Friday, July 29, 2005

KICKSTART: Trusting In The Self Motivated Entrepreneur

In July 1991 by Nick Moon, Jeffery Brewer and Martin Fisher founded ApproTEC in Kenya. The idea was to kick-start sustainable economic growth in developing countries and to help the millions of people living in those countries escape from poverty.

In the subsequent 14 years over 36,000 families in East Africa have used their simple tools to start profitable new businesses, increase, their family wealth and help to grow their local economies.

ApproTEC was able to help these people use their entrepreneurial spirit, to "kick-start" the success and financial growth that they experienced.

Because of this, the people at ApproTEC came to believe that "KickStart" was "not only a name that much better explains what we do - kick-starting businesses, lives and economies - but that it is also a name (unlike ApproTEC) that our supporters and friends will remember, and will remember how to spell."

Because it takes a market and private sector oriented approach, KickStart looks like a profit making enterprise, but it is actually a non-profit organization that develops and markets new technologies in Africa. The organization introduces new low-cost technologies to local entrepreneurs in order to create new jobs and new wealth and allow the poor to climb out of their poverty by establishing profitable new small businesses.

It's unique model is being replicated in Tanzania and Mali as well as in Kenya, and it hoped that it can expand its program in East Africa and open new programs in Southern and west Africa as well. KickStart has also established a 501©3 non-profit corporation in 2001 that is based in San Francisco, California in order to raise funds for its efforts.

KickStart's web site states that to date they have help to create over 35,000 new businesses (which is over 800 new businesses per month; and that profits exceeding $37 million a year have been generated by these businesses.

Their mission focuses on providing new technologies for dynamic entrepreneurs in small-scale enterprises.

KickStart deeply believes in the self-motivated private entrepreneurs who manage small-scale enterprises and they state that these entrepreneurs are the most effective agents for developing emergent economies.

KickStart's believes that its "market and private-sector oriented approach ensures that the impacts of its program become fully self-sustaining in local economies. Technologies are installed in the private sector and continue to be produced, marketed, and used by entrepreneurs to create thousands of vibrant new businesses and jobs, long after KickStart's interventions have ceased."

I cannot take the space to list and fully explain all of the technologies that KickStart has introduced into the market, but I would like to give you a brief glimpse of a few that they have created.

Micro-Irrigation Technologies:
Since 1996 KickStart has been the leader in micro-irrigation technologies through the development and sales of its series of manually operated "MoneyMaker" pumps. The need for these pumps was evident because small-scale commercial farming can be a very profitable business in Africa, but it is difficult without irrigation. KickStart makes other models of pumps in addition to the "MoneyMaker" pump.

Cooking Oil Technologies:
The oil of sunflower and sesame seeds is used for cooking in East and Central Africa and KickStart's manually operated "Mafuta Mali" oilseed press has proved to be the most popular cooking oil press in those regions. In 1994, KickStart trained four local engineering firms to manufacture the new presses. From 1994 to 1999, with funding from the Netherlands government and the British DFID, KickStart promoted the new press and the small-scale production of cooking oil and seedcake as a profitable business venture in Kenya.

Construction Technologies
Low cost construction is a "must" in order to provide affordable shelter, which is always be in demand. KickStart has developed a high-pressure "Actionpac" press for making building blocks from soil and cement. In addition to the Actionpac press, they have developed a process for producing roofing tiles and other building supplies.

Sanitation Technologies:
In 1992 KickStart designed equipment to produce a Domed Concrete Pit Latrine Slab for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refuges) during the Somali refugee crisis. This technology is presently in use in refugee camps in many areas of East and Central Africa where relief agencies have installed over 90,000 KickStart domeslabs.

Among the other technologies are
Transport Technologies and the production of Low Cost High Quality Carpentry Tools. But this by no means exhausts KickStart's inventory of technology.

KickStart has been able to carry out its innovative function by: Researching Markets in order to Identify High Potential Small Scale Business Opportunities. Once this has been done they Designs New Technologies and Business Packages. After that, they Train Manufacturers to Produce the New Technologies and Promotes those Technologies by Marketing them to Local Small-Scale Entrepreneurs. In order to assess its progress, KickStart Monitors the Cost-Effectiveness and Impacts of its Programs by quantifying the number of new businesses and jobs created and the amount of new profits and new wages earned by the new entrepreneurs and their employees. These impacts are then compared to the costs of the program.

KickStart has been so impressive that the John Deere Foundation awarded it a $3 million grant in June of 2005 to provide basic tools to African farmers. The grant, to be awarded over the next three years is intended to help KickStart to help end poverty in developing countries. Consequently, KickStart has a three-year plan to expand it work into six more African countries and enable some 80,000 African families (which translates to approximately 400,000 people) to raise their standard of living by introducing small, inexpensive irrigation pumps and other money making equipment.

And to be honest, dear reader, I can not do justice to the energy and enthusiasm of KickStart's web site, so to get the full impact of what they say about what they are doing, you really should visit their pages at:

Thursday, July 28, 2005

RWANDA PARTNERS : Meeting the Tough Issues Head On

Rwanda Partners was founded in August 2004 by Tracy Stone in order to work alongside the people of Rwanda to help them to rebuild their devastated national community and to help with reconciliation so as to restore Rwanda from the tragedies of its past.

There web site states that: "Rwanda Partners is dedicated to connecting resources amongst Rwanda's most vulnerable populations: Widows and Orphans, Child-Headed Households, Street Kids, Prisoners, Prostitutes, and the Rural Poor."

What they are doing is:

- Promoting Transformation and Reconciliation through Evangelism

- Providing Training and Education

- Encouraging Economic Development, International Investment and Trade

- Reducing Poverty by Building Capacity

Tracy met in Seattle with some of Rwanda's top government officials and businessmen, and found that her vision for Rwanda Partners that she acquired in 2004 was one that was also supported and encouraged by the Rwandan government.

It was made clear to her that the leadership of Rwanda was (and still is) eager to help facilitate in any way that they could any individuals and organizations that wanted to offer assistance to make a positive difference in their nation.

Rwanda's government and business leaders continue to invite the outside world to provide this help in a variety of areas. They are looking for training and education in all arenas of Rwandan public life that is greatly needed. They encourage outside investors to come to Rwanda examine their business climate and to help to open new markets for the export of Rwandan products. It is also of paramount importance to the national leaders of Rwanda that the old images of their country racked by genocide be replaced by new visions and images of a country growing in harmony and unity.

Given nation's tragic history where the people of Rwanda suffered the most horrible genocide which claimed the lives of close to 1 million people Rwanda Partners has tried to help it "climb from the depths of tragedy."

Rwanda Partners has responded to Rwanda's looking to the international community for help..."to educate the world about the courage, strength and incredible God-given ability to forgive that is today being demonstrated by the Rwandan people. And Rwanda Partners has responded to this invitation by developing an organization that will provide vital human and financial resources that will help restore the nation of Rwanda as well educate the rest of the world about what is possible when a nation chooses to forgive and to heal."

One of the projects in which Rwanda Partners is engaged, along with the support of the Rwandan government, is the Women's Training, Production & Education Center in Rural Kigali. This center that is being built will be a national training, production & education center in Nyamata, Kigali Ngali. This center is for women and girls to learn vital vocational skills that will transform their lives because they are particularly vulnerable to the devastating effects of poverty. The training of rural women has been given the highest priority by the Rwandan government, as it is believed that this is a highly effective means of reducing poverty. So strong is the governments support that they have donated the land for the center free of charge.

Women from all over Rwanda will come to this center to learn the valuable skills that they will need to produce high quality goods for the marketplace.

In addition, there will be a college located at the center so that advanced education can be provided to Rwandan women and girls. And it is intended that particular attention will be given to those who have been orphaned and widowed by the genocide.

Rwanda Partners also has a Street Kid Restoration Project. This project is designed to encourage the many of young Rwandan living in the streets to escape that life. Most of these children have either lost their parents to the genocide or their parents are incarcerated as suspected participants in the genocide. It is the hope that the organization can provide these children and teens with the necessary job training, apprenticeships, schooling and housing.

In addition to getting the street children to turn their backs on life on the street, Rwanda Partners is working to provide prostitutes with job training so that they can escape their current lives as well. These women have been driven by poverty into prostitution as a means of providing for their families. In addition to job training, there is an attempt to form small Self Help Groups to lend community support to these vulnerable women.

Rwanda Partners is also diligently trying to facilitate investment in Rwanda by connecting US businesses with investment opportunities in that economy.

Focusing on sustainable development the government has put in place policies and programs to: rebuild society and facilitate national reintegration, and reconstruction. Hopefully, this will lay the basis for sustained economic growth and poverty reduction.

