The women of the Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association (BUWEA) in Bukoba, Tanzania operated a 50 acre soy farm. They employ their own women to plant, weed, and harvest soy and other side crops to take advantage of the two growing seasons, and to maximize productivity during rainy seasons and during droughts.
The soya beans are hulled, dried, and stored at a soy factory constructed by BUWEA in town. They are then manufactured into a dried soy flour and soy milk. In an area where dairy cattle are scarce, soy milk and the porridge one can make with the soy flour offer an excellent alternative source of nutrition.
BUWEA has a store front where these goods are sold. They also rely on the ferry to take product to Mwanza, Tanzania, for selling there. This is an ongoing challenge, because the ferry can break down and be inoperable for months.
In the long run, profits from the soy group income project will feed the revolving loan program, to capitalize more small loans for individual income projects. In the short term, the goal is to stay operational while addressing external challenges.
A study commissioned by Womens Global Connections determined a causal effect from adding soy flour/porridge to school children’s diets and normalization of their physical growth and development, as evidenced by improved head-to-body ratio measurements.
The women of BUWEA hire their members to plant, weed, and harvest 20 of the 50 acres with soy bean plants.
There are two planting seasons each year. One is conducive to the growth cycle for soy beans. The other is conducive to growing millet, and this has become a supplementary crop for BUWEA.
Tanzania is a country roughly twice the size of California. The nation’s average life expectancy is 61 years; median age is 17.5 (about half the population are younger than 18 years). Bukoba suffered an invasion from Idi Amin of Uganda in the 1970s but successfully repelled the invasion; however both corners of Uganda and this area of Tanzania suffered the effects to their infrastructure from this war. Bukoba town overlooks the coast of Lake Victoria. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, dotted with large granite formations created from ancient volcanic activity.
Regina Majaliwa was born in Bukoba, Tanzania. After college, Regina returned to Bukoba and was posted to a village girls secondary school to teach. She married, and moved according to her husband’s government assignments. The two of them traveled all over Tanzania. In 1994, she was forced to retire due to her increasing blindness, and she began keeping and selling and the eggs. She then began raising cows, selling the milk, and calves as they came along. She joined a women’s group which met every Saturday, saying prayers and chatting. The talk among the women came around to, “Prayer is powerful, but what can we do for ourselves? Let us contribute to one member.” And in this way, the “Mary-Go-Round” came into being. Next, we began to discuss, “Let us see if we can help other women.” Women who join BUWEA have access to workshops and education. The women started the Revolving Loan fund. This grew slowly but surely. We think of the future. There are young women here—we need to challenge and engage them. We started a soy farm. Soy processing started with Womens Global Connections. Now we have discovered how to mix soya with local foods. We have learned processing tips through experience. Now BUWEA has a soya income generating activity! The Revolving Loan Fund money stays with the Revolving Fund. The soya income goes into the Revolving Fund.