It could be a scene from Macbeth. Two women hover over boiling cauldrons, stirring large lumps of curdling blood, impervious to the smoke swirling around them. But no, this is a chicken feed business, and boiling blood is the first step. Grace Galus Ulaya, with a manner that befits her first name, runs a small, rudimentary assembly line in her father’s backyard. There she produces dried blood, a nutritional ingredient in chicken feed.
Calmly and quietly she explains her process: She first buys the liquid in large barrels at a slaughterhouse in Dar es Salaam which supplies goat, cattle and sheep’s blood. Once she gets the barrels home to her father’s backyard, she pours the contents into a 4’ wide x 1’ long iron trough, set over a fire. She lets the blood boil until it starts to form hard lumps and the juices burn away. When there is no liquid left, she transfers the lumps to a plastic tarp on the ground where she allows them to dry. Once fully dry, she sifts the lumps through a metal mesh sheet to form a grainy mixture. She then measures the dried-blood grains by the kilo, pouring them into plastic sacks. Finally, she sells the sacks to other businessmen, up the chain of chicken feed production, to be combined with other ingredients – crushed bones, corn husks and sunflower seeds.
Lacking a sufficient supply of blood to produce her dehydrated grains, and without the means to purchase it on her own, Grace decided to borrow the funds she needed for her business. In June 2009, after being turned down by other banks due to lack of prior credit, Grace secured a loan from Accion microfinance partner Akiba Commercial Bank for 600,000 Tanzanian shillings (U.S. $448). The loan allowed her to increase her supply from 2 drums of blood a week to 5 and increase her earnings per kilo to 20 cents.
Grace started the business in 2005, as a way to supplement the income she made creating batik handicrafts. While it has succeeded in increasing her income, the business still comes with challenges. She often has difficulty negotiating fair prices for her product and her male buyers sometimes refuse to work with her because she is a woman. To offset the challenges and bring in more income, she runs a third business, also in her backyard, and this one boiling cow fat to make engine lubricant. The loan from Akiba has contributed to this process too.
Akiba Commercial Bank, a microfinance pioneer in Tanzania, is also helping Grace save money, by requiring that each of its clients have a savings account with them in conjunction with their loan. Accion has worked closely with Akiba since 2002. Currently, Accion staff work in the bank providing technical guidance on innovative and efficient ways to expand Akiba’s outreach to poor microentrepreneurs, like Grace.
While 33-year-old Grace still lives at home with her father, mother and older sister, Modesta, she dreams of saving enough money to own her own plot of land one day. And support from Akiba is a step in that long assembly line too.