I had started the year looking at air-to-water harvesting using fog nets and dew condensers. However, my direction changed a few days before we left Tanzania due to a few factors:

1. Through my observations and tests, I found that dew condensers could not obtain low enough temperatures needed to yield water, and fog nets required very specific environmental conditions in order to effectively produce enough water. Finding those specific conditions required moving the fog net around Mount Longido to test different sites, and would cost time and money. 

2. The nets in Longido needed to be placed on the mountain because dense fog covered it from May to November. However, I felt it was too far removed from the end user and prevented them from being exposed to the technology. What the villagers would see would just be the increase in water flow. It was a passive approach, which I felt neither empowered or inspired social change. 

3. The distance also meant that extra piping would be needed to direct the collected water to the reservoirs, greatly increasing the overall cost for the fog net. This meant that the villagers would not be able to fund the project themselves and would need to rely on external help via sponsors and N.G.O's, which would perpetuate Longido's donor dependency. 

4. One thing FogQuest emphasized was the social aspect of the project. They stressed that if the village did not feel they were involved in their entire process of setting up and maintaining the fog net, it would not have longevity and would quickly become forgotten. I felt that having the fog nets so far away from the village would prevent personal investment and attachment to the project.

All of these factors compounded my uneasiness for continuing on with fog nets. Thus, when Trevor Smith approached me with a concept for creating an ecommerce platform for the Maasai women to sell their jewellery, I was immediately intrigued. Selling jewellery is one of the main means for the women to earn money and this project would look to support them in gaining economic empowerment and financial literacy. I am an advocate for bottom-up design and was enthusiastic to create something for each individual woman to build and command for themselves. 

Now, my project consists of:

- creating an app for the Maasai women to upload pictures of their jewellery to sell over the Internet
- creating a toolkit that would allow the women to experiment and create jewellery
- creating an online store that would appeal to the Western world
- creating branding and packaging for the company to ship jewellery to consumers

The vision of the company:

Five years from now (company name) will be offering traditional, fashionable Masaai jewelry to developed markets through our cutting edge platform while ensuring that all of the profits are diverted to the female artisans of the Longido District, Tanzania. The platform will also act as an incubator for future entrepreneurial endeavors put forth by the sellers in order to continue to further the quality of life in the region.

The mission of the company:

To create economic opportunities for the women artisans of the Longido District, Tanzania by creating a meaningful marketplace between them and the Canadian consumer.
My business partner, Trevor Smith, created a survey to test the demand for an app that would connect the Maasai women of Longido to Canadian consumers, the influence of social responsibility on purchase decisions, and the general appeal of Maasai jewellery.


I had posed some questions to Virginia regarding the Maasai women's jewellery making process, smartphone usage in Longido, and app design. Her answers were extremely helpful and promising:

January 17, 2015

  • If there is one smartphone, would wives from the same family share the phone exclusively amongst themselves, or would sharing occur between any group of women living in proximity to one another?
Yes, there would be one leader who would take care of the phone and use it for the business.

  • How many Maasai women make jewellery?
MANY - this is a traditional art form and so all women know how to make beads. There are, of course, some women who also focus on firewood and charcoal.

  • What is the cost of materials?
I would need to know how you want this priced. Bulk? Individual? Wholesale?

  • Where do they get their materials from?
Arusha mostly. You can buy simple string of beads at the Longido Maasai market,

  • How do they currently sell their jewellery?
Mostly to tourists who to the various villages. There is some outreach to stores in Arusha. For example, one group has made arrangements to sell the beads at a small store near thenShoortie Plaza. Some organizations also have small stores on site where the women sell their beads. You may want to check out MWEDO, an organization that we network with in Arusha.

  • How often do they make a sale?
Again, it depends on who you talk to. The women in Longido have a hard time selling as the depend on the tourists who only come in peak periods.

  • How much do they make in one day?

  • How much of their income comes from jewellery selling?
For the women of Longido, very little. They rely more on firewood and charcoal as they can sell this to the local market.

  • Is there a demand for this jewellery with the general public or is it mainly popular among people who want to provide social benefit?
    • What makes Tanzanian jewellery desirable?
Most of the jewelry that you would be including would be purchased by those who want to a) provide social benefit b) purchase something very unique - dependent on the design.

  • How many Maasai women are illiterate?
    • Do they understand the Western numeral system well enough to input prices? (i.e. 0123456789)
Vast majority, but they do recognize the number system as they use phones to call people.

  • How many Maasai women own phones?
Majority - they may not always have credit on three phone but they do have a phine

  • What is the most common smartphone on the market right now? (brand and version: ex. iPhone 4)
    • What’s the best? Price?
    • What’s the cheapest? Price?
Techno - approx. 450-500,000 TSH.

