Benedetha with her SoLite
Over the past week we had a chance to get to know our customers a bit better, including learning about what they do for a living. Their occupations have turned out to be very interesting…and sometimes possibly a little lost in translation. For example, the three of us spent quite a few conversations speculating what type of meat was always drying in the sun at the home of the stunning Benedetha. It turns out that her family harvests the swim bladders of fish from Lake Victoria and sells them by the kilo to whole-sellers, who apparently use the material for plastics in plates, cups and electronic equipment? It was amazing to watch Benedetha and the eldest of her eight children very efficiently sorting, cutting and laying out the bladders. The mystery of the meat is solved, but we’re still a little unsure how the rest of the process works!
Crispianos, the brick-maker
We learned that another customer, Shadrack, specializes in selling religious books in Kenya and Uganda. Apparently there are some special types of religious texts (a Roman Catholic hymn book was an example we were given) that are produced only in Tanzania, but are used throughout East Africa. When Shadrack determines that there is sufficient demand for the books to merit a trip, he takes them by bus to his clients. This religious-focused occupation seemed very fitting given that we had learned his name (spelled Shadrach) originates in an Old Testament proverb about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were known for their exclusive devotion to God (thanks to linguist extraordinaire Dr. Jessica Rett for this vignette).
Three other customers that we spoke with had slightly more conventional occupations. The photogenic Stefano (pictured in the previous post) is a farmer, and rotates through many different crops including maize, rice, watermelon, carrots, tomatoes and Chinese cabbage. He sells primarily to wholesalers, who come directly to his land to pick their purchases. According to him, rice is “the kicker” (as our translator Justin put it) in terms of profitability, and is currently in season. Crispianos molds concrete into bricks for new homes in Mwikoko and surrounding villages. He says the use of large concrete blocks has increased a lot during the last 3-4 years because they are much more “efficient” than earthenware blocks, which require many more rows to reach the same height. Finally, the lovely Lucia owns a small video shop along the main road in Mwikoko that she lights with the SoLite every night between 7-9 pm. We visited her one evening to see the light in use!
Lucia’s shop lit by the SoLite
Although their income sources are diverse, for all these customers (besides perhaps Lucia) the influx of money is somewhat inconsistent and difficult to predict, depending on current demand for their particular product or service. This may be the reason they are attracted to our pay-as-you-go pricing, which lets them to pay for energy over time in the quantity of their choice. This pricing system fits their cash flow and is therefore affordable, rather than requiring a large, possibly prohibitive, upfront payment.
We’re looking forward to continuing to learn more about the lives of our customers in the coming week!