Rwanda is not afraid to take on tough challenges, and for that, they deserve our respect and support. Of course, there is more to this story than is covered in this short article. So pay Rwanda Partners a visit at: and see how this group meets the tough issues head on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

COMPUTERS FOR UGANDA: Inspirational and Refreshing

The thing I really like about writing this Blog is that I get to learn about a lot of really Great People. The first thing I do when I turn on my computer in the morning is to read the latest news. And by the time I have done that, my spirits are usually pretty low. But one of the last things I do before I shut my computer down in the evening is to write about some Wonderful group of people that is working to make a difference in the world.

When I wrote about Computers For Africa on the 20th of July, I was (and still am) impressed by the very straightforward manner in which they go about contributing of themselves for the benefit of others. Since writing about Computers For Africa, I have been directed towards another group: "Computers for Uganda" whose work is just as inspiring.

Computers for Uganda describes themselves in this way:
Computers for Uganda is a non-profit organization which is a part of Emrald City Rotary's Computers for the World organization."

So far, so good, but then comes the really surprising part!

"We're made up of a group of high school students from Mount Si High School, Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, and other local schools in the Puget Sound area of Washington State."

BAM! My spirits were lifted higher than they were before I read the morning news. Here is a Great group of High School Kids out there Making A Difference.

These High Schoolers meet for nine months to learn about Uganda, collect computers, and refurbish them. But they also learn and practice troubleshooting potential installation problems and cable making, and to practice teaching techniques on using and maintaining the hardware.

Additionally, they create simple guides for the use of the computers.

That's quite a lot of activity for folks that are also carrying a full academic load, but it does not stop them from also engaging in fundraising activities, conduct clothing drives, and learning to work together as a team. When they travel to Uganda, they do so as a Team.

How can you not respect a group of young folk like this?

Last week, Computers for Uganda left Washington State for its Third trip to Uganda taking 140 computers with them. Their first trip was in 2003 and since then, they had delivered 130 computers to nine secondary schools in the Masaka district in southern Uganda. The nine schools that previously received the computers for Computers for Uganda were both private and government run.

The 140 computers being delivered to Uganda this year will be used to set up computer labs in 9 schools in Uganda's Masaka District as well.

The group proudly reports that:

"Of the four original schools receiving computers in summer 2003, three schools have extended the use of the computer labs to the local community. This cross-purpose use of the facilities occurs in the evenings, on weekends, and during school holidays. One of the schools has established a partnership with World Vision. In exchange for use of the facilities, World Vision helps to underwrite the costs of a technology teacher salary and related costs, e.g., electricity. At another school eight students studying to sit the "O Level" Exam in Computer Science."

These guys are leveraging resources and networking better than many organizations that claim to have "Old Hands" in the non-profit sectors on board.

Simply stated, Computers for Uganda's vision is "to deploy technology in secondary schools in rural Uganda in order to empower young people with hands-on skills and opportunities to grow in technical careers."

They say that they chose Uganda as a recipient country because it is one of the twenty most poverty stricken countries in the world and has suffered greatly from upheavals, poverty, poor health delivery systems and illiteracy. They also state that they chose Uganda because the current government is committed to education and acknowledges the need for the acquisition of IT skills, but lacks sufficient resources to fully implement such a program.

The Project conducted by Computers for Uganda is a partnership with Rotarians, Computers for the World, local businesses, individuals, and students from Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, Mount Si High School and other Washington State public high schools, and the government of Uganda. It is designed to bring technology to schools in the Masaka district in southern Uganda.

The nine recipient schools range in size in student population from 700 to 2200 and each strives to enhance the education of women by maintaining the female student population of the school at at least a 50% of the total.

One of the goals of the Computer for Uganda teams is to build a relationship with the schools in Uganda "that one day will grow into an electronic connected community." And while they are in Uganda they visit the former recipient schools, install computers and train the Ugandan students on the use of applications. And of course, the team members get to experience the local culture first hand during the three weeks that they are there.

Before they leave for Uganda the team members and their families get together to establish a "home communication system" so the folks back home can stay informed of the team's activities.

The Ogranization's web site has a "Journal" page where the team members post writings about their daily experiences while in Uganda. The Journal is posted here:

Visiting Computers for Uganda's web site was more refreshing for me than reading "Chicken Soup For The Soul" (A popular inspirational book in the U.S.). I highly recommend going there to get your spirits lifted and your faith in humanity reinforced. They can be found at:


AGA KHAN FOUNDATION: Keeping A Sharp Focus

On the 21st of July, I posted an article about the Aga Khan Development Network. In that article I mentioned that there are eight agencies under the AKDN network. One of the most well known of these agencies is the Aga Khan Foundation.

The Foundation keeps a sharp focus on a small number of specific development problems. It does this by forms partnerships – both intellectual and financial – with organizations that share its objectives.

In addition to keeping a sharp focus, the Foundation has clearly defined objectives and maintains a consistent approach to its work. It concentrates its efforts in the areas of health, education, rural development and the strengthening of civil society.

The Aga Khan Foundation looks for innovative approaches to generic problems consistent with the thematic areas upon which it focuses.

Highly selective in its choices of programs, the Foundation’s principal criterion is the potential for bringing lasting benefit to project participants. And success is measured by is achieved and learned by the grantees and how that can benefit projects elsewhere.

Because of the way success is measured, the Foundation’s projects are designed to be learning experiences as well as achieve other goals. It is intended that project participants will come to understand complex issues attendant to their development problems and identify solutions that can be adapted to conditions in many different regions.

The Foundation states that “Replicability is essential to the creation of useful models.”
And “(w)herever appropriate, approaches are tested in urban as well as rural settings, and in different cultures and geographic environments.”

The Foundation operates in the African nations of Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda as well as in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, India, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Portugal, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. In all of these countries, most of the Foundation grants are made to grassroots organizations that are testing innovative approaches in the field.

The locations for the Foundation’s projects are chosen based upon special needs in poor environments. Also, there must be a capable implementing organizations in the area to work with the Foundation and it usually engages in areas where there is a strong volunteer base to ensure knowledgeable and culturally sensitive management of its local affairs.

The recipient organizations are selected irrespective of their race, religion, political persuasion or gender. And even though the Foundation has a small staff – there are only about 490 worldwide – it funded over 140 projects in countries listed above with a budget of US $ 139 million in 2003. This was accomplished with the help of many cooperating agencies and thousands of volunteers.

The Foundation says that in every undertaking, the goals are essentially the same:

To make it possible for poor people to act in ways that will lead to long-term improvements in their income and health, in the environment and in the education of their children.

To provide communities with a greater range of choices and the understanding necessary to take informed action.

To enable beneficiaries to gain the confidence and competence to participate in the design, implementation and continuing operation of activities that affect the quality of their lives.

To put institutional, management and financial structures in place to ensure that program activities are sustainable without Foundation assistance within a reasonable time-frame.

Among other things, the Foundation is also helping community pre-schools in Africa to build endowments, and providing fund-raising advice and contacts to a host of current and former recipients of its grants.

It also owns a large number of properties for social and cultural activities, including several hospitals and hundreds of schools and health centers in the developing world. A portion of its income is used to maintain and improve them.

While the Foundation funds projects in several continents, below is just a partial listing of those projects, which were conducted in Africa in 2003.

Advanced Nursing Studies, East Africa
Coast Health Systems Strengthening Project, Kenya
HIV/AIDS Programme, Kenya and Zanzibar

Enhancing Primary Education in Kampala, Uganda
Kenya School Improvement Programme
Madrasa Programme Resource Centres and Research, East Africa
Professional Development Centre, Tanzania
School Improvement Programme Regional Research, Uganda
Support to Education in Primary Schools, Tanzania

Coastal Rural Support Programme (Kenya)
Coastal Rural Support Programme (Mozambique)

NGO Resource Centre Zanzibar, Tanzania
Young Development Professionals, East Africa

The grantees for these programs are normally non-governmental organizations that share the Foundation’s goals. In those cases, where no appropriate partner can be found, the Foundation may help to create a new civil society organization or may manage projects directly. Also, major projects are evaluated by independent professionals, and often in partnership with the agencies that co-fund them.

In addition to the Aga Khan Foundation, there is the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC). AKFC is a non-profit international development agency that established in Canada in 1980 as part of the world-wide Aga Khan Development Network.

This Foundation supports social development projects designed to benefit the poor in Africa and Asia without regard to race, religion or political affiliation.

AKFC, like the Aga Khan Foundation, seeks practical and inexpensive ways to enhance the quality of education, improve health care and increase rural incomes. It is also says that it is concerned with gender equity, preserving the environment, promoting small enterprise development and strengthening non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Working in partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), AKFC, again – like the Aga Khan Foundation – places great emphasis on innovation, effective management and careful evaluation, with the objective of finding solutions that can be used in many parts of the world.

One of AKFC’s projects is that it fosters links between Canadian universities, hospitals and other institutions and the developing world.

