Egro

This Entry has been submitted.

Egro

Organization type: 
for profit
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Egro provides training to rural communities in regenerating their land and harvesting rain. Building forest farms for consume and sales.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In most developing countries non educated people use a method of farming which is degrading the soil to sterile land called slash and burn. They have increasingly poor water access. These factors result in failing harvests, increasing poverty and increase the amount of climate refugees joining the rural-urban drift. They burn the last bush and leave desertification behind. Major rural areas of Africa and Central Asia are depopulated famine stricken zones, where villages are mostly inhabited by single women, young adolescents with no schooling and old people with a low life expectancy. Undernourished people that have entered a vicious circle. Developing economies become dependent on subsidies from international communities burdened by the weight of growing urban populations.

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

We address all of these issues in a single solution The solution is to educate and implement farming practices that regenerate soil conditions through designing landscapes that harvest and capture rain, seal the moisture in a beneficiary environment of multiple layers of ground covering vegetation, protecting against evaporation and water loss. We design self supporting permanent agriculture by combining all of nature´s biodiversity in complete ecosystems. Highly productive forest farms, with indigenous crops that are selected for supporting each other in symbiosis, for foraging of quality agricultural products. The method is proven in a lifelong study by Australian Bill Mollison and has been awarded the "Alternative Nobel Prize" in 1981. We provide an educational system to train local forest farmers, and build a communications infrastructure for spreading knowledge of permaculture practices to a critical mass in the population, providing for a full social cultural impact.
Sustainability

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

The NGO´s & permaculture associations are all willing to help. The FAO and Western gov.development agencies are competitors. They are all, more or less, academically, techno- and bureaucraticly governed global organisations changing decades of wrongly focussed strategy, thinking in conventional methods of farming. They are seeking top down solutions, implementing policies with large overhead instead of direct impact. Were they able to change their overall strategy and streamline their subdivisions to it, it would simply benefit the environment of development and create more focus on direct agribusiness with emergent market. We aim our focus on working with private people decentrally, with direct impact, socially, financially and environmentally. Bottom up simple solutions.
About You
Organization:
Egro
Background Information
First Name

Jacob Vahr

Last Name

Svenningsen

The competition is only open to people between 18-34 years-old and resident in UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. Does this apply to you

Yes.

Country of residence of entrepreneur

Denmark

Tell us about your personal background. Why are you passionate about this issue? Making an idea a reality takes innovation, dedication and strong leadership. Do you have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to realize your vision?

Agriculture and Tech geek, polymath autodicact .

I grew up as a farmer by fiord and North Sea in Western Denmark, quit school twice, build a golfcourse in Tuscany at age 19 and went globetrotting.

I went on a trip to Africa with my best friend in X-mas 2008, she is half Gambian. I ended up visiting her grandfather in the bush, an old nomadic tribesman. His youngest son showed me the indigenous plants and I was breathtaken and fell in love with the nature there.

Quit my greenkeeping job to build this agriculture project in 2009, researched it and developed the concept. Only to find out i needed to develop skills for building a social business, which I have been doing ever since, a learning proces of becoming an entrepreneur.

I had success with it, and people started showing interest and finally realized the project when i found partners who were capable of working with me on it. Getting to full acceptance of its importance when it was headhunted for an incubator programme at "DTUcreatech" Technical University of Denmark.

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Egro

Organization Country

, Copenhagen

Country where this project is creating social impact

, CR, Njau

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Innovation
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities

Primary activities

1 Building a strong partnership with locals
2 Selecting local trainers
3 Educating permanent agriculture pinciples
4 The introduction of BushWeb (WLAN)
5 Facilitating pilot plant project for export market access
6 The financial models of cooperatives and BushWeb

1
Building a strong partnership with locals.

We collaborate with experienced women income generating groups, who already have a vision to do good in other communities, and expressed their understanding of needs to find methods of further development. They are visionary enough hat they understand the complete conneection between the relation of people, nature and financial incentives. That want to get away from dependence on subsidies, provided to them by family members who have moved to the urban areas.

We will meet their vision and setup educational courses in their already existing training centres, and providing them with full knowledge and skills, for designing and further more implementing a complete permaculture ecosystem, that provides them with a forest farm for each familiy in their local villages.

2
Selecting local trainers

We select specially skillfull individuals amongst the community woman. The must show skills and interest in agriculture and ambition to evolve. In the beginning they serv as mentors for other students, eventually they themselves will become teachers and trainers in permaculture and educate others like themselves. They will essentially function as professional agricultural consultants in their own communities, later also servicing other settlements and villages. they will develop the skills for building projects and they will become project managers. Some will advance to become active in the development of the local cooperative businesses, and become community leaders taking responsibility in owning part of the product processing facilities.

3
Educating permanent agriculture principles

We start are natural the transition process in year one, away from the obsolete slash and burn techniques, where only a single monoculture annual crop is used, such as maize, wheat, rice, and cous, that are is very popular.

