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Transforming Tea Trade with Taste and Impact in Tanzania

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By Kizito Makoye

DAR ES SALAAM (IDN) – Nothing quite compares the taste of Ginger Mint Fusion tea whose aromatic steam mistily wafts off when served in a cup. As any customer at Salt restaurant in Dar es Salaam will attest, the tasty beverage is probably the best money can buy.

Perched at the posh Oyster Bay neighbourhood with lush vegetation – the restaurant, which boasts a tacky décor and grandiose French Style architecture – is a magnet for tea-lovers. (P25) FRENCH | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | SPANISH

Whether you take it with milk, sugar, lemon or just plain, ginger tea, which is spiced with exquisite flavours, is irresistibly tasty.

From the swankiest of the city’s hotels to Shoppers Plaza to Village Supermarket, the murky drink, whose flavour is intimately affected by how tea is grown and processed, is increasingly entrenched in people’s way of life.

Stuck in a faint sense of mystery, customers are often taken by surprise – not knowing what flavour to expect when sipping one of the finest tea brands produced by truly Tanzanian tea blenders.

Kazi Yetu –’Our work’ in Swahili – is a start-up firm working to create jobs and economic opportunities for women in the yawning agricultural value chain, through value addition of locally produced tea products.

The firm is responsible for processing, blending, packaging and exporting fairly traded tea products to and benefit the Tanzanian economy.

While most agricultural products from Africa are often processed, branded and packaged abroad, the countries of origin, including Tanzania do not always enjoy economies of scale.

The 32-year-old entrepreneur, Tahira Nizari and her business partner and husband, Hendrik Buermann, are defying the odds to challenge the status quo.

Armed with impeccable academic credentials coupled with vast business experience – working for development organisations dealing with economic inclusion in the non-profit development sector in East Africa and South Asia, Nizari had in 2018 launched an organisation with an ambitious vision and hustle to tap the economic potential in agri-business through value addition.

Kazi Yetu’s factory in Dar es Salaam, which employs an all-women team to produce what Nizari terms as “traceable products” is a beehive of activities.

Distinctively intelligent and hard-working, Nizari has delved in market research, locally and internationally, to identify opportunities and build relations with a network of Tanzanian farmers, supplying produce for seven blends of the company’s flagship Tanzania Tea Collection spiced up with local flavours.

With her razor-sharp mind, Nizari sees many opportunities in agriculture that many of her Tanzanian peers don’t see.

“Some young Tanzanians may not be excited to venture in agriculture, we are creating new opportunities along the agriculture value chain that are profitable,” she said.

With her refined interpersonal skills and unfettered social interactions with local partners both public and private sectors, Nizari strives to create more income-generating opportunities to lift women from the quagmires of poverty.

As a social enterprise, Kazi Yetu partners with nascent agri-businesses to increase value addition through packaging, branding and marketing thus creating opportunities and links with international markets.

From her humble beginning, Nazari and her husband, whose development work is changing the lives and increasing incomes for smallholder farmers and women entrepreneurs, have a clear vision for the future.

“We wanted to establish a social enterprise that would propel investment and growth in a sustainable way” Nizari told IDN.

To quench the insatiable quest of consumers, Kazi Yetu makes various types of ethically-sourced teas blended with herbs from farms across Tanzania.

“Consumers worldwide want to know the origin of the products and how it impacts the people in the supply chain,” she said.

According to her, the outbreak of the coronavirus early this year had affected the company, its logistics, customers and facilities – almost bringing it to the brink of financial ruins, since most tourists cancelled their travel plans to the country in most of 2020. 

“We had to temporarily close our factory early in April, and ask our employees to stay safe at home,” Nizari said

Exporting tea by sea and air was a bit challenging logistically since most governments imposed travel restrictions and lockdown policies, she said.

Despite wobbling in financial doldrums and logistical nightmares, Kazi Yetu got back to its feet – resuming most of its operations.

The company is currently running an online store from Germany – primarily targeting a key European market. Nizari is upbeat to tap the potential of online customers, who according to her are quite receptive.

“We are excited to reach customers in Europe and are expanding to North America and the Middle East,” she said.

Through its mini-company in Germany, Kazi Yetu collaborates with like-minded social enterprises to increase value addition and reach African market.

In order to identify and meet the growing needs of her business partners and suppliers, the company trains its associate to stick to organic principles.

“We work with farmers to determine their specific needs and help grow their businesses,” she said.

The company has, for instance, helped a smallholder farmer in the northern Kilimanjaro region, who needed a solar drier for drying edible herbs.

“We have invested in the construction of the solar dryer, and she pays back the dues in instalments,” Nizari said.

The firm, whose factory in Dar es Salaam has facilities for storage, production and packaging, employs a dozen of all women employees.

“We plan to invest in a tea packaging machine, to increase our uptake from farmers and create more jobs for women,” Nizari said adding, the factory is hoping to employ 65 women by 2022 and increase the number of source farmers to 7,500.

The firm is targeting tea drinkers seeking fairly produced, organic and natural products.

“We aim to supply organic supermarkets and shops that promote such products,” she said

Born in Canada, growing up in Dubai, Nizari owes her success to her humble family roots, which are deeply entrenched in Tanzania. Her mother grew up in Moshi on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

“My grandfather had a farm and a shop in the town centre… I always knew I wanted to come back here where my roots are,” said Tahira whose husband delves in myriad agri-development projects in East and West Africa.

Nizari, who doesn’t have any children yet, loves walking her adopted street dog nicknamed Pilipili on the Indian Ocean beach. [IDN-InDepthNews – 08 December 2020]

Photo: Women assembling tea. Credit: Kizito Makoye.





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