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Civet Cat Coffee Brews Filipino Opportunity

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

In the Philippines, one animal’s call of nature has become a business opportunity.

The civet cat, a member of the mongoose family, ingests the fruit of coffee plants, and expels the beans. This has created an unexpected by-product – a prized beverage for the world’s savvy coffee drinkers seeking the next taste sensation. The partially digested coffee beans are gathered from the faeces of the cat and used to make a much-coveted, smooth-flavoured cup of coffee.

It is a good example of how value can be added to a product, in this case coffee beans, producing a substantially higher income. The coffee is startlingly expensive: 50 grams cost US $70, 100 grams US $90, and 1 kilogram is a whopping US $870. The coffee is a blend of Arabica, Liberica and Exelsa beans, all of which have passed through the civet cats.

The highly prized coffee is driving a growing market for these rare beans around the world. But as demand rises, it becomes clear it is a market needing quality control and ethical practices.

One business that is trying to do this is Coffee Alamid (www.arengga.com), based in Las Pinas in the Philippines. It bills the coffee as the “World’s Rarest Brew. The Philippines’ Pride.”

Coffee Alamid’s founders, Basil and Vie Reyes, call themselves “coffee entrepreneurs” who started in the business from scratch.

“When we started Cafe Alamid, we were not even coffee drinkers,” they explain on the company’s website. “We didn’t know anything about coffee at all!”

Experienced in making Arengga vinegar (http://www.arengga.com/index.php/arengga-pinnata-its-not-just-a-vinegar.mpc), they discovered the civet cats that lived among the sugar palm trees used for making the vinegar. They did some research and were inspired by the Kopi Luwak, the Indonesian variety of civet cat coffee and wondered why they couldn’t do the same thing in the Philippines.

They consulted with the local forest-dwellers of Indang, Cavite and Batangas, who confirmed they gathered the civet cat droppings to make into coffee, part for personal consumption, with the rest sold in local markets. Gathering the civet droppings provides an income to the forest residents, who collect an average of one kilogram a day.

Some were sceptical of the idea: why bother with such a time-consuming product? But the Reyeses were inspired by the success of civet coffee in Indonesia and it inspired them to try it in the Philippines. They see themselves as “enlightened entrepreneurs” who believe in marrying business with social development.

The coffee is made from the wild civet cat droppings harvested from the forest floors of mountains in Malarayat, Lipa, Batangas and Mount Matutum, General Santos and South Cotabato in the Philippines. The beans are roasted and exported to Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, the United States and Italy. The company produces between 1 and 1.5 tons of beans a year.

A proud moment for the business was becoming the first Filipino firm to participate in the Tea and Coffee World Cup in Geneva, Switzerland in 2007.

The brand’s name, Alamid, is the local name for the civet cat (Paradoxorus Philippinensis). It belongs to the mongoose family and forages for food at night, eating the ripest and sweetest coffee cherries during the coffee season.

By morning the civet cats excrete the undigested beans. While inside the cat’s stomach, enzymes and stomach acids go to work on the beans, altering their structure. The beans ‘ferment’ in the cat’s stomach, a process that has been analyzed by Dr. Massimo Marcone, a scientist from Canada’s University of Guelph.

Marcone traveled to Ethiopia and Indonesia in 2003 to collect the rare coffee beans. He found the beans’ taste – described as “earthy, musty, syrupy, smooth and rich with jungle and chocolate undertones” – was due to the lack of protein in the bean.

“The civet beans are lower in total protein, indicating that during digestion, proteins are being broken down and are also leaked out of the bean,” Marcone told the Luwak Kopi website. “Since proteins are what make coffee bitter during the roasting process, the lower levels of proteins decrease the bitterness of Kopi Luwak coffee.”

“Civet beans are typically extensively washed under running water after collection, which dislodges bacteria,” he said.

Marcone published his research into the beans in the paper “Composition and properties of Indonesian palm civet coffee (Kopi Luwak) and Ethiopian civet coffee.” (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996904001309)

The beans are greenish-brown when they come out in the cat faeces. Marcone found the process in the civet cat removes some of the caffeine, giving a strong cup of coffee less kick; this also makes the flavour smoother.

