Sunday, August 17, 2008

Time for Action - Karaba Update

Had a great first week. Working with Simeon Ngendahayo, Agronomist from SPREAD that has been a great help as liaison with cooperatives in the bike program, and Douglas Mutabazi parts and distribution contact for Project Rwanda - we started at Karaba, spending most of the day visiting with cooperative management, the bike shop/loan manager Safari, and included four coop farmers to provide their assessment of the bikes as owners.
General feedback brought us a great picture of what needs work and what is going very well as the Karaba bike shop reaches its
1 year anniversary in business!

Things are going very well. The mechanic that is dispatched for serious repairs works at a nearby village, making a trip in to the cooperative when needed. Safari is keeping separate accounts for parts and loan repayment, this seems to be the best scenario. Parts revenue is used to maintain parts inventory, and the loan repayment has been going well. In the past few months they have begun bike repossession on those loans that are in default. These bikes will be refurbished and sold at a discounted price.

Wear is showing that the rear wheels on these bikes are taking a beating. The weight being transported on the back rack is wearing down brake pads faster than perhaps anticipated. Farmers need to be aware that if pads are not replaced regularly, damage will occur to the rear rims and this will ultimately require replacement of the wheels.

This message is being distributed to farmers, and we are ramping up the availability of these replacement parts. The education and increased inventory proves to alleviate this issue.

Attended a preliminary planning meeting for a SPREAD sponsored Health Program that will be rolling out in coming months. I am interested to see if BTR can't be involved somehow. More to come.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Planning Day

Working with SPREAD staff today to line-up details for this weeks activities. I'll be spending a good amount of time collecting data from all the cooperatives that we have pledged to and have already worked with. Starting tomorrow with Karaba. Our introduction into the bike program, it will be great to assess the progress/issues with not only the bikes themselves, but the bike shop at its one year anniversary.

I will be combining the data collected with that of SPREAD and putting together a detailed assessment of the program when I return. Looking forward to having this litmus test more formally available for our contributors, partners and anyone interested in our project.

The weather is mild, overcast with a slight breeze. I hope for some sun this afternoon.

*market in Butare.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday in Butare

Arrived Friday evening into Butare. After nearly 42 hours of travel, happy to be in one place.
Awoke this morning to a warm breeze, the Rwandan haze in the sky that I have a hard time describing. Spent a nice quiet morning getting settled in and unpacked. The Schillings are my hosts, Butare will be home base.

We went into town to look for some clothes and shoes. The market is an adventure. I really enjoy the saturation that is present for all five senses. The thick smells of dirt, soap, baby powder and many bodies in the sun. As we walk through, it isn't uncommon to have a mysterious hand stroke your hair, hand, clothing. I didn't find this at all intrusive, just curious. When I am here I often try to remember how well my expectations of a small African city held up to what is really here.

Setting down with the calendar to map out the next two weeks, the route, priorities.
Looking forward to some great productivity.
As with last trip, having difficulty uploading pictures. Working on a solution.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Dogs love BTR!!

Meet Midori, 12 year old super model. Looks like she approves of these cedar stuffed dog beds.

A new partnership from SoCal. Green Beds - creates dog beds out of burlap green coffee bags. I was contacted by these lovely folks who are looking to donate a portion of their proceeds to BTR with the sale of each of these one of a kind bags. Thanks Jenavieve, looking forward to this partnership.
Check out their site... inexpensive and totally rad!