The small clinic in Katesh, Manyara is full of young mothers bedecked in brightly colored kitenges. While some have small children, all are here to learn more about Vitamin A fortified oil, a product that improves eyesight and strengthens immunity. At the front of the room, clinic staff emphatically describe Vitamin A's health benefits, occasionally asking the audience questions to ensure the message is being heard. I remember to take the clinic's GPS coordinates. They will be helpful when I conduct a spatial analysis of all the retail shops and BCC activities in the area.
Behold the scene that unfolded before my eyes in Katesh, Manyara, one of MASAVA's two target regions in Tanzania. My visit to Katesh was part of a larger project to measure the effectiveness of behavioral change campaigns ("BCC") on oil sales. Previous research had showed that BCC campaigns were successful in raising greater awareness about the presence of Vitamin A fortified oil in the market. However, raising awareness about a product is one thing. The question that sparked my curiosity was if greater awareness inspired consumers to buy oil. I was in Katesh to interview attendees and find out.My findings were encouraging. Nearly all participants–young, old, man, woman—said they would buy Vitamin A fortified sunflower oil despite the higher cost.
"If given the choice between a more expensive product of higher quality and a cheaper product of lower quality, I would choose the higher quality product" remarked one women. Particularly notable was the number of men who agreed with this statement. As men wield considerable buying power in Tanzanian households, BCC messaging has been encouraging greater male involvement. According to these participants, unfortified oil develops an unpleasant sludge and omits a nasty odor after several weeks. The clean fortified oil bottles were an instant hit. One women loved the oil so much she expressed interest in selling it herself!
I administered a follow-up SMS survey one week later to evaluate the sustained impact of BCC messages. Did those interview participants who bought oil buy again? Unfortunately, because of network connectivity and the innate complications of administering an electronic survey, few people responded.
Suffice to say, my field visit was successful as crucial anecdotal evidence was collected and the MASAVA oil message spread. Personally, the visit was remarkably eye-opening. To sit down with consumers and discuss their concerns and their thoughts was remarkably insightful. Women and men alike are concerned about their health. The MASAVA Project is thinking outside of the box to pioneer a new way of reaching these people and helping them live healthier lives.