Smoky-grey 3-foot square shops sit in adjacent communities in Kemondo. Like the proximity of boutique neighbors at American shopping malls, both different and similar products are outsourced through these shops to the consumers at large.
In Kemondo, shops can hold dried fish from the most recent catch of the day, or perhaps small bars of soap for the inevitable piling of laundry that awaits to be completed. Snacks are found too; though a local variety had not been developed – at least until Sister Neera, a locally-based Catholic sister arrived on the scene of the Kemondo business world. Having worked within Kemondo for the previous 6 years on a wide-range of socially-conscious projects, her passion and ability have already been established and celebrated. Yet, it is her increasing savvy in business connection, promotion for women, and yes, bread, that is catching the eyes (and tastes) of the community.
Bukoba, Tazanzia – 4 months earlier
In hot Spring days of banana bread batter, and flour dust, women arrived twice weekly for The Women’s Bakery’s intensive curriculum delivery on baking, nutrient-focused recipes, marketing, and the how-to’s of bakery business expansion. The women quickly demonstrated promise, interest, and motivation to make the model for The Women’s Bakery work. Certainly, if business could be improved in these small Tanzanian communities – bread could do it!
A few weeks in, one participant, Sister Neera acknowledged that not only had she already been sharing her newly acquired skills and knowledge with women nearby her home, but they were ready to bake – and do more. The Women’s Bakery team remained humbly excited; could this be the expansion of our model? Could this be the next channel for further empowerment, choice, and access to dignity?
Did a loaf of bread – with a champion behind it – hold that level of possibility for a community-driven, socially-minded, and health-based solution?
Kemondo, Tanzania – August 2015
The answer, following a site visit to Kemondo and Sister Neera’s expanding project, is a resounding, absolute, exclamatory, “yes!”
This August, The Women’s Bakery East Africa team traveled from Kigali headquarters to the original training site in Tanzania from this Spring (Bukoba) and to Kemonodo, where Sister Neera is based – only separated with a 30-minute drive.
Met with enthusiasm and excitement, Sister Neera quickly de-briefed the team on her growth, questions, and needs.
Training around 3 women currently, she took the initiative to invest in a local shop for selling (known in Kiswahili as a duka) so that the banana breads being made had a point of focus in the local market. Additionally, she had maintained a health-focused recipe for the banana breads she was training women to bake. No sugar, no butter. The Women’s Bakery staff spent time closely analyzing Sister Neera’s recipe with her as to ensure that profits were possible, and being distributed sensibly to the women helping her bake. Furthermore, Sister Neera is determined to package, promote, and practice the model of The Women’s Bakery so that more women can learn and more can benefit. From the profits generated with the banana breads sold, Sister Neera is able to help provide salaries for the trained bakers and with any additional profits, invest further in the baking business.
As The Women’s Bakery team engaged in conversation and enjoyed bites of Sister Neera’s product, it was quickly determined that this kind of social business needs one thing for sure – that’s a champion. A bread champion.
We are beyond thrilled and excited about the ingenuity and commitment that Sister Neera’s work has produced. So much so, that the St. Francis Kemondo Women’s Bakery is an official branch and a direct off-shoot of The Women’s Bakery model. Come one, come all, Kemondo has nutritious banana breads on the market and we can be sure it’s only the beginning.
written by Heather M. Newell