Update on Rotary's Million Dollar Dream

A year into the project, Rotary and World Vision had so far established 31 irrigation projects and 33 seed banks versus goals of 50 each, and work continues. The initial rounds targeted 1,350 smallholder farming families, with 1,375 actually enrolled and work continuing to reach the ultimate goal of 4,000 families. Annual family income was raised from $250 to $1,600 in just the first year, with the final goal of $3,500 appearing to be achievable. The full, final report submitted to the Rotary Foundation can be downloaded here.
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So many stories to tell, pictures to show and experiences to share. We spent spent 48 hours in Huambo, spread over three days. We saw the seed and fertilizer project that the Rotary Club of Luanda in District 9350 and 34 clubs from District 5230 in California made possible.

We arrived in Huambo province just before noon on Wednesday, 17 June 2009, after a quick flight from Luanda. Huambo is the second largest city in Angola, located in the central highlands at about 1,800 meters (5,500 feet) of elevation.

We arrive in Huambo. Left to Right: PDG Nina Clancy (RC Visalia County Center, D-5230), WorldVision Rotary liason Kim Lorenz (RC Seattle), Dustin Koobatian, Florinda Carneiro (RC Luanda, D-9350), and Kristin Pires (RC Tulare Sunrise, D-5230).

Our delegation was comprised of six Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Luanda, District 9350 (including John Yale, World Vision's country director in Angola), four Rotarians from three clubs in District 5230 in California, and several World Vision staff members. Kim Lorenz, a member of the Rotary Club of Seattle, is on World Vision's staff and serves full time as their liaison with Rotary.

Our first stop was a meeting with Ex.ª Senhora Lotii Nolika, the vice governor of Huambo province. Her first question was "why only certain communities?" President Manuel explained that potatoes -- the chosen crop for our project -- need water, which means that only villages where gravity-fed irrigation is possible can take part in our current project.

President Manuel Correia and President Elect Manuel de Sousa (RC Luanda, D-9350) brief Ex.ª Senhora Lotii Nolika, vice governor of Huambo Province, on our project.

The vice governor was also concerned about logistics, saying that transportation to Luanda, the primary market for the crop, is difficult. She wanted to know what we're doing about that problem. He explained that others are working on transporation solutions, and we are focused on improving production by improving the quality of the seed. Better seed means higher and more consistent yields, and more predictability in getting a crop to market. Making the crop more predictable also helps ease the transporation problem, because associations and cooperatives can make arrangements well in advance of need.

Right now, the only way to move the produce the 600 kilometers (about 400 miles) to Luanda is by truck. The road is constantly being worked on -- Portuguese and Brazilian companies have made considerable improvements -- but it is still a difficult drive. The real answer should come next year, when railroad service is scheduled to resume between Huambo and the coast.

Dinner back at the hotel. In the foreground are Jonathan White, operations director for World Vision Angola, and Steve Koobatian (RC Visalia County Center, D-5230)

Our next stop was a quick check in at our hotel, and then we went into the field. Those pictures and stories – the real purpose of our trip – will be posted soon.

President Manuel, PDG Nina and President Elect Manuel departing Huambo

We were in Huambo about half a day on Wednesday (17 June 2009) and Friday (19 June 2009), and a full day on Thursday (18 June 2009), going from early morning to well after dark each nights.

Nina, Steve Koobatian and Dustin flew back to Luanda on Friday. They were joined by Florinda Carneiro, PN Arlete de Sousa, PE Manuel de Sousa and John Yale from the Rotary Club of Luanda. President Manuel Correia stayed on in Huambo. He is originally from there and does business there regularly.

Rosalino Neto from the Luanda club, Kristin Pires from RC Tulare Sunrise and Steve Blum, RC Monterey Pacific chose to drive back to Luanda. The trip took about nine hours and went through some spectacular scenery.

The 600 kilometers between Huambo and Luanda has amazing views

The Kwanza River serves Luanda with hydroelectric power, and provides a source of water for drinking, washing, transportation and waste disposal, a common situation in the developing world and the reason Rotary focuses so intently on water projects


John Yale (RC Luanda, D-9350), World Vision country director for Angola, Nina Clancy and Steve Koobatian at the World Vision office in Luanda


Steve K, Kristin and PDG Nina at the Luanda airport, heading home on Saturday, 20 June 2009
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We leave for the Luanda airport in a few minutes, but I've finally managed a usable Internet connection for a few minutes at least. Pictures and all the stories we have to tell will have to wait for when we get to London tomorrow morning, although time permitting we might be able to post from Johannesburg, when we change planes there this evening.

We'll all well, tummy trouble not withstanding. Kristin Pires and I drove from Huambo to Luanda yesterday -- a great trip through 600 kilometers of spectacular scenery. Nina Clancy, and Steve and Dustin Koobatian flew back, and had some time to do a little shopping.

