Welcome to the Hojikoto Hojo Campaign
The purpose of this project is to begin a trade in the herbal tea kinkilibaa with the Barrow Kunda collective in West Africa. Kinkilibaa is a leaf that grows wild in the bush, and has been drunk for its taste and curative effects for generations in the Senegambia, Mali, Guinea, and beyond. Our focus in the states will be marketing the tea in Madison, Wisconsin, but if it is successful, we hope to expand the market for kinkilibaa to other regions of the United States.
Peanuts have been grown in the Gambia since at least the 1600's, and they have been the primary cash crop in The Gambia since the British colonial government instituted them as such during the 19th century. Today, however, a mold that grows on Gambian peanuts contains a chemical called aflatoxin which is believed to have a number of detrimental effects to health. (Put under heading of "Why Kinkilibaa?")
As a result, the peanuts that small-time famers in The Gambia grow are not able to be sold to a broad global market. The Gambian government buys them in the hope of selling them to neighboring West African states or Asian markets, often at a loss. A common goal of foreign development agencies is to develop new products to increase trade opportunities for Gambian farmers. Examples of such products are shea butter, cashews, and honey, yet these all require much more time, money, and expertise than the average Gambian farmer possesses--including the farmers in Barrow Kunda.
Kinkilibaa, on the other hand, grows wild and is easily cultivated, harvested, and dried with local methods. It weighs very little, so it is easy to transport, and a number of kinkilibaa groves already exist within walking distance of Barrow Kunda.
How I got interested in kinkilibaa
I'm Brendan Loula, and the idea for this project stems from my time as a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Barrow Kunda, The Gambia, from 2008-2011. During my service, I had the pleasure of working with the Village Development committee, women's groups, and many enterprising community members on a variety of small health and development projects. However, one of the biggest frustrations I came away with after my service was the lack of financial opportunities for Gambians.
I was introduced to kinkilibaa not for its value as a tea, but for the value of its wood in making tools. I wanted to make a musical instrument called a berimbau (I play capoeira- that's a whole other story), and my friend Mamadi told me that kinkilibaa wood would offer the best combination of flexibility and strength. We went out and harvested a couple straight limbs from a huge grove of trees, and Mamadi cut off some leaves and small branches as well. When we returned to his house and stripped the limbs of bark, Mamadi's wife Sira brewed the leaves and branches into a tea. I am a tea drinker in general, but I was somewhat wary of bush teas, as many of them that I had tried tended to have an unpleasant, medicinal taste. This, however, was mellow and sweet, and I drank the cup down pretty quickly. After that, I regularly harvested kinkilibaa for myself, as well as drinking it with my friends and host family for special occasions, such as Ramadan and Eid-al-Adha.
Since returning to the states, I have remained in contact with my friends in Barrow Kunda, and I have been thinking about kinkilibaa as a commercial product for some time. After spending a couple years thinking about it, I decided it was time take a shot at bringing this product to the states in the hopes of establishing another commodity for trade with The Gambia (with regular availability of the tea for myself being an extra perk).
What are we going to do with the money that you donate?
The money will go towards two things: first funding the initial trip to The Gambia to communicate with village leaders. This is vital to the success of the project, as social expectations in The Gambia mandate that you must seek proper permissions before doing business. During the trip we will also set up some basic infrastructure, and finding the best, least expensive transport routes. Second, the money will be used for packaging and an advertising campaign here in Madison.
If we don't reach our funding goal, we will still use the funds we receive to try to work the shipping out remotely with the contacts we have on the ground in The Gambia. However, for cultural and logistical reasons, doing the negotiations and planning on site is preferable.
What is the final result?
Simple. You get continued access to a great new tea product, and the members of the Barrow Kunda collective get a new opportunity to make money, making everyone's lives better. If the project continues to be successful, will expand operations in the US and set up other cooperatives in The Gambia, and maybe even Senegal.
If you are really strapped for cash, but still want to help:
- Use the sharing tools attached to this site to spread the word! Feel free to share the project with anyone who is interested.
- If you are in the Madison area, get in touch with me to see about upcoming promotional events. We can always use more interested friends!
My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org