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February 28, 2012


by Erin Wilkinson Hartung

Shellcraft Jewelry Production

On Saturday, February 25 – I joined my colleague Dr. Narriman Jiddawi along with several grad students from the Institute of Marine Sciences on a tour to visit several NGO sponsored small business project sites. Most of these micro-enterprises focus on Mariculture: pearl farming, mother-of-pearl jewelry production, seaweed farming, milkfish farming, dolphin tourism and more. A good portion of this blog will be dedicated to assisting these small business owners in developing markets.

According to the news, there was a gas dispute between Eco-Tec (Zanzibar) Ltd. fuel supplier and the Zanzibar government. Local Zanzibar residents speculated the Tanzanian government forgot to add Zanzibar to the distribution list when adopting new gas supplier Gapco (Zanzibar) Ltd. for the country at large. What should have been a mundane 1-hour return from the villages that Saturday turned into a 2 ½ hour adventure.

Why? We almost ran out of gas in the middle of a two week gas crisis in Zanzibar.

Either way our taxi driver ended up with dirty gas. The less credible gas stations were mixing water and other liquids in what they sold to extend the supply. This means every 4 miles or at any mild incline the taxi would stall. We would wait several minutes before the vehicle could start again. Along the route we passed several gas stations that either had cars lined up around the block or attendants sitting in lawn chairs with posted no gas signs.

At one point we blocked traffic and the police pulled us over claiming our driver was drunk. After much pleading, we were sent on our way only to conk out again in front of the police wagon. As we got closer to town, it got worse. In fact we were dropping off grad students at a rolling stop in order not to stall. We begged people in neighborhoods to push us out of intersections. It was evident we would not make it back the last few miles. This was an issue because the buses did not have fuel either. Finally, we did what we pledged we would not. We purchased a gallon of fuel from a guy selling it for 5 times the regular price on the side of the road. He was a true entrepreneur; at the right place at the right time. And so my first lesson in Zanzibar, was never to take the simple things for granted.

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