Tractors as Transformers

Tractors as Transformers

Zambia
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Eliminate rural poverty in one generation without going through the carbon economy.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our first target village is Chilupula, near Chongwe, Zambia. Chongwe is about 50K east of Lusaka, and Chilupula is about 50K by dirt road from Chongwe. Chilupula is on the extreme end of poverty. Since the death of their draft animals, their meager incomes have fallen even more. The best estimate from the Government is that typical income is $1USD a day. There is one bore hole well, but most people gather water from a stream that turns into a substantial river in the rainy season. There is no electrical service. The closest school is a 5K walk. There are no formal businesses in the village. They are mostly self-sufficient in food. We saw one woman farmer who had a larger operation complete with a small grain mill run by a diesel motor, but all other labor was by hand. We saw one solar powered radio in the Head Man's compound. Cell phones do not get a signal. The local government structure is a Chiefdom. The Chief has several villages in his Kingdom, each with a Head Man appointed by him. Women have an inferior civil position in the village, although we saw women sitting in the men's section during a meeting. There is a local MP who personally endorsed our Project COPE and gave the Women's Coop funds to legally organize. Young people, especially the men, tend to leave the village looking for work, so there is a demographic inequality with far more women than men left in the village. The people have a very strong cooperative spirit since they work together on many projects, including those chosen by the Chief or the Head Man.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our innovation is the creation of the local economy by taking advantage of the incentives built into the design of the Project COPE as well as the natural creativity and energy of the rural villagers. On average, the land holdings of people in the target village is 10 hectares. Because all draft animals died of hoof and mouth disease, the typical family can only grow on 1 to 2 hectares farming by hand. The cost of mechanical aides, like tractors, are far beyond their means. Simply being able to grow on their entire farm would easily quadruple their income. At present, typical rural incomes are about $1 per day. Our business plan shows that by using a 2 wheel tractor a farmer can not only use all his or her land, but also work the land of the nearest 10 families. Those families would pay the farmer for working their land with a percentage of the crop. The farmer would realize enough profit the first year to pay off the loan on the tractor and still have enough money to fund farming activities for the next year. In the second year, all the income would belong to the farmer. As the village incomes grow, there is now enough surplus funds in the village to support new businesses, such as solar, communications, or transportation. The loans will be turned over to the local Village Bank, which then loans to others. The entire economy grows and spreads entirely through the natural economic processes, starting with the right loan in the right place to kick start the development of appropriate economic activities.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The goal of Project COPE (Community action for Poverty and Environment) is creating a local economy through the introduction of 2 wheel tractors. The key to creating a local economy must be based on agriculture. Part of creating a local economy includes improving the general health and energy level of the local people. Thus the first steps include: a: training in water purification b: sanitation including the construction of waterless toilets, and c: cooking fuel reduction through the use of solar stoves and rocket stoves. These activities have already been accomplished in our target community. We are training the local cooperative in the growing of organic vegetables using a sustainable technology that eliminates or reduces the need for extensive irrigation, pesticides, or fertilizers. We are also working with the Ministry of Agriculture to help form a Village Banking system to develop local capital to grow local businesses. The main barrier to dramatically increasing the amount of capital in our rural village is the lack of money and the way to create it. At present, micro-loans have interest rates in the 35% range, and repayment must start in weeks. Year long agricultural loans are simply unheard of. Project COPE is loaning small farmers the funds to purchase a 2 wheel tractor and all major implements, including a trailer, on a one year basis with 15% interest. We help with the purchase. According to our business plan, the farmer will make enough in the first year to pay off the tractor while increasing the income of their neighbors by a factor of at least 4.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our first target village is Chilupula, near Chongwe, Zambia. Chongwe is about 50K east of Lusaka, and Chilupula is about 50K by dirt road from Chongwe. Chilupula is on the extreme end of poverty. Since the death of their draft animals, their meager incomes have fallen even more. The best estimate from the Government is that typical income is $1USD a day. There is one bore hole well, but most people gather water from a stream that turns into a substantial river in the rainy season. There is no electrical service. The closest school is a 5K walk. There are no formal businesses in the village. They are mostly self-sufficient in food. We saw one woman farmer who had a larger operation complete with a small grain mill run by a diesel motor, but all other labor was by hand. We saw one solar powered radio in the Head Man's compound. Cell phones do not get a signal. The local government structure is a Chiefdom. The Chief has several villages in his Kingdom, each with a Head Man appointed by him. Women have an inferior civil position in the village, although we saw women sitting in the men's section during a meeting. There is a local MP who personally endorsed our Project COPE and gave the Women's Coop funds to legally organize. Young people, especially the men, tend to leave the village looking for work, so there is a demographic inequality with far more women than men left in the village. The people have a very strong cooperative spirit since they work together on many projects, including those chosen by the Chief or the Head Man.
About You
Organization:
Earth Charter US
About You
First Name

George

Last Name

Sherman

Twitter
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Earth Charter US

Organization Country

, FL, Hillsborough County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, LK

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Innovation
What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Victor Phiri founded the Project COPE as part of his work as the National Coordinator of the Workers Education Association of Zambia (WEAZ).