Supply is tight and this has led to some people forging the coffee or using unethical practices to get their hands on the beans. It is a business that needs to be run in an ethical way to ensure the rich profits are shared with everyone involved.

Marcone warns against imitations. “About 42 percent of all the kopi luwaks that are presently on sale are either adulterated or complete fakes, unfortunately,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Coffee Alamid’s parent company, Bote Central, started as a family-owned company in 2002, with the idea of using agro-forestry products to create sustainable livelihoods and help preserve the environment. It wanted to introduce Fair Trade principles to the Philippines coffee industry.

Structurally, the company uses community roasting business units (CRBU) across the Philippines, in particular the countryside, to improve the way coffee is sold and make it more profitable for local economies. There are currently 12 such units, and more are planned. The company has put together a guide book on best practice for harvesting Arabica coffee beans based on their first-hand experience. It also explains how they maintain quality control (http://www.scribd.com/doc/19991462/Production-Guide-for-Arabica-Coffee-by-Bote-Central-Inc-Maker-of-Coffee-Alamid).

The company deals directly with farmers to avoid middlemen gouging profits, and tries to use technology to make the business more efficient and sustainable.

To keep quality improving, the company has also produced a manual on how to grow and harvest Arabica coffee beans. It is designed to tackle the practical realities of coffee production and show how to improve current methods to produce a better-quality bean. This is critical for the overall business as competition is fierce and quality has to constantly be improved.

Coffee Alamid has successfully positioned itself as a high-end, high-cost product. It is sold by Japan Airlines and by department stores in Japan and specialty coffee shops around the world.

Civet cat coffee continues to develop new fans. In Britain, the Birmingham-based Urban Coffee Company (http://www.urbancoffee.co.uk) has started selling the coffee.

‘It’s actually really nice,” sales manager Mark Bridgens told the Daily Mail newspaper. “It has a unique, soft taste. I’d definitely buy a cup of it, it’s very different.”

Resources

1)Fair Trade Foundation: Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. Website: http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/

2) The red dot logo stands for belonging to the best in design and business. The red dot is an internationally recognized quality label for excellent design that is aimed at all those who would like to improve their business activities with the help of design. Website: http://www.red-dot.de

3) Small businesses looking to develop their brand can find plenty of free advice and resources here. Website: www.brandingstrategyinsider.com

4) Brandchannel: The world’s only online exchange about branding, packed with resources, debates and contacts to help businesses intelligently build their brand. Website:www.brandchannel.com

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: June 2011

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.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=JIKYBgAAQBAJ&dq=development+challenges+june+2011&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsjune2011issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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

© David South Consulting 2021

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10 Years Ago

It was 10 years ago this month that Southern Innovator‘s first issue launched in New York during the UN’s General Assembly week (UNGA). It focused on mobile phones and information technology for a reason: these connectivity transformations were re-shaping how people lived their lives, even in the poorest and remotest places on earth.

The content was based on global research, beginning in 2007, funded by the United Nations.

Southern Innovator Editor and Writer David South.

“What a tremendous magazine your team has produced! It’s a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space… This is great, engaging, relevant and topical stuff.” Rose Shuman, Founder & CEO, Open Mind and Question Box, Santa Monica, CA, U.S.A.

While Southern Innovator’s digital presence has been key to its success and global reach, the hard copy of the magazine was designed with special features. The magazine needed to be robust and able to stand a fair bit of abuse and hard wear. It needed to be easy to read in low light conditions. And it needed to look sharp and eye-catching to reach as wide an audience as possible.

“Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation. Heart is pumping adrenaline and admiration just reading it.”

New Branding and Website

In 2010, as we prepared to launch Southern Innovator, the branding and website for David South Consulting was re-visioned by Icelandic graphic designer and illustrator Sólveig Rolfsdóttir. David South Consulting has been working with clients around the world since 1991.

Graphic Designer and Illustrator: Sólveig Rolfsdóttir.