Our fellow Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Luanda were with us the entire way. They are, of course, taking the lead on implementing the project for Rotary here in District 9350, and they are as excited about it as we are, if not more so. May, many thanks to

President Manuel Correia
President Elect Manuel de Sousa
President Nominate Arlete de Sousa
Rotarian Rosalino Neto
Rotarian Florinda Carneiro

We have to leave early for the airport this morning. It's a 9:00 am check-in for a 2:30 pm flight -- that tells you a lot about some of the challenges of working in and getting around Angola. But the challenges are more than justified by the benefits, and more importantly the results.

Here's a quick recap of our time in Huambo:

Wednesday (17/06/09)

Meeting with Ex.ª Senhora Vice Governor Lotii Nolika.

Visit Demonstration Area for “Best Practices” at Dango - training for Rotary community leaders. It's located next to a new agricultural school, built by the Chinese, who are very active here.

Visit Caala warehouse for Rotary fertilizer. The fertilizer inventory checked out, and we saw how they manage thier inventory controls and distribution process. We also learned there, and later on as well, that fertilzer is gold in Angola.

Meeting with a women's group at Cariamamo – seed banks and rural credit.

Field visit toSr Ambrosio, Treasurer of the Seed Multipliers Club at Chilela - potato seed production and warehouse (Ekunha municipality). This was one one of a couple seed warehouses for the project. Its potato seed, which requires special handling, and it looked good.

Thursday (18/06/09)

Visit potato trading and varieties at the Chinguar market. It's an active and vibrant market, with a variety of goods and agricultural produce on offer. We also saw a modern refridgerated warehouse, next to railroad tracks that are scheduled to become active next year.

Meeting with the Representative of the Institute for Agrarian Development and visit potato planting by the seed bank at Cantão 4. The timing for our trip was perfect, and it was honestly coincidental, but you take your luck where you find it. The Rotary seed and fertilizer distribution is just starting, and we saw one of the 25 local agricultural associations that we're working with begin to plant their field.

Visit seed bank at the community of Cangala. We met with the leadership of another agricultural association that Rotary is working with.

Visit Rotary beneficiary community at “Quinze”, in Bailundo. This association will receive seed and fertilizer in a few weeks. Right now, they're running controlled experiments with the two potato varieties we're distributing, confirming that the varieties work in their soil, determining which one to use, and experimenting with different application levels of fertilizer to determine the optimum amount. It looked to me like it was right out of the Uuniversity of California Agricultural Extension handbook.

Friday (19/06/09)

Visit the Cooperative Agrocalenga Caála – Womens Credit Group – Rotary impact on final beneficiaries. You hear about microcredit and microfinance, but you don't really appreciate it until you see it in action. A "solidarity group" made up of a couple dozen women are taking small loans, building their own "bank", and making more loans. Some of the money borrowed goes to seed and fertilizer, some of it goes to small businesses, like making and selling clothes.
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Great meeting with our companheiros at the Rotary Club of Luanda. It's a small club with a proud history. During the civil war in Angola, and afterwards under a Marxist government when Rotary was effectively banned, a handful of members kept the flame alive by meeting where they could and sharing meals, sometimes with as few as three members in the club.

Rotary Club of Luanda welcomes District 5230 team

Not only are they spearheading the Million Dollar Dream in Huambo, they've organized the National Immunization Day for Rotary's Polio Plus program, which happens to be tomorrow, the day we fly to Huambo.
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Notes from our first meeting with John Yale, Angola country director for WorldVision...

Map of Angola, with Huambo Province circled

The objective of the program is to develop the economy in Huambo by building self-sustaining enterprises. Right now, those enterprises are small farms, referred to as smallholdings, which support one family on a handful of acres.

Huambo Province

The Rotary Club of Luanda (D-9350) and District 5230 are providing, literally, seed money for the project. The $250,000 we raised is going towards seed and fertilizer, which will be distributed as part of a comprehensive development program. That program includes organizing smallholders into associations, providing agricultural expertise, developing a market for produce and arranging access to credit.

Market access makes the program work, access to credit keeps it self-sustaining. We're providing one piece of a larger project. Another partner in the effort is the Gates Foundation, which is working on developing a market for agricultural produce from Huambo. The capital, Luanda, is eight to twelve hours by truck from Huambo, and there's evidently no reliable source of real-time information about prices and demand for any given commodity there. Most food is imported, the internal agricultural market is very poorly developed.

Supermarkets and restaurants in Luanda are being targeted right now as potential customers for Huambo's produce. In order to make that happen, the smallholders and their associations have to be able to promise a reliable, steady supply. They can't just show up with 12 truckloads of produce at the usual harvest time. They have to be able to supply one truckload a month for an entire year. Or even smaller lots weekly or better. That's one piece of the puzzle to solve.

