Saturday, May 21, 2016

Ghana Food Processing---Our last days in Ghana!

May 21, 2016
This last week of work was challenged by the two significant power outages on Tuesday and Wednesday---the last and most critical days at the shop. Not having electricity not only meant that we couldn’t use our power tools, but after our computer, phone, and electronic batteries died, we were left without our personal tools as well.

The next two days involved visiting our stakeholders, traveling between cities, and finally being tourists in Ghana. Because of this, after my computer died Wednesday, I wasn’t able to revive it until just now.

On Thursday we woke up bright and early since we had to visit three stakeholders in three separate towns before noon. Our visits had to operate with "military precision" because we needed to make it to the Road to 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Accra by 3pm. The drive to Accra takes around three hours, so we needed to be efficient during our visits if we wanted to make it on time to the summit. Our goal for the three stakeholder visits was to walk through the safety features of the graters to the two women receiving their machines, and then talk about finances to the third stakeholder who would be receiving her machine next week.

Abigail and her new machines (press and grater)

Hawa and her two machines
Talking finances with Dora

Once we arrived in Accra, we went straight to the summit. After the summit we went to a nearby restaurant for dinner; after eating traditional Ghanaian food for two weeks, we were ready for stir-fried vegetables and guac! We called it a night once we arrived to the place where we would be staying for the next two nights. Tomorrow we would wake up bright and early to Cape Coast to see the castles where many slaves were imprisoned before being shipped to the Americas during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Friday morning we arrived at the Cape Coast castle at 9am and toured the grounds for two hours with a tour guide. We saw the male and female dungeons where Ghanaians were kept for up to 3 months before being filed onto a ship. This castle operated from 1665 to 1833 and housed millions of Ghanaians. This trip was really historically significant to us and we are glad we made time for it because it’s one thing to read about the Transatlantic Slave Trade in history class, and then another experience entirely to actually walk and see the dungeons. 

On the drive back home, we saw quite the scene: a large snake being carried by several men! We had to stop and take a picture.

Cape Coast

The "Door of No Return"
Boa constrictor!

Today, Saturday, we finally slept in for the first time in two weeks! But our bodies are so used to waking up before 6 am that most of us woke up without an alarm before 7am. Since then we’ve leisurely had breakfast and packed our bags. We catch a flight to the States tonight and arrive Sunday. This has been an amazing trip that none of us will ever forget—and hopefully some of us will be back sometime in the near future!

The most valuable experience for many of us has been to meet the women whom we design and build machines our for. To finally have met them makes it so that we have a better understanding of our product direction, as well as to have the motivation to work until we produce the machines that will create the biggest social impact. We are going back to the States with so much clarity and drive to continue fine-tuning our machines during our pilot program. We all look forward to scaling up and making this venture into a self-sustaining company in the next years.

Ghana Food Processing---Today’s the day to push!

May 17, 2016

Today is Bench’s last day of work before he starts his journey back to the States tomorrow, so today is the day to accomplish the maximum work possible. The team has talked about finding a balance between focusing our last days on producing machines or on teaching others to build machines. We decided that the old proverb stands true for us today: give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. The balance we found for our project is to build machines and have the workers at ITTU build them with us. By the end of the day, we hope to collectively finish last week’s two Graters, plus an additional new Grater.

Yesterday the Tech Subteam discovered that ITTU has the very machines we depend on to build our Graters. We have been hiring out tasks to other businesses that have those machines; now that we know that we have the ability to do these tasks, we can internalize most of the production process. This is GREAT news!


After I wrote the above comments, the electricity cut out and did not return until 5pm. This absolutely changed our plans for the day since we rely heavily on power tools to build our machines. This is also the reason why the blog posts are late.

As soon as the power went out, we reformed and began working on anything that did not require electricity. We aligned and prepped machines so that as soon as the power returned, we would have everything ready to cut, weld, and assemble. The day actually resulted in being incredibly productive since we accomplished enough work to have 5 Graters completed as soon as we had our power tools. We were able to accomplish so much because the workers at ITTU all became involved in the process. This means that we accomplished both our goals with a perfect balance: we built machines and transferred knowledge!

We called it a night early with the intent of coming to the shop earlier than normal tomorrow and finish the machines with our power tools. What an oddly productive day!

May 18, 2016

This morning we left Bench at the airport---half of our Tech Subteam is now gone! We will miss everything that he contributed to this team: knowledge, hard work, kindness, and friendship. We look forward to seeing him as soon as possible!

Bench's Goodbye Hug!

