left him weak for a few years and gave him a lot of time to think a pray. Strangely, he felt that God was calling him to go to Northern Mozambique and farm chickens. This is at the very least a strange call on a pastor’s life. Andrew knew nothing about chicken farming. He couldn’t speak the language and he didn’t know the place.

At the same time, God was working. My friend Steve was assigned a project to grow the chicken industry in Mozambique and so his job was to find farmers he could help. You’ll never guess but they ended up together. Strange, huh?

Meanwhile, a wealthy chicken farmer from Iowa was visiting Mozambique looking for ways to make a difference. He found a couple of worthy causes to donate to but nothing really captured his imagination and heart. He stopped in South Africa on the way back to the US for a little relaxation. By chance he ran into Andrew’s wife and daughter at a hotel and after a little conversation invited them to dinner. They never talked about chickens and everyone went home.

A little while later, Steve is wandering the USA looking for someone who knows something about chickens. He gets connected to the guy from Iowa. They are sitting talking and Steve tells him about this farmer in Mozambique named Andrew Cunningham. “Wait, did you say his last name is Cunningham?” Sure enough it’s the same family he met in South Africa.

A few weeks later Iowa meets Mozambique and the Pastor now Chicken farmer has an investor. Strange, huh?

But why would God call a pastor to go and raise chickens in a foreign land?

(A picture of Andrew Cunningham and his wonderful family.)

Andrew said to me, “What’s amazing to me is that the impact I am having as a chicken farmer is greater than anything I was able to achieve as a pastor in my own country. These people never had jobs in their life nor has anyone in their family. They are the first generation to work. We have to teach them everything related to successfully holding a job. While we are at it we teach about a good family life, raising kids, and of course living a Christian life. We are building a real community here. The message of Christ really resonates because it spoken in the midst of a loving community that cares for their body, mind and soul.”

We were walking from Andrew’s office to his home just down the hill. It was the end of the work day and there was a cluster of young men sitting on their motorcycles in the shade of a tree. Andrew stopped to talk to them and then returned to us.

“See that young man there? Frankly, he didn’t like getting up and having to report to work every day. The work experience was all new to him. His assignment was to go into the villages and help local farmers that are raising chickens for us. He is to provide technical assistance and training, answer questions, and be our representative. He did his work but without any enthusiasm. It was hard to get him out of his office into the field.

“All of a sudden, he got ‘turned on’. He saw the impact that his work was having on people’s lives. Their income was rising, their families getting healthy, wells being dug. Now he rushes to work and he is hardly ever in the office.

“God has always worked. That’s how creation began. We become fulfilled when we work. As Jesus said, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’ When we work we experience God in a new way. It is vital to Christian life. Getting turned on to work and turned on to Jesus is somehow linked.”

Here is the vision and mission statements of Andrew’s chicken operation:
VISION: We are God’s raving fans as we do business and farming His way
MISSION: We link with rural farmers in our community to produce THE lowest cost chicken in the world.
VALUES: We do everything:
· With Excellence
· On Time
· Without Waste
· With Joy
These are not idle statements. While I was there I met a farmer who raised 1.5 kilogram chickens in 28 days with a 1.97 food to meat conversion ratio. This is world class production.
Now that’s tending the flock!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Moving On: Mozambique

(Pictured above: view from the hotel room in Nampula.)

Today I left Tanzania and my many good friends and headed to Mozambique. My friend Kamala sent me a text message saying that he ‘had lost a leg’ to express the loss of my departure. It is a feeling I felt towards many. It was hard to say goodbye and move on.

Steve Snider joined me in Tanzania and off we went to Mozambique, directly to the south.

(Pictured below: panorama of the countryside near Nampula, Mozambique.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Find: Miami Bar

(Summary: story of eating out one night in Tanzania.)

Kamala is my favorite driver and a very good friend.

One night in Iringa we were in meetings until late. Then Kamala and I went to dinner. Since it was late, none of the regular restaurants were open so we walked from the hostel to the Miami Bar. Spoken in Kiswahili you wouldn’t recognize it as named for the glamorous city of Miami Vice. Sorry that I don’t have any pictures of the place, I didn’t think to bring my camera.

Although Miami Bar is the hopping place in Iringa you won’t find any South Florida art deco or shiny chrome here. There were four rooms and the center one was a kitchen with billowing smoke filling the room from a charcoal fire. Typically, you manage the food and the drinks separately in local restaurants so you need to meet with the cooks. The food gets much discussion. I understood only a little of Kamala’s negotiation with the chefs. We ordered the house specialty – a pile of goat meat char broiled.

