Getting the syphon going

Syphon pictureWe are at a very exciting – albeit nerve-wracking – place just now right at the start of the trial. The situation we were in a few weeks ago, after our visit to see Chief Siachitema, is a really good metaphor for the situation we find ourselves in right now. Let me explain.

As we bid our farewells to Chief Siachitema, we were asked if we could spare 5 litres of diesel as his pick-up had run out. Keen to oblige, we asked for a hose pipe and container. Half an hour later, Albert and I had the taste of diesel in our mouths and about a centimetre of fuel in the container – we just couldn’t get the syphon going. We gave up and I returned the next day with diesel I’d bought at the filling station in Kalomo.

Getting the distribution of the first Kit Yamoyos to the remote villages of two remote districts is just like getting a syphon going. We’ve solved the initial challenges with the assembly of the kits, including late arrival of our soap supply and power cuts – so we now have plenty of ‘fuel’ in the tank. And I can tell you: there’s a lot of sucking going on.

We keep getting encouraging anecdotal news of cash and voucher sales (although there are serious problems with the mobile phone aspects of the trial right now). Just the other day, Elias, the Keepers Zambia Foundation Project Officer in Katete, called to say that he had 4 retailers in his office who had sold all the Kit Yamoyos they’d bought a week or so ago. Between them they had 64 vouchers – we are having to process these by hand at the moment – and reported an additional 20+ cash sales between them. The wholesaler in Katete had already sold out his stock for September in one day, and is waiting the 1,400 he has ordered for October to arrive – so those retailers will have to wait, till we get the flow right.

Conversely, I’ve had to work hard to encourage the Kalomo wholesaler to order kits for October ‘on trust’ as things have been slower to get moving there for a whole range of reasons. He has agreed despite of the fact that he has no previous sales information to motivate him to purchase. A key factor in persuading him, is the fact we will be distributing 1,500 vouchers in Kalomo this month. I just hope the mobile phone system will be in place to handle them!

So to sum up. We are spitting diesel right now but we are confident that once we get the syphon going, we will have Kit Yamoyo flooding into remote villages. Watch this space.


  1. Prashant Yadav says

    This is exciting indeed. I like the analogy very much. Well-designed supply systems always adapt/realign themselves to fulfill the strong pull of demand. The drawing at the final end of the siphon needs to be powerful and strong, the siphon itself should be agile/flexible/moldable, and there should be sufficient diesel in the source tank. It seems all of that is neatly in place for Cola-Life now. I can’t wait for my next visit to Zambia to see this all in action.



  1. Steve Dale says:

    Getting the syphon going – an update on the @colalife project from @51m0n #colalife