There is more going on at the Aga Khan Foundation than I can tell you about, so visit their web site at: and see the big picture.

Monday, July 25, 2005

GBF: In The Business of Growing Businesses

Growing Businesses Foundation (GBF), began its operations in October 1999 as a non-governmental, non-profit organization. Given the then increasing socio-economic imbalance in Nigeria where issues of relating to massive poverty, corruption, unemployment, poor public amenities and decreasing educational standards, it was GBF's intent to respond to these issues.

The GBF approach would be to foster corporate and individual social responsibility and to promote sustainable economic development in Nigeria. Its mission clearly states that is its direction: "To enhance collaboration amongst businesses, non-profit organizations and governments; to promote the healthy economic development of communities and channel resources towards projects with sustainable wealth-generating potential."

With a central theme of "Investing in the Poor," GBF has adopted several institutional objective:

- To demonstrate that small-scale entrepreneurs are creditworthy, with a view to solving two key problems in micro-enterprise: the lack of access to commercial credit for micro-loan programs, and the limited availability of loan funds.

- To establish professionally managed investment vehicles innovative enough to attract significant long-term investment, and create a revenue base to support the Foundation's mission of sustainable wealth generation and economic development.

- To implement such programs that simultaneously empower small-scale businesses and design ways for companies to operate profitably whilst sustainable developing communities and

- To design innovative programs that assists with the institutionalization & recognition of Micro-finance Institutions (MFIs) and small to medium scale enterprises (SME's) as key players in the financial markets.

GBF also advocates for the creation of an enabling policy and regulatory environment in which sustainable economic development can occur.

Rev. (Prof.) Obiora Ike, Chairman of GBF is quoted as saying:

"Poverty is not God-determined. It is man-made. It is not a fortuitous, self-inflicted condition, but rather a result of processes at work within the society. If we so desire, we can eradicate poverty." And that is the basis for GBF's vision.

The Core Values of GBF include the Global Sullivan Principles of corporate social responsibility as well as several other specific values that are stated as follows:

We believe in the compatibility of business with ethics, of profitability with social responsibility, and in the power of philanthropic individuals and companies to positively impact people's lives.

We believe that mutually-beneficial relationships can be built through collaboration amongst companies, governments, individuals and communities towards a more equitable and just society that promotes the prosperity of humanity, and in the promotion of business relationships built upon trust and respect for mutual interests.

We seek to take proper account of social, cultural, ecological and economic sustainability in our world by striking a healthy balance between protecting the integrity of nature and tradition against promoting change, towards positive human and economic development.

We strive to be good stewards of all the resources entrusted to us, openly accountable for our work, systematic in evaluating our effectiveness, professional in managing our funds and responsible in our outlays and overheads.

We seek to draw upon and reinforce the hope so often present in the lives of the poor that, in spite of all setbacks, a change for the better is possible. It is hope and determination that provide the dynamics for realizing our vision.

The Core Focus of GBF is in six areas.

Micro-Finance is one of GBF's core activities. And the limited availability of loan funds for small-scale entrepreneurs is being addressed aggressively by the organization. As of the end of 2004, loans had been disbursed in twelve (12) states of the federation and N 151,541,157 had been extended as non-collaterized credit to Two Thousand Three Hundred and Fifty (2,350) loan beneficiaries covering four of Nigeria's six geo-political zones.

Market Linkages have been established to bridge the gap that exists between the informal and the formal sectors. This is done by locating markets for local products and providing rural communities with access to goods and services that will promote their development. For example, GBF is working with a non-governmental organization for the mentally ill in Abia state, to explore ways off marketing their pottery to the private sector as corporate festive seasons gifts.

Networking and partnership building In one such partnership (among a great many), GBF has offered its services - in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers - in the form of business advice and strategic planning to NGOs, to enhance their credibility and facilitate their integration into the formal financial sector.

Capacity Building is the other core activity of GBF. Here the organization works with skills acquisition and training institutes to equip entrepreneurs with skills to improve their production and efficiency. GBF has also organized conferences to sensitize private sector organizations to issues of corporate social responsibility and link businesses with projects aligned to their area of social concern.

This type of capacity building can be seen in the collaboration of GBF with the Catholic Institute for Development Justice and Peace (CIDJAP) to create the Micro - Enterprise Development Co-operation (MDC). Believing the promotion of development involved building capacity as providing access to capital, GBF and CIDJAP formed the MDC "To provide a platform for evaluating international best practices in micro-finance, and building self-reliant, sustainable financial intermediaries capable of nurturing micro-enterprises and growing these businesses into viable, socially responsible and culturally rooted small and medium scale enterprises".

To promote Corporate Philanthropy GBF organizes an Annual Corporate Social Responsibility Conference with the main objective of raising awareness on the viability of Small and Medium Scale] Enterprises [SMEs]. Participants in these conferences are drawn from the public and private sectors. It is hoped that this will inspire and encourage corporate and individual citizens of Nigeria in promoting the cultural, social and environmental prosperity of rural communities.

The Research done by GBF is extensive and continuous. Interacting with small and medium scale enterprises, Micro-finance institutions, community banks, credit unions and cooperatives GBF has collected data engaged in financial analysis, monitoring the disbursement and repayment of loans, evaluation of projects and impact assessment.

There are many examples of how GBF carries out its Core Focus and I strongly encourage you to visit their web site to see a concentrated effort on bringing about business development and corporate social responsibility.

Friday, July 22, 2005

MFC: Engaging the Grassroots

Mali-Folkecenter (MFC) is a Malian NGO that represents the Danish Folkecenter for Renewable Energy. It's mission is to promote the sustainable management of natural resources and the use of these resources to catalyze local economic growth & sustainable development by working in partnership with rural populations and local entrepreneurs.

MFC participates in energy & environment policy work with the Malian government, but according to its web site, its most notable activities include:
- environmental protection
- provision of clean energy services for rural and un-served areas using renewable energy technologies
- drinking water supply
- technology transfer
- the training of local technicians and
- delivery of enterprise development services for rural companies in the clean energy sector.

In November and December 1998 a Danish Folkecenter team visited Mali in 1998 upon the invitation from, Alpha Oumar Konare, the Malian President. During the meeting with the Folkecenter team, President Konare explained the government's priority in the areas of education, health, and water supply. He also expressed the view that Folkecenter could share its know-how in sustainable development with Malian institutions and independent organizations (NGOs) as well as with the private sector (especially small enterprises) and this could be done in cooperation with a Malian organization. To this end, Folkecenter opened the Mali Folkecenter in July 1999.

After achieving positive results working with rural and peri-urban populations for sustainable development, Mali-Folkecenter signed a five-year protocol-agreement with the Malian Ministry for Mines, Energy and Water in October 2000.

Basing its approach to development activities on grassroots initiatives from the communities concerned and with direct involvement of local people during execution, Mali-Folkecenter has kept a keen focus on serving the communities it was created to assist.

Emphasis is placed on comprehensive training of target groups and, where appropriate, maintenance and management committees are created in order to facilitate appropriation of activities and build the capacity needed within those communities to assure maximum impact in the long term.

Creation of income generating mechanisms is also given priority in order to ensure profits for operators as well as local economic growth and the provision of funds for maintenance, repairs and continued operation of the project.

MFC does all this by working closely with members of the local communities, local government authorities, national government departments and other development partners, including multi-lateral institutions and local & international NGOs.

There are five departments through which MFC carries out its programs. The Solar/ Wind Department implements projects to utilize these two renewal energy sources. It places a heavy emphasis on the technical training of members of the local communities in order to build local capacity at village level for operation & maintenance of systems once they have been installed. Also the identification and development of appropriate management mechanisms are made in order to ensure the most effective means of sustaining the project. This includes income-generating mechanisms appropriate for the socio-environmental context of the target community.

The Department of Gender, Energy and Environment deals with the issues relating to the development of new, more environmentally sustainable income generating activities for rural women and environmental education. The need for this department is illustrated by the fact that in Mali, firewood is the major source of energy, contributing to approximately 90% of all energy use. Firewood is traditionally gathered by women in Mali and is an important source of income for rural women. Because of the importance of firewood as an energy source and as a source of income to rural women, demand for the resource has led to widespread deforestation and its resulting problems of erosion and desertification

The Department of Gender, Energy and Environment is dealing with this problem in part by providing environmental education, the development of new, more environmentally sustainable income generating activities for rural women, emphasizing importance of planting new trees and introducing energy efficient stoves.