20 Years Ago

Over 20 Years Ago

Mongolia’s first web magazine, Ger, launched in September 1998. It was also the first web magazine for the United Nations.

“The transformation of Mongolia from a largely rural nomadic society of herdsmen to a community dominated by the increasingly ultra-globalized city of Ulan Bator, where almost a third of the population lives, is nothing short of astounding. The New Mongolia: From Gold Rush to Climate Change, Association for Asian Studies, Volume 18:3 (Winter 2013): Central Asia

Logo and graphic design: P. Davaa-Ochir.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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

© David South Consulting 2021

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CASE STUDY 7: UNOSSC + UNDP | 2007 – 2016

Expertise: Innovation, innovators, human development, South-South development, United Nations, policy and policy innovation, South-South cooperation, South-South trade, global trends, strategy, online content, global memes, Internet, mobile phones, information technology, global South, resilience strategies, crisis response. 

Locations: London, UK and New York, U.S.A. 2007 to 2016

Consultant, Editor, Writer: David South

Click here to view images for this case study: CASE STUDY 7: UNOSSC + UNDP | 2007 – 2016 Images

Abstract 

Since the start of 2007, global international development and media consultancy David South Consulting (DSC)/David South International (DSI) has been working with the UNDP-associated United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) (formerly the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation) to raise the profile of South-South cooperation and the global South in global development through its innovators, as well as influencing the switch to an innovation-led approach to how development is delivered at the United Nations and at the country level. Based in London, UK and with a design studio in Reykjavik, Iceland, DSC/DSI did this with two highly influential media: the monthly e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, and its sister magazine Southern Innovator. 

About

With the global economic crisis unfolding in 2007, we asked “what would inspire people?” What is going on in the global South that would improve human development under these circumstances and make people more resilient?

In 2007, discussing the global South, or solutions from the South, had a far lower profile in international development, the media and with the general public. Being one of the first sources to regularly chronicle the 21st-century world emerging from the crisis, the two publications (e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions and its sister magazine Southern Innovator) were able to open up a space for greater coverage of the global South, while drawing attention to a new generation of development innovators. 

“Great economic and business reporting! Very helpful for us.” Africa RenewalAfrica Section, Strategic Communications Division, United Nations Department of Public Information

“I just went over your June newsletter. It’s very well done and far reaching. Congratulations!” Violette Ruppanner, Director, 3D -> Trade – Human Rights – Equitable Economy, Geneva, Switzerland

“Just to let you know I enjoyed the newsletter a lot – it was interesting to learn about things going on that I would never otherwise find out about, and also the listing of future conferences and events proved very useful.” IanSanderson, Deloitte, Geneva, Switzerland

“Congratulations on another great newsletter that’s packed with fascinating information! I really enjoy getting it each month.” Whitney Harrelson, Making Cents, Washington D.C.

By adopting a strategy to exploit developments in online and digital media (and the space opened up by the global economic crisis), the reach of the e-newsletter and magazine was far greater than would have been possible just a year prior, back in 2006. This proved useful for reaching the growing number of people in the global South who were being digitally connected either through mobile phones or the Internet, or both. 

The e-newsletter was not only distributed every month to subscribers, it was also simultaneously posted online in many platforms to reach as wide an audience as possible. It was kept simple in its design so as to be easy to access by readers with low bandwidth or high data costs. It exploited new online services to reach an as wide as possible audience.

As an example, the arrival of ‘crowd-powered’ media in 2007 allowed for posting of stories to a global audience to test responses and reactions in real time. An experiment from 2008 to 2010 on the innovative Vancouver, Canada-based NowPublic platform proved very effective in developing the right tone for the stories. Many of these stories have been cited in publications and online (please see below for citations).

With 201 Development Challenges, South-South Solutions stories posted on the NowPublic platform, a total of 336,289 views by 2012 had occurred, according to the NowPublic counter. 

Various websites offering publishing and archiving services (Scribd for example) meant it was easy to access the stories from any place, device or platform, bypassing firewalls and censors – a very serious concern in many countries of the global South. And social media such as Twitter made it easy to spread the word to the right people. 

