Thursday, July 2, 2009

Moving Forward...Slowly

Yesterday I spent the day working. I did a bit of research and Clarice and I went over her to-do list. There are still a good number of organizational details to work out in terms of her NGO, so I wrote down some action items and started brainstorming. I'll try to explain the whole program as briefly as I can. The underlying principle is to provide opportunities for the rural poor to start businesses and get jobs. There are a few parallel aspects to this goal. We're aiming to get the local government to support these goals. The fact that Clarice knows three of the representatives to Parliament (like senators) in the area doesn't hurt. There is funding in the local government for women's groups, youth groups, and poverty alleviation.

Currently there are a reasonable number of farmers growing Amaranth, the crop that we are promoting. An agriculture research institute (KARI) provides the seeds and a poverty alleviation group (PEC) teaches the farmers how to grow Amaranth. However, there are not enough people at PEC to teach all of the farmers who want to learn. We intend to find 2 people from each of the constituencies of the parliamentarians that we know and teach them how to train other people to grow Amaranth. With 6 in total, they will be able to help one another to spread knowledge about what Amaranth is, how to grow it, and why farmers should grow it. In the future we hope that this team will also be involved in teaching about other issues such as water management and soil conservation. The second part of the plan is to get some of the farmers who are growing Amaranth and some other people who have started small businesses to apply for funding to start or expand their businesses so that they can make more money. We would help women's and youth groups to apply for the enterprise funding from the government by providing guidance on writing their business plans.

The other parallel aspect of the program is harnessing talent. We are hoping to provide jobs for recent college graduates by creating a technology transfer team and an assessment team. The technology transfer team would work with the American students and professors who are doing the engineering work. The Americans help with the design of tools and systems, they teach the tech transfer team, and this team can either sell the tools as a business or simply help build tools and teach the rural farmers how to use them. This team also looks for ways to improve upon the tools and keeps track of what worked and what did not. The assessment team is responsible for measuring impact. They keep track of socioeconomic data and look for needs in the communities we are working with. They will have records so that we can compare the state of the community after each stage of work has been completed and determine whether we are really being effective.

My tasks for now are to come up with lots of different types of criteria. We need to decide how to select the women's and youth groups, how to select the 6 people who will teach about Amaranth, how we can provide support for writing business plans, how to interview and hire the tech transfer and assessment teams, how to select new communities to work with, what the assessment/survey will look like, how the assessment will be administered, and what we need to analyze to measure impact.

It seems like it will be a very busy summer. I also need to research the moringa tree and put together a list of uses. It's also known as the miracle tree because it can purify water, act as an antibiotic, is incredibly nutritious, and the list goes on - google it. The last thing we will do is a demonstration day toward the end of the summer. We will get all of the farmers together and talk about Amaranth. We'll cook lots of foods with Amaranth in them for the villagers to try and get several government officials to come. Afterward, the farmers who have grown Amaranth will be able to sell it to people interested in taking some home. This way, we spread information and provide a market for selling Amaranth at the same time.

Today, more work. The only frustrating thing so far is that everything takes so much longer to do here. You can't do much online, so you have to make phone calls and it can take ages. It took about 30 mins to call and make airline reservations yesterday. Also, sometimes the internet just stops working. Like, the provider has a problem and it just shuts off for 10 minutes and then comes back. Otherwise, I really like it here.

1 comment:

  1. Test those amaranth recipies!
    See if you can pitch tech projects + entrepreneurship training.