Victor was born into a middle class Zambian family. His father was a government Minister in the Education Ministry, and his mother was a school teacher. Victor attended college in Livingstone, and taught for a few years before he left to work for the poor.

He started by working in the informal economy, selling cell phones and cell phone cards. He began to organize the workers in the informal economy when he caught the negative attention of the government, leading him to live in hiding.

He eventually went to work for WEAZ, which was focused on organizing informal workers. Still, as poor as the urban workers were, Victor could see the rural people were far worse off.

In 2008 Victor hear through his connections with Earth Charter International that Earth Charter US was having a webinar to discuss the world wide application of the Earth Charter. By hiking and riding for an hour, he reached an Internet cafe with enough band width for him to attend. During that webinar, which included 100's of people from 7 different countries, I asked if anyone was interested in a project to apply the Earth Charter Principle of eliminating poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative. Victor volunteered. During the following months, we sharpened our focus on eliminating rural poverty in one generation without going through the carbon economy. Victor was focused on applying his leadership skills to solving rural poverty.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Although we are still in the early phases of our project, we have managed some successes. Firstly, the Chilupula village has been trained in the pasteurization of water using both fire and solar. Second, the entire village has been trained in the construction of Rocket stoves. Thirdly, the village has been trained in the construction of two different types of waterless toilets, Otji and EcoDome. And lastly, one of their farmers, Collins Mwebe, has acquired a tractor. He has agreed to be our first demonstration of principle, and is at work at the present time.

As for measures of success, we are still collecting data, but we are looking at the rate of water borne diseases (have they gone up or down) to measure our water training. We do not have reliable data because the project is so new.

We are counting the number and use of Rocket stoves replacing the traditional open fire cooking in an enclosed room. So far, that is 10.

We are also counting the number of waterless toilets installed, which at present is 5.

We cannot measure the income from the tractor farming until the crops are harvested. We will look at income for the entire year. The loan for the tractor was made around May 1, 2011.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

1,001-10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

As the first tractor is paid off, the funds will go to the Village Bank. The VB will then make loans for other tractors for other villages. We could also make a loan to a young person who is without a farm. He would just rent himself out to others in the village. Not only will this increase the wealth of many, but it will give meaningful employment to young men, with the incentive that they no longer need to leave the village.
We will also try to market tractor loans to members of the Earth Charter US community. The more tractors we can get to local farmers, the more local economies will grow. Each tractor will stimulate a local economy, drive the development of a Village Banking system, and give others incentives to build small businesses to serve farmers who now have extra cash.

Sustainability
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

There are several potential barriers.

Since it is an agricultural project, there is the challenge of crop failure. We are focusing on diversifying the crops. We are also working with the Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust to stay at the forefront of crop and seed development to avoid potential failures.

Another potential barrier is government interference. We are working very hard to develop significant relationships with a wide variety of government programs and ministries so they will see us as partners rather than competitors.

Local cultural opposition could also be a challenge. We are using the local traditions to develop the program. We work through the Chiefdom structure. We use the traditional meeting processes to discuss and plan the specifics of the projects. We respect the natural community leaders who want a role in the Project COPE.

Nationalism or xenophobia might be a challenge. We have been very clear from the start that all solutions must be African or Zambian. We have only used project elements developed by African projects, and have had only African trainers in the village. The Project COPE is managed by WEAZ, a Zambian Civil Organization. The waterless toilets are built in Zambia by Zambians. The tractors, while not built in Zambia, are sold by a Zambia company.

The disincentives of charity could be a challenge. Therefore we have made clear we are not engaging in charity. We are lending money and expertise. The natural incentives of capitalism will drive the development, and there will be no limits to the creativity of local entrepreneurs.

Tell us about your partnerships

We have two main Partners, who are us.