The two publications proved influential on a number of fronts, being early to draw attention to the following: the rising use of mobile phones and information technology in development, the world becoming an urban place, innovative food solutions including the nascent insect food sector (now a big thing), altering perspectives on what is possible in Africa, the use of data science to innovate development, and tracking the growing number of technology hubs and the fast-growing start-up culture in the global South. The publications were cited for shaping the new strategic direction adopted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (the UN’s leading development organisation) and its first youth strategy, and the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the world’s first global innovator magazine, Southern Innovator’s design had to be appropriate for a diverse audience. It has drawn praise for being both “beautiful” and “inspiring”, while its use of sharp, modern graphic design and infographics inspired others in the UN to up their game when it comes to design. 

Today, there are many sources for sharing stories on solutions from the global South; in fact, it could be called ‘cool’. South-South cooperation and innovation have now become the key methodology for the UN’s delivery of its programmes and projects. In 2015, China pledged US $2 billion to “support South-South cooperation” and called for the international community to “deepen South-South and tripartite cooperation”. In development parlance, they have been “Mainstreaming South-South and Triangular Cooperation” in their plans.

The current policy vogue for innovation in developing and developed countries can trace its roots back to some of the early work done by these two publications (and which was further amplified by the annual Global South-South Development Expo, which often would feature innovators from the two publications, spreading the innovation message around the world). Both publications had set out to inspire and “champion a global 21st century innovator culture”. And they have done this, as can be seen from concrete evidence and anecdotal responses from individuals and organizations alike.

Crucial to success has been integrity. As was disclosed in arrests made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in October 2015, a news service claiming to be associated with the United Nations (South-South News) had not followed either the letter or the spirit of the UN’s Global Compact. It had received substantial funding from a Macau casino owner featured in a 2010 investigation by International Risk Ltd., which found he “is characterized in the media as a ‘Macau Crime Lord’ and a kingpin of the international slave prostitution trade”. To date, a number of his co-conspirators have been found guilty of various charges and sentenced. He was convicted 28 July 2017 on six counts “for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo“. He used the news service as a “conduit for bribery and money laundering” at the United Nations, according to the FBI, something admitted to by the various co-conspirators in court and under oath. Read more on this case here: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-corruption-idUSKCN0XH2DL. And the conviction here: Chairman of a Macau Real Estate Development Company Convicted on All Counts for Role in Scheme to Bribe United Nations Ambassadors to Build a Multi-Billion Dollar Conference Center

The case of South-South News points to the dangers of cutting corners and the importance of approach and methodology; to not just mouth support for the UN Global Compact but to embrace its letter and spirit as well. As can be seen from this particular case, the reputational damage can be severe if the wrong strategy is pursued. Clients need to be very aware of whom they are working with and conduct due diligence for service provider credentials and also investigate the credentials of potential donors and funders. 

Southern Innovator needed to be true to its ethos of championing genuine innovation that improves human development in the global South. It had to be free to pursue its search without interference. 

To avoid censorship and interference, its editorial operations were based in London, UK and its design studio was based in Reykjavik, Iceland (a high-ranking country in the World Press Freedom rankings and a former top place holder in the UNDP Human Development Index). Using a women-led design studio, it developed a design vision that could communicate across borders using clear graphic design and high-quality images. For example, when it launched in 2011, infographics were rare in development publications and at the UN; now they are commonplace. It also tried to be as a ‘green’ as possible. The studio was powered on 100 per cent renewable energy (in particular, geothermal energy); the hard copy of the magazine is printed on paper from renewable forests. 

To date, five issues of Southern Innovator have been published on key themes identified by the United Nations: mobile phones and information technology, youth and entrepreneurship, agribusiness and food security, cities and urbanization and waste and recycling.

All of the issues collate and explain the trends, innovations and innovators for a large, global audience spanning many countries and regions.

Timeline 

2007: David South Consulting begins work on the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation at the United Nations.

2008: Reader response experiment begins with crowd-powered news website NowPublic. Initial proposal for the development of book or magazine on innovation. Awarded grant for Cuba study tour by BSHF. 

