He may not fit your typical image of a rich man but I assure you, that in
He has a nice heard of 80 traditional Barotse stock cattle - a breed that is well adapted to the trying environment of the flood plains in Western Zambia where I have been working with Engineers Without Borders for the past four months.
But is he really a Millionaire? A healthy cow in
But why would a millionaire pull his daughter out of grade six? Meet Mable.
While primary school in Zambia is technically free, costs do accumulate quickly and force a large percentage of students to drop out as they lack financial support. In 2004, in the western province, only 55% of children finished grade seven, 20% then entered grade eight, and then only half or 10% of those finished their grade twelve exams.
So, what's the problem? The solution simple right - sell a cow and keep Mable in school! Back in
Cattle as a bank: For many vulnerable people living in developing countries, animals are the most effective form of savings and income smoothing. Since the "modern bank" is a two day walk from his village, this traditional banking system provides security for Mable's family. They will sell a cow when needed, but only in dire straits - to avoid starvation, to prepare a proper funeral, or to help out a family member in an equally tough situation. There are a lot of competing forces to sell-off animals but Mable's dad is disciplined. This is why he has not yet depleted his best asset like many of his neighbours. Since Mable has 7 siblings all of whom would like to attend school each year... his 80 cattle could dry-up rapidly if he was too quick to sell.
Access to Markets: When I was living in
Animal Health: In these parts, there are no vets, no medicines, and essentially no health care or treatment for the animals. This results in extremely high calf mortality rates, worm infested bellies, stunted growth, oozing eyes and typically tough and unfit-to-eat meat; in other words, a complete nightmare to export or sell. The government of
Prestige: To compound all of this, our old friend prestige adds a final blow. In absence of extremely large 4x4 trucks as in used in
Through EWB, I was placed with PROFIT, a four year, $USD 400,000 private sector development program. We're working in the livestock, agricultural input supply, export crops, tourism and forestry sectors.
Our goal in the livestock sector is to address the problems above. To improve the competitiveness of the cattle industry in Zambia. This is of course just an intermediary goal to increasing wealth and security to small scale cattle farmers for families like Mable's.
Our assumption is that poor animal health is the most foundational of the problems discussed above. If addressed and if market access is also improved (as we plan to do next year) the prestige issues should solve itself rather organically.
Our strategy is to use a private sector development approach to create an affordable preventative health care system for small-scale cattle farmers.
We are doing so by working with a private vet, who prepares a HHP (heard health plan) which he sells to farmers 12 months in advance. This plan includes all important vaccinations, treatments, mineral supplements, routine procedures, and even emergency visits to ensure healthy animals.
Then, once this health plan is ready to be marketed, we work with communities to gently introduce it to them as it is quite a foreign concept. Together we also explore options for payment to make it possible. This usually means selling 1 animal to ensure the health of 20 to which there is immediate resistance. But, when you start calculating that last year alone 30 animals in the village died from prevatable illnesses, and that had they sold those 30 they could have guaranteed the health of 600, some community leaders, or "early adopters" start championing the idea and organizing groups of farmers to buy into the heard health plan.
MABLE'S GOOD NEWS:
The good news for Mable is that her father is one of these enlightened community champions - far from a monster! He has gathered five of his friends with a total of 160 animals to put on the plan and hopes to stabilize his livelihood so Mable can get back to school.
We've got a lot of work ahead of us to help mediate the contract negotiations and then to oversee the service delivery. Finally we'll take on the challenge of measuring the true benefits to the community and compare those to our projections.
It is complicated but I believe things are looking on the up-and-up for Mable and her friends and there chances for finishing school!
I'll keep you posted on how things go. I have yet to set a plan that hasn't changed, or formed an opinion that hasn't been reformed since I've arrived in Zambia! If you have any questions or ideas, please post them. I've simplified the situation and our project, so if you want more info let's talk!
I hope you have a fantastic Christmas! I'll be missing home a bunch (really) but I'm sure my first Christmas in
P.S. I also want to direct you to five cool websites:
My good friend Davin has gone BIG with his new online movie.
The Otesha Project is looking for it's 2007 bike tour team members.
Kofi Annan has said goodbye to the United Nations, read his final speech.
Think outta the box and buy someone a cool gift this year.
All the pictures from this entry can be watched in a fancy slide show.