The Department of Natural Resource Development has a very broad mandate, and includes projects ranging from environmental education and planning to water resource management and various innovative projects utilizing the Jatropha plant. Below is a list of the projects as shown on MFC's web site

- Household biogas plants to combat desertification and climate change (Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program)

- Building capacity for municipal environmental action planning (GTZ via STP - Secretariat Permanent Technique at the Ministry of Environment)

- PNIR AEPA Program National d'Infrastructures Rurales Acces à l'Eau Potable & Assainissement - National Program for Rural Infrastrructure Access to Drinking Water & Sanitation (World Bank)

- Study on community participation in the World Bank/GEF/UNDP Household Energy & Universal Rural Access Program (UNDP Mali)

- Study on the Senegal River infestation by aquatic plants (Finnida via Finnish Environmental Institute)

- Setting up an alert system for water hyacinth in the Senegal River (Finnida via WaterFinns, a Finnish environmental NGO)

- Bringing community forest management in line with the Kyoto Protocol (University of Twente, Netherlands, via ENDA Tiers Monde, Senegal)

- Capacity building of local authorities and populations regarding construction of a waste dump (Swiss Cooperation)

The Enterprise Development Department was established to support small and medium sized enterprises in the renewable energy & energy saving sector.

Mali-Folkecenter, through its The enterprise development department, works with AREED (African Rural Energy Enterprise Development), which was initiated by UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme) in April 2000. AREED seeks to develop new sustainable energy enterprises that use clean, efficient, and renewable energy technologies to meet energy needs of under-served populations, thereby reducing the environmental and health consequences of existing energy use patterns.

The AREED initiative is currently operational in Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia. In each country, local NGO partners act as the focal point for activities.
AREED offers:

- Training and tools to help entrepreneurs start and develop clean energy businesses

- Enterprise start-up support in areas such as business planning, structuring and financing

- Seed capital for early stage enterprise development

- Partnerships with banks and NGOs involved in rural energy development

The Tecnological Development Department is responsible for all the more technical aspects of MFC's work. Several of these projects revolve around the developing technology for the use of jatropha oil.

MFC has been actively working on the promotion of the Jatropha plant since 1999. A range of projects have been executed, focusing on different aspects of Jatropha production and use, from plantation use as a living hedge, soap making, use of jatropha as a diesel substitute for transportation, among other things.

MFC believes that jatropha can become an important resource for Mali, as local production would mean local employment, and local generation of income. Jatropha also has the potential to release Mali from its dependence on imported fossil fuels.

I've only had time to give you a brief description of what MFC is doing in Mali. Use the link below and go to their web site to get the full story.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


It will probably take me quite a few articles, dear reader, to adequately describe he many aspects of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)

Many people in the U.S. (and I am going to go out on a limb and assume the same is true for Europe) haven't a clue about who His Highness the Aga Khan is. And it would take many more articles to give an adequate and fair treatment to that subject. So, at this point I will just say that the current Aga Kahn is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and the fourth in the line of persons to hold the honorary hereditary title of "Aga Khan," which was first granted by the Shah of Persia to the 46th Ismaili Imam in the 1830s.

For more information about His Highness the Aga Kahn, you may go to the following link:

The Aga Khan Development Network, founded by the current Aga Khan, is a group of private, non-denominational institutions and development agencies whose aim is to improve living conditions and future prospects for communities, regardless of religion or origin, in specific regions of the developing world, notably in Asia and Africa.

The list of those agencies is as follows:

Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM)
Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)
Aga Khan Education Services (AKES)
Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED)
Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS)
Aga Khan Planning and Building Services (AKPBS)
Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC)
Aga Khan University (AKU)
The University of Central Asia (UCA)

Some of these agencies have been operating since before the founding of the AKDF itself.

Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), for example is the AKDN's economic development agency, but its companies have been active in East Africa since 1936. And since that time they have expanded into Central and West Africa as well.

In 19 countries located South and Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa AKFED has operatee in the areas of industry, financial services, and in the development of tourism, infrastructure, media and aviation.

Approximately 18,000 employees work for over 100 companies affiliated with AKFED projects. These companies manage total assets exceeding US$1.5 billion.

For over 30 years, AKFED has been active in the West African nations of Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso. Its projects there have included aviation, transport packaging and other packaging products, agro-industry and infrastructure. Some 6,000 people work for the 20 companies controlled by AKFED's West African subsidiary IPS (WA). IPS (WA) also now has major holdings in a transport packaging and a metals company in Mali, and a minority shareholding in a Malian energy company.

AKFED's web site says that "with its affiliates the Tourism Promotion Services, Industrial Promotion Service, and Financial Services, (it seeks) to strengthen the role of the private sector in developing countries by supporting private sector initiatives in the development process. The Fund and the Foundation also encourage government policies that foster what the Aga Khan first called an 'enabling environment' of favourable legislative and fiscal structures."

And although it is providing this vital service, AKFED is a for-profit institution. The Fund helps to build economically viable enterprises through strong equity participation, and it combines this with management and technical expertise and support. The true nature of AKFED is that it is a n international development agency. But it focus on bringing this development to specific regions of the developing world by promoting entrepreneurship in the private sector.

While its investments seem spread over many industries, AKFED says that it actually focuses in three sectors: Industry, Tourism and Financial Services. The industrial development sector of its focus gives it a wide perspective and includes companies engaged in industries ranging from agro-industry to metal products, printing and packaging, telecommunications and power generation.

In the area of promoting tourism, AKFED builds and manages hotels and lodges that contribute to economic growth in an environmentally sensitive manner. The financial institutions in their portfolio include banks, insurance and property management companies and micro-credit programs.

Combining international investment and know-how with local experience and entrepreneurial skills, AKFED is creating partnerships among local institutions and individuals and leading multilateral development agencies and development banks.

With an emphasis on equity investment AKFED also participates in privatization projects and also floats its companies' shares on national stock exchanges. But this ia not the only evidence of commitment on the part of AKFED. The Fund also takes a hands-on approach to its projects. This approach emphasizes the development of human resources, particularly management, technical, marketing, and financial expertise.

AKFED is also committed to being sensitive to the impact of its investments on the human and physical environment in order to "foster a sound and socially responsible private sector in the developing world."

An example of AKFED's commitment to its goals was witnessed in February 2005 when AKFED in partnership with the Mali government and private investors committed to the commercial aviation sector in West Africa by creating a new national airline.

According to sources, the Mali government appointed AKFED's IPS (WA) to create the new airline, with a capital of CFA francs 3 billion which equals approximately US$5.6 million. Fifty one percent of the airline will be owned by a subsidiary of AKFED/IPS (WA) created specifically for that purpose. Other private investors will own twenty nine percent of the airline and the Mali government will own twenty percent.

You will be hearing a lot more from me about AKDN and its agencies, as I will write about them from time to time. But if you are anxious to know more about the great things that these organizations are doing, please surf on over to the web site of the Aga Khan Development Network at or follow the links to its agencies, and see for your self what commitment can do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

COMPUTERS FOR AFRICA : Very Straightforward, Very Effective

When I posted the article about Computer Aid International on the 24th of May of this year I wondered why there was no U.S. counterpart to that UK organization. Little did I know at the time that Computers for Africa had been shipping refurbished used computers from Omaha Nebraska since 2000. They not only refurbish them, they networks them, and ship them ready-to-set-up to non-profit organizations in Africa.

How easy it is to not know all that is going on in the non-profit world.

Setting a priority for "the most disadvantaged groups, generally youth and women," Computers For Africa sends its best computer to organizations that help those segments of the recipient communities, as well as organizations that work for positive social development.

Seeking to "work toward goals that bring practical, measurable improvements to African communities" Computers For Africa." Help(s) bring technology to some of the world's most disadvantaged people, technology that gives hope for a better future."

Computers For Africa has a very straightforward game plan. They:

Refurbish and transport used North American computers to Africa

Set up technology centers for the underprivileged of Africa.

Help establish liaisons between CFA labs and African sources of educational, technological and economic support.

Promote U.S. involvement in international issues by providing a hands-on volunteer opportunity and partnership with an African community

Their operative guidelines are straightforward as well. They:

- Seek concrete outcomes

- Work through trusted leaders

- Allocate money for on-site staff education and program development

- Keep it simple and least expensive to repair

- Focus on narrowing social divides

- Build community and network people for change

- Consider the special needs of women

While CFA has donated over 900 computers to some 43 recipient organizations between 2002 - 2004 below is a partial listing of those recipients and their locations

Kampala, Uganda
Sharing Youth Center
Nsambya Catholic Women's Guild
Human Rights Concern (HURICO)
Serenity Center
Council for Econ. Empowerment of Women (CEEWA)
St. Mbaaga Major Seminary
Ggaba Naional Seminary
Kisubi Minor Seminary
Nabirumba Community Self-Help Organization
Makerere Modern Secondary School
Ulrika Institute of Home Economics
Kamwokya Christian Caring Center

Gulu, Uganda
Sacred Heart Seminary - Lacor
Gulu Computer Training and Communications Center

Bishop Njenga Girls S.S.S. - Webuye
Chekalini Youth Training Centre - Webuye
Hekima College - Nairobi

Loyola High School - Dar es Salaam
Nyakahoja Computer Training Center - Mwanza

Evangelical Church of Zimbabwe S.S.S. - Chinhoi

CFA says that they receive many of their referrals for recipients from organizations that have a "trusted track record" with them. However they do receive applications from non-profit organizations that are unknown to them. These applications are taken over the Internet. Once the application is received Board Members or agents of CFA make an onsite visit in order to verify that the applicant would be an appropriate recipient.

