TechnoServe Smart Duka Program in Nairobi

TechnoServe is one of our favorite international NGOs, and we’ve just started our second special project with them. This project is part of their entrepreneurship program, and concerns “Smart Dukas” in Nairobi, Kenya. Dukas are “Mom and Pop” consumer-goods shops, and in the urban areas of Kenya, they’re responsible for some 80% of consumer-goods sales. Dukas often fail to realize anywhere near their full profit potential, for a variety of reasons. Shopowners often have to close their shops and travel some distance to get new inventory. Dealing individually with suppliers, they fail to achieve economies of scale. They may not know the best ways to present their wares, or to manage a business. These are all areas in which TechnoServe is prepared to provide education, one-on-one consultation, and negotiating power. We’re impressed with the work TechnoServe is planning in this area, and have funded a piece of the work in the latest phase of their “Smart Duka” project. Here’s their proposal: TechnoServe Smart Duka Proposal.

Posted 3 years, 1 month ago at 12:00 pm.

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Progress Report: Gender and ATI Study

We were pleased to receive a progress report from the Carter Center on the Gender and Access-to-Information study we’re sponsoring. As projected, the Carter Center selected Ghana for this study. And they’ve made good progress in preparing to investigate the information-access hurdles that may reduce economic empowerment of women there (and, likely, in other similar countries).

Here’s the summary paragraph from the report (the complete report is here).

Overall, in the first quarter of programming the Carter Center successfully entered into an agreement with a renowned local partner in Ghana; began development of the study to assess asymmetries/inequalities in the right of access to information; and raised awareness with key stakeholders in the US government, World Bank and UNWomen. In the next quarter, we anticipate completing the study design and applying the assessment in Ghana, reviewing the draft Ghana FOI law through a gendered-lens to identify potential discriminatory provisions, and to continue developing partnerships with leading international organizations.

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago at 1:21 am.

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iDE Farm Business Advisor Zambia Performance Enhancement Project (2012)

One of our favorite charities is iDE. Their mission is to increase the income of the 2 billion small plot farmers in the world, who earn less than $2/day. iDE doesn’t operate by giving handouts, but uses a far more effective and sustainable approach. They regard the smallholder farmer as an entrepreneur who will take advantage of effective technology and information, as well as supply and marketing systems, if they’re designed to be affordable and relevant to use on very small farms (1/4 acre to perhaps 2 acres).

iDE is well known for simple and inexpensive treadle pumps capable of bringing irrigation to such farms, but I’ll cite a different example, to illustrate the idea clearly. iDE has developed a 200,000-litir water storage system that can be purchased by the farmer for $400, and is capable of storing enough water to irrigate 1/4 acre of farmland for a season. The system is filled during the monsoon season, and used during the dry season (when crop prices are highest and most farmers are idle due to lack of water) to add a full growing season. This technology alone can add $500 income in it’s first year of use, paying for itself in less than a year while adding a large long-term income boost to the farm family. This is a very typical example of an iDE technology.

Donald Tembo from Chibombo District in Central Province of Zambia accessed a $380 loan in October 2011, facilitated through an iDE Farm Business Advisor. With this money he invested in a treadle pump which enabled him to irrigate four times as much land, expanding his garden from 1/8 hectare to ½ hectare and sell his tomato, melon, cucumber and green beans at the market. (Reprinted with permission from IDE Wellspring, May 2012.)

These folks do a great deal more, though, providing multiple relevant technologies, and connecting them to microfinance so that farmers can afford to purchase the systems. They set up multiple, competing in-country manufacturers for the devices, so that the systems are an on-going business for local firms, maintenance is locally available, and the sustainability of the approach does not depend on iDE’s continuing presence.

They also help develop supply chains and marketing venues suitable for smallholder farmers, and provide technical knowledge about agricultural techniques, crop selection for more profitability by small-plot farmers, and lots more. Indeed, they’ve developed (in Cambodia) a system for training selected local farmers to serve as Farm Business Advisors (FBAs) to the other smallholder farmers in a local area. The FBAs derive a sustainable income from the sale of techological devices in their area, while providing an ongoing source of information and advice on farming matters. This program has been very successful in Cambodia.

iDE is now expanding this program to other countries in Asia, and also in Zambia as a pilot project for Africa. They’re optimistic that the approach can be adapted to Africa, but recognize that in Africa they will encounter differences in culture, climate, economics, available physical resources, and lots more. So it’s important to be rigorous in designing the program in Zambia, and to include an objective assessment of the effort as it’s carried out.

To this end, iDE is conducting the Farm Business Advisor Zambia Performance Enhancement Project. The goal of this project will be to develop an initial cadre of trained FBAs in Zambia. This will involve assessing the training needs of the FBAs here, developing training materials, training an initial cadre of 200 FBAs, objectively assessing the success of these FBAs over a period of time, and disseminating experience and best-practice information to other candidate countries in Africa. The bulk of the project is being funded by RLG International, but we’re funding the assessment and information-dissemination phase of the project. Here’s iDE’s proposal, describing the project, and here’s the first progress report.

We, too, are quite hopeful that this award-winning model will prove effective in Africa, as there’s a tremendous need there, and a tremendous potential gain. We’re pleased at the opportunity to take part in this work.

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago at 10:12 pm.

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Carter Center Study of Women’s Access to Information

The Carter Center is a multifaceted charity, but we support them because of their work on political freedom. When we approached them about funding a special project with them, the gave us a few choices that they thought might fit our mission and interests. We selected a study of women’s access to information, to be carried out in Africa. (Another possible study on post-conflict rule of law seemed very attractive to us, too.)

Here’s a brief Proposal describing this study, and indicating where the preliminary phase we’re funding fits in. We’ll post more information here when the study gets underway. At last report, it seemed likely that the study would take place in Ghana, but that hasn’t been determined for sure.

Posted 8 years, 1 month ago at 2:00 am.

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Poor education is a sure roadblock to economic self-sufficiency. And participation in the modern global marketplace requires not only education, but also access to information and communication resources.

Posted 11 years, 4 months ago at 7:32 pm.

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