I went on a weekend safari with colleague Professor Michelle Morin from Johnson & Wales University who was visiting me from Providence, Rhode Island. We started with a short aircraft flight to Saadani National Park with what we thought would be a regular airline flight instead of a 4-hour car ride on a bumpy road.
The mini plane had a 20 year-old pilot the same age as our students. He was confident, professional and courteous but imagine a go-cart with lawn mower engine and wings landing on a dirt runway with simple overhang for a waiting area. The Saadani Safari Lodge coordinates with the airline to make sure passengers are picked up in a timely fashion so as not to be stranded in the game park. This eco-friendly hotel offers coastal village tours and uses locally made soap products. The proceeds go directly to the village communities. This hotel might be a fit to work with our coastal entrepreneurs to sell their products.
Speaking of stranded, Michelle and I went on a river safari and game drive (twice) because the first time the safari jeep broke down at dusk in the game park. We felt a little like the featured special of the day on the menu but this was all part of the adventure. We saw crocodiles and hippos in the water plus baboons, elephants, and the occasional giraffe on the drive. Saadani National Park is unique because it is the only wildlife preserve in Tanzania to border the sea and there are coastal entrepreneurs we work with around the park. Let me introduce you to one.
Rukia Sefu sells cattle at auction, makes fresh bread, farms vegetables with her family and has businesses tied to park tourism. Since taking entrepreneurship workshops and getting financing from our local NGO group the Tanzanian Coastal Management Partnership (TCMP), Rukia regularly qualifies for loans from the village SACCOS to start new ventures and she makes money. She is a problem solver, risk taker and is independent.
Originally Rukia and 9 other women in the bakers’ guild received a commercial oven from TCMP. The group could not agree on where to keep the oven. Some of the women didn’t really participate in full time baking but still wanted partial ownership. Rukia convinced the women to keep the oven in her home because she did the most commercial baking. She suggested the guild charge an hourly rental fee including payments from her. This means guild members not participating in regular baking received some income.
More recently, Rukia started buying cattle from the interior of Tanzania and selling them at auction on the coast for profit. She reviews local cattle market demand before each transaction. She is good at what she does. TCMP has hired her to teach business workshops and family planning to area villages. She is a role-model for women’s empowerment.