He showed us a partially cooked leg and we chose how much to cut off and finish cooking. We watched the bone be hacked apart, the meat get carved, treated with lemon juice and salt and tossed back over the fire. Satisfied, we went to find a seat.

The place was pretty full so the waitress woke a sleeping patron to throw him out and make space for us. He resisted. A second waitress joined the battle and both voiced loudly their displeasure with much shouting. With the commotion a small man appeared, presumably security, and the sleeper suddenly became more alert and found the door without a word. Kamala, my driver explained that in bars it is fully acceptable to go to sleep and leave in the morning as long as there is room. Triumphant, I was given the pleasure of the once restful, now warmed chair cushions. I didn’t want even want to lean back.

The place was about 95% men; a lot of them were wearing business suits. The room we were in was arranged with cushioned chairs around low tables. There were a couple of TVs showing sporting events, and some music in the background. I noticed as the meal progressed that a couple of the women who were sitting with men would get up and leave with one. And then come back and give the index finger “come hither” and another man would get up and go to her and they would leave for a while. You draw your own conclusion. I drank my ‘Ndovu moto’ (warm Elephant Bull brand beer).

After the first beer was finished, the meat arrived by chef special delivery. Another man came with the requisite pot of water to wash our hands. Then we ate the goat meat with a second beer. Goat meat is actually really good. I’d recommend it to anyone. We had a sauce of pili pili (hot peppers) on the side prepared by the chefs with lemon juice, salt and finely sliced peppers. It is a fire hot, burn your lips, tongue, throat and sinuses sauce. Don’t touch your face – especially anywhere near your eyes – after you’ve dipped your meat in this sauce. Actually, this is true until about the third or fourth washing of your hands with soap. I know from experience.

Kamala said that it was a nice place. I like Kamala a lot.

Here's a picture of Kamala (the mechanic) trying to help a boy fix his bicycle. Unfortunately the only tool we could find was a rock:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Food Part 10: Traders

(Note: this is a continuation of a series. To start at the beginning go here:

(Summary: the value chain break in the maize food process is identified as being connected to negative incentives for traders.)

We’re on a mission to solve an important puzzle: unlocking the mysteries of hunger in Africa. There’s not a shortage of food but people are hungry. To understand, we’re drilling into one part of the value chain of maize in one region of Tanzania.

So we’ve looked briefly at the maize farmers, traders, and mills. We see that nobody
trusts anybody. That’s very counterproductive to making a value chain work and clearly part of the problem. We also see that the farmers can’t sell their product and the mill can’t buy enough.

(Pictured: the shelling of maize by beating it with a stick on a table of open branches.)

There is enough dysfunction that everyone has some blame in the problem. But notice that the farmers are growing enough and would like to sell more. Also notice that the factories are big enough to buy more and have excess demand. So the farmers and the factories are doing their job at least beyond the capacity of the current system. Therefore, at least for the moment the heaviest part of the blame needs to be placed at the feet of the traders. So let’s take a more careful look at traders.

Traders fill valuable links in value chains in nearly every industry. It’s kind of neat that as a factory you can open your doors and not worry about sourcing your inputs or distributing your products. Hundreds of traders will show up with baskets, bicycles and trucks filled with the inputs you need and ready to distribute your product. The factory doesn’t have to lift a finger and invest in these solutions.

There are thousands of traders and they are often operating in the informal sector of the economy as unregistered businesses not paying any taxes. Many people want to be traders because many traders are wealthy.

Without traders, the economy wouldn’t work at all. They are a vital part of how things get done.

On the other hand, we see that trader model doesn’t work to meet the needs of the value chain, at least in the case of this maize value chain in the Iringa area.

It isn’t that the traders aren’t doing their job, even though I implied that. Actually, they are doing their job very well. They are responding to the incentives that are at work in the system.

It turns out that the trader is maximizing their profit. As good capitalists, they want to buy at the lowest price and sell at the highest possible. Here’s some of their strategy:

#1: Buying Low

The trader can buy at the lowest price if the farmer is also a borrower. As we have discussed elsewhere in this blog, these money lending schemes are common across the developing world. In this maize example, the trader loans to the farmer either the seeds or the capital to purchase seeds. The terms of the loan require the farmer to sell their crop to the trader – at a very low price. The trader wins three ways: they have a pre-negotiated right-to-purchase, they have a lower price, and they make money on interest on the loan.

