Project Everest

Holistic Villages and Building the Foundations for an Exponentially Affected World

by
Andrew Vild
Andrew Vild | Jul 26, 2017 | in Ideas Box

Our work at Project Everest unites science, business, civil society and government in our efforts to solve the world's issues through the power of enterprise. We do this through empowering communities and partners alike to become a part of the solution to ending extreme poverty. Together, our generation can end extreme poverty - I believe this to my core.

On this front, we need to take a holistic view on a regions issues. Through an interconnected and "moonshot" business plan, multiple areas of impact need to be addressed. A bigger picture "business plan" that isn't just that of the success of FarmEd or Everest Recycling Solutions, but all of them collaborating as a team to allow the success of each other. 

With more than 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide, the information and technology revolution has transformed our way of life and is the driving force for economic development in the world today. More than 330 million subscribers live in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

Here is an example of how I see this working in Malawi, first context is required:

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The biggest issues are across agriculture, health, finance opportunities, fuel and energy. 

Given a lack of rainfall in the dry season, a single harvest is relied on to supply food for the whole year, leading to food security issues. Reliance on maize to provide sustenance leads to a lack of crop rotation and dependence on fertilisers.

Health services are limited not just by the facilities, but access barriers to the services as a result of cost and geography. With transport costs being one of the major issues.

Education has limited the population's understanding of maths and thus effective budgeting of finances: input vs output etc. Access to financial help is limited and with high-interest rates, employment opportunities are far and few between at very low pay.

Wood and charcoal dominate the energy sphere with alternative energy sources rare and/or unaffordable. As a result, deforestation is a key concern. Given most food in Malawi is cooked, fuel forms a significant part of their non-disposable income.

Energy is inconsistent, expensive and doesn't reach far beyond the immediate vicinity of the main cities - impacts of lack of energy affect people in numerous ways, from agriculture to economic opportunities to education.

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Multiple issues have been identified in the above context, so how can we combat multiple and allow some solutions to piggy back off others to be successful?

Energy is the foundation to all of our tech-based solutions, from the established FarmEd to the work-in-progress MedEd concept (an idea that the most recent Team Leaders came up with during their training immersion). Energy allows light after dark - increasing productivity in education (homework etc) and in business. Energy allows the charging of phones that break down access barriers to information, increases economic opportunities through contact and communication, and last but not least, access to the very apps we're aspiring to use to break access barriers down in Agriculture and Health. 

Income, economic opportunities, financing and the culture of saving is in a poor state and is the reason many people don't have access to energy... so how can we offer them energy solutions if they can't afford it? Given 80% of Malawi's population are smallholder farmers, the ability to increase productivity and selling opportunities of produce will put them in a better position to afford luxuries, such as energy.

With increased agricultural effectiveness and access to energy, FarmEd starts to become far more relevant and valuable to these farmers, which can further increase economic opportunities and food security. 

MedEd, an idea talked about in another thread on Crowdicity, is the concept of FarmEd but with medical services in mind. An existing example of this is your.md (https://www.your.md/). Through a cognitive learning app, medical advice can be provided for the (roughly) 80% of cases that you don't need to physically see a doctor. Again, the weaknesses of this idea are around lack of access to energy, smart technology (phones and tablets) and education to use these technologies. So again, energy is critical to the implementation and market penetration of this concept and short-term remedies for these issues could be community based operators of tech - they would require English skills and be able to use a tablet, but wouldn't need the qualifications of a nurse/clinician/doctor.

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My proposal

To integrate mobile technology into all sectors of our work. The first step, to increase mobile phone network access by ensuring 80% of all households are within two kilometers of cellular range and providing basic data connectivity to key institutions including schools, clinics and high-demand centres (such as food market places).

Establish self-sufficient, off-grid communities through renewable energies, food security (derived from our Experimental Farm concept) and reduced access barriers to health services that can provide diagnosis, advice and track issues within geographies. Education will follow as a natural progression.

The effects have the potential to be extraordinary. Schools that once sent students home when the sun went down due to lack of electricity could connect to the Internet and to other schools through solar panels, energy-efficient computers and wireless 3G access. feedback to healthcare providers and managers to inform operational decisions.

