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Tevis Howard (2008) Pop!Tech Pop!Cast

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POP!TECH [♪ POP!TECH Theme Music ♪] Brings Together The World's Leading Thinkers To Share Inspiration and Ideas Igniting Change And Unlocking Human Potential This Is Part Of Their Ongoing Conversation POP! TECH POP! CAST It’s really an honor to be presenting to such an amazing audience. So, my name is Tevis, and I run KOMAZA. Our mission is to get families in Africa out of extreme poverty. And so, the social need in Africa is immense, and very pressing. 75% of Africa’s poor are farmers. And the hardest to serve of these farmers live on semi-arid lands. They’re basically trying to grow food living on a giant sandbox that gets very little rain. And they’re using Bronze-Age tools and farming techniques to do so. This sort of results in a really moribund economy. 65% of them live on less than a dollar per family per day. And the result of this is more than half the children have chronic malnutrition with permanent mental, and physical, and immunological stunting. So the result of all of this is 1 out of 6 of these children die before their fifth birthday. So because food production for these subsistence farmers is insufficient to meet their basic needs, they go and extract wealth from their environment. And they do this by cutting down trees, and then processing it into charcoal, and selling them to peri-urban and urban markets for cash income. And this works pretty well – they get money from it -- but it has a dramatic environmental effect. And so this is the landscape of the some of the first communities that we’re working in. And you can see in the upper right-hand corner, in the distance some way, there’s sort of a dense pocket of dark green. Those are all nice big trees. This entire landscape used to be covered with them. But over the last few decades, the landscape has been completely denuded, by farmers going, cutting down trees to sell charcoal. So this has devastating environmental effects but it also has a disastrous effect to the economy, both local and global. A really fascinating report just came out that says we’re losing $2-5 trillion per year from the global economy, from deforestation. So we have this sort of chicken-and-egg positive feedback cycle of rural poverty driving deforestation further driving rural poverty... and it just goes on and on. So how can we solve such a huge problem? The answer is with an even greater market opportunity. And I think that's really a theme here, for Pop!Tech, that we need to think about. So, wood markets in Kenya alone are worth $875 million a year. Kerosene markets are worth $750 million a year. And it's hard to spot, but a family like David's spends 20-35% of his disposable income buying kerosene to fuel a small little lamp to give a tiny amount of light. So it's a huge expense and a major market. So we have huge wood and kerosene markets over here, and lots of really poor farmers that have fallow land that you can't use to produce food over here. So there's a sort of natural question that emerges: wouldn't it be awesome if we could get poor farmers to grow wood and kerosene? And I'm sure you can all guess the answer, and it's "Yes, we can." So KOMAZA is focusing on two crops to do just this. The first is eucalyptus, and these trees are very drought- and soil-tolerant and they grow incredibly quickly. We planted these trees two and a half years ago, and they're now 40 feet tall. So, a eucalyptus tree can be processed into every single output product that Kenya needs to consume: charcoal, sawn lumber, electricity poles. And so this is a major opportunity to serve this market demand, instead of it coming from indigenous trees. Our other crop is jatropha. And again, here, it's incredibly drought- and soil-tolerant. And it produces seeds annually for 40 to 50 years from a single planting. And you can extract oil from these seeds, with a simple, mechanical, wind-up press, that is effectively bio-kerosene, and can burn in existing lamps. So we have an individual farmer, and these huge wood and kerosene market opportunities. How can we connect the two? Unfortunately, our farmer only has a lot of fallow land that you can't use for food, and her hard work. And so what KOMAZA does, is we go and give farm inputs on credit, and lots of training for how to properly plant and maintain these crops. And then we process the farm yields into high-margin output markets, and then we sell those to the highest buyer. So this gives huge income, comes back to KOMAZA. We recover our costs; we retain some profit. Then, we give money back to the farmer. She's really happy, and her family's ecstatic. So, now, just a really quick example of what this does for a family. This is a family earning a dollar per day. We give a eucalyptus farm at year 2, and we frontload it with jatropha at year zero. And the jatropha increases annual income; it doubles it. So families spend this on better food, better healthcare. The eucalyptus is like a savings device. They get huge lump sums of capital that they can build a better house with, build a rainwater harvester, start a business, send kids to high school. So jatropha effectively gets people out of extreme poverty, and eucalyptus gives them a shot at the middle class. Now we think this is really sexy because we're doing this in a way that can also return an amazing profit to our organization, we're anticipating a double-digit annual return. and I really hope that some of you are really skeptical about this. Because it's quite something to deliver a really life-changing social impact for such an amazing profit. And so please come and talk to me and I'd be really happy to discuss the details with you. Thank you. This work is licensable under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License For details please visit POP! TECH For more Pop!Casts, information on Pop!Tech or to learn how to participate, visit

Video Details

Duration: 6 minutes and 51 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Pop!Tech
Director: Pop!Tech
Views: 167
Posted by: beth on Nov 20, 2008

Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellow Tevis Howard talks about Komaza.

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