When rain season comes we initiate the development of the land surrounding the village, setting up natural fast growing vegetation in hedgerws for protecting against the dry winds of the sahel. These fast growing trees are called pioneer trees. We seed a cover crop (Alfalfa) on the ground, that has an especially deep and strong rootzone. It can penetrate, fixate nitrogen as fertilizer serving the pioneer trees and thus rejuvenate the soil, and hold its moisture.

Building a demonstration site for these new design principles is essential. It will require a nursery for propagation of plants, an earth worm farm for inoculating the soil with funghi and bacteria, and a compost brewery for adding organic material to the soil.

We will create the first value for the local people by demonstrating to them and helping them make small innovations for conservation of their food (see video 4 by practical action), planting trees in seedlings with the use of recyled plastic bottles (see pictures), build simple irrigations systems for their field (Tread pump picture).

We will show them in experimental test reference fields, how intercropping methods increases yield from growing plants in mixed lines of mutually beneficiary plants. Along with planting canopies of trees in different heights that help protect cool the ground and thus protect the fragile groundcrops exposed to heat.

Thus giving them a complete understanding of the functions and interactions of the biodiversity in nature.

4
The introduction of BushWeb (WLAN)

We setup a low cost, highly effective plug and play wireless communications infrastructure between the villages. Making a low-tech intranet. (see pictures). Giving the early adapters, usually being children and teenagers, but also young women the ability to educate themselves with access to a local network database of tutorials and educational videos.

This broadcasting system will give them the potential for video conferencing and knowledge sharing, organising and creating social cohesion amongst their communities. Thus Egro will also have easy access to the local population with outdoor cinema educational entertainment, in a small and concentrated area, where an education on beneficiary cultural practices has precedence over reading and writing effort. These will naturally also be freely available on the intranet platform in already existing open source softwares.

5
Facilitating pilot plant project for export market access

With aditional training in conservation methods, such as drying fruits and vegetables, a process that they have already started in several villages with solar ovens (see pictures & video). We give them the ability to process the products harvested in the forest farm. In collaboration with our incubator programme (DTUcreatech) Egro will facilitate the contact between the Danish National Food Laboratory (DTUfoods) at Technical University of Denmark and The University of the Gambia.

A Master Student in Copenhagen, Denmark will do experiments and research in best practices of fermentation and packaging of produce from the forest farms. The intention is to replicate these methods in The University of The Gambia, and transfer the knowledge. The Gambia already has a national brewery and thus skilled labour for this process. A smallscale pilot plant, for laboratory use, will be build at Gambia University. The products will be tested and shipped, and there will be a thourough badge sample testing at DTUfoods laboratories for quality assurance.

The purpose is to increase shelf time to endure the expected travel time period of up to 3 months, and thus giving the ability of accessing export markets for sales of forestry products. Produce such as fruits and vegetables will be sold business 2 business as food supplements, extracts, concentrates and dyes. Capable of supporting a wide range of industrial products such as colouring clothes, ink, paper, and foods. This programme will be announced 19th April 2012 to DTU students, and start in the semester of September 2012.

6
The financial models of cooperatives and BushWeb

The schooling is free and courses will utilize existing facilities or community structures. If need be, they will be build in collaboration with private foundations.

The farmers will own their own land and their own forest and installations.

The local cooperative will be partially owned by Egro, for keeping a level of expertize available to the development of the processing facilities. The farmers will earn shares in the cooperative, comparatively based on their ability to deliver a steady level of increasing harvest from the forest farm and growing efficiency in maintenance. Thus the skilled farmer will become motivated to grow his ownership and have more decision power and share profit.

The BushWeb (WLAN) communications infrastructure will be partially owned by local chieftain or elder counsil members for purpose of protection. A film projector will serve as a pay per view cinema, run by a local manager employed for a fixed salary per screening he makes, his salary will dependent on entrance and fees collected. The BushWeb will be serviced from the revenue the cinema generates.

Out of consideration for the existing social structure, it will remain a closed intranet to all others but administrators. The content purpose is entirely educational. Initially the capacity of filesharing will happen on own physical media (SD card/USB) and later with an integrated local social media platform of a non commercial character.

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Making a Difference

A. The socioeconomic impacts
B. The environmental impacts

A
The socioeconomic impacts

Firstly this education provides them with the agricultural methods for reaching permanent self sufficiency. It subsequently gives them the ability to produce in excess of their consumption.

With a continued harvest year round from a multitude of species, that are all maturing at different times of year. They will always have the ability to sell when demand and prices are high.

An economic incentive becomes obvious and the spirit of entrepreneurship arise within the villages. The prospect of and easy access to local market carrying quality products and with a high return on investment will be the driving motivational force for the development of the area. This too will develop a feeling of progress in the regional area initiated by Egro´s appearance. Thus branding us for a higher willingness of collaboration. Ultimately reaching a critical mass in the population and becoming an intricate part of their social structure and awareness. This gives us a strengthened position in local population and increased range for social and environmental impact.

The women income groups with their organisation will eventually evolve to interact in forms of cooperative businesses. Giving them the ability of bringing a large volume of their processed products to world market, according to high quality standards of fermentation and package with badge number traceability.