2009: Adjust e-newsletter content based on reader responses. Begin posting content on Twitter platform.

2010: Begin development of initial concepts for innovator magazine and assemble creative team with Icelandic graphic designer and illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir and graphic designer Eva Hronn Gudnadottir. 

2011: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Rome, Italy. Launch first issue of Southern Innovator magazine on mobile phones and information technology. It is called “a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space…”. Launch www.southerninnovator.org website and social media including Twitter account @SouthSouth1. 

2012: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Vienna, Austria. Launch issues 2 (youth and entrepreneurship) and 3 (agribusiness and food security) of Southern Innovator magazine. Called a “Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation.”

2013: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Nairobi, Kenya. Launch issue 4 of Southern Innovator magazine (cities and urbanization). Called “fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!” and “Always inspiring.”. 

2014: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Launch issue 5 of Southern Innovator magazine (waste and recycling). The Twitter account @SouthSouth1 called “ one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Final issues of e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions published.  

Testimonials 

“The e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions proved to be a timely and prescient resource on the fast-changing global South, tracking the rise of an innovator culture driven by the rapid adoption of mobile phones and information technology … 

“In 2010, work began on the development of the world’s first magazine dedicated to the 21st-century innovator culture of the global South. My goal was to create a magazine that would reach across countries and cultures, meet the UN’s standards, and inspire action. Southern Innovator was the result. Mr. [David] South played a vital role in the magazine’s development from its early conception, through its various design prototypes, to its final global launch and distribution.  

“Both the e-newsletter and magazine raised the profile of South-South cooperation and have been cited by readers for inspiring innovators, academics, policy makers and development practitioners in the United Nations and beyond.  

“I highly recommend Mr. [David] South as a thoughtful, insightful, analytical, creative and very amicable person who has the unique ability to not only grasp complex problems but also to formulate a vision and strategy that gets things done. … ”  Cosmas Gitta, Former Assistant Director, Policy and United Nations Affairs at United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) in UNDP 

“I think you [David South] and the designer [Solveig Rolfsdottir] do great work and I enjoy Southern Innovator very much!” Ines Tofalo, Programme Specialist, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation

Southern Innovator Issue 5 

“@SouthSouth1 is one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Adam Rogers, Assistant Director, Regional Representative, Europe, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) 

“Btw, I really enjoyed reading them, impressive work & a great resource. Looking forward to Issue 6. My best wishes to you & your team at SI.” 

“… great magazine, nice design.” 

Southern Innovator Issue 4 

“I liked your latest Southern innovator! Always inspiring.” Joana Breidenbach, betterplace.org, Berlin, Germany 

“The magazine looks fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!” 

Southern Innovator Issue 2 

“Thank you David – Your insight into the issues facing us a[s] [a] “global Village” is made real in the detail of your article – 10 out of 10 from the moladi team.” Moladi, South Africa (http://www.moladi.net/index.htm

Southern Innovator Issue 1 

“What a tremendous magazine your team has produced! It’s a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space… Really looking forward to what you produce in issues #2 and #3. This is great, engaging, relevant and topical stuff.” Rose Shuman, Founder & CEO, Open Mind and Question Box 

“Looks great. Congratulations. It’s Brill’s Content for the 21st century!” Conan Tobias, Managing Editor, Canadian Business 

What they are saying about SI on Twitter: From @CapacityPlus Nice job RT @ActevisCGroup: RT @UNDP: Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @UNDP Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @JeannineLemaire Graphically beautiful & informative @UNDP Southern Innovator mag on South-South Innov.  

