We spent a last, fun night in Luanda, then headed for the airport about 30 hours ago. Long wait there for a quick flight to Joburg, where Kristin Pires stopped over to see friends. She'll be flying out tonight, and then going on to Germany.

Nina Clancy, Steve and Dustin Koobatian and I continued on to London. Fine flight on Virgin Atlantic, and smooth sailing when we hit the ground. Steve and Dustin were met by friends from California at Heathrow, and they'll be staying on in London.

Nina and I took the bus to Birmingham. I jumped off at the National Exhibition Centre, which is where the Rotary International convention is going on right now. Nina continued on to central Birmingham, where Mike is waiting to meet her.

Lots of great stories to tell about Angola, a ton of great pictures and videos. I'll start posting pictures, I hope, tonight (I'm looking for a pub with WiFi -- I wonder if such a thing exists?).

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.

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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We're all here at the hotel with John Yale, getting ready to head out for a look around Luanda.

Left to right: John Yale, Seve Blum, Kristin Pires, Steve Koobatian, Dustin Koobatian, Nina Clancy
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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!
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