Synergy at the Bottom of the Pyramid

The Greater Impact Foundation’s very first grant was in Nicaragua, where we worked with the American-Nicaragua Foundation to help the poorest of poor bean farmers improve productivity and, therefore, their incomes.  Since then, GIF has moved on to support initiatives around the globe, but we have never lost sight of those bean farmers. 

They have made progress. We observed productivity gains over the years.  We also recognized that external factors out of everyone’s control arose again and again, creating headwind slowing that progress.  

A severe drought has crippled the country and the bean farmers whose poor land quality and lack of irrigation has made us aware that long term success required a strategy that spreads risk and minimizes the negative impact any one uncontrollable circumstance.  You might say, that the stars have aligned.  Now, we have been able to develop plans to accomplish that goal.

As our portfolio has grown we now have partnerships with an irrigation enterprise in Kenya, KickStart, an agricultural enterprise in Mexico, Sistema Biobolsa, who produces mcicro-biodigesters that turn biowaste into fertilizer with a methane byproduct that displaces fossil fuels and provides an alternative energy source for the home.  The wonderful Catholic Charity, Food for the Poor, who originally introduced us to the bean farmer project in Nicaragua is also helping and now has tapped their donor fund to provide piggeries for those same farmers.

The piggeries create another income source for the farmers and the animal waste is important to fully maximize the Sistema’s biodigesters.  The KickStart irrigation pumps offer a tool to improve irrigation, but also a source of water to prime the biodigesters and GIF still provides training and capacity building to empower the farmers.

Alone, KickStart has proven they can improve farmer output particularly during the dry season ors times of drought. 

Alone, Sistema Biobolsa has proven that a digester improves farmer productivity, as well as displacing chemical fertilizer and fuel costs for wood, charcoal, LP gas or kerosene.

Alone, piggeries, create both a food and income resource while using waste byproducts to fuel the digesters.  Compounding that is the very important use of animal waste which historically is a health hazard.

Alone, GIF has continued to build capacity with the bean farmers.

Together, the synergy potential from all involved is enormous.  The cooperative participatory approach leverages individual assets.  The variant sources of income generated from revenue and cost savings is significant.  Moreover, while we are still testing the overall program, I am almost certain that the drive of the farmer to build a better life will be fueled by the sense of empowerment created and the knowledge that the program is sustainable.

It feels great to be part of the project. And, while that is just a byproduct of the Foundation’s overall mission, it engenders great pride in the Foundation’s work.  Cross your fingers.  If we are successful we will do it again, and again and again.