And on Pinterest:

Peggy Lee • 1 year ago

“Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation. Heart is pumping adrenaline and admiration just reading it”

Impact 

Micro 

  • developed content for highly influential UN e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions from 2007 to 2014. The monthly briefing is distributed across the UN and to subscribers
  • developed and launched world’s first global innovator magazine for the United Nations, Southern Innovator
  • contacted and networked with innovators around the world to raise the profile of their work
  • attended global events to champion power of 21st century global innovator culture. Visited United Nations agency headquarters around the world to share the innovator message and distribute the publications
  • cited as a key resource on trends in the global South 

Macro

  • significantly raised profile of global South innovators and 21st century global innovator culture
  • cited as contributor to new strategic plans for UNDP and its switch to an innovation and South-South focus

Citations 

Autonomous Systems in the Intelligence Community: Many Possibilities and Challenges by Jenny R. Holzer, PhD, and Franklin L. Moses, PhD, Studies in Intelligence Vol 59, No. 1 (Extracts, March 2015) 

Beyond Gated Communities edited by Samer Bagaeen and Ola Uduku (Routledge: 2015)

Chile in Transition: Prospects and Challenges for Latin America’s Forerunner of Development by Roland Benedikter and Katja Siepmann (Springer: 2015) 

Decoding the Brand DNA: A Design Methodology Applied to Favela Fashion by Magali Olhats, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina Florianopolis, 2012 

Edible Insects and the Future of Food: A Foresight Scenario Exercise on Entomophagy and Global Food Security by Dominic Glover and Alexandra Sexton, Institute of Development Studies, King’s College London, Evidence Report No 149, September 2015 

High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation Seventeenth Session: Framework of operational guidelines on United Nations support to South-South and triangular cooperation: Note by the Secretary-General22-25 May 2012, New York 

Innovation Africa: Emerging Hubs of Excellence edited by Olugbenga Adesida, Geci Karuri-Sebina and João Resende-Santos (Emerald Group Publishing: 2016) 

New Directions in Children’s and Adolescents’ Information Behavior Research edited by Dania Bilal and Jamshid Beheshti (Emerald Group Publishing: 2014) 

Propagating Gender Struggles Through Nollywood: Towards a Transformative Approach by Nita Byack George Iruobe, Geonita Initiative for Women and Child Development, 17 July 2015

Recasting ‘truisms’ of low carbon technology cooperation through innovation systems: insights from the developing world by Alexandra Mallett, Innovation and Development, 5:2, 297-311, DOI: 10.1080/2157930X.2015.1049851, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2015

A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants by Toni Schofield (Cambridge University Press: 2015)  

Strategic Framework of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, 2014-2017Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, 27 to 31 January 2014, New York

Wearing Your Map on Your Sleeve: Practices of Identification in the Creation and Consumption of Philippine Map T-shirts by Pamela Gloria Cajilig, paper presented at the 6th Global Conference (2014): Fashion: Exploring Critical Issues, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom, 15th to 18th September 2014

Youth Empowered as Catalysts for Sustainable Human Development: UNDP Youth Strategy 2014-2017United Nations Development Programme, Bureau for Development Policy

DSC web address in green_mini (1)

© David South Consulting 2017

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Frugal Innovation Trend Meets Global South’s Innovation Culture

There is a trend occurring across the global South that some are calling the next great wave of innovation. It has different names but many are dubbing it ‘frugal innovation’. Frugal innovation is basically innovation done with limited resources and investment. In short, innovation on the cheap but packing a big punch.

The phenomenon has several strands. One involves innovators and companies from the developed world setting up in the developing world and beta testing their inventions and innovations there. Another strand involves innovators in companies and governments in the global South increasingly targeting the so-called ‘BOP’ – bottom of the pyramid – market of the poor.

Another strand is focused on capitalizing on innovations for tackling the problems of the poor that are coming from the poor. Many of these innovations are improvised solutions. They may not be slick but they solve a problem.

And finally, there are companies and entrepreneurs in the global South taking their innovations to the markets of the wealthy, developed countries and finding a welcome reception from price-savvy consumers.

In the global South, frugal innovation is transforming lives – and it is finding its way into developed, wealthy countries too. It has been celebrated in the new book Jugaad Innovation: A Frugal and Flexible Approach to Innovation for the 21st Century (http://jugaadinnovation.com/) by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja. The authors are innovation experts with a wide mix of backgrounds, from an academic to a Silicon Valley “thought leader and strategic consultant” to the founder of a marketing and strategy consultancy specialising in emerging markets innovation.

