Saturday, November 01, 2008

Field Update: Zambia Overview

Ryan trying out a treadle pump

Ryan with Blessings and Francis after an activity at church

There's so much to write about my trip to Zambia that for now I'll use broad brush strokes and will fill in the detail in subsequent posts.
My Zambia trip was, first and foremost, amazing. It was my first trip to Africa, and it changed many of my perceptions about the continent. Prior to my trip, the word "Africa" conjured up images of violence, famine, corruption, disease, hopelessness, and the list goes on (see my previous post about The Fate of Africa). But after visiting Zambia, such prejudices are cleared from my mind, and I am filled with hope based on the experiences I had and the people I met.
Zambia was, unintentionally, two trips in one. The first trip was the one I intended to take: a trip to visit rural farmers within a several hour radius of Zambia's capital (Lusaka) to assess the impact of IDE's work there. My second trip was a last minute add-on: a visit to a local church, where I struck up a friendship with Blessings and Francis.
First, I'll share a few key takeaways from the IDE portion of the trip: (1) upgrading from buckets to irrigation pumps changes farmers' lives; (2) for as little as $100, farmers can purchase a basic human-powered pump such as the treadle pump pictured above; (3) lack of access to credit is a key barrier to broader adoption of pumps; and (4) pumps generally increase productivity such that farmers can pay off their pump loans within one year by selling their surplus fruits and vegetables. As a result of these takeaways, I need to figure out how to dramatically increase the availability of microcredit to rural farmers for the purchase of pumps. Any help on this matter is most welcome.
My second "trip" reinforced the need for increased access to capital in the developing world. I visited a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lusaka on my first full day in Zambia. While there, I met Blessings and Francis, two members who share a number of things in common: both served as full-time missionaries for two years, both worked in South Africa recently since their economy is the strongest in the region, both returned to Zambia as a result of a death in the family, and both were seeking employment. I'll share details later, but in summary they had a great idea for a business, but they lacked startup capital. I am bullish on their ability to succeed, and I invested $500 to help them get started.

Lack of access to capital was a common point between my two trips within my Zambia trip. I'll follow up with more details about farmers, my new friends Blessings and Francis, and a variety of other key takeaways from my trip. Until then, click here to enjoy my Zambia photos.


Nick said...

Sounds like a remarkably productive trip, Ryan. I'll be interested in hearing all about it later this week.


Annie said...

Wow Ryan! I'm so impressed with your trip! My sister has seen those pumps used in Africa and says they change lives. We're amazed at your efforts!

JPF said...

I'm interested in hearing more and whether progress has been made by Blessings and Francis. We need to get our meetings started up again.

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