"An affordable very safe, nice looking, versatile and almost indestructible home comes real.
- Affordable and very cheap: because it's just an element produced by a plant
- Very safe: walls are made of glass fiber reinforced polyester with sand…"
LEAD is a non-profit that comes along side the fledgling industry of cashew processing. We work along the entire value chain of the cashew. We educate and organize farmers. We help them learn investment and the power of collaboration. We also provide trade skills in processing to farmers and others in the community. Once trained, we mentor, coach, and capitalize processing companies. We currently have 15 companies, one farmer corporation and trade schools for 500 students annually. We bring years of expertise in business creation, to one of the most challenging business environments in the world. We believe in hands on, long-term, entrepreneurial approaches because they are the most effective we've found in our field.
Other Topics on my radar:
We are now adding cashew fruit processing to our existing operations. Fruit drying technology. Marketing approaches. Developing markets and bridge markets in Africa. Training and developing business minded donors and philanthropic investment partners.
Thanks for your note. I personally am specialized in sugarcane-based ethanol but we do have members exploring or producing jatropha-based biodiesel in several African countries. We also work with technology providers here in Europe. Additional contacts are always welcome. Thanks!
Hope I didn't come across as questioning whether you were trusting Africans - my comment was intended to express frustration about trouble finding the appropriate business models that will work for African bottom of the pyramid microenterprises.
I've taken a purely private sector approach and realizing there is going to need to be some grant money during initial phases until market dynamics are strong enough to self-sustain projects. The biggest obstacle to commerce is lack of information (supply, demand, crop pricing, distribution channels, etc.). Like you I have found there is a need to share insights on business techniques but I find people catch on to these relatively quickly (at least for now).
Tried sending you an e-mail but it came back to me. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org If you have time Tuesday morning I'd love to chat about what you are doing, what we are doing, etc.
I have dropped an introductory comment to the discussion "Is your project profitable?"
The nature of my farming development is INTENSIVE CROP & LIVESTOCK FARMING.
In the current farming season I have 8 hectares of maize - the stapple food for Zimbabwe. We are learning the hard way from hunger that we must grow our own food. I have 6 hectares of Sunflower - the initial plan was to do 20 hectares of sunflower but I was let down by tillage services and unavailability of fertiliser even though I had managed to procure seed from South Africa. I intend to exctract oil from sunflower and use the residue cake in poutry feed for my poutry poject. I also have groundnuts which will be processed into peanut butter. I am a contract grower for JATROPHA SEEDLINGS for the national oil company that is working on a biofuels project. We are also putting down sweet potatoes - the RAINS have been good so far in Zimbabwe. I am planning to reduce dependence on artificial fertilisers and looking for information on producing organic fertilisers. Nevertheless for the current season, in order to guarantee a descent harvest I urgently need Ammonium Nitrate especially for the 8 hectares of maize. Humanitarian aid is coming into the country as inadequate foodstuffs. But I think the international community could do even better assisting us to grow our own food by guaranteeing that we have the inputs. The company I hired to till my land has just finished ploughing and discing an additional 10 hectares of land - I had wanted to put Sunflower on this land but our Agricultural Extension officer has advised me that it is now too late for sunflower BUT I should look for SUGARBEANS inputs instead. If the house I am selling could be bought quickly I could't hesitate to buy 1 tonne of sugarbean seed and ancillary inputs to plant on this ready 10 hectares. The Sugarbean gross margin budget has a wonderful bottomline.
Will try again on e-mail. I 100% agree on your comments about aid focused approaches (I'm still getting shocked as I discover what folks actually do with grant money) as well as the need to empower people directly. Attached is a diagram summarizing issues we have encountered thus far. I hope it generates the type of discussion you want to see.
Right now I would love for a tree of solutions to fall out of the sky and self germinate. LOL!
There are 13 farmers in the pilot of which 8 were actively responding via SMS. However, the cost for them to receive became significant so we are down to 1 active farmer via SMS and the rest have requested a monthly printed newsletter. Interestingly none were interested in receiving info via radio. Locations are remote so computer/internet is not an option at this time.
We are working with a community group called Vanilla Jatropha Development Foundation. They mobilized the farmers. We have not offered any incentives other than free technical support and answers to questions. Farmers are able to self-assess their needs (e.g. I need marketing skills, farming inputs, etc). Interestingly they were all willing to pay a low monthly fee to be part of a network. Each farmer owns their own farm and farm sizes range from 3 to 10 acres. They are all growing food crops alongside jatropha. They are motivated because the government has identified jatropha biodiesel production as a national priority (unfunded when it comes to small holder farmers). I would say motivation of pilot group is very high.
Production data is not available. I have asked VJDF for farm profiles. It was an unanticipated lack of data so right now working to see how to best to gather the data remotely. If it is not possible I will have to make arrangements to get people on the ground.
Would be very interested in seeing your cashew flow chart.
I am not at all offended by your suggestions. The lack of market data forces one to get back to basics. I can't tell you how many times I've laughed when "experts" here tell me just plug in the numbers - I look at them and ask, where am I supposed to get them.
Right now I am working developing a template for data collection. It will be very rudimentary and outline the most basic of data elements we need. I will test it first through the intermediary and then through the farmers. If this fails then we will engage our own data collection folks who will also train and, absolutely train any farmers who are willing to serve as lead data gathering experts.
I know it seems weird to start with such a small number but we figured best to work out the kinks on a micro-scale before ramping up. This way pent up frustrations are contained to a small and manageable group. If we can get them to succeed then they will be our best marketing tool.
Any and all suggestions/comments are welcome. If it's something we've already done I'll explain what we've done. These are uncharted waters which require collective input.
Mike, will get back to you soon but in the meantime there is a great tool that has been an important guide in our work: the BoP Protocol(tm). You can find info and the actual protocol on www.bop-protocol.org.
The entire field of participatory development tools (Chambers, etc) and, most basically, the humility and empathy to learn with and co-create a business with local partners and entrepreneurs have been the most important tools.