And they win a fourth way: they keep the borrower poor enough that they never break the cycle and so they are trapped indefinitely.

Clearly the trader benefits substantially from such an arrangement. Why would a farmer ever agree to such an arrangement?

Easy answer: they don’t have a choice.

Life in the developing world is much more precarious than in the developed world. For example, even a small illness can wipe out one’s life savings to buy medicine. One’s saving includes next year’s seeds. And illness and death are not uncommon.

(Pictured: a maize farm in front of the mountains.)

All a trader need do is find someone who has suffered a setback and requires a loan to continue. As you can imagine, needy people are common in the poorest nations on earth.

(This is one of the reasons why microfinance is so needed in the developing world. Microfinance can help to prevent these endless cycles of poverty.)

There are important things to notice about this situation:
· The trader has an added incentive to buy low – extra low. Farmers that are well off are much less likely to be caught in such a cycle of money lending.
· In more helpful value chains, buyers want their sellers to be productive and healthy. This gives them a supply side that they can count on. This is not true in this value chain.
· It is not surprising that there is strong distrust between traders and farmers. Indeed, many farmers hate traders because they have been caught in a money lending cycle or their neighbors have.
· Since the trader is buying at such a low price, the farmer has added incentive NOT to sell. Of course the negotiations are long. Of course the farmer doesn’t like the buyer – doesn’t even want to sell to them. How can there be a successful negotiation when the parties dislike and distrust each other?

#2: Selling High

How does a trader sell at a high price? Another easy answer: supply and demand. If the factories had all (or close to all) the input they needed then the price would fall. Traders keep the factories desperate for input because that keeps the price at its highest. This explains why factories are operating consistently at 20-40% of capacity. This is the line of desperation where the price will be highest. They are still in business and can buy the product. Any lower and they fail (many do). Any higher and they become more independent, more profitable, and the price falls.

There is no need to have a conspiracy to set prices among traders. The numbers will speak for themselves.

Why are maize mills unable to source their maize from the nearby farmers? Puzzle solved!

This is an example of a broken value chain. It isn’t a lack of food that is causing hunger; it is broken value chains.

Next: The Invisible Hand

To continue this series go here:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Agreement with University of Tumaini

I am delighted to report that today we signed with Tumaini University! This is truly a big deal. Tumaini, which means ‘hope’, is one of the leading universities of Tanzania.

The "micro" part of Cheetah's micro venture captital model depends upon university assistance to help hold costs down and allow for micro sized investments. Because of the high cost of investment management, venture capitalists typically invest $2 million or more. Therefore, Cheetah's model of making $5000 to $500,000 investments is a real breakthrough. It takes strong support from universities to make this happen, including business plan competitions, student interns, and professorial assistance.

When I visited with officials from Tumaini in Iringa a couple of weeks ago, the declined to sign the agreement I presented. They said that they wanted to make their commitments broader and firmer in writing. They are so convinced of the value of the Cheetah programs, the impact they can have, and the link to the University’s mission that they wanted to make their commitments very clear.

Therefore, they assigned a committee to work on the agreement. When it was ready they made the eight hour trek to Dar es Salaam. Here is a picture of the Assistant Provost Rev. Dr. Richard Lubawa (center), and Mr. Thomas Mwanayongo the Dean of the Faculty of Law (left) and myself, Raymond Menard shortly after our signing.

This is really a big deal for Cheetah! Thanks, Tumaini University!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Food Part 9: The Hunger Puzzle

July 7, Tuesday
Food Part 9: The Hunger Puzzle
(Food, Agri-business)

Pictures, Agriculture, 6/18 –Maize mill 2

(Note: this is a continuation of a series. To start at the beginning go here:

(Summary: a review of the maize value chain including farmers, traders, and maize mills raises the question of why doesn’t the food value chain work.)

So in our last installment we were talking about broken value chains and how solving them is not only a good business opportunity, it’s also the way to change thousands of lives. We were taking a look at the food value chain in particular because it is the source of many of the problems of hunger and poverty in Africa. The core problem isn’t a lack of food because 40% of the food goes to waste. The core problem is that the value chain doesn’t work.

As an example, we were drilling into one part of the value chain that is broken. Maize is a key staple in many parts of Africa. In the Iringa area, which is one of the largest maize producing areas of Tanzania, the maize mills producing flour struggle to get enough maize to run their operations. This seems strange because Iringa is surrounded by fields of maize in every direction.