The authors propose “jugaad innovation” as a solution to the urgent need to innovate quickly and efficiently in a fast-changing world where little can be taken for granted. This breed of frugal innovation comes from India. Jugaad is a Hindi word (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jugaad) and basically means a work-around, improvised solution to a problem because it is cheaper. This is commonly used to describe makeshift vehicles people construct in India (http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/jugaad-cheaper-than-a-nanobut-watch-for-splinters/).

As champions of the jugaad philosophy, the authors proclaim the old innovation paradigm is obsolete. The idea that throwing more capital and more resources at a problem will boost innovation, no longer works, they contend. Better results can come from being frugal and flexible. Being more creative allows for a fluid and improvised innovation culture to develop.

“In today’s interconnected world powered by social media, top-down R&D (research and development) systems struggle to open up and integrate the bottom-up input from employees and customers,” the authors say on their website.

“Jugaad on the other hand is flexible, frugal and democratic: it is often bottomup rather than top-down and involves a much larger number of people beyond those who are typically tasked with doing innovation in corporations. The strength of jugaad innovators lies in their ability to get more from less,experiment continually, and creatively engage people who are typically left out of the innovation process.”

And they have a message for the Western, developed nations. They must look to “places like India, China, and Africa for a new, bottom-up approach to frugal and flexible innovation,” if they want to experience continuing prosperity in the 21st century.

For global South inventors, entrepreneurs and manufacturers, this will prove a great opportunity. As debt-laden Western consumers deal with their lower spending power and incomes, they will be looking for products that cost less and yet tackle problems and improve their standard of living with minimal expenditure.

The Indian company Mahindra and Mahindra (http://www.mahindra.com/What-We-Do/automotive) sells its small tractors to American hobby farmers. The Chinese company Haier (http://www.haier.net/en/about_haier/haier_global/china/) has a range of frugal products that have become popular sellers. They include air conditioners, washing machines and wine coolers. Haier is so successful with these products it has been able to capture 60 per cent of the market in these categories in the United States.

Some of the hallmarks of frugal products are their efficient production, rapid development cycle, lower price point, and appeal to poorer customers.

The book argues that adopting a “jugaad” mindset will enable people and companies to innovate “faster, better and cheaper,” “generate breakthrough growth” and “outperform competition.”

“Jugaad innovation has three major benefits. First, it is frugal: it enables innovators to get more with less. Second, it is flexible: it enables innovators to keep experimenting and rapidly change course when needed. Third: it is democratic: it can therefore tap into the wisdom of otherwise marginalized customers and employees.”

“In contrast to the traditional structured approach to innovation, jugaad is inherently more customer-centric rather than technology or product centric.

Because jugaad innovators seek to solve a customer problem first and then develop a suitable solution, jugaad is more market-based than more structured approaches (that may be driven by the motivation to develop technology for technology’s sake) are.”

There are so many of these innovations and inventions happening, a culture has emerged to gather and document them and share them with others.

A good advocate of jugaad innovators in India is the Honey Bee Network (http://www.sristi.org/hbnew/). It has been building a database of grassroots innovation and knowledge (http://www.sristi.org/hbnew/augment_innovation.php).

But this dynamic innovators culture is not limited to India. Across Africa,information technology hubs and start-ups have been sprouting up. One of the more well-known is the iHub in Nairobi, Kenya (http://ihub.co.ke/pages/home.php) but there are centres of information technology innovation in Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria.

One of the more outstanding and pioneering chroniclers of this frugal innovation culture in Africa has been the Afrigadget website (afrigadget.com).

It is packed with home-grown inventions. These include a young Kenyan boy using a rigged network of light bulbs to ward of lions from the cattle herd, a mobile phone security system for cars, and a home-made remote control toy car for children. Another great way to see this movement in action is at the Maker Faire Africa (http://makerfaireafrica.com/) which has been bringing together every year “handcrafters from Africa’s tiniest villages to her most expansive urban burgs”.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: May 2012

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.  

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Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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