CFA focuses on banks, hospitals, universities, insurance companies, the military and other large organizations that dispose large quantities of used computers at one time. Organizations that operate on a for-profit basis are eligible to receive a tax deduction for its donation because of CFA's tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status. Another source of computers for CFA are local refurbishers and resellers of hardware, who often receive more hardware than they can realistically use. These refurbishers and resellers can also donate the excess to CFA for a tax benefit.

CFA is often able to accept and ship computers that are not good enough either to sell on the U.S. market or to be used in a local charity but are still adequate for use by recipients in Africa.

In order to maintain a level of efficiency, CFA does not accept hardware donations from individuals. On their web site they explain that (c)ollecting 'one-sy two-sy' computers from friends and neighbors is generally easy, but refurbishing them into labs is not. Also, when they have multiple units of the same model of computer, they are able to interchange parts in order to extend the live of the hardware.

Also on their web site they have a FAQ page that actually tells you how they ship computers to Africa, and how you can too.

As usual, my promise to keep these articles short prevents me from going into greater detail about this Wonderful organization. So click on the link to their web site and see how an engineer and a former missionary in Nebraska (which is in the middle of the middle of the U.S. for those folk located in other parts of the global community) came to become engaged in this tremendously wonderful work.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

ICROSS: Helping Others To Choose Their Own Futures

ICROSS is another one of those NGOs whose name I cannot decipher until I read its web site and learned that "ICROSS" is an acronym for "International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering."

But just because I did not know what "ICROSS" meant, I knew what ICROSS means to a lot of people in Africa suffering from adequate water resources or health services. Not only does this organization do a great job in addressing serious problems in Africa, they do it in a way that is logical and sensitive to the needs of the communities served.

Founded by Dr. Michael Elmore Meegan in 1978 this organization aims to provide long-term assistance to the nomadic communities of the sub-Saharan region. Acting as a catalyst all of ICROSS's projects are owned and run the communities they serve.

Using the culture of the communities being served ICROSS works to improve those communities' health and living standards. Working in this culturally sensitive manner they gain the trust of those communities and keep it. Having this type of trust of the communities being served helps to ensure the sustainability of its programs.

The core programs of ICROSS are HIV/AIDS prevention and care, community based health care, children's rights, poverty reduction and community strengthening. All of this is being done within a five-year strategic plan that was developed with the Ministry of Health in Kenya and also sets out long-term goals.

ICROSS also provides research outputs that inform policy, planning and practice at all levels, this is a key ingredient to evidence based policy development.

ICROSS describes itself as "a small international organisation working to fight poverty and disease in the poorest parts of the world." They have done this for over 25 years working with tribes in East Africa fighting disease.

Seeking to strengthen the capacity of poor marginalized communities to improve their own health and livelihoods through the rights based approaches of participation, inclusion and community empowerment processes, ICROSS works with the resources, capabilities and capacities available within those communities. ICROSS says that it "believes that the most effective vehicle for development work is the communities' own belief systems and traditions. People have the right to choose and the right to plan their own future, consequently, anthropological research is a key part of our work."

ICROSS also states on their web site that their values "include living as equals among those we work with and for, learning their languages and culture, inculcating a respect for diversity of beliefs and dedicating ourselves to long-term commitment to the poor, those who are socially excluded and those who are victims of social injustice."

If I may allow myself to editorialize here - this wins ICROSS a lot of credibility in my book.

By taking this approach ICROSS ensures that the communities are empowered to take full responsibility for the changes and developments that drive the development of ICROSS. This is done beginning with needs identification and continues through implementation, monitoring and evaluation. At every level of decision making impacting their lives, communities, families and individuals are involved.

ICROSS sets out the following as the list of things they do.

- They prevent diseases and control epidemics.

- They create long term changes in infant mortality.

- They are creating low cost-effective solutions to break the cycle of poverty

- They train, educate and support thousands of local people to be self-sufficient.

- They support communities in helping orphaned children and help them respond to poverty in the villages.

- They see what is working and find out what is effective through scientific study and research. Working with international institutions they have published widely on new innovative responses to disease and poverty.

- They identify the most vulnerable children and communities in need and provide practical immediate help and long-term solutions so (that those communities) will be independent

- They believe in evidence led public health programmes responding to the realities on the ground

ICROSS has successfully implemented home based care activities in Nakuru and Bondo Districts using funding from the Global Fund,. Now that funding has been extended, and ICROSS will open a new office and establish a home based programme in July in Kisii District.

Among other things, this program includes HIV/AIDS prevention strategies as well as care of terminally ill AIDS patients. The effort will also include the training of teachers on HIV and address stigma and discrimination.

ICROSS recently had two proposals accepted by the Global Fund to address Youth Pro-care and Malaria treatment and prevention strategies from 2006-2010 in Bondo, Nakuru and Kisii districts of Kenya.

In Samburu District of Kenya ICROSS has initiated a primary health project, the first stage of which is the mobilization of the communities and discussing the project; expectations and goals. The project is slated to run for overr two years and is funded by Development Corporation Ireland. It will be co-implemented with the Ministry of Health and Samburu district medical hospital.

In Lorngosua, Kenya the water source has been used by livestock, leaving the water highly contaminated, infecting the Maasai with various water borne diseases. With funding from Development Corporation Ireland, ICROSS has recently finished the protection of the Lorngosua water source. "Through fencing, livestock and wild animals will not be able to access this particular water source, ensuring the water is safer for human consumption."

Also, ICROSS has fully documented its vast experience in disease prevention and control amongst the disadvantaged communities that it serves. This information is assisting national and international organizations in determining the best practices in critical areas such as HIV/AIDS prevention, home-based care for those infected with HIV/AIDS and succession planning for orphans and vulnerable children.

There is a lot more to learn about ICROSS, and if you want to know more, their web site is located at:

They have a lot going on and are doing a lot of good.

Monday, July 18, 2005

BRIDGES.ORG : Spanning the Divide to the Future

There is a lot of talk these days about the importance of ICT (Internet and Communications Technology) in fostering the work of NGO operating in developing countries. There is a lot of talk because there is a lot to be said on this subject. And some organizations are doing a lot more than just talking about it.

Bridges.Org states that it is "Spanning the international digital divide." The organization states "right up front" that it does not provide hardware or infrastructure. But they do work with "organizations and initiatives focused on socio-economic development to help them use ICT to improve what they do."

Bridges stated Mission is: "to promote the effective use of information and communications technology (ICT) in developing countries to improve people's lives." And they work at the policy level, promoting policies and laws that foster widespread use of ICT at the grassroots level. And by doing this, they help people understand ICT and its practical utility.

Some people involved in non-profit work may not think that Bridges is getting to the "nitty gritty" of helping folk improve their lives because their projects work with "intangibles," but it must be said that maximizing the utility of information and communications technology (ICT) [or of "information technology" (IT) as some people may call it] is becoming essential to being able to efficiently bringing health care and adequate resources like water, crops, transportation and the like to areas where they are not currently available.

Bridges Strategy is clear and straightforward and has several aspects. They state on their web site that in order to achieve their mission, they:

Focus attention on the policy issues that come hand-in-hand with technology use and promote policy-making that fosters technology use.

Bring people in developing countries and disadvantaged communities into technology policy discussions, by leading a local dialogue among stakeholders to foster understanding of the social, economic, and political implications of the widespread integration of technology in society, and helping them distribute and obtain information to coordinate their efforts both locally and internationally.

Assist in efforts to develop sound legal and regulatory frameworks to support technology use.

Support the local and global use of technology by people in developing nations and disadvantaged communities, in particular to support efforts that employ technology tools in areas such as health care, education, indigenous economic development, environmental protection, and managing resources for food, water and energy.

Provide liaison, legal and technical assistance to organizations and individuals working to put technology to use to address social and economic problems.

Gather a body of knowledge about digital divide issues through research, analysis, and recommendations, and help to spread the word about developments and activities in the field.

Serve as an information clearinghouse and use online access, papers, publications, conferences, and workshops, to foster the exchange of information about the effects of technology integration in developing nations and disadvantaged communities and the key factors in maximizing the opportunities offered by technology.

Study the effects of technology use on economic development, human rights and democracy, and the impact of national technology policies on these issues.
Provide public education about technology use focused on training, business practices, and social issues, so that people are better able to work in the information economy and to participate fully in the information society.

Sponsor workshops, training sessions and conferences about the local and global use of technology for economic and social development.