Understanding this puzzle helps to unlock part of the mystery of why there is a problem with hunger when there is plenty of production.

(Pictured: maize farms in the village.)

The Maize Value Chain
Each of the maize mills tries to source their maize in the surrounding villages. They either buy from traders or act as their own trader to purchase the maize. A ‘trader’ is a type business person that is common in everywhere in the developing world. The traders are middlemen that buy and sell throughout value chains in nearly every type of industry. Indeed, they are often the only links between many parts of the value chain.

Drilling into this small segment of the maize value chain provides an example of the roles that traders fill. I took the time to meet with traders, too. In Iringa, the maize traders (often trading in a variety of agricultural products) go into the villages and negotiate with villagers to purchase their farm goods. This can be a frustrating experience for a trader. In time honored African tradition, the trader has to go through a negotiation that may last a half hour and result in no purchase. They do this from shamba (farm) to shamba, slowly acquiring the goods they are seeking to trade. I’ve been told that may take a whole week to fill one truck. The traders say that this is a frustrating process and you can’t trust the farmers. Makes you feel bad for the traders, right?

Why does it take so long for traders to fill their truck? Remember that in just one village, Ilambilole, there is 2000 tons of maize production.

So let’s take a look at the farmers. In the negotiation the farmer is likewise frustrated. They find that the trader is trying to buy their crop at about or below cost. If they are selling a crop that might have a little shelf life like maize or rice, the farmer knows that the lowest price is right at harvest when there is abundance and as time passes the price will rise. The farmer has the crop, thus is eating, they are selling their excess and therefore can afford to wait. Why sell your crop if you’re not going to make much on it?

Over the course of the year, the farmer can see an increase in maize prices of about 30%. The food factory will see an increase of about 100%. The trader enjoys the spread. The farmer still loses because without proper storage the maize crop will deteriorate about 30% - or about as fast as the price goes up.

By the way, the farmers say the same thing about the traders: “You can’t trust them.” For some the hatred of traders is intense. We’ll take a look at this in a bit.

(Pictured: a maize mill store front.)

So let’s take a look at the mill owners. They say their number one problem is getting enough input. Clearly, the traders are not delivering enough. The mill owners have a few choices. I have seen all of the following tactics used:
1. The mills can buy from the traders. Some larger mills are dealing with hundreds of traders.
2. The mills can become their own trader and go direct to the farmers. This is a huge project but some undertake it. It doesn’t provide big dividends because they become just one more trader wandering through villages. Anna Temu of Power Foods (featured elsewhere in these blogs) is considered an expert on farmer relations because she is dealing with thousands of them. Even when she tries to create enduring, helpful relationships with farmers, traders may step in take the crops out from under her. Proof that it’s not working: she could double her sales instantly if she could get more input.
3. The mills can go elsewhere and buy from a source that has a large supply. This is why one small mill in Iringa is going 600 killometers to Sangea to get maize.
4. The mills can go overseas for supply. I am told that the large grain elevators in the port city of Dar es Salaam are filled with grain from the USA, Canada and elsewhere. The need to find an aggregated source explains this importation of grain in a country that has an excess.

(There does seem to be inadequate production of soybeans, millet, and wheat. Actually, this failure in the value chain explains that, as well. Farmers that grow these ‘exotic’ crops are even more frustrated, often selling nothing.)

By the way, the mill owners generally don’t trust the farmers or the traders, either. How could they when they can’t keep their factories running?

This value chain puzzle remains unsolved.

I guess you’ll just have to read another installment of this series to find out why the value chain is broken.

To continue this series go here:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Food Part 8: Resources without Resuls

(Note: this is a continuation of a series. To start at the beginning go here:

(SUMMARY: Tanzania and much of Africa is blessed with significant resources. The potential of this opportunity is often unrealized. We drill into the value chains and find an example: food grown in a village is not available to be used only 25 Km away even though both buyer and seller want to link up.)

In our last installment we laid out our basic business strategies to address the broken food value chain in Africa. There are three basic concepts: Unite Farmers, Preserve Food, Add Value.

These three are built upon a common strategy: find places in the value chain that are broken. This is where the opportunity lies.

One of the questions I most often hear from locals is, “What do you think of Tanzania?” They want to know what a westerner sees – what is our point of view. As a business person, what I notice first is business. I can’t help it; it’s what my eyes are trained to see. In the case of Tanzania, what I have noticed most is the lack of businesses. Things we take for granted are missing from the landscape.