Pastoralists in nomadic communities can use their phones to check local market prices and decide what to grow, how to grow it, whether to bring their produce for sale and forecast decisions for the following seasons. 

We will have the ability to track the provision of services to the community, count all pregnant women and children under 5 to ensure no vulnerable members fall through the cracks. Our systems will provide data warehousing, generation of reports, and real-time monitoring and feedback to healthcare providers and managers to inform operational decisions.

We will have the ability to track the provision of services to the community, count all pregnant women and children under 5 to ensure no vulnerable members fall through the cracks, while providing education through circumstance* to prevent recurring medical issues.

*Education through circumstance (I think a made up term) is the idea that the education will come in after we have given advice on how to solve the symptom, with follow up on preventing the cause eg. 1) A villager gets sick -> we tell them to drink water, take panadol to reduce fever and wait it out -> we follow up with "to prevent this happening again, wash your hands after going to the toilet". 2) A farmer has a particularly bad yield due to poor soil or excessive pests -> we help by suggesting the use of a particular fertiliser or pesticide -> follow up with "to prevent this from happening again, plant mustard seeds and beans around the maize to ward off pests and deliver nitrogen back into the soil". 
 
Inputs or bigger picture views on this topic would be appreciated, as it is a half formed idea. The concept that a business can come in and build a holistic approach to solving the economy of a village through multiple phases and focuses, just seems to be an obvious way of doing things. 
edited on 26th July 2017, 20:07 by Andrew Vild

Jimmy Bayssari Jul 27, 2017

This obviously makes a lot of sense and we have discussed this before- my interest here lies in how this ecosystem can be sold as a whole. Basically what you are speaking about is developing out a dynamic ecosystem which pulls together multiple differing technologies aiming to solve a wide range of issues. Just given the instability of the developing economy and attempting to work within different cultures, it would be interesting to see a timeframe of how this could be rolled out effectively.

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Andrew Vild Jul 27, 2017

Agreed. Easier said than done and something we discuss doing.

I'm working on a plan and steps and pathways that we can use to illustrate this a little better, but it might be more of an "internal PE" plan rather than one we externally advertise to the communities. This would mean multiple teams on the focus area or main effort (ie. FarmEd in Fiji) and then singular teams on the areas that need to keep moving but can't realistically be implemented to full effect without the main effort in place.

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Asher Jul 27, 2017

Here's a good and very successful case study around the area of food security which ties into poverty reduction. Post harvest loss is the elephant in the room in many scenarios when 1/3 of food is loss before it hits the plate (not sure about Malawi). Silos are a clear product for business ventures with this approach. I met the author of this publication, an Aussie business man with a simple solution and big results as a UNV - http://gel.grainpro.com/Articles-Published/Up...e%20problem.pdf

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Asher Jul 27, 2017

"Research conducted by WFP between 2012-2014 shows areas in both west and east Africa with average post-harvest losses above 40%"

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Jess Girardi Jul 28, 2017

Great concept, however, you'd need a faster and more reliable offline connection to resources for this to work. Your concept of "self-sufficient, off-grid communities through renewable energies" can be defs aided by tech industry leaders helping out. Would recommend looking into Google's article "Making the internet work better for everyone in Africa" and researching connectivity innovation further - https://www.blog.google/topics/google-africa/...veryone-africa/

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William Ashford Jul 30, 2017

I would err on the side of caution of encouraging wide-spread decentralisation of farming given the inefficiencies in local farming versus specialisation. Sure, improving production in small hold farms is a good stepping stone for local farmers, however economies without centralised, large-scale, specialised farms can expect to loose out on the reduced cost and carbon emissions that centralised farming provides. This would only serve to increase the price of food and accelerate climate change. A really good analysis of this can be found at http://freakonomics.com/2011/11/14/the-ineffi...-of-local-food/

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William Ashford Jul 30, 2017

I think you'll find that internet and cellular coverage will only increase with time (e.g. Facebooks Aquila and Google's Project Loon)
though and off grid electricity and water would really help to accelerate increases in standards of living and the benefit of PEs operations.

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