Promote technology solutions that empower global users to be effective in their technology use.

Design and implement programs to influence long-term planning for the use of technology in developing countries and disadvantaged communities.

Bring a global perspective to local problems and ground our work at the community level through partnerships with local groups.

Bridges also promotes best practice in ground-level technology implementation through research and evaluations. Some of the ways they do this is by: (1) providing information and resources related to the digital divide and technology use in developing countries; (2) advising decision-makers and the general public on key issues; and (3) supporting grassroots projects, local businesses and e-government efforts.

While most of the work done by Bridges is supported by grants and donations, they also do fee-based work.

There is a lot more that can be said about Bridges and the work that it is doing; just as there is a lot more that can be said about how ICT must and will play an important role in the improvement of the quality of life for Africans all over the world. If you are not up to date on what is going on in this part of the NGO world, go to Bridges' web site at:

and get a look at the Bridge to the Future.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Vrije Universiteit Brussel: Conference on African Indigenous Knowledge

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) will host an International Conference this autumn on "Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) in Africa and their Relevance for Sustainable Development"

The purpose of this conference is "to facilitate research on IKS, a systematic documentation, as well as the exchange and sharing of information on the subject." And this will be done in order to analyze how IKS can help Africa to accelerate the Sustainable Development process.

The Human Ecology Department of VUB (Free University of Brussels - for "English Only" speakers) will be organizing the international conference, which will take place on its Jette Campus from November 21st through the 23rd of 2005.

The conference is organized so as to meet its specific objectives, which, according to the web site, are:

- providing a platform for discussing and generating a heightened understanding of the role of indigenous knowledge systems in SD of Africa.

- raising adequate awareness on the importance of IKS in the SD process.

- analysing the major constraints hindering an effective development and use of traditional knowledge systems in promoting SD in Africa.

Indigenous knowledge and indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) in Africa have become increasingly significant in the area of sustainable development (SD) as well as in the rest of the developing world.

Unlike Western Knowledge Systems (WKS), which have become the norm in many global cultures, Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) are specific to certain areas and cultures. Because of the localized utility of the various IKS, they are being more and more suppressed by the pressures of a global economy and culture.

Also, because of the narrow range of utility of IKS, they have not been adequately researched and documented in the past.

If I may take the liberty to quote from a large chunk of the Conference's Announcement that contains language which may seem stilted, but is absolutely necessary because of its precise nature:

"Indigenous knowledge in Africa is an embodiment of different modes of thought and 'epistemology'. It is an appropriate avenue for appraising development paradigms being implemented in the continent. Indigenous knowledge refers to traditional and local knowledge existing within and developed around specific conditions of women and men indigenous to a particular geographic area in contrast with knowledge generated within the international system of universities, research institutes and private firms (Warren, 1991). The Convention on Biological Diversity (UN, 1992) calls on all the contracting parties to the Convention to respect traditional indigenous knowledge with regard to the preservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use. For the World Bank (2004), indigenous knowledge refers to the large body of knowledge and skills that have been developed outside the formal educational system.

The culture and knowledge systems of indigenous people and their institutions provide useful frameworks, ideas, guiding principles, procedures and practices that can serve as a foundation for effective endogenous development options for restoring social, economic, and environmental resilience in many parts of Africa and the developing world in general. It is therefore essential that traditional knowledge systems in the continent should not be subsumed by the domination of cultures that notoriously foster inequality and materialism."

"Indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) are an important part of the lives of the poor. It is the basis for decision-making of communities in food security, human and animal health, education, and natural resource management. IKS point to how indigenous people manipulate their knowledge, which has accumulated, evolved and practiced for generations. They epitomize the relationship and interaction between indigenous peoples and their natural surroundings."

The point of bringing this attention to the readers of this Blog it to alert folks to a conference that will help western oriented individuals in understanding the importance of indigenous knowledge and indigenous knowledge systems in Africa and to use that knowledge and those systems in furthering the many and various goals of those individuals and groups who are seeking to improve the quality of life for All Africans.

More information can be found at the Announcement for the Conference (which is in PDF format) at:

Contact for the Conference is: Vu Van Hieu
Dep't of Human Ecology
Free University of Brussels
(Vrije Unversiteit Brussel)

A Conference pre-registration forms in html and pdf formats are available on line.

Specific questions about the conference may be addressed to:
Prof. Dr. Emmanuel Boon
Human Ecology Department
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Laarbeeklaan 103
B - 1090 Brussels
T el: +32 2 477 49 35 or 32 2 477 42 81
Fax: +32 2 477 49 64

In the subject part of the e-mail please mention: " IKS Conference "

Vrije Universiteit Brussel's Human Ecology Department has a web presence at:

and the Conference Announcement is also located at:

It is worth the cyber trip there to see the types of things that they are doing at the Free University of Brussels.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

UNITE FOR SIGHT : Youth, Vision, Energy and Determination

Blindness and diseases of the eye take a terrible toll on the population of many African nations that are greatly underserved medically. In Benin, for example, there are five ophthalmologists for the entire country of 7.3 million people. In the refugee camp in Ghana where Unite for Sight is now providing services, there were no ophthalmologists for 77,000 people.
Preventing and treating blindness has been found by the World Health Organization to be one of the most cost effective health care strategies that exists. This is why Unite for Sight has rolled up its sleeves and tackled some of these problems in African nations and elsewhere in the world.
Ghana: Some of Unite for Sight's most impressive work has been done in Ghana and hailed as a 'great success' by Ms. Jennifer Staple, the organization's Founder, President, and CEO.
Unite For Sight, working in conjunction with the local NGO Ghana Health and Education Initiative, began Phase I of the program during June 2004 and concluded with Phase II during November and December 2004.
Fifty-six blind patients in Humjibre received sight-restoring cataract surgery, and additional patients were treated for glaucoma and other eye ailments.
One thousand pairs of sunglasses and reading glasses were also distributed to the community.
The cataract surgery was provided at the Cape Coast Christian Eye Center. Dr. Mark Whiting trained the Unite For Sight volunteers to screen for operable cataracts. The volunteers then applied their knowledge in Humjibre to identify individuals with cataracts and bring them to Cape Coast for cataract surgery.
The success of the recently-completed Phase II of the Humjibre, Ghana project shows the importance and effectiveness of Unite for Sight's efforts in treating and educating medically underserved populations throughout the world. The cataract surgeries were funded in part by a $500 YouthActionNet Award received by Jennifer Staple and by nominal registration fees raised at Unite For Sight's First Annual Conference in April 2004 and the organization's Global Partners Symposium in October 2004.
Unite For Sight received a grant from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support its innovative eye care program at Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana. In coordination with the local Liberian Refugee-run NGO "Self-Help Initiatives For Sustainable Development" (SHIFSD), Unite For Sight is implementing a comprehensive eye health program for children and teachers in the forty-three schools at the Buduburam Refugee Camp near Accra. The first Unite For Sight Volunteer Team arrived at the refugee camp on December 28, 2004 to distribute eyeglasses, screen for eye disease and coordinate treatment at an eye clinic, implement eye health education programs for children, and implement a Train-the-Trainer program for teachers in the schools. The Unite For Sight volunteers were trained by ophthalmologists at the Christian Eye Clinic in Tema to screen for eye disease and prescribe eyeglasses.

Unite For Sight's program brings eye care to 77,398 children and adults living at the Buduburam Refugee Camp. Unite For Sight volunteers screen for treatable eye conditions, including refractive error, cataracts, xerophthalmia, trachoma, river blindness, and conjunctivitis. In order to provide these much needed services, Unite For Sight has teamed with the local Liberian Refugee-run organization "Self Help Initiatives For Sustainable Development" (SIHFSD) and the newly established Christian Eye Clinic in Tema, Ghana.
Reports indicate that Unite For Sight's Volunteer Team has provided sight-restoring cataract surgery to 35 previously blind patients, and it is anticipated that by August 30, more than 500 cataract surgeries will be provided by the end of August. In addition to the surgeries, eyeglasses and sunglasses are being distributed to thousands of people, and volunteers are implementing eye health education programs for approximately 19,000 children and conducting Train-the-Trainer programs for 600 teachers throughout the refugee camp's 51 schools.

