An important part of our trips is visiting the women who use our machines to process cassava to make gari to sell to their local communities. We currently have 30 machines (graters and presses combined) out in the field, which requires a lot of upkeep as we continually learn more and change our product designs. It is important for us to understand the condition the machines are in so that we can iterate future designs based on what we learn on both the condition of the machines and how the users interact with them. We also want to continue to build our relationships with our operators, especially those who have been with us for many years and have taught us a lot about our venture and products.
Meeting with old friends
We visited three different villages near Konongo: PKK, Adukrom, and Domeabra. Though plans changed and our original schedule went out the window, we completed our main objectives of the trip: repair and upgrade machines, understand the status of our many stakeholders, co-design and get feedback, and deliver funds.
In all, we repaired and upgraded 11 machines. Although we thought we knew what kinds of repairs to expect, what we actually saw in the field was a bit unexpected. We faced some challenges working with the equipment and parts we brought making sure that we would be able to repair all of the machines we could so that no one would be left with an unusable machine. We were able to fix a few machines prevent others from wearing down in the future.
Stick welding on the press to strengthen its feet and keep it from wobbling
Replacing and upgrading bearings on a grater
Follow up with our users is very important to us to make sure that we are making a positive impact and to better understand our user group when we want to implement new procedures, products, or other materials. To do this, we met with our stakeholders to interview them about their experiences with the machines and their businesses, get feedback on logo ideas, discuss warranties, and co-design training manuals. It was very valuable to get their feedback and see them interact with the material we provided. For example, one woman could not easily see the training material. If bad eyesight is common, it is likely that other women we sell machines to will have difficulties seeing the training materials as well. This is just one example of the many insights we gained while meeting with the operators.
Discussing training materials
The team after a long day
Our last goal of the trip was to visit three women and deliver great news. Because of our work this past semester with Womentum, a crowd funding site for women entrepreneurs in developing countries, we were able to deliver the money to the women who received funding. Each of the women received money towards their cassava processing businesses.
Women who received money through Womentum for their cassava businesses
Although it was a lot of work squeezed into two days, seeing the smiles on the operators’ faces when we fixed what was broken and hearing things like “the gari from this machine is perfect” made me really understand how meaningful our work is to the women, their families, and their communities.
I will leave you with a picture of a goat riding on top of a van travelling about 40mph in heavy traffic.