Another is transportation. There is a rail line that runs from Huambo to the Atlantic coast, and from there up to Luanda. Some traffic is apparently moving on it, but it needs work and, according to Yale, the Angolan government is working on upgrades.

If Huambo smallholders can just get their produce to the coast, and sell it there, they could well succeed in building a sustainable business. Yale said that a smallholder might be able to sell produce at, say, $175 per tonne directly off the farm -- "gateside", as he puts it -- but that same tonne would fetch $500 on the coast.

A typical smallholder might be able to produce 2.5 tonnes in a single harvest. That's worth about $400 gateside, but $1,250 on the coast.

That's a huge difference, a three-old increase in income. And the numbers themselves are critical. In order to produce that 2.5 tonnes, the smallholder needs to start with about $375 worth of seed and fertilizer. $400 of revenue leaves just $25 to support a family until the next harvest, $1,250 puts $850 on the family's table.

Having that money available also allows the family to invest in their home, maybe put on a zinc roof or build a cookstove. Quality of life goes up.

Credit is piece that makes it self-sustaining. If a smallholder can borrow $375 for seed and fertilier, then he or she is assured of being able to plant again. The major government-controlled bank in Angola is beginning to loan seed money directly to smallholders in Humabo, through our joint project. The bank makes the loan, WorldVision guarantees the loan and provides training and other assistance to smallholders and their associations, so that the loans can and will be paid as promised.

Part of that involves developing individual business plans for each smallholder.

Yale also talked about how the Green Revolution, the biotech miracle of the second half of the 20th Century, never happened in Africa. Through better technology, the Green Revolution is credited with vastly increasing agricultural production in both the developed and developing worlds. Countries that were once on the brink of mass starvation are now self-supporting in terms of food, or have even become food exporters. Not so in Africa, according to Yale.

He said that WorldVision has had a lot of success around the world with agricultural technology programs. They've been very successful in boosting production. The market access and agricultural credit side is a work in progress, but it's work that's now being done in partnership with Rotary, the Gates Foundation and others, such as the Angolan Government, Chevron (Angola is a major oil producer), and the U.S. government's AID program.

The Gates Foundation is also focusing particularly on improving agricultural technology adoption, in Angola as well as elsewhere in Africa. Another, larger agricultural technology program is being run in Angola by the Rockefeller foundation. Both are trying to tackle the problem from both the supply and demand side, by developing markets and business acumen along with increasing production.

Yale believes the project in Huambo should be a success. While Angola was a Portuguese colony and before it was wracked by nearly 30 years of civil war, Huambo was a major agicultural producing region. During the war, Huambo was Ground Zero for the fighting, and was devastated. But the history and the natural resources are still there. Critically, Huambo has ample water for irrigation.

Africa in general is a relatively dry continent, with very little in the way of developed, or even developable, water resources. Because of its location in the highlands on the edge of the Congo basin, Huambo is wetter, with plenty of accessible ground water. That ground water is now being tapped to provide reliable, year round irrigation for crops.

We have lots more to see and learn. Yale said we'll be going to the villages where the Rotary seed and fertilizer will be distributed. We'll be learning exactly how our contribution will be put to use in this comprehensive development program, and we'll see the distribution chain from beginning to end. We'll also see some villages and local agricultural associations that are further along in the process.

Several members of the Rotary Club of Luanda will be going to Huambo with us on Wednesday. The president of the club is already there, having made the overland drive today. Tuesday, we'll see some of Luanda and the Worldvision operation here, and tonight we go to the RC Luanda meeting.
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The first half of the project has a total budget of $1 million, which is why we call it our Million Dollar Dream.

It started with small contributions from Rotary Clubs in District 5230, and a $2,500 contribution from the Rotary Club of Luanda during Rotary Year 2007-2008. Week by week, the contributions came in from dozens of clubs throughout Monterey, Fresno, Tulare and Kings Counties in California. In total, District 5230 clubs contributed $97,500 to the first half of the project, providing a cool $100,000 in out of pocket money from clubs and individual Rotarians to get things started.

Then the Rotary Foundation's matching grant process began. First, District 5230 contributed $50,000 in foundation funds that were raised in the district some time ago. Then, the Rotary Foundation matched funds again, providing another $100,000, to bring the total Rotary contribution to $250,000.

WorldVision then provided an equal amount -- $250,000 -- primarily comprised of in-kind services and staff expenses in Huambo. Finally, the Angolan government matched both Rotary's and WorldVision's contributions, and added $500,000 to the project, to bring the total to $1 million.

In reaching our Million Dollar Dream, every dollar contributed out of pocket by Rotarians in Angola and California was matched ten times over in cash and in-kind contributions.

We're not stopping there. It worked so well the first time, we're going to do it again. Rotarians in District 5230 have already contributed $12,000 out of pocket to the second half of the project. We're on our way to a 2 Million Dollar Dream.

Thank you!
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