Tanzania: Just to mane a few of the things that have been done in Tanzania, Unite For Sight student interns have prescribed eyeglasses, distributed sunglasses, and educated 5,000 children and adults about myopia, presbyopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, cataracts, glaucoma, vitamin A deficiency, trachoma, and river blindness. In Dar es Salaam, Mzizima, Muhumbili, Cambridge, Azania, Iringa, Mbeya, Mwanza, Arusha, and Nyamuswa eye Health Brochures were distributed in schools. A collaboration was established with the taMSA-Tanzania Medical Students' Association and with eye doctors throughout Tanzania to prescribe eyeglasses collected by Unite For Sight on an ongoing basis.
Unite For Sight's student internship programs in Tanzania were conducted in cooperation with The Malaika Project and Aiding Youth For Life.
Uganda: Unite For Sight student interns worked with the Uganda Village Concept Project and prescribed eyeglasses, distributed sunglasses, and educated children and adults about the prevention of trachoma and vitamin A deficiency.
Benin: For Sight. The Benin program began their summer 2004 initiate with a successful 4 full days of screenings for 300 people and is ongoing.
Malawi: Unite For Sight's chapter at University of Malawi College of Medicine includes medical students who are committed to improving eye health outcomes. The students implement eye health education and eyeglass prescription programs in schools and community centers.

Below is a list of the projects that Unite For Site has undertaken in several African Countries:

Pobe, Benin (Summer 2004, Spring 2005, Summer 2005)
Buea, Cameroon (Summer 2005)
Bibiani, Ghana (Summer 2005)
Buduburam Refugee Camp, Ghana (Winter 2005, Spring 2005, Summer 2005)
Humjibre, Ghana (Summer 2004, Fall 2005)
Ho, Ghana (Summer 2005)
Hohoe, Ghana (Summer 2005)
Kwawu, Ghana (Summer 2005)
Patriensa, Ghana (Summer 2005)
Nairobi, Kenya (Summer 2005)
Abia State, Nigeria (Summer 2005)
Freetown, Sierra Leone (Summer 2005)
Taiama Refugee Camp, Sierra Leone (Summer 2005)
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Summer 2004, Summer 2005)
Nyamuswa, Tanzania (Summer 2004, Summer 2005)
Lome, Togo (Summer 2005)
Iganga, Uganda (Summer 2005, Summer 2005)
Karatu, Tanzania (Summer 2005)
Copperbelt, Zambia (Summer 2005)

In recognition of what determined young people can do, it must be said that Jennifer Staple founded Unite for Sight in 2000 as a sophomore at Yale University. For three years, the organization coordinated eye screening and education for the medically underserved population of New Haven, Connecticut. According to Unite for Sight's web site:

"In that time, a model program emerged. To reach more people in need, Unite for Sight started contacting university premedical advisors and student affairs offices with an invitation to start Unite for Sight chapters. Responses flooded in from students throughout the United States. Unite for Sight accepted chapter applications, provided training and manuals, and guided the growth of new chapters to implement vision screenings and education programs throughout North America and, eventually, four other continents.

"What started with a single volunteer has now grown to a force of over 4,000 volunteers working through 90 chapters, based at universities, medical schools, corporations, and high schools worldwide, and delivering eye care to over 400,000. Until February 2005, no Unite for Sight volunteer or staff member had received any compensation what so ever. This volunteer network is the backbone of our organization.

"Because of our overwhelming success mobilizing youth volunteers, Unite For Sight has been recognized for outstanding service by USA Today, Glamour Magazine, Nokia's and International Youth Foundation's YouthActionNet, Global Youth Action Network's Global Youth Action Award, Join Hands Day Excellence Award and the WK Kellogg Foundation. In recognition of our outstanding contributions to global public health, Unite for Sight has also secured financial support from the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Cure Glaucoma Foundation, Alcon Foundation, US Agency for International Development (USAID), Gary Bialis Fund of El Adobe Corporation, Exxon Corporation, JP Morgan, and we have received a Healthy Vision Community Award from National Eye Institute.

"In addition to Unite for Sight's measurable impact, there is an equally compelling achievement. The organization has found a way to unite doctors, nurses, students, and other people, especially younger people, across borders, across economic status, and across professional lines. Unite for Sight mobilises groups and shows that anyone can become part of a global solution to restore sight and prevent blindness.

"Unite For Sight at a Glance
Founded: 2000
Volunteers: 4,000
Chapters: 90
Countries: 25
Number of International Volunteers Summer 2004: 12
Number of International Volunteers in 2004-2005 Academic Year: 16
International Volunteers for Summer 2005: 200
Number of Volunteer Teams Providing Outreach During Summer 2005: 43
Medically Underserved Persons Served Through March 2005: 140,000
Sight-Restoring Cataract Surgeries since June 2004: 165
Eyeglasses Collected and Distributed: 18,000
Unite For Sight Eye Health Brochures Distributed: 20,000
Number of Unique Visitors to Unite For Sight's Website Monthly: 35,000

"Unite For Sight's History

* September 2000: Founded by Jennifer Staple at Yale University
* September 2000 - May 2003: 500 Persons Screened Annually in Connecticut
* May 2001: Cure Glaucoma Foundation Grant From Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins
* October 2002: Feature in Glamour Magazine
* February 2003: Feature in USA Today
* June 2003: Expansion Begins in the United States; First new chapters in New York City and Boston
* July 2003: Medical Advisory Board Appointed
* January 2004: 1,500 Volunteers in 60 chapters
* April 2004: First Annual Conference Held At NYU School of Medicine
* April 2004: Eye Health Festival Event by all chapters in United States
* May 2004: First African Chapter in Guinea
* May 2004: Join Hands Day Eye Health Festival in New York City, honored with Join Hands Day Excellence Award
* June 2004: 2,000 Volunteers in 75 chapters
* June 2004: First Volunteer Teams Work in Benin, Ghana, Tanzania, Thailand, and Uganda
* June 2004: First Cataract Surgery Program in Humjibre, Ghana
* June 2004: YouthActionNet Award
* July 2004: Launch of Unite For Sight Online Eye Health Course
* September 2004: 2,500 Volunteers in 85 chapters
* September 2004: Global Youth In Action Award
* September 2004: OptiCare Inaugural Charity Golf Classic for Unite For Sight
* September 2004: Parent's Site Launched
* October 2004: First Annual Symposium
* October 2004: Make a Difference Day Eye Health Festival by all chapters in United States
* November-December 2004: Volunteer Team Works in Ghana
* November 2004: 5K Run/Walk for Sight in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
* November 2004: Teen's Site Launched
* December 2004: 4,000 Volunteers in 90 chapters
* January 2005 - Present: Volunteer Team Works at Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana
* January 2005: Volunteer Team Works in China
* February 2005 - Present: Volunteer Team Works in Benin
* February 2005: Kid's Site Launched
* February 2005: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Grant for Buduburam Refugee Camp Program
* February 2005: Healthy Vision Community Award from National Eye Institute
* April 2005: Second Annual Conference Held at Harvard University
* May 2005: Volunteer Team in San Luis, El Salvador prescribes eyeglasses to 700
* May 2005: Volunteer Team in Nagpur, India screens patients and provides 30 free cataract surgeries
* May 2005: Volunteer Team in Cusco, Peru prescribes eyeglasses to 191
* May 2005 - Present: Volunteer Team in Danli, Honduras screens 1061 patients for eye disease and prescribes 800 eyeglasses
* June 2005: Volunteer Team in Chennai, India screens patients and provides 35 free cataract surgeries"

In addition to its work in Africa, Unite for Sight has also engaged in projects in the following countries elsewhere in the world:
Danli, Honduras

Visit the web site of Unite for Sight and marvel what Youth, Vision, Energy and Determination can do.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

It's Not Easy Posting When You Are On The Road And Busy

Dear Readers,

I apologize for not posting articles about non-profits engaged in the wonderful work of Self Help for All Africans, but I have been on the road since Wednesday, July 6th and will not return to my desk until Thursday, July 14th.

However, I have met many interesting people who are involved in efforts to improve the lives of Africans and I will be posting articles about them after I return to Virginia.

One thing that I have learned during this time away from my desk is that it is not a bad idea to write stories and have them in "inventory" for the periods that I am away. There are so many organizations to write about, this should not be too difficult to do.

Many of the organizations about which I have written have contacted me and given me feedback on how to improve the Blog, and this is greatly appreciated. This helps me to obtain a better perspective on what I am doing and how it is impacting – or not impacting – the nonprofit community in the way in which I had hoped.

This time on the road should also help me to develop the Blog in a way that will assist the various nonprofits in determining how they can help – and be helped by – each other. This is important because I hope to create a forum for discussion and networking among the various nonprofits.

I wish to thank you all, and let you know that I will return to my desk on the 14th re-energized and with a “bag full” of new ideas to pass along to those who wish to do what they can to improve the lives of Africans both on the Continent and in the Diaspora.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

PROJECT BOKONON: Young People In Action

The thing that struck me the most about Project Bokonon, is that the leadership team of this organization is so incredibly young.

Made up mainly of members of the Wake Forest University community in Winston Salem, North Carolina, this group of dynamic young people has done incredible things.

The name Bokonon is derived from the local Fon language's word for "medicine man." This name was chosen because it symbolizes "the organization's focus on improving health care in Benin by empowering local communities."

