Let’s really get a little more practical about global poverty and economic inequality, and let’s also really come together and become one, this point onward.
The coronavirus is a textbook example of how the specter of inequality can ruin the world’s ultra poor in times like these. From instant food insecurity, to the inability to afford even the most basic sanitary kits.
And while this virus has indeed impacted us all, our level of resilience and our ability to recover from the economic fallout arising from this outbreak won’t be the same in its aftermath and, without any doubt, the world’s poor are going to be in this for the long haul.
But looking back, global poverty in particular has persisted only because of a few systemic barriers that still make it hard to end this injustice once and for all.
The very first barrier is the fact that, for long, this world really has said no to letting those who live on <$1 a day take the helm of ending poverty. According to CIVICUS, only 1% of all ODA, and an even smaller fraction (i.e. <1%) of all humanitarian assistance, goes directly to the extreme poor in the global south.
That is, 99% of all global anti-poverty solutions are top-bottom and, if you live in a truly poor community, say in Africa — a region that was already set to host over 90% of the world’s extreme poor in 2030 before COVID-19 even came, you already know there is often no single anti-poverty activity taking place at all.
The second barrier is that of hidden phobias and stereotypes towards the poor, as reinforced by the belief that all change must be top-bottom. As a result, many people on this planet, including those who are best positioned to ensure an end to poverty by 2030, are inherently opposed to the idea of any slight form of collaboration with those who directly live on <$1 a day — even if the only help needed is a tweet.
But the coronavirus has laid bare that we are all better off only when each one of us has the basic means of survival, and has highlighted that humanity’s best course of action, surely, is to work together.
Let’s do just that. Let’s really become one, this point on, and let this mark the beginning of an era where humanity as a whole could very easily, and seamlessly, work together on the biggest struggles of our time.
In a way, many of the things we are seeing today really speak to our shared humanity, and reaffirm the need for us to work together to address the oldest and most incessant challenges we have long faced as a human family, including global poverty. It is why we need to come together and become one, now on.
Similarly, this also explains why we need to get the Global Goals back on track, and why we need to put the next 10 years to use — once COVID-19 abates.
To the world’s extreme poor, the UN Global Goals represent the only promise for a world that is devoid of endemic poverty. But, long before the coronavirus was even here, these goals had precisely stalled.
For those of us at the very bottom of the pyramid, that all means nothing but a future pretty much more grim with or without the COVID-19 outbreak per se.
It is especially so for those of us who have no networks anywhere on earth, but who had hoped to build a path from chronic poverty by tapping into the collaborative framework laid out by the Global Goals, which framework has now turned out to be elusive.
I am calling on the world to get the Global Goals back on track, once COVID-19 has relented. It is true, times have changed. But there is a lot we can really do to actualize these goals even today, especially if the global community used these hard times to directly support the people living in extreme poverty.
Even better, with the coronavirus now wreaking economic havoc on the world’s poor the hardest, and placing many more into poverty, it is now essential for everyone who is in a position to instigate progress on the Global Goals, to put it to use, even if that means going outside their traditional business model. At this point, adhering to a strict conventional approach will only isolate the most unprivileged even the more.
Let’s become one, this point on, and let’s put the next 10 years to use, to make the UN Global Goals a reality.
I am writing to implore you to help me create only ONE lasting solution to the cycle of poverty in our region. Let’s put the next 10 years to use. Help me leverage the power of collaboration to bring a lasting, self-sustainable end to the plight of poverty in our region. See why am counting on the Global Goals.
My name is Anthony, a small farmer in a remote part of eastern Uganda. I have lived in extreme poverty my whole life, but am resolute to change the status quo.
If you could help, am seeking collaborators who may be able to work directly with my team, or those who can only amplify our voice, to help us create only one lasting solution to the cycle of poverty in our region.
Collaborations like these are the true essence of Goal 17, and are the only way we can end poverty for good.
Please see “How You Can Help” at the very bottom.
And be sure to learn about our project, the UCF, here.
You might even want to see what 2 recent American visitors had to say about us, on their own blog, here.
Let’s Do Something:
In our region, everyone is a smallholder farmer, and nearly every smallholder farmer here lives in extreme poverty. But, in practice, the only thing that keeps us in poverty is the absence of reliable markets for our produce, and the fact that rural poor farmers in our region aren’t part of any agricultural value chains.
Farmers have no market linkages beyond village level, yet everyone is very poor, and no local demand exists. For example, farmers have a lot of cassava today, but there are no buyers. It is the same with all other crops.
In retrospect, no crop from farmers in our region goes to any mainstream agricultural market, e.g. the food industry, or any other established agri-value chain. Yet everyone is very poor, and no local demand is in place.
This not only guarantees incomes below the poverty line, but also means, an already impoverished farmer can’t produce beyond a certain point, and can’t scale.
If we had access to markets, and a way of minimizing the food losses that arise from the absence of reliable markets for our produce, it would indeed be possible for us to turn into more productive citizens — who are capable of ending poverty in a self-sustaining manner.
If you are willing to help, the UCF would like to work together with you, to create a lasting solution to this.
Help us become more productive today, so we can then use our own hands both to stem the new wave of economic destitution that has been exacted on us by COVID-19, and to build a lasting, self sustainable end to the plight of poverty in our region by 2030.
The Intended Solution:
We would like to work with you to create a solution that will 1) get us included in agri-food value chains, and 2) build reliable market linkages for our produce.
That solution is: a fully fledged agro-processing plant that shall both reverse poverty and create jobs in our region, by cutting post-harvest food losses, creating new market linkages, & linking our produce with new agri-value chains, e.g. in the food industry, textiles etc.
Farmers here have no market for their produce.
Yet, there is an array of local industries that use intermediate foods like High Quality Cassava Flour; cassava starch/tapioca; processed cereals, or purees & concentrates that are otherwise imported. These industries include bottling companies and breweries; biscuit makers and yogurt producers; confectioneries & bakeries; paperboard industries & pharmaceuticals, adhesive industries and textiles etc. That’s the market we want to tap into, and since we are ourselves the poor farmers who feel the pinch, we will surely do it.
We will develop this plant at once, or we will phase it in small incremental steps, depending on the support we are able to raise. That is, every little support that we can raise will make a small incremental beginning.
For instance, once we only install a few food dryers and the right accessories, that alone will help us work with many fellow poor farmers to produce the right quality of beer-making cassava and sorghum that we will then process and supply to regional breweries, and will create market linkages for many other crops.
The plant shall have 2 components:
Component 1: Cassava & Cereal/Grain Processing.
We will install 2 – 5 durable, greenhouse-type solar food dryers at the UCF. These dryers, along with an assortment of complementary equipment, will create markets for rural farmers in our region, by turning our produce into foods that will bring us new buyers from across the agri-value chain — for products like high quality cassava flour, tapioca pearls, cereals etc.
A prototype of our intended greenhouse-type solar food dryers (seen below) was installed at our project, the UCF, in August – September 2018. This prototype measures 6mx7m, but has a small capacity of 100kg.
Our final 2 – 5 dryers will be 9mx27m each, and shall be installed by Serm Janjai of SolarLabSU.com (talks finalized), with materials from Covestro. Here below is one 9mx27m solar dryer Serm installed in Thailand:
Component 2: Fruit Processing.
We aim to install a facility that turns fresh fruits into intermediate products for the food industry. This will help repurpose the chunks of fruits that otherwise go to waste while people are in poverty, and will link rural poor farmers to markets they couldn’t access before, while ploughing the plant’s own incomes back into the community to support our work with fellow farmers.
To get started, our project (the UCF) will designate a piece of land specifically for raising large volumes of seedlings for passion fruits; pineapples; mango and others, all year round. These seedlings shall be given out to all the participating small farmers at no charge, along with sufficient agronomic training at every step.
Farmers already have these fruits & only no market. But the goal of giving out even more seedlings is to increase production as we move along, disseminate varieties that have a higher juice yield or quality, and to ensure that even the poorest farmers who have no inputs can participate equally, this time with a ready market. Products will be fruit purees/concentrates.
Below is a replica of what component #2 will look like:
For a fruit processing facility, in particular, our national government has long mulled plans for installing one in our area since the 60s, and lately in 2012 as said here, because there is a grave need for such a facility here. But now that this will never come to pass, we have to take up the challenge and get one in place ourselves.
Technical assistance on installing the whole plant; building market linkages, and advice on specific crop systems will come from TechoServe, SolarlabSU.com, Partners in Food Solutions, AfrII, Natural Resources Institute UK, & specialized entities like Alvan Blanch.
a). from a Global Goals point of view:
Setting up this plant will address SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), while the collaborative process that we are seeking to help us establish this plant is SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). And, as food loss in a poor region like ours means both a missed income and food insecurity, this plant will also contribute toward SDG 2 (Zero Hunger).
Through job creation, the plant will directly contribute towards SDG 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth). Lastly, by creating markets for more than one type of crop, this plant shall enable rural farmers to diversify and earn supplemental incomes from various crops.
b). from a community point of view:
Our project, the UCF, is already working with many rural poor smallholder farmers. We support these farmers from the very first step, by providing them with initial inputs like seed, and the needed agronomic training. We then pool our collective produce and market it under a single umbrella, together with the produce that’s been grown by ourselves at the UCF.
Setting up this plant will create new market linkages for our produce (cutting food losses, creating jobs and stemming poverty), and will enhance our capacity to work with many other poor farmers across a wider geographical area (providing them with seed, training and a market) in a self-sustaining way. The plant will also help farmers earn incomes from various crops.
