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Kenyan Farmer Uses Internet to Boost Potato Farm

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The rise of social networking websites (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites) during the past few years has swept across the internet. The popular Facebook (www.facebook.com) site alone has over 350 million users worldwide. In Africa, there are more than 67 million people with access to the internet – just over 6 percent of the population (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm). And this phenomenon has even begun to penetrate and influence life in poor places with weak internet infrastructure. A farmer in Kenya, Zack Matere, has boosted his potato crop by turning to Facebook for help.

On his farm in Seregeya near Eldoret, Kenya, Matere used the internet to find a cure for his ailing potato crop.

“I cycled 10 kilometres to the local cyber café, Googled (www.google.com) ‘potato disease,’ he told the BBC, “and discovered that ants were eating the potato stems.

“I checked again and found that one of the solutions was to sprinkle wood ash on the crop.”

Matere also used the internet to find a buyer for his rescued crop, and has been able to triple the price he gets for tree seedlings he sells.

Zack believes he is a bit of pioneer: “I think I am the only farmer in the area who uses the internet.”

He uses his mobile phone to access the internet and it costs him about US 0.66 cents a day to do it.

This is a lot of money for small-scale farmers so Zack has a plan to tackle the cost. He will share the information he uncovers on the internet with other farmers in the community by posting it on local community notice boards.

He has noticed some important realities about how people he knows interact with the mobile web. He has found most people do much more with the Net than surfing the mobile web alone at home.

“The internet is quite an individual pursuit. But a notice board is more of a group thing.

“So if I post an item on a notice board on potato disease, for example, the community can read it, talk together and come to a decision.”

One example of the kind of intelligence Matere is able to glean from the internet is reports of cartels deceiving farmers by buying potatoes in over-large 130 kg bags instead of 110 kg bags. Matere takes this information and translates it into Swahili and posts it on community notice boards.

Matere also has to fend off other people looking to use his community’s water supply, which he has done by photographing interlopers with his mobile phone and then posting the photographs on Facebook.

“When they came before, I took photos of what they were doing, posted them on my Facebook page and was able to get assistance,” he said.

“I got in touch with Forest Action Network (http://www.fankenya.org/) and they came back to me quickly saying they would help me protect the catchment area.”

He has also discovered there are more profitable ways to make money for farmers.

“There is a lot of money in tree seedlings or bee hives. So if we can get these young people to use the land in an environmentally (friendly) way, they can get even more money than through farming.”

“I have 400 Facebook friends and I think some of them can buy the honey.”

Matere is philosophical about the future: “I am now seeing the practicality of the internet here in rural Kenya. The problem is I am the only one. That is why the notice board is important. All we need is a bit of relevant information to help us.”

“Once it is made simpler and is more in the local language with more local content, people are going to access the internet here,” he predicts.

Published: April 2010

Resources

1) A blog with news and tips on how to use the social networking tools for business opportunities. Website:http://www.socialnetworking-weblog.com/

2) Four stories on how social networking radically improved business prospects for some people. Website:http://www.bnet.com/2403-13070_23-219914.html

3) A Business Week article on the good and bad of social networking for business. Website:http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/aug2008/sb2008086_346094.htm

4) Txteagle: A service in Kenya that is paying people to do tasks and translations with their mobile phones. Website:http://txteagle.com/index.html

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Iranian Savings Funds to Tackle Loan Drought

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

For entrepreneurs around the world, acquiring finance to start or expand a small business has become harder and harder as the global financial crisis has bitten hard. Across the globe, people with good ideas or successful businesses that need funds to expand are finding the door closed by traditional banks.

As banks and governments have focused on reducing debt and building up cash reserves, it is small businesses and small-scale entrepreneurs – often without business or family connections – who suffer the most. Opportunities are being missed to create new jobs and enterprises and lift poor communities out of poverty.

In that climate, the search is on for alternative ways to build up wealth. In Iran, a new phenomenon has arisen to address the lack of bank loans for small businesses brought about by the economic crisis. Iran is suffering under international sanctions as well as outstanding bank loans exceeding US $45 billion, according to the Financial Times.