Earth Charter US is a non-profit who has a mission to to inspire, educate, and engage people in the United States to implement the Earth Charter's vision and principles in their personal lifestyles, institutional policies/practices, educational policies/curricula, and community initiatives.

Workers Education Association of Zambia which is an NGO dedicated to eliminating poverty in both the urban and rural areas of Zambia.

We also have a partnership with the Golden Valley Agriculture Research Trust, a project of the Zambia government that works with farmers on the latest agriculture developments.

We are members of Apitrade Africa, an organization that promotes the honey industry.

We are partners with the Ecosystem Limited Partnership, which manufactures the EcoDome waterless toilet.

We are also partners with the Chief of the Village of Chilupula, who is interested in helping us get the information out to all his villages in order to raise the standard of living for all.

Explain your selections

So far the COPE Project has been funded totally by individuals. This was a conscious choice for several reasons.

First, we wanted the project to get started immediately. We were convinced of its value, especially the focus on a local sustainable economy. We were also focused on avoiding the carbon economy. There is no reasonable way that rural Zambians could expect to get out of poverty by imitating the lifestyles of the US, India, or China. Applying for grants simply would take too long.

Secondly, we found most NGO's were interested in promoting their personal programs rather than focusing on local economies driven by incentives and creativity. We found that NGO's wanted to tell the villagers what to do, rather than listen to what the villagers wanted.

Thirdly, the Zambian government is working on improving the national economy by focusing on the urban and mining areas, not the rural areas. The rural area of Zambia is about the size of Texas, with about 6 million people or half of the total population.

Lastly, the local people did not have the bookkeeping skills, yet, necessary to satisfy government or NGO auditors. Rather than spend time training accounting skills, we wanted to start giving skills to the villagers. By using personal funds, we could be more understanding as the Project COPE people learned how to account for money.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

We have already started training two other villages. Chapi village is in the north, near Mansa. Mise village is in the west, near Zambezi. Again, we have developed partnerships with the Chiefs to be certain that any skills and opportunities we give to one village will spread to the entire Kingdom.

By having villages spread out, the skills we are building can be shared with surrounding villages, and the local economies can develop in several areas simultaneously.

We are recruiting farmers who are eager to try the two wheel tractor. We are also trying to recruit funders to underwrite the loans for the tractors.

As these villages get up to speed, we will start recruiting villages in the eastern and southern parts of the country. We are planning on having our first villages serve as consultants to the new villages, sharing their skills and experiences village to village, so they do not need an outside organization to mediate their interactions. We intend to market the Project COPE to the Chiefs through the House of Chiefs, since they have contact with each other, and most have a history of working together.

At the end of three years we expect to have full implementation in our first three villages, and beginning projects in the other main areas of the country. Our plan is for these projects to continue to grow organically driven by their own incentives, until the entire rural areas of Zambia are involved in local economies by the end of 2030.

Challenges
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.

PRIMARY

Lack of visibility and investment

SECONDARY

Lack of skills/training

TERTIARY

Lack of access to information and networks

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Rural villagers have no access to capital that would allow them to invest in the tools that would help them develop a local economy. The tractor loan would accomplish that.

Rural villagers suffer from many easily preventable diseases, so the skills in water purification, sanitation, and cooking efficiency will raise the general level of health and energy in the village.

As they develop a local economy by increasing local wealth, villagers will be able to support businesses that provide information, such as cell phones, Internet, and solar energy.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.

PRIMARY

SECONDARY

Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services

TERTIARY

Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

The immediate plan is to grow the Project COPE in all areas of Zambia over the next 3 – 4 years. We are already operating in 2 areas, and developing a village project in the western province in June.

Further, as the villages develop their local economies, WEAZ will help them identify and acquire any other skills or resources they may decide useful to their efforts. This is an extension of what Project COPE has done from the very first meetings.

WEAZ and ECUS have agreed from the first that if we are successful we would share the information from Project COPE with any and all organizations working in sub-Saharan Africa, in order to improve the lives of people across the lower continent.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Government collaboration has given us access to training and support in the creation of Village Banking. Work with the Golden Valley Agriculture Trust has given us access to information about crops and growing techniques.

We have collaborated with NGO Solar Cookers International affiliates in Kenya to learn how to make and use Solar Cookers and rocket stoves as well as water purification techniques.

Our collaboration with the NGO Clay House Project in South Africa has given us skills in building waterless toilets.

Our collaboration with for profit company Ecosystems has given us access to and training on installing self-contained EcoDome waterless toilet systems that are appropriate for areas with high water tables.