This is discussion about VitaGoat Rural Micro-Enterprise.
Excellent idea, it sounds very interesting and impact so far is impressive, congratulations!
It looks as if this could be easily replicated in other areas. The question here, is what are the channels that can make it easier to finance and distribute the equipment and also train the main users?
Also, could this product be sold to other parties? This could also become a revenue stream for VitaGoat allowing it to finance equipment to new areas. Being financially sound will definetely reduce the dependence on alliances.
Finally, I would question how easy is it getting a hold of soybean supplies? Is price a problem when market prices are high? If so, could an alliance with a major soy trader such as Bunge, Cargill or ConAgra be interesting?
Sorry to take so long to reply - just back from an extended trip to India. Yes, this system can be replicated in many areas. The best channels that we have identified to facilitate finance, distribution and training are NGOs with a substantial presence in their region. We do have several training and support centres in southern and eastern Africa and in India which minimize training and support costs.
The food products could definitely be sold in the open market to subsidize the costs for disadvantaged beneficiaries, and this is in fact the case for a number of our sites. One of our main criteria for establishing a site is sustainability.
We have found that soybeans are grown in every country in Africa and SOuth Asia, and that purchasing soybeans in the local market is almost always possible. For sites with higher production volumes, a wholesale (local) purchase is of course more cost effective. We are trying to foster local cultivation of soybeans, so are doubtful that large American traders would support that objective - if you have a different perspective we are eager to understand it.
thanks for your input,
I really enjoyed reading your entry. Have you considered patenting this idea? Would it be possible for you to upload some photos to your entry in order to give the community some visuals of your work? You mention that you would like to have an impact on public policy. How so? What kind of public policy impact do you have in mind? Congratulations on your awards, keep up the great work and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sorry for taking so long to reply. I have been in India for the last 2 weeks, in rural areas mostly, with limited e-mail access. I have uploaded one photo - I haven't figured out how to do more. Also, please view the 2 videos I have posted (worth a thousand pictures?). The public policy impact I would like to have is to provide or improve government-funded school-feeding programs. In most African countries, such programs do not exist. In India, they exist, but are often not well implemented (ie, child malnutrition in rural areas still often exceeds 50%)and in many cases very little protein or micro-nutrients are provided.
Thanks for a great entry! We really like your holistic approach to training, and working with local partners. Would you mind providing some more information about your target population as well as details of your production mechanisms? Also, we’d like to hear more about the costs related to this kind of technology. How do operators pay for this technology and distribute it?
- Naveen Shakir, Ashoka’s Changemakers
Sorry for not answering earlier, I just returned from a trip to our projects in India. The target population is those communities hardest hit by malnutrition, which is typically the more remote rural areas in South Asia and Southern Africa. We also have a large set of projects in North Korea where malnutrition is both severe and widespread. For details of production, the best way to get a quick understanding is to watch the videos I posted with the application (click on the video tab near the bottom of the page). One example shown is the project in Orissa, where SHGs are operating the VitaGoat, with delivery of the soymilk in bulk by bicycle to village schools. The cost of the VitaGoat is about $4,000 depending on the country, taxes etc. They are fabricated in India. Operators can get loans from MFIs (as per Orissa project).
More documentation is available via spreadsheets which detail the economic model and various PowerPoint presentations.
On January 18, 2010 the judges reviewed the entries for the Changemakers Improved Nutrition: Solutions through Innovation competition and would like to pass on the following feedback (listed below) for your entry. Thank you for applying and for your hard work in the field. We are excited to archive your entry to serve as a leading solution for the worldwide community of innovators. We wish you continued luck with your innovative, sustainable, and socially impactful initiatives.
All the best, The Changemakers Team
“This is a low-cost, efficient, and easy to install initiative that operates in a sustainable manner. It’s very interesting, and it’s great that they’ve already replicated the model in 20 countries. I would really like to hear more about how they are planning on increasing their impact.”
“This is a very innovative initiative, and quite interesting. I’d be interested in learning more about how much the technology costs, and what kind of training is needed. Would there be a problem with the provision of raw materials in these areas as well? Also, it might be helpful to know more about what could go wrong, and how the entrant plans on dealing with those situations?”
- Changemakers Improved Nutrition: Solutions through Innovation Judges
Thank you judges for all your hard work. We plan to increase our impact by engaging with larger well-established NGOs in numerous countries - we can train them to be trainers of this technology. This will best leverage our ability to quickly scale the number of systems. We are seeing that a cluster of systems, such as in Zambia or Malawi, increases demand for these systems resulting in a snow ball effect. We now have between 6 and 12 systems in five countries in southern Africa and over a dozen in India and Korea. Each system costs about $4,500. We have support centers in Zambia, Kenya, Benin and South Africa that can either provide training at their centers or send technicians to provide the needed one to two-day training. We always use locally grown soybeans to support the farmers. Virtually every country grows their own soybeans. Supply problems can occasionally arise, but these can be overcome with good supply management. Soybeans can keep for one year.
The system is designed in a robust manner, so mechanical problems are few and far between , and spares are provided. The biggest challenge is often to find the type of soyfood that fits the local diet best, what flavoring to use, etc. We have over 100 soy recipes specific to various regions and cultures. Please visit the malnutrition.org website and search for VitaGoat on Youtube for two fascinating videos.