People always wonder what types of businesses women operate in rural parts of East Africa. Read on and find out how much you didn’t know about how a nice steak makes its way to your dinner plate.
Last week I paid my first visit to the business of a WMI borrower here in Tanzania. As a vegetarian I was hoping it would be maybe a nice organic egg farmer or perhaps a local nursery school. As luck would have it, Eliminatha, the secretary for our loan program group, is a butcher and she invited me over to see her process – from beginning to end!
Eliminatha is in her element as she cuts up a part of the cow which I cannot identify.
As not only a vegetarian, but also an animal lover, it was hard for me to get excited about this excursion. Arriving at Eliminatha’s home, high in the hills of Tloma village, I was dreading what I might see (and smell).
Another WMI borrower (left) waits as Eliminatha prepares her order.
To my relief, the slaughter was over before I arrived, and Eliminatha was well into the process of butchering. I sat on the bed in the larger of the two rooms of her home, with the hooves and ankles of the cow on the floor next to me. That was a first-time experience. Ignoring this mildly alarming proximity to detached bovine extremities, I settled in to observe.
Eliminatha weighs out an order. My only contribution was holding plastic bags open for her–I couldn’t bring myself to make a cut.
To my surprise, it was enjoyable to watch Eliminatha at work. Customers were gathered outside her door, patiently awaiting their orders. One of her children held a notebook with a list of everyone’s name and order, and Eliminatha handed out each bag of meat as she finished filling it. If a customer wasn’t there, she carefully labeled the order and put it aside.
Butchering is fun!
I was impressed with Eliminatha’s work in the same way that I am impressed by ballet dancers and astronauts: people who perform with apparent ease tasks that I cannot wrap my head around, much less picture myself doing. Her knife never hesitated as she systematically took apart the cow. She weighed each customer’s order carefully and then gave everyone just a little extra as they watched her wrap the order, ensuring that they will return on her next butchering day. Great marketing technique! She was clearly in charge as she directed the work of the several men who were helping her.
Eliminatha double-checks an order. Part of her job as GWOCO Secretary is to encourage our borrowers to keep good records. She leads by example!
I still won’t be eating beef anytime soon, but if I change my mind I’m confident that I can get it from the best butcher in town.