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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The key to making our Million Dollar Dream sustainable is to develop consistent, high value markets for the crops produced by the 25 village associations in the Rotary project.

A flow chart showing the overall plan for developing sustainable commercial agriculture in Huambo (click to enlarge)

The Gates Foundation, ACDI VOCA (another US-based NGO) and World Vision are working in Huambo and in major markets such as Luanda and Benguela to do just that.

The five person leadership council of a village association in Cangala was made up of four men and one woman, all senior members of the village smallholder's association, and included the traditional "king" of the region. High on their list of concerns: access to markets for their produce.

According to World Vision, potatoes sold "gateside" -- at or near a smallholder's patch of land in Huambo province -- might be worth $175 per metric tonne. But transported a few hundred kilometers to Luanda or Benguela on the Atlantic coast, that same tonne will net $500, maybe more.

Smallholders selling potatoes "gateside" at the Chinguar market. No way of grading, weighing or even displaying the produce. These smallholders are selling an improved variety of potato, similar to those in the Rotary program. The follow-on project, led by the Gates Foundation, World Vision and others, provides training in marketing techniques as well as working on improving access to coastal markets.

With good seed and adequate fertilizer (which costs about $375), the typical smallholder might expect to grow 2.5 tonnes of potatoes for market. The math looks like this:

Sold in Huambo: (2.5 tonnes x $175/tonne) - $375 expense = $62.50, x 2 crops/year = $125
Sold in Benguela: (2.5 tonnes x $500/tonne) - $375 expense = $875, x 2 crops/year = $1,750


That's a better than 10 times increase in annual income. On the one hand, it's not knowing if you and your family will survive the year (no exaggeration: life expectancy in Angola is 38 years and 1 in 4 children die before age 5). On the other, it's buying a zinc roof for your house, sending your kids to school, and being able to buy some nutritious food and medicine.

President Manuel Correia (Rotary Club of Luanda, D-9350) discusses Rotary project plans and village association needs with the leadership council in Cangala. President Manuel is from Huambo originally and speaks Umbundu, the local language, fluently.

On Thursday, 18 June 2009, we visited the Chinguar market in Huambo province. It's a vibrant market, with a variety of goods and agricultural produce on offer. But it's still doing business the old way, and the range of goods is relatively small and completely unpredictable.


Unmanaged production and no market price information give buyers the upper hand. When several sellers show up with the same, perishable produce, they either have to take what little they're offered, or go home with nothing at all.

The Chinguar market is due to be completely transformed next year. It's located next to a rail line that's scheduled to be rebuilt and active by 2010. And a refrigerated warehouse has just been completed. With modern storage and transporation technology, local produce can be transported to the coast, and on to Luanda, where four million people are eating food imported from other countries.

Even potatoes quickly degrade under tropical storage conditions. This warehouse, built by an Argentine company and owned privately, will keep perishable crops fresh for transport to distant markets. Refigerated rail cars and even trucks are expected to complete the distribution chain.

Rotary is providing seed and fertilizer which will allow smallholders to grow high quality crops on a consistent, scheduled basis. Others, such as the Gates Foundation and World Vision, are building better access to markets and providing the training smallholders need to maximize the value of that access. Every piece is absolutely essential to making our Million Dollar Dream sustainable. Rotary is literally providing seed money. Combined with market access and expertise provided by our partners in the project, we have more of the pieces needed to turn a one-time contribution into a growing, self-supporting local economy.


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