Merry Christmas / Happy New Year! I wanted to write a brief summary of gardening progress and to highlight quickly our immediate needs. Of the 44 participants in the community gardening program, most are working toward a treadle pump (see photo). These leg-powered irrigation pumps are used to water gardens from surface water sources - providing a huge savings in time and effort for small-scale gardens. At the moment, we have just enough funding to provide these pumps to the 7 households that have really contributed most of the agreed time payments of 13 hours per week over 2 years. But we want to encourage the rest of the community members to reach these goals as well. Please consider making an end-of-year contribution for the ongoing success of these community gardens. On another note, I'll be making a 2-minute pitch of Out of the Ground's developing business model to attendees of the Israeli Designed International Development meeting from Jan 7th - 9th. Do follow the ongoing posts on our Facebook page and blog. God bless, Adam & Sari
As the original two-year project timeframe comes to an end, I've been looking into possible directions for the future. To summarize to these possibilities:
1) Launch a water and irrigation start-up that builds upon the 'outgrower' agriculture model to provide village water services in combination with irrigation investments for community revenue generation.
This idea has gone through many revisions over the past year. Here are a few:
Dell Social Innovation Challenge
William James Foundation Sustainable Business Competition
I've become convinced that business models possess the most potential for generating lasting change in Africa's rural sector. Water and irrigation obviously go hand-in-hand, and providing both together has the potential to bring a community past the tipping point toward prosperity.
2) Develop partnerships with research organizations, such as the Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, to bring research tools to the specific challenges facing rural Africa.
Research is also an important element in addressing development challenges. Unfortunately, most research focuses on the West's problems, because most research occurs in the West. Of all of Zambia's medical graduates since the 1960's, about half left the country for better opportunities. But as Africa develops its own research institutions, it will need to address its own research problems. A few examples of my own research in this context:
Global Water Forum Emerging Scholars Award
Rural Water Financing Article
At the moment, these two ideas are both possibilities. I'm praying for direction as I finish my PhD in February and move on to the next step.
Sari and I both appreciate your help very much in making this project possible. We continue to invest in Simango and hope to be back there soon to take the project to the next step.
We are still in need of financial contributions to provide the gardeners with treadle pumps for their hard work! Do consider making a donation this holiday season. All recurring donations are matched!
Stay posted on progress at outoftheground.org. The website should be upgraded soon thanks to Global Giving's partnership with the Kennesaw State Art Institute graduate design course, which has offered us a free website re-design. Thanks Nisha and Dr. Lin Hightower! See our newly designed logo below.
Adam, Sari, Nuria and Mae
The past few months' focus on finishing my PhD thesis (due in a few months) has meant a period of reflection on the past few years in Zambia.
I'll try to summarize some of these lessons, and provide an idea of where things are going next year:
Top Ten Lessons Learned from the Project (So Fa)r:
10) Preparation is important, but adaptability is crucial.
9) Engaging the community to get behind a vision is a long process - and the process is more IMPORTANT than almost anything else.
8) A trustworthy and dependable team of locals is the project backbone.
7) Challenges and setbacks are a part of the process, and are not a reason to give up.
6) There is a fine and difficult balance between charity and empowerment, and each approach may be necessary in different situations. It's not always black and white.
5) Once a foreigner in a village, always a foreigner in a village. Don't try to change that - recognize your role and DON'T create any element of the project that depends entirely on the foreigner in the village (you).
4) If you abide by the above rule, you'll quickly realize how non-essential you really are - a very humbling but important realization.
3) Don't assume that what you think is important, is important to the people you are trying to help. Listen.
2) Everything that can break will break. And, actually, even things that aren't supposed to break will break.
1) Keep going. Surround yourself with people who won't give up.
I think that's it. I'm fortunate to have people in the project who haven't and won't give up. Pastor Kebby is a gem who has really demonstrated a maturity beyond his years. I know he is doing everything in his power to keep the momentum, despite the many challenges we have faced.
We are currently fundraising for developing a program in cooperation with other local organizations - the SAM Project and Overland Missions - who have much the same vision as we do for community empowerment through water and agricultural investments.
Please do continue to support the ongoing work, and tell others our story.
I've recently posted a new project video - please take 7 minutes and watch it!
Adam and Sari
The most exciting news over the past few months has been the decision in Sari and my own hearts to begin thinking and preparing to move back to Zambia next year to expand the project.
Last month, I was in the CT area presenting my research at Yale. During that time, I met with people who have been involved in supporting the project over the past years, spoke with non-profit lawyers, read business and organization development books, and began to develop a practial and sustainable business plan that ties together the lessons we've learned so far. Much of this is published at the Dell Social Innovation Challenge website which I'm attaching below. We qualified for the semi-finals of this international competition! Check it out.
At this stage, we're really looking for strategic partnerships that could bring necessary resources and skills together. I've met some interesting contacts at the Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale, at the Agritech Conference in Tel Aviv, and through various contacts in Connecticut. Someone has already pledged $10,000 to support travel expenses for establishing these connections in the future.
This is the rainy season in Zambia, so the gardens are operating only on a smaller scale. Yet we have partnered with the Sustainable Agriculture and Micro-Enterprise (SAM) project, a local team in Livingstone, to help train our participants. The SAM project helps gardeners sell their produce in local agricultural cooperatives, so it is a great partnership for us.
Thanks again for your support. Looking forward to more progress ahead.
I am leaving this evening from Israel to Zambia for 3 weeks to check up on how the local leadership is doing, and to help them to make the necessary changes in order to ensure success in our goals.
Together with these project leaders, we will be hosting a group of 10 graduate students from the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, where I am studying. These students have been involved this past semester in the ongoing Rural Water Development course with Prof. Noam Weisbrod, with which I have been involved as an assistant. They will be coming to Simango for a week in order to conduct water quality sampling and to help build several demonstration sites of the BioSand filter, which we are promoting as part of this project.
I am also hoping to create a short video from this visit in order to summarize the project in an appealing and comprehensible way.
I will keep you all posted when I return.
In the meantime, do visit the project blog: "Out of the Ground"
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