Winning Essays: Enterprise Solutions to Poverty Contest
By Molly Mattessich on Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
Solutions to poverty require innovative technology and communications, greater attention to women, increased job generation and the promotion of sustainable grassroots efforts.
We invited authors to share their first person accounts of enterprise solutions to poverty and the topics above.
The Grand Prize winner receives a $5,000 prize and the essay will be printed in NPCA’s WorldView magazine.
Grand Prize Winner
The winning essay was written by Becky Straw, Co-Founder and Chief Adventurist for The Adventure Project, a new nonprofit organization building a grassroots movement to accelerate social enterprises in developing countries.
Prior to The Adventure Project, Becky spent three years helping to launch, charity: water, an organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. Becky has consulted for UNICEF’s Division of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, and graduated from Columbia University with a Master’s in Social Welfare. When not in “start-up mode” Becky writes a blog about her travels and lessons international aid: www.beckystraw.com.
Excerpt from winning essay: Joy Against the Rain
Joy told us the story about how she earned a job at Living Goods, because she was nominated as a leader in her community, an older mother people trust. She applied, took the health test, and was accepted. How has her life changed, we asked? Joy straightened up and spoke passionately.
“(Before) I could live in a tiny room and not look at myself. I could just go to market and not think about myself. You don’t bother looking for yourself. Nobody knew me,” she said.
“Now I have a name. Now they call me “musawo.” Musawo is a Ugandan word for someone who treats people. I would like to keep that dignity when I go out of my home. I changed my life totally to fit with that name musawo,” Joy said, assertively, eyes beaming. “It has changed my life.”
Despite the rain, the waste and the disease plaguing Kawempe slum, there’s a beacon of light. Because there, amongst the muck, you can now find Joy.
There were so many good essays, the judges selected two others to receive honorable mentions.
Nathan James Danielsen served with the U.S. Peace Corps as an Agricultural Advisor in Senegal, West Africa from 2007 to 2010. As a third-year Volunteer Leader, he helped establish model farms with high-potential farmers throughout Senegal and trained PCVs to support them. Nathan is still working with Ballal to import moringa, shea, baobab, and other products to the United States. His business model is to train farmers to produce and pay them fairly, and invest in their communities with a program like BEANS. He hopes to work with other Peace Corps programs to help them connect their farmers to the US market and start BEANS programs at their schools. Learn more at ballalagribusiness.com.
Excerpt from: BEANS: Business Education and Agriculture for a New Society
My three years of Peace Corps service as an Agriculture Advisor forces me to ask: why are these people starving when they live amidst fertile ground, plentiful water supply and a long growing season, and what can we do about it. The simple answer is that Pulaars are cow-loving pastoralists who haven’t adjusted to an agrarian existence. Beyond updating the antiquated skills of traditional farmers, we need to harness the potential of women and the next generation with the entrepreneurship to strengthen food security in their communities…
Why do the successes of an entrepreneur and women’s groups produce more food than the labors of traditional farmers? Ballal’s competitive advantage lies in sharing its best practices and materials because trained farmers produce better crops. Mamadou and the women are open to innovation and are not ingrained in antiquated agricultural practices. For Mamadou Barry, the seeds of success were sown years ago. In a Youth Production League (long discontinued by the Senegalese government) he learned project management, marketing skills, and was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. When he saw the value of the training and support I offered, he quickly capitalized on it.
Rachel Hill was a Peace Corps health volunteer in Sapouy, Burkina Faso from 2003-2005. The malnutrition project became a central project during her service that combined health education and small business development. After Peace Corps she spent a year working with small artisan and agricultural groups on micro-credit and business projects in Ethiopia. She now works as a landscape architect in Wakefield, Rhode Island.
Excerpt from: Fishbone and Millet Porridge: Lasting Solutions Require Creating Innovative Recipes
Poverty is the developing world is not simply affected by a person’s ability to make money. Money in the pocket is a short term solution to poverty and hardly scratches at the solutions that will sustain a person, a family or a generation. Combating poverty and creating prosperity is multi-faceted and the solutions require creatively linking together motivation and resources. By tying the ability to make a profit at the Saturday market to building capacities that make people more resilient in their health, their livelihoods and their long term future, we impact poverty in a lasting way.
The instantaneous benefits come in the form of a profit as well as improved immediate health. The long term benefits come from a sense of control that people gain over their lives and a sense of pride that they develop from being able to tangibly affect it. This pride inspires confidence which rolls into knowledge transfer. People become role models in their actions and lifestyles. They become proselytizers of practices that will help them make and save money, maintain their health, and create the diverse opportunities needed to give them the ability to focus on needs past simple survival.