Cooking up a concept for fairer food logistics

Dar es Salaam, 2022-10-28. Anyone who travels in Tanzania knows a “Mama Ntilie”. It’s the local name for the women who produce cheap meals for the workforce. They cook on the streets, outside industrial and port facilities or at construction sites. Due to a lack of cash and storage facilities, they often have to buy food daily from retailers at very high prices. Fatuma from Kigamboni is a Mama Ntilie who depends on these expensive suppliers. She can’t buy in bulk. 

Fatuma is a low-income earner at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ (BOP). She and countless others in the large urban centres form by far the largest market for agricultural products in Tanzania. So: What if the food supply from rural areas could run through a separate network of outlets specializing in city BOP clients?

Bahat Tweve has devoted a lot of time to tackling this challenge. He and his trading company Tanzania Biashara Mapema (TBM) have been farip partners for years. So far, however, a practical problem has got in the way. “The inability to secure reliable and regular transport over huge distances between producers and outlets has hindered our success”, Bahat explains. Fatuma works in Dar es Salaam, 800km away from some of the farmers who grow what she and the other Mamas cook. Everybody in that long value chain would benefit from fair and transparent trade.

TBM recently designed a solution. The aim is to set up small warehouses along the route of the Scheduled Cargo Service SCS, which is co-funded by farip. The truck can stop briefly and unload ordered goods. Customers like Fatuma could store their supplies there and pick them up according to their daily cooking needs. Such outlets could develop into a form of small logistics centre for many BOP clients. SCS would help ensure reliable and regular deliveries.

To test such a BOP-outlet concept, farip and TBM are negotiating a grant for three pilot sites. Two would be in Dar and along the route to Makambako. The third is planned for Ruaha Mbuyuni, an important regional trading town in the southern highlands. Ruaha Mbuyuni lies on the main road between Iringa and Morogoro; dirt roads stretch out to villages growing irrigated onions and tomatoes. Mbuyu (baobab trees) grow in the forests. Bahat plans to launch the third BOP-outlet there once those in Dar es Salaam and Makambako are up and running. 

The BOP-outlet aims to provide assured quality, reliable delivery and safe and hygienic storage. If all goes well, Fatuma and her fellow Mamas should be very happy cooks. And their customers will benefit as well.