The domestic banking crisis this has provoked has resulted in a tightening of credit for loans.

But in response, middle class Iranians are forming their own savings clubs to help each other with loans.

The savings clubs work like this: each member buys a share in the club costing around US $2 per day (around US $620 over 10 months). Each share makes the saver eligible for one loan during the year. For example in a club of 30 Tehran taxi drivers, every month four members of the club receive US $600 each in loans. The fund lasts 10 months and each member is guaranteed one loan per share.

“It is a savings fund and doesn’t have the uncertainty of the banking system, which might or might not give you a loan,” club member Ahmad told the Financial Times newspaper. As one of the drivers, he has four shares and is eligible for four loans.

“My mother is also saving money in a fund of housewives among our female relatives.”

The fund is managed by the head of the taxi agency and a driver who is a retired teacher. Both are trusted. “The retired teacher receives the money every day and puts a check mark by the names of those who pay. He is trusted by the head of the taxi agency, while other drivers respect him as an educated, honest man.”

Savings clubs are also good for the local economy, helping people to be able to buy goods on loans they would never be able to purchase otherwise. Another driver used the fund to “buy the things we cannot afford under normal conditions, like a washing machine, for instance, for which we have zero chance to get bank loans.”

Overdue loans by Iran’s banks grew by 66 percent from last year according to Asghar Abolhassani, the deputy economy minister.

The Financial Times reported that an estimated 25 percent of bank loans are outstanding, making Iran’s banking system technically bankrupt. International sanctions are also blocking the country’s banks from accessing global financial markets for support.

“Stagnation has gripped many parts of the economy,” said Hamid Tehranfar, the central bank’s director-general for banking supervision.

Turning to savings clubs can be an excellent alternative saving and loans model, but it requires very specific trust guarantees in place to ensure the holder of the funds doesn’t just take the money. For those who can’t find somebody local they trust, there are a number of online social lending and fundraising alternatives for raising funds and borrowing money. These include Kiva (www.kiva.org), which connects poor people looking for loans with people around the world willing to lend.

As the crisis continues and banks and governments hoard wealth for their own needs to pay down debt, alternative sources of loans will become ever more important for the poor.

Published: April 2010

Resources

1) Zopa: “Where people meet to lend and borrow money.” Website: www.zopa.com

2) Kiva: Kiva’s mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty. Website: www.kiva.org

3) Betterplace: Started in 2007, Betterplace is an online marketplace for projects to raise funds. It is free, and it passes on 100 percent of the money raised on the platform to the projects. Website: www.betterplace.org

4) Kickstarter: Kickstarter is a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, and explorers. Website: http://www.kickstarter.com/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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The Battle for India’s Coffee Drinkers in Buzzing Economy

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

A showdown in India over coffee is creating new opportunities. It is also demonstrating how the country is changing, with rising incomes in some places and great disparities in others.

Finding the right place to have a coffee and meet with friends for a chat is important to many urban Indians. And the fight is on for these customers.

Older establishments like the legendary College Street Coffee House in Kolkata (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_Street_Coffee_House) – owned by a cooperative society – compete with new rivals modelled on the popular American chain Starbucks (http://www.starbucks.com/). This fierce competition takes place in an economic environment of rising food inflation of up to 16 percent this year and economic growth surpassing seven percent.

Coffee is the second most popular drink in India after tea. Its consumption has been steadily growing over the years, rising from 50,000 metric tonnes (MT) in 1995 to 94,400 MT in 2008 (Coffee Board of India). Once mainly drunk in the south of India, the taste for coffee has spread around the country with the rise of fast-paced modern lifestyles. The caffeine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine) jolt of a cup of coffee is attractive to people on the move and working hard.

India also holds its own as a coffee growing and exporting nation, accounting for about 4.5 percent of world coffee production and the industry provides employment to 600,000 people. The state of Karnataka accounts for 70 percent of country’s total coffee production followed by Kerala (22 percent) and Tamil Nadu (7 percent).