For example, although there is instant coffee it is very difficult to find a cup of fresh brewed; this in a country that grows some of the best coffee in the world. If you are a Starbucks or Caribou addict you would notice this immediately. (I’m not because I’m sensitive to caffeine.) Missing businesses may mean there is opportunity. To continue the example, a carefully located coffee shop might do very well.

More accurately, need usually equals opportunity. (This is the basic reason why there is a link between business and helping people.)

When Tanzanians ask me what I think of their country, I tell them that there is opportunity everywhere.
This is not a polite way to say a hard thing. It’s the truth. Tanzania is blessed with substantial resources:
· Perhaps 6% of the fresh water on earth, including large amounts of hydroelectric power, and lakes to rival the US Great Lakes.
· Enormous mineral reserves.
· Coal was recently discovered.
· It is rumored that oil was just discovered.
· Some of the most beautiful areas on earth including the Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Goro Goro Crater, wildlife in abundance, etc.
· Huge tracts of arable land and eco-diversity that can support the raising of nearly any agricultural crop.
· A peaceful, hardworking people that have lived in a stable democracy since 1961.

Tanzania is not alone. Africa is blessed with abundant resources across the continent. The problem is that the value chains across nearly every industry are broken. Three notable exceptions: soda pop like Coke and Pepsi, beer, and cellular phones. These three are available everywhere – even remote villages. Soda, beer, and cell phones are not exactly life’s key staples. It’s ironic that sometimes the only clean drinking water you can get is a bottle of pop. However, it’s proof that given a focused effort, things really can work. You can get a bottle of orange Fanta® even in a remote village!

As a business person, what I see is business; in this case, broken value chains. Opportunity is created when you can serve a need. That’s why “necessity is the mother of invention.” The most important needs are in the middle of value chains because they serve so many people by connecting products from source to user. Therefore, when you follow the value chain and see where it doesn’t work it’s like following the rainbow to a pot of gold. These are the real key business opportunities. And this is where you can really change a lot of lives.

(Picture: meeting with a maize mill owner in Iringa.)
When I went to Tanzania, I started by speaking to a number of factories, including food factories in the first few weeks. The food factories I visited were running at about 20-30% of capacity. (Actually, this was common in factories of every type.) Without exception, food producers said that there number one problem is getting enough input. Everything that they make they sell that day. I sat with the CEO of a leading food producer while she took call after call from people wondering why they aren’t receiving the orders they have placed. The problem isn’t lack of market; its lack of input. Management often puts a majority of their effort into sourcing their raw food stuffs.

As I explored the country, this problem replayed itself over and over for every type of food. The caterer at Tumaini University in Iringa is struggling to feed students and staff because she can’t source enough chicken, eggs, vegetables, etc. She is now opening her own truck farm to grow her own vegetables. Chickens were such a problem that she wanted me to invest in a chicken farm for her. In fact, the 2nd largest chicken farm in the country is owned by a caterer in Dar es Salaam. Sourcing food is incredibly difficult and one of the value chains that is most broken.

Because hunger is such a terrible problem, I kept digging.

The Iringa area is one of the four largest maize growing regions in Tanzania. Iringa town is surrounded by hundreds of villages where fields of maize are ubiquitous. I have been in many, many of these villages and literally met with hundreds of farmers. The farmer’s number one problem: they can’t sell what they produce. In the village of Ilambilole, we spent time quantifying the maize production. This village of 1000 families probably produces about 2000 tons of maize per year.

Back in Iringa town I met with four simple operations whose primary business was to purchase maize and mill it into flour. Each of these businesses had the same number one problem: they couldn’t get enough maize!

And they are in the heart of maize country! 25 kilometers away, one village could supply much of their needs. One of these mills was sending trucks 600 kilometers to get their supply!

I like cross word and other puzzles. Getting my head wrapped around this problem was one of the most compelling challenges of my life. Not because it is so tricky but because it is so important. We are talking about the heart of the hunger problem in Africa. Remember, there is no shortage of food production and 40% of what is produced rots. Although not that complex, it took me about a week to see what was happening.

Getting to the ‘aha’, ‘eureka!’ moment is really satisfying. I think it will be for you, too.

To continue this series go here:

Saturday, July 4, 2009


When the calendar hit July 1st, I suddenly realized I wasn’t going to be home for the 4th of July. What really surprised me was that I was going to miss it.