In essence breaking the grounds for a functioning agricultural sector, creating independence from imports of staple foods on a national level, and ultimately increasing GDP to a level of sustainable macroeconomical growth.

B
The environmental impact.

Local and global effects, short and long term are significant.
In implementing this approach, we not only regenerate the land to become increasingly more fertile, and capture scarce resources of fresh water in the ground table, we also sequester carbon in the vast mature forests, skillfully maintained by motivated cooperatives. Ultimately the temperate climates of the vegetation leads to a drop in temperature over land. It also leads to an increase in rising particles (pollen) for binding vapor in atmosphere and consequently provoking rain. Hence the word rainforest.

The effects of carbon sequestration are obvious.

Regional and national level.
Binding the water locally with temperate forests changes the reliability, the frequency in gentle rain, the total volume of rain, and the length of the rain seasons, making it possible to extent the forests systems further into the desertificated areas.

It will on a global level result in more stable weather patterns, most effectively of course effect in the local region and a decrease in overall water vapor in the global atmosphere, which is just as potent a greenhouse gas as the carbon emissions, and has seen a rise in 25% since the beginning of the industrial age. Devastating in unpredictable flash floods occurring due to climate changes.

Smaller side effects is the increase in wildlife habitats and the preservation of biodiversity.

Select the stage that best applies to your business

Operating for 1-5 years

Social Impact
What is the social impact you have had to date and how you measure it?

A good example of how we have had a lasting social impact with the local women´s group we are working with in The Gambia.

In 2005 they started a savings system. Under a visit to their village in May 2010, I proposed them to understand the concept of a banking system, from a nature person point of view. Taking example in a local rodent, the Gambian giant rat, that digs an underground dwelling with a central storage chamber for groundnuts. That in effect the women were simply doing the same as the rat, which was saving up for famine season.

The name of their local bank is now the name of the local gambian giant rat, they call it "Drimo Finance" , and in the neighbouring language Mandinko the rat is called "Drimu". This name will spread for impact in other savings systems.

What barriers might hinder the success of your business? How do you plan to overcome them?

Ability to function with womens group: Listen to their experience and wishes for building their own community, letting them structure their workhours, and setting own goals for their training efforts.

Resistance from men: Activate them in jobs such as mechanics and give them functions involving trade & administration.

Shipment of deliveries stuck in harbour: Building a community centre on the docks with fitness & gym facilities with access to internet and TV educational entertainment for the dock workers.

Requirements from speditors: Choose local drivers responsible for shipment enroute to harbour. Give shares and bonuses

Sustainability
How does your model address financial, social, and environmental sustainability?

The Egro model

Environmental
With the educational focus on regenerating earth. Using simple design shaping methods and nature maintenance procedures. In its principle the model is almost completely sustainable in itself. It does initially take into its use technologies that rest on the shoulders of industrial evolution such as computers, solar panels, and batteries, which are not a sustainable natural resources

Social
We are proposing to take the development initiatives down to the individual level, collaborating with the communities to develop a decentral yet, entire development of the agricultural sector. As such we completely focus on addressing all the communities issues with the intent for the people to root themselves with the ability to sustain their livelihood.

As a matter of fact the rural areas once relieving of the local poverty, leads to a higher level of local commerce and thus regional prosperity. The subsequent financial stability is indirectly a conflict prevention method.

Financial
This model works without having to make any significant input to the environment other than that of education, there are no needs for building expensive schools systems, road infrastructures, central electrical and sanitation facilities etc.

This makes the entire society self sufficient with only the knowledge it has been provided, even if the global economy severs its connection to the rural areas.

Awareness & learning
How do you see social entrepreneurship contributing to the improvement of developing countries?

Envoking and creating a local incentive for local entrepreneurship is the only method of true sustainable development. Social business with conscious focus on nature resource creation is the only viable form of society. The transition of industrial countries towards becoming viable financially is getting increasingly difficult for each day they indebt themselves

The developing countries will through complete social, financial, and environmental consideration in their business build the richest and most stable economies of the world. As the definition of rich shifts from existing heavily maintenance expensive infrastructure, towards a valuation of natural resources and healthy human capital, these developing countries are an asset rather than a burden.

It is the developing world that will create and fuel the next global economy, as it has always been the case, based on these principles of financial, social, and environmental sustainability.

What aspects of your stay in Uganda as part of the competition do you think you will find most challenging and rewarding?

The stay in Uganda presents a window of opportunity to sell our services and create a physical network in meeting with government parliamentarians through a Danish/Eritrean friend agronomist and lobbyist, with Ugandan family ties on wife´s side deep inside governmenat at cabinet minister levels. A potential partner for future business operating parallel with Egro in search of land for development of project in several locations.

The challenge will be to merge the time spend with Ashoka and somehow by emphasizing the importance of these courses inviting and involving the government decision makers to participate, in their understanding of the importance of social entrepreneurship they are the ones who will most greatly benefit from the event.

Reward:
Ties and network within an established community of social entrepreneurs, highly regarded around the world, with ability to see business opportunities and open doors for the future.

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