India has the domestic demand, and it has the product. And now a bitter battle for the nation’s coffee drinkers is underway. The difference between what is on offer at the cooperative-run coffee houses and the newer establishments is stark: at the older places, service is old-fashioned – waiters in white suits deliver coffee and food to tables – with a no-frills menu on offer. Coffee comes in simple forms: black, white, cold, hot for eight rupees (US 0.18 cents). At newer establishments, coffees come in many varieties and permutations, flavoured and with added extras. Menus also can be varied and establishments can include things like internet access.

The appeal of the older establishments is price.

“It’s good here because it’s cheap,” College Street Coffee House customer Arindam Chouwdhry, 19, told The Guardian newspaper. “We can’t go to these new places. We are from the middle class only.”

And turnover is brisk, according to manager, Deepak Gupta. “We serve up to 1,500 cups a day. Business is good.”

Owned by the India Coffee House chain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Coffee_House), a worker’s cooperative society with 400 outlets across the country, the Coffee House was established in the 1950s with the mandate to serve cheap food and drink and act as a meeting place. It attracts workers, intellectuals and political activists. But with the huge economic changes in India over the past decade, traditional coffee houses are facing fierce competition.

In the state of Kerala, home to avid coffee drinkers, 15 of the cooperative’s 50 branches are now losing money. In the capital, Delhi, a further 10 coffee houses have closed. Things are so bad for these traditional coffee houses that the most famous branch of the Indian Coffee House has not paid its rent for years and is waiting to be closed by the municipality.

“The younger crowd seems to go elsewhere,” said its resigned manager, Janak Raj.

In many countries, coffee houses have become essential tools for economic development. They not only offer a stimulating drink, but a place to hang out, meet friends and business partners, catch up on news and access the internet. This role in economic development can be found as far back as the coffee houses of Europe during the beginning of the industrial revolution: deals were struck and people could meet the like-minded to hatch business ideas.

Coffee houses and cafes also reflect the economic and social changes in Indian society. They have come to be status symbols, showing what economic power you have achieved. And as services and quality change, they show how the level of prosperity changes.

New competitors to the cooperative coffee houses’ are offering a more modern environment to lure in a trendier crowd. Café Coffee Day (http://www.cafecoffeeday.com/index.php), which claims to be India’s largest chain coffee shop, with the motto “where the young at heart unwind”, has air conditioning, mirrors, comfortable chairs and posters on the walls for decoration. And the price is different as well: choco-frappes go for 95 rupees (US $2.11).This price means the customers need higher incomes to afford to go there.

“McDonald’s is the cheapest hangout and everyone can go there,” said a customer, Sima. “This is much nicer and only a bit more expensive so we come here. But only a few people can go to Barista’s.”

The chain Barista’s (http://www.barista.co.in/users/index.aspx) is 10 years old with 230 outlets. It is growing fast with 65 more new outlets opening this year. According to its head of marketing, Vishal Kapoor, Barista’s does not simply offer coffee, but “an overall experience.”

They bill themselves as “crème” cafes: places where salads and smoothies are on offer beside the coffee.

“It’s very exciting what is happening in India,” Kapoor said. “The classic coffee houses are part of an era that is ending.”

“People use the cafes as places to meet for privacy. “It is a kind of private space,” says Ruchika, a bank worker.

Nonetheless, despite its success, Barista’s is still too expensive for most Indians.

Published: April 2010

Resources

1) 48 innovations in coffee culture: This eclectic mix of innovations, trends and tit bits on global coffee culture is sure to inspire any budding coffee entrepreneur. Website: http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/coffee-innovation

2) Watch a video report from the coffee houses. Website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/video/2010/apr/01/india-coffee-house-kerala

3) Coffee Board of India: The Board focuses on research, development, extension, quality upgrades, market information, and the domestic and external promotion of Coffees of India. Website: http://www.indiacoffee.org/login.php

4) Practical advice and contacts on how to start a coffee shop. Website: http://www.howtostartacoffeeshop.co.uk/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022