When we arrived to the shop early this morning, we IMMEDIATELY got to work since we had no idea for how long we would have power. We were in the middle of welding the machines when the power cut out in the late morning. This time, we had nothing left to prepare while waiting for the electricity to come back, so we bought a generator and brought it to the shop. Unfortunately, the generator didn’t work! Just as we were trying to problem solve the generator, the power came back! We all very clearly understood that we needed to work as efficiently as possible to finish the machines on this last day. We worked well past normal work hours and by the end of the day, we had two finished graters ready to sell and three graters in their last phases of assembly. We will take the two finished graters to the villages tomorrow and sell them to the two women on the top of our list. We will also visit the women who are scheduled to receive their machines in the coming weeks.

Figuring out what to do without power

Trying to fix the generator

We worked into the night to finish our machines

By the time we got back to our Guest House, we were all exhausted! We still needed to pack our personal bags since this is our last night in Kumasi. Tomorrow we head out to sell our machines and then continue onward to Accra where we will stay until we head back to the States on Saturday.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ghana Food Processing—Weekend Trip to Visit our Stakeholders

This weekend we went to visit our stakeholders, seven women total, who live in four different towns about an hour and a half from Kumasi. Our goal for this trip was to take these women the two Graters and three Presses that we built last week. Because we did not feel that the Graters were completely finished, we decided not to sell the Graters to the women on this trip, but instead demonstrated them and then brought them back with us to ITTU to fine tune until our next trip on Thursday.

Saturday, May 14th 2016

When we came back to home base on Friday we continued working on the machines until 2 am. At that point, the Tech Subteam and Ben decided to call it a night and to take our machines in their current, almost-finished state to our stakeholders. We would not be selling the machines now, but just demonstrating them. When we return to the towns on Thursday, we will take the completed machines to the women.

Our first visit on Saturday was to see Hawa and Abigail in Adumkrom. We took a new Press to Hawa and demonstrated the new Grater to Abigail.

Hawa using her new press

Abigail looking at her new grater

After showing the new Press to Hawa and having her use it, she said that she likes this design most since it is not tedious and is easy to use---just what we like to hear! When we demonstrated the new Grater to Abigail, she gave us the feedback that she would like the grater to also grate different vegetables—this is something common we hear: the woman want the machine to do more, and more, and more. We take this as a compliment since it means that the machine grates so well that the women would like to use it for as many things as possible.

Our next stop was Akosua in Pekyerekye (PKK). She already has a Grater (a previous prototype with a slightly different design), but we are giving her a new Grater for 5 months as a trial run.

Luke performing a demo of the new grater for Akosua

Peeling cassava

We spoke with Akosua, her husband, and brothers about finances and machine features for a while before heading out. She was upset that we weren’t leaving the Grater with her, but we assured her that we were coming back Thursday with the finished machine. Although many men like to become involved in the process, we have to keep everyone focused that our project is focused on women for a women-led market. Although the men have many ideas and become very passionate about what else the machine could do, we always bring the conversation back to the woman and ask her what she thinks and wants.

Akosua, her husband (far left), and brothers

Right before leaving Akosua’s, I snapped this picture of Bench and just had to share it.

Bench the Gentle Giant

Just these two visits filled up all of Saturday! After visiting our stakeholders we went to our guesthouse to set up camp and have dinner. We helped grind “agushie” and also ate many mangos!

Luke grinding agushie

Eating mangos before dinner

After dinner we called it an early night (at 9pm!) so that we could have an early start (6pm) the next day.

Sunday, May 15th 2016

We started our Sunday at Akosua’s to continue our visit. When we arrived she was frying the gari. Our visit was brief, but we were able to meet a new Stakeholder, Dora Ali, who is interested in both a Grater and a Press. We will be building these machines in the next weeks. When we left, Akosua gave Ben a huge handshake--she was really happy with her new machine!

Akosua frying cassava

Selfie after saying good-bye


Next we went to see Rebecca in Akutuase. We wanted to check-in on the new Press that she received last week. As soon as we arrived we saw one of the biggest bags being pressed with her new machine—she is definitely using it to its potential! Rebecca told us that she has been able to process more cassava since receiving the machines, which has given her more a higher income as well as more time. She is also happy that the machines make it so that she doesn’t have to ask anyone for help as she processes. She even said that she completely abandoned her previous methods of processing cassava by hand!

Rebecca and her new press

Our last stop was at Flaustina’s house in Wioso. Flaustina has ordered both machines and has gone through the bank to acquire a loan to pay for her machines. When we arrived, they were very happy to finally have us there. While we showed her how to use both the Grater and the Press, more and more people from the town became interested in what was happening, and before we knew it, there were more than 70 people surrounding us. It was quite the experience!

Flaustina grating cassava with her new machine 

She's already taking great care of her machines! 

We suddenly had an audience!

These children followed us to the van so we asked them to pose for a picture

After leaving Flaustina’s, we had dinner and drove back to Kumasi. We learned a lot from this trip and have every motivation to work hard this coming week to make as many machines as possible for these women. The women we met are driven, clever, hard working, and grateful for this opportunity to increase their productivity. What inspirational women!