Anyway, I worked at my computer all day – from 7am to 5pm – because it was a Saturday and I had no appointments. In the evening Chilwa returned from some family obligations and I was sharing with her my own family’s traditions of the 4th. One of these is barbequing (choma). She showed me a Chinese made fake Weber grill hiding in one corner and we decided to do some outdoor cooking. After a bit of discussion she sent the kids to the market. They returned with three freshly plucked chickens, potatoes, green peppers, bananas, a pineapple, onions and locally made charcoal.

I cut the chickens into pieces. They were still warm with their recent life and the internal organs were mostly still attached. As a westerner accustomed to chilled meat from the supermarket, this was a new experience. We oiled and salted all the vegetables, put everything on the grill in stages and slow cooked it over 2 ½ hours. While we ate I put the pineapples out and grilled them. They are best when they are lightly burnt. I served them drizzled with wild honey. Delicious.

Happy 4th of July!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Find: A Good Driver

When you are in a new place with both a language and a cultural gap, a good driver can be a lifesaver. A good driver, not only knows where to go, he (in this culture it is rarely ‘she’) is your culture guide, your handy translator, your camera man, your Zagat rating agency with best local finds, your warning sign and safety net, and yes, your new friend. The truth is that with the local traffic you put your life in their hands. But also, they can become your trusted advisor in so many other ways.

On this trip I have had three drivers. The first, Chicha is a great guy. He speaks wonderful English and is a trusted taxi driver in Dar es Salaam. His father had a taxi (teksi) and Chicha paid him the car ‘rental’ according to the local customs. He didn’t know this was his in his father’s mind, but when he had paid his father enough money to buy his own teksi, his father gave him the money to do so. You can see that Chicha comes from good stock and it is part of him today. He told me his name is pronounced like ‘teacha’ so I call him ‘professor’.

The second driver I have had is Roger Lajab. Roger is a young man who speaks very little English. The first day when I was done with my appointments, I told him in English, “Go home.” He didn’t know what I meant. So I said, “Chilwa’s nyumba” (or Chilwa’s house.) No connection, after trying for 10 minutes to explain where to go next, I finally called a friend who translated over the phone.

Because Roger speaks so little English, we have very little to talk about in terms of ordinary conversation. This is really a problem because it can take 2-3 hours in traffic to get anywhere in Dar es Salaam. So Roger has taken it upon himself to be my Swahili tutor. This is true immersion training since he speaks hardly a word of English. Sometimes when I am fully confused I try to look up the word in my little English-Swahili book. One evening I was exhausted after a series of really long days. I put my seat back and went to sleep. Roger nudged me awake so that we could continue our lessons. Little by little (kidogo kidogo) we are learning to communicate.

In local customs I should address him as ‘Lajab.’ But he has asked me to call him ‘Roger’ in line with western customs.

Kato Kamala has accompanied me on trips away from Dar es Salaam. He is a brilliant mechanic, completely trustworthy and speaks eight languages including English. When he is with me he is also the official photographer. When we are traveling away from Dar es Salaam, he receives several calls a day from customers seeking to have their car fixed. I was quite worried about all the business he was losing because he had left town with me for two weeks. Not to worry, he is such a trusted mechanic that his customers all waited for his return.

Kamala comes from a family of really smart people. One is a local medical doctor, who after I was covered by mosquito bites prescribed a medication to make sure I didn’t get malaria. Another one is a famous comedian who looks a bit like a black John Belushi and is on the local equivalent of “Saturday Night Live”. He’s really famous locally. Every time Kamala gets a text message it screams out a comedy bit from this show. Kamala himself is really funny. We were often driving in the Iringa area with student interns, an accompanying teacher and perhaps another person or two. Kamala could keep a series of one liners going non-stop for 45 minutes. Although he speaks English, he told them in Swahili. The car would burst in laughter, which after 20 minutes or so was pained, gasping laughter. Hardly able to speak, someone would translate for me. I would laugh. Then Kamala would immediately toss out another. I wish you could have heard the sound of this laughter, it was one of the most joyful I’ve ever heard.

I have lots of great stories with Kamala. I’ll tell more in a future blog. He is one of my best friends here in Tanzania and someone I really would trust with my life.

‘Kato’ means ‘twin’ because that’s what Kamala is but I know him as Kamala, rafiki (friend), kaka (brother).