We just heard that PDG Nina Clancy, PP Steve Koobatian and his son Dustin have landed in Luanda and are making their way to the hotel

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.

Kristin Pires took a couple of quick snap shots as we drove in from the airport...

Outside the terminal at Luanda airport

On the way to the hotel


Kristin Pires and I are in Luanda, the capital city of Angola. The flight from Joburg was flawless, but our arrival at the airport wasn't quite that. We walked into a mad rush at passport control to get immigration forms. It sorted out eventually, then we waited maybe an hour and half for Kristin's backpack to appear at baggage claim.

After that, though, it was back to flawless. Rotary's partner on the Million Dollar Dream project is WorldVision, a Seattle-based relief and development organization with an extensive operation here in Angola, as well as projects throughout the developing world. A WorldVision driver picked us up and brought us to the Hotel Tivolli. We checked in, and then met with John Yale, WorldVision's country director for Angola.

John told us a lot about Rotary's project in particular and WorldVision's activities in Angola in general. Those details will come in a later post -- this is just a quick update while I have a few minutes of Internet access before we head out to dinner.

We're going to have dinner with John, then hang out tomorrow morning waiting for the rest of the team to arrive. Once we're all together, were going to take a quick tour around the Luanda area, and visit WorldVision's headquarters here. Tomorrow evening, we attend the Rotary Club of Luanda's regular meeting.

Wednesday, we head to Huambo, where our Rotary project is based. John has promised that we'll be able to see the entire distribution chain for the seed and fertilizer that District 5230, the Rotary Club of Luanda and the Rotary Foundation have raised $250,000 to buy.

It's all real now!

More later...

Well plane hit by lightning by no damage. This is an exciting trip! Steve, Dustin and I have experienced the assistance of Ambien and after 24 hours of travelling feel great. I've slept at least 9 hours but I can sleep anywhere. Ready to apply Deet to repel the welcoming herds of mosquitoes of Luanda.. We are being met by World Vision then it is off to an orientation and to meet up with Steve blum and Kristin pires in Luanda. Tour of city WV headquarters and the Rotary Club of Luanda,Hard to believe this is real! Plane for luanda packed with business people maybe 250 or an Airbus there is a lot I want to know about this developing country.

I can't believe it is here. In a little over 24 hours we will be half way around the world another time zone another season. Oh the things we will see!

The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is Cape Town's commercial showcase, with malls, restaurants and a lively promenade. Rotary makes it mark there, sponsoring a signpost that shows you exactly how far you are from most of the rest of the world.

Friday was a perfect day, mild temperatures, low humidity and a gentle sun. Today it's back to winter. Not bad, very San Francisco-like. Cool with cloud cover and rain expected later on.

We took the ferry to Robben Island today. It's an island about 13 kilometers from Cape Town, where the former apartheid regime kept its political prisoners. Former inmates talk about their experiences, and what it was like in one of the world's most notorious prisons.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in custody, the bulk of that time at Robben Island, where he and other resistance movement leaders spent their days quarrying limestone under very harsh conditions.

The leaders were kept in small cells, in a high security section of the prison. Sometimes sleeping on the cold floor for years at a time, very few privileges. Tuberculosis was a risk, eye sight damage from the constant limestone glare was common.

The prison was shut down with the end of the apartheid regime. Now it's a world heritage site, and a living memorial.

Arrived in Cape Town this morning after a 12 hour flight from Heathrow. Picked up a car, stopped at our hotel for a quick shower, then headed over to the Royal Cape Yacht Club for the Rotary Club of Signal Hill meeting.

Good fellowship and interesting conversations. Their scheduled speaker didn't show up, so I gave a quick overview of our project, and we talked about it some. One good piece of advice was to take a close look at the distribution logistics in Huambo when we get there. They've had experience with similar projects in South Africa and elsewhere. Told us one story about seed left rotting by the side of the road because no one had a truck. Some of it was dragged out on skids, but most of it was left behind.

We talked with PDG Peter Hugo, currently foundation chair for District 9350, and also a member of the Signal Hill club. He gave us some good background information about the district and the Luanda club. Had very good things to say, and offered to help out if he could.

Another excellent bit of advice, which we took, was to waste no time in taking the cable car ride up to the top of Table Mountain. Today is a rare, warm and clear winter day in Cape Town. The clouds that usually wrap Table Mountain this time of year were nowhere to be seen this afternoon.

Kristin Pires, Rotary Club of Tulare Sunrise, on Table Mountain

It was spectacular. 360-degrees of visibility, with perfect views of Cape Town itself, Point Cape, the Atlantic coast and the mountains ranging south and inland.

Steve Blum, RC Monterey Pacific, overlooking Cape Town from Table Mountain

Had a quick dinner at our hotel, and now two days of travel and a nine hour time change are kicking in. There's a 7:00 am Rotary Club meeting -- RC Capetown Waterfront -- tomorrow. Might or might not make it, depends on how the jet lag goes.

More pictures from Table Mountain, courtesy of Kristin Pires...


We'll be in a different hotel than planned for our first two nights (15 & 16 June) in Angola:

Hotel Tivoli
Phones: 244-222-370070 / 335645
Fax: 244-222-335644
Address: Rua da Missão, 85, Luanda

No change at this point for our last night, 19 June 2009. We're told a WorldVision driver will meet us when we arrive at the airport in Luanda. We'll be arriving in two groups -- Kristin Pires and I on Monday, 15 June, and Nina Clancy, Steve Koobatian and Dustin Koobatian on 16 June.
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