  • Would the women be interested in selling their goods online?
Yes. The women I spoke to all expressed an interest in learning more. They were intrigued and felt that there was potential,

  • Would the women be interested in learning a new app?
Yes- but training is required:-)
  • How do they choose the designs for their jewellery?
    • Are they exposed to new designs or are they largely influenced by what their neighbour makes (reproductions of the same design)?
I had a good conversation with one woman who knew quite a bit about design, albeit it still a more local design approach. There is one Maasai company that sells very sophisticated designs created by an Italian originally - check it out. (Tanzanian

  • Is there anything they do not wish to change with their jewellery (i.e. aesthetics, materials)
Costs would be an issue - anything too expensive would be rejected,

  • Would the women be interested in changing their designs?
Yes, they seem quite open to trying but training is essential.
  • How do they make their jewellery? (i.e. techniques)
Basically using wire and thread and wrapping to create designs.

  • How long does it take to make a bracelet, necklace, ring? (Please send a picture of the item with the time; to be used as a baseline)
I will send some pictures, but it takes about 2 days to make a braided bracelet and a week to make a complicated necklace. Of course, it all depends on availability of time.

  • What tools do the mamas use to make their jewellery?
Small pliers, wire, glass beads, clasps, hooks.
  • How would they feel about changing the quality of their jewellery (i.e. clasps)?
    • Would they see the benefit in it?
Yes, I think if they know they will get sales, they will try.

  • If someone wanted customized jewellery, would they be willing to make it?
Possibly. Depends on how complicated it is as they may not be able to deliver a quality product without some time to develop their talent.

  • How would they feel about taking used Western jewellery and re-inventing it to incorporate some Maasai aesthetics?
    • Would this level of creative ingenuity be too taxing?
    • Would they prefer to have an app that shows them what a customer desires and make it for them or would they like to have creative freedom?
The women are most familiar with their own designs and would probably need to start with typical items - stars, bracelets, simple necklace, etc. While they may like to try new designs, it may take some time but like all art, it depends on the person.

  • What are the obstacles with jewellery making?
QUALITY - this is by far the biggest obstacle but it can be overcome as demonstrated in some successful enterprises.

  • What is the Postal Code in Longido?
  • Would TEMBO be willing/able to transfer the women the money obtained from online jewellery purchases?
I think it would be important for the women to have their own account and to learn financial literacy. This goes a long way to helping them become financially independent. TEMBO would consider supporting this aspect in terms of training. Possibly SIDO as well,
  • Would TEMBO be willing to provide simple education points, such as: how to use the app, how to take a nice picture, how to improve the quality of the jewellery (standardizing the construction), and how to package the jewellery for shipment?

  • Would TEMBO be interested in taking this over and using it in conjunction with their micro financing programs?
Possibly, yes.

  • What would TEMBO need for this to work?
The major issue is staff resources. I think we would need to have some dedicated support such as an intern from an organization that might support business students, etc.

January 27, 2015 (Re: tester user flow)

Generally speaking, all interviews found the symbols to be quite easy to read. One woman indicated that her group has had some basic literacy training and so they could read the words Jambo, etc.

They could all the symbols like +, ?, camera, check and x

They do not have a back arrow on their phones,. They have the word back and they do know the word back (or at least the location of the back button on their phones)

One of three women felt that the faces represented different women. The other two made guesses that they were people, but with training they might understand.

All three can enter M-pesa account.

All three know the password symbol but only because they have seen someone use it on a smart phone. They do not know how to use it.

All the women use their phone to take pictures of the people. They did not really understand the idea of a stacked photo but they made good guesses.

One woman indicated that they might ask others for help. They have done this before when people wanted to see their items.

No one could identify the grey areas.

No one could understand screen 14.

All recognized the final screen as "end"

January 29, 2015

1. Which version of the Tecno smartphone is most common in that area? (I've created a prototype for Tecno Phantom A3 but I'm not sure if that's the best model I should be using)

2. What apps are the ladies currently using on their phones, if any?

3. How are the ladies currently storing their beads, wire, other materials, and tools?

4. If I made a toolkit bag that held tools and jewellery, what tools and features would they like to have in the toolkit?

Iit is hard to say which phone is the most popular amongst the ladies as they do not have one at this time. Mary TEMBO has one from China, but Techno is then,oat popular brand. Again, the women do not use apps as they do not use smart phones. They store their beads in plastic bags, mostly whatever they can get. They do not keep things in organized units they way we might create storage boxes, etc. A toolkit bag would need to have have a space for pliers, wire, beads and maybe the clasps.
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