Thursday, January 5, 2012

Visit to Timbaktu - 26-27 Nov 2011

Ajay, his family (sis and dad) and myself visited Timbaktu this weekend. It was the first visit for each of us and a very good experience.

Ajay and I needed to plan for the Team Asha visit on Dec 10-11 and all of us wanted to soak in Timbaktu as much as we could.

We were hosted by Vaneeta who's recently moved in to Timbaktu to take classes and train the teachers amongst other things. She put us up in very nicely designed, simple and comfortable guest rooms. The rooms can accommodate a larger team and there are other such rooms too. Acco is not a concern. Likewise, food is also very tasty and simple and can easily scale to higher demand.

One update is that if we're not able to make the visit on Dec 10-11, then next available dates are only towards Jan end.

Sunday morning Vaneeta joined Ajay and me to show us possible routes. Ajay was happy with an out and back option (5k one way). Ajay can better explain more on that. We drove further and visited Timbaktu CRC as well. We saw the calendars. They have come out very well. We also saw some bags that the girls had made. I for one was very impressed with the aesthetic quality and the finish. After the drive, we discussed with Vaneeta, how we could utilize the time before/after the run. She suggested that if we can reach Timbaktu by late afternoon atleast on Saturday instead of by night, everyone can visit the Timbaktu organic products marketing office and adjoining factory and look at the fields and the products. This might be of interest to the vistors. On sunday the factory and office are closed. People can then spend the rest of the evening interacting with the staff and kids and choose to leave earlier on sunday, maybe soon after the run. We'll need to see if there will be takers for that.

We met Babloo and Mary, the couple who started Timbaktu and spent some time with them at their house and over lunch. Ajay discussed with Babloo the possibility of Timbaktu benefiting from corporate programmes that fund social entrepreneurship ventures (eg. Mahindra). Please share your thoughts on this. We can accordingly discuss this in our next meeting and look at helping them in this, if its something we want to do.

We met Dinesh who's been with Timbaktu for long and has nurtured Timbaktu's organic farming initiative from the start. The major products are groundnuts and different types of millets. Currently, the demand is more than Timbaktu's capacity to produce and so there's potential to scale it up. Dinesh has now set up his own venture in organic farming. He will continue to be associated with Timbaktu organic.

We also met Mani who's employed at Timbaktu and takes care of finances amongst many other things.

We also visited the marketing office and factory. We saw the processing and packaging of different products and bought some samples too.

Good trip overall and certainly one that anyone would enjoy.

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