Even more practically, crops like passion fruits, which mature only in months, and whose seedlings will be provided by the UCF to all interested farmers free of charge, along with a ready market at harvest, will be a guaranteed way of fast-tracking an exit from extreme poverty even for the poorest smallholder farmers.
Below are a few photos of local farmers the UCF works with. The first 3 were taken 2016 by Tracy, an American from RandomActs.org. The last two were taken 2018 by visitors Emily & Taylor from Northfield Mount Hermon School, Massachusetts. Photo #5 in the sequence, also taken by Emily & Taylor, is of the crops that are being grown by ourselves at the UCF.
A few international visitors who have physically been at the UCF and seen our work firsthand are: Taylor, Northfield Mount Hermon School, MA (visited 2018); Emily, Northfield Mount Hermon School, Cambridge MA (visited 2018); Neil, Fullwell Mill UK (visited 2018); Ken, Greater Impact Foundation (visited 2016); John, Anya, Claire, Josie, Poppy, Joanna & Alex — Edinburgh University (2016); Tracy, RandomActs.org (2016).
What Makes Our Plant Unique?
This isn’t a traditional capitalist idea. Rather, it is the kind of work that SDG 9 calls for, not to mention it will be the very first such plant in our region, and is being fronted by people who have weathered poverty for long. Our only goal is to catalyze self-sustainability.
Unlike traditional capitalist ventures, our plant will create markets for poor small farmers, and will use its own resources to stem poverty in the remotest areas where nothing else is in place to end poverty. And it’s only natural that way. This will simply be a furtherance of the work the UCF is already doing with many rural poor farmers in our region, on practically a $0 budget.
P.S. – for a few photos from our previous work with local farmers, please visit the UCF website, or take a look at a presentation that we made before the UNDP Uganda senior executive team back in 2017, in regard to the same plant that we are striving to establish.
Ownership & Legal Structure:
The UCF is itself a nonprofit social enterprise, and virtually all the rural poor farmers that we work with have no means of getting started on their own. As such, all the support that we provide to these farmers (be it seed, tarpaulins, fertilizers, or training) is free.
To run our plant in a flexible and creative way, and without subjecting our work to bureaucratic practices that have stalemated similar ventures here today, our plant shall be owned & managed by the UCF, with any incomes thereof being used to scale our work with rural poor farmers, and to maintain the plant itself.
Our reason for working that way is: Uganda has previously had many similar initiatives, plus hundreds of communally owned farmers’ cooperatives that failed, because they belonged to everybody and as such nobody was responsible for their sustenance.
The UCF is located on 12 acres in a remote part of Kamuli, eastern Uganda. But, using incomes from the crops we are growing here ourselves, we were able to acquire (in 2017) another 3 acres approximately six kilometers from Kamuli Municipality. Component #2 of our plant shall be installed on these 3 acres, while Component #1 will be situated on our 12-acre site.
The current climate crisis is set to hit poor people like us the hardest. Yet, at the same time, the scourge of poverty in a region like ours warrants the very kind of technological solutions that we are envisioning now.
So, alongside the fruit saplings that our plant will raise and give out to all the participating local farmers at no charge, we will raise several species of multipurpose, fast-growing leguminous trees (like albizia, grilicidia & calliandra) that farmers will integrate in their gardens through alley-cropping, as well as native, hardwood trees that farmers will grow as separate woodlots.
These trees will help enhance soils through nitrogen fixation, provide animal fodder, firewood, timber, and above all, offset all the CO2 emissions from our plant.
How You Can Help:
1). donate a tweet or two to share this website with the world, so we can recruit even more collaborators.
2). team up with us on this fundraiser, to help us raise support. You may even be able to help us raise a small fraction of the needed support via your own means.
As we will very likely have only one chance of raising support, and because we want to align our plant with the food standards of reputable consumers, we would like to raise $15m, to put our work on a solid footing.
From this, $0.2m provides farmer support; $0.8m is for cassava & cereal/grain processing, and the $14m will erect a fruit processing facility (breakdown here).
As shown under “Funding Targets” in our fundraiser above, we will accomplish specific milestones starting at the $150k mark — i.e., once we raise this or more.
That means, every little support that you could help us raise will make a strategic incremental beginning.
3). if you are able to provide any hands-on skills on a volunteering basis (e.g. as an industrial designer; food technologist, mechanical engineer, etc), work with us to install this plant, once the coronavirus has abated.
4). we’d also need some MBA volunteers to orientate us on key areas of work — like management; staffing needs & roles of personnel, or even new technologies for tracking/monitoring our farmers’ fields in real time.
5). if you have no hands-on skills (i.e. if you are an unskilled volunteer who would like to be part of us in developing this plant), there is a lot you can do, from working as a porter, to carrying water. Come join in.
To learn about how the UCF started, see Anthony’s personal story here, or learn more on our website.