Similarly, the organization's logo symbolizes what it hopes to achieve. The logo, crossed Bandaids bearing American and Beninese flags and a global map highlighting America and Benin is meant to symbolize "the connection between the two countries and the ability of American citizens to improve the medical conditions in Benin."

The Co-Founders, Brett Bechtel and Rosita Najmi were students at Wake Forest University when they began this operation in 2001.

In 2003 it obtained its tax exempt 501(c)(3) status.

In 2004, Project Bokonon hired its first employee, Bénin Project Coordinator, Abdul-Wahab Bakary. Bakary is Beninese and serves as the liason between Project Bokonon and the local community in the Pobe' Region of help assist in the on-site implementation of Project Bokonon's mission.

The focus of Project Bokonon is to work with the people of the Pobé Region in order to help improve their health care. And by improving health care, they also hope to empower the Beninese people.

Additionally Project Bokonon's intends to spread knowledge and awareness of international development and to foster independence and self-reliance in the rural communities of Benin. As a consequence, Project Bokonon encourages "education on both African culture and the methods and issues of sustainable development."
Since its inception in 2001, the organization has conducted projects that range from bringing medical supplies and antibiotics to Pobé hospital to building a new satellite clinic in the village of Issale in the Pobe Region. The clinic was built in 2004 with financing from Project Bokonon and on land donated by the local community. This spirit of cooperative effort embodies the type of Self Help that can take place when people are committed to helping themselves and each other.

When it opened it s Issalé clinic on June 17, 2004, the Inaugural Ceremony was attended by the King of Issalé, the Mayor of Pobé, members of the local community, and representatives from the Beninese government and United States Embassy. At the time that the clinic was inaugurated, a group of Wake Forest undergraduate students participating in the on-site implementation of Project Bokonon visited a school in Issalé where they presented a twenty-minute skit on malaria, its prevention and treatment.

Because one of its missions is to share Beninese culture with American communities, on December 12, 2003, Project Bokonon, with the help of Wachovia (a large bank and finance corporation headquartered in Winston Salem, North Carolina), hosted a presentation on Benin and the concept of Servant-Leadership for the sixth-grade students at the Roberto Clemente School in Harlem, New York. The program included a talk, PowerPoint show, and presenter arrayed in authentic African clothing. The students contributed to Project Bokonon by coloring cards and a mural to be displayed at the Issalé Clinic Inauguration.

Also in 2003, Project Bokonon hosted a Community Day at the Winston-Salem Barnes & Noble, where children colored West African murals, listened to stories, played with African costumes, and in doing so, learned about Beninese and West African cultures.

Project Bokonon has also made health care available by sending medical students from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and volunteers from Unite for Sight to Pobé Hospital.

"The medical students helped administer vaccinations to children and adults, examined the conditions of Pobé hospital, spoke with the doctors and staff, and, after first-hand exposure to the local practice of medicine, formulated ideas on how to improve the conditions of the hospital."

The volunteers from Unite for Sight, a non-profit dedicated to helping improve vision and eye care, were also sent to Pobé to provide free eye screenings and glasses to the local people.

In providing its vital assistance to Pobé, Project Bokonon continues to reevaluate its role there and seeks to form new relationships so as to improve how it carries out its mission of improving health care in this region of Africa.

You have to hand it to these wonderful young people, they are really making a difference, and a lot of "Old Hands" could learn a thing or two from them about how to get things done. You can see who these people are at:

Visit their web site at and see who they are, and look at all that they have done.

Friday, July 01, 2005

VILLAGEREACH : Another example of How To Do Things Right.

BYesterday I wrote about AMREF receiving the 2005 $1 Million Gates Award for Global Heath, and since them I have been contacted by people wanting to know "How do you get one of those awards, anyway?"

While studying AMREF as an organization can be very good guide on how to do things right, in looking over the awardees of grants from the Gates Foundation, I came across an another organization that provides an excellent example of "How To Get Recognized."

VillageReach is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works to improve health and the quality of life in what it calls "the most remote regions of developing countries."
Their demonstration project in northern Mozambique has proven to be very successful and it is refining its model so that it can be replicated in other developing nations.

In March 2002, VillageReach signed a landmark long-term agreement with the Mozambique Ministry of Health to provide a comprehensive set of solutions aimed at strengthening the nation's public health system. In July 2002, VillageReach and the Foundation for Community Development (FDC) launched a demonstration project in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado to put into practice its integrated programs designed to improve health and quality of life. This is the model that is being refined in order to be replicated.

A population of 1.5 million is currently being served by 90 clinics in participating districts in northern Mozambique. This effort has led to a 40% increase in voluntary immunization rates. VillageReach now has plans to expand the Northern Mozambique Project into the neighboring Nampula province to reach a total of 200 clinics serving nearly five million people.

I know, I know, you want to hear about the Gates Money. To do that I have to go back to the year 2000. That's when Blaise Judja-Sato quit his job as a telecommunications executive to create VillageReach after having what he calls "A life changing experience coordinating relief assistance to flood victims in Mozambique." Blaise then spent the following year developing an innovative model to improve health and quality of life in remote communities of the developing world. The model that he created ensures the
availability of critical health supplies like vaccines, improves the quality of health services. It also increases public trust in the health system within the community, and stimulates local economic development in appropriate ways.

VillageReach selected Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique to pilot its project because conditions in that area are similar to those in other remote areas of developing countries. Cabo Delgado has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the country. Vaccination rates are well below national averages. All health facilities experience frequent stock-outs of critical vaccines and supplies, and
- 85% of the clinic refrigerators suffer from breakdowns and fuel shortages.
- Less than - 6% of households have access to electricity.
- Almost half the population lives more than a two hours' walk from a health facility.

The innovative model that VillageReach constructed has the following components:

Created multi-modal transport network including land cruisers, motorcycles and bicycles. The staff not only inspects and repairs equipment on monthly visits; they are actually a major part of the supply chain. They get in the land cruisers to replenish the supply of vaccines, LPG and other supplies. They also go to the clinics to inspect and repair equipment and supervise clinic workers. On the local level, local clinic staff and other staff members use the motorcycles and bicycles for community outreach and for monitoring and supervising clinics.

Introduced reliable, low maintenance and cost-effective refrigerators in clinics. Collaboration with PATH to study opportunities for cold-chain improvement.

Installed propane burners for sterilization, incineration points and needle removers to ensure safe disposal of used syringes.

Provided lighting for nighttime care, refrigerators, and sterilizers at clinics. Reduced respiratory disease risk in households (because the propane being used in the Village Reach program is clean burning and less hazardous than kerosene and charcoal) and improved productivity of businesses.

Partnered with Iridium to utilize their global satellite system, introduced communication system in trucks to enable near real-time inventory tracking.

Introduced transportation and communication tools to support outreach activities. Trained community representatives to provide basic health care.

Established VidaGas, a Mozambican propane distribution company to reliably supply energy to clinics, businesses and households through the distribution of propane (LPG).

After Blaise did all this, he began to seek funding - and he began to get rejections. And after several rejections, he applied to the Gates Foundation.

Now, I must stop here and explain some things before I continue on to this story's happy conclusion.

The Gates Foundation doesn't accept unsolicited proposals for its education and libraries
Programs. And in the future it expects to provide fewer unsolicited grants in global health as well. Now, according to a statement by Lowell Weiss, a foundation spokesperson to The Chronicle of Philanthropy: "More and more frequently we are reaching out directly to potential partners that have a strong track record in carrying out these activities rather than waiting for inquiries to come to us,"

But having said this, the foundation currently continues to read some unsolicited proposals for global health and its program of providing support to charities in the Pacific Northwest. And fortunately for VillageReach, the foundation read theirs.

In November 2004 The Gates Foundation awarded the charity almost $3.3-million over five years to VillageReach to develop ways to deliver vaccines in Africa.

VillageReach's "cold chain" network of refrigerators and cold boxes that are designed to prevent vaccines from spoiling caught the attention of the Gates Foundation.
According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Melinda F. Gates, co-founder of the Gates Foundation, said that she is "committed to ensuring that the foundation's tradition of supporting small, relatively unproven groups like Mr. Judja-Sato's will continue." the Chronicle continued, quoting Mrs. Gates as saying: "Probably the most powerful thing I've learned over the past five or so years,"… "is the truth behind Margaret Mead's famous quotation: 'Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world.'"

The moral of this story is "COMMITTED." Even a small group of committed individuals can change the world. And for those who wish to be recognized for their work, they must understand that the price for such recognition is "COMMITMENT.' By the way, in June of 2004 VillageReach had just received a grant from the Chiron Corporation.

There is a lot more that can be said about this committed organization in Seattle, Washington, but I try to keep these articles Brief. So, I strongly recommend that you surf on over to VillageReach's Press Room and take a look at the recognition they have been getting for their efforts.

The home page for VillageReach is:

The Chronicle of Philanthropy can be found at: