Banhiei , Douandro and Bloléquin – March 2019

Banhiei , Douandro and Bloléquin – March 2019

Posted 20/03

The last two weeks the entire Wattero team have been gathered in Ivory Coast for the first time! The agenda for the visit was to get to know our market, experience the local reality and to get to know our customers. One of the most important things we have been doing is going on a field visit to three new villages in the Guiglo-area. This field visit was the first one for both Espen and Kjersti, so it was really exciting for everyone. Since neither Espen or Kjersti knows French, Elisabeth was a fantastic interpreter during the whole visit.

After an 8-hour drive to the very west in the country we arrived Guiglo and our partner, Donald met us and showed us the way to his house. At his home, we were welcomed with a great bush-meat dinner, the local palm wine Banji and some of his friends and colleagues. We had a great time, discussed the plan for the next days and the future and visions of Wattero. We also got to meet one of Donald’s friends who is working for another solar company working in the same area. We exchanged experiences and knowledge, and this gave us more insight into the local business and on the ground working conditions.

After a good night sleep and some rest, we started the first day with a meeting over breakfast to make the last plans for the visits to the villages. The plan was to visit three new villages to present Wattero, the project and to get to know our potential customers.

When we arrived at the first village, Banhiei, we were welcomed by the pastor and 30-40 people in the village’s church. There we attended the end of the ceremony, we greeted each other, Donald shared news and the plan for the following days and the people in the village sang songs and danced for us. Elisabeth and Kjersti also joined in on the dancing.

After the great welcome in Banhiei, where we were spending the night, we continued to village number two, Douandro. Since this was a village consisting of a lot of long-distance separate farms, we had a smaller meeting with the chiefs of the village. We talked about the villagers needs when it comes to applications of the solar kits, opportunities for future business together and distributed flyers for the chiefs to give out to the rest of the village.

The last village we visited was Bloléquin. Around 50 people were welcoming us when we arrived. There was a village meeting including all the elders of the village and the chief. In addition, two chiefs from villages close by attended the meeting to get information about the project. We greeted all 50 of the crowd and got seated in front of the meeting. The meeting started with the traditional welcome of being offered the local water and introducing the latest news from both parties. Then we presented Wattero and the project, got to know their needs, answered some questions and gave out information about our kits. There were a lot of good questions and interested people. After the meeting was finished we were invited to one of the men responsible for arranging the meeting to taste the local palm wine and see his house. We also got to meet his family.

Then it was time to get back to the first village, Banhiei, where we were spending the night. When we arrived we were served a nice dinner from the family which owned the house that we were going to sleep in. They were very hospitable and loaned us their entire house. The pastor and some people from the village joined us for dinner and we had a great evening with good food, stories from the village and fun.

The next day we woke up to the sounds from the chickens outside and a nice breakfast at the pastor’s house, ready for a new great day in the Banhiei. After breakfast, the pastor told us that there were happening some politics in the village, so our village meeting had to be postponed. This fitted good into our day since a man in the village had noticed that one wheel on the car was punctured. With good help from some guys in the village, Donald changed the wheel and we were ready.

After some waiting, where we played cards and were served the local palm wine, Banji, the village was ready for our meeting. All the 14 family representatives of the village in addition to the chief were attending the meeting. Even though they had been discussing local politics all day and were tired, we presented Wattero, the solar kits, and project, and they asked questions about the applications and the payment among other things. Before we left, we got one more meal from the family hosting us, ate late lunch with the pastor and exchanged gifts.

Back in Guiglo, we had a great dinner with Donald and his friends at a local restaurant, called maquis. We ate great food, had fun, exchanging experiences from the field visit, talked about the way forward for Wattero, made plans for the next steps and further cooperation.

After 3 great days on a field visit, we learned a lot about our potential new customers, got to really experience the local reality so that the whole team gets a better understanding of our customers, how they live, what impact our products have and also actually to get to know our customers. After coming back to Abidjan, we are left with a feeling of humility to get the opportunity to work with such amazing people. They are super hospitable, open, show initiative and engagement.

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