Since 2009, we have worked with CARE Canada to expand economic opportunities in emerging markets. This joint global community investment initiative, known as “Beyond Exports,” strengthens CARE’s Enterprise and Economic Development projects through the transfer of EDC’s expertise.
As part of this program, we have placed up to four employees a year for four month assignments at CARE’s offices in Africa (Zambia), Latin America (Peru), Asia (India), as well as in CARE Canada’s headquarters (Ottawa).
Throughout these assignments our employees help small enterprises and communities to have better access to economic and financial markets. They share their knowledge while also sharpening their skills as coaches, problem solvers, innovative thinkers, communicators and influencers, and the ability to adapt to different cultures.
“The EDC employee was very helpful in understanding the critical gaps in the cashew market. He reached out to a range of stakeholders and came up with practical solutions to make the business more viable and profitable. This has been a good model for better emulation in the whole sector.”
Associate Professor, Cashew Research Centre, India
“The partnership CARE has with EDC helps develop the skills of young upcoming leaders like me by transferring the skills and expertise from the EDC staff to help bring in a fresh perspective to the challenges and solutions we face.”
CARE Zambia Officer
Canada - Private Sector Strategy Advisor
Senior Business Analyst, Business Solutions and Delivery
Veronica Giggey supports the development of management systems, including a due diligence tool and associated processes to support the charity's engagement with a variety of industries. She will be based in Ottawa with short term travel to Ghana.
No presents under the tree for me!
January 6, 2015
No, I'm not on Santa's naughty list. But the gifts I received this year just wouldn't fit under the tree (not even under the huge tree at Larcomar shopping centre in Lima, Peru). They are gifts that I received from my four-month assignment working for CARE Canada (...and better than anything that could be found at that mall).
Here they are:
My professional growth. I've worked as an analyst in IT for the last 15 years, leveraging technology to achieve business objectives. So I was lucky to learn about topics outside of familiar territory, such as gender and diversity, food nutrition and security, village savings and loans, climate change adaptation and NGO and private sector partnerships. But my biggest learnings and professional growth came from CARE's program design, which exemplifies problem solving and root cause analysis at its finest. I've learned it's not about the lack of schools and school supplies, but about children having to work during school hours or being married before the age of 15. CARE programs try to make a lasting change by bringing together the short-term relief and humanitarian aid with longer-term development and sustainability. CARE's interventions focus on the long-term objective. To summarize, it's not about the project, it's about the program.
The people I met. You can read a lot about CARE's program beneficiaries, from their hardships to their determination and their gratitude. But what you don't read about as often are the people at CARE who make it their mission to fight poverty and support 150 million people from the most vulnerable and excluded communities around the world. The people who spend months away from their families because they believe everyone deserves a life of justice and dignity. The ones who risk their lives by bringing relief to conflict zones. I was able to witness their commitment to gender equality, to increasing the resilience of the communities and to promoting dialogue. It takes a special kind of person and I feel privileged to have worked among them for four months.
Inspiration. I come back to EDC feeling better about the world I live in. I no longer simply look at the news and think what is the world coming to? I look at the news and wonder what CARE, or any other NGO, can do about it. I believe that the ratio of people doing harm is well outweighed by the people doing good. It's not about giving to someone the same things you have; it's about giving someone a chance.
Today, as I look back at the last four months, I'm grateful to be working for an organization like EDC which believes in CARE's mission. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been part of this program and for the support I received from everyone around me. I'm hopeful for the future and a world with justice and equality. I'm also hopeful that in my short stay I contributed to CARE's mission and perhaps was able to leave something that will strengthen the organization in the future. I know that the lessons I learned will stay with me and shape me personally and professionally from here on out.
Photos: I've included two photos from my trip to Peru (Larcomar shopping centre in Lima, Peru and and sunrise of Machu Picchu from the guardhouse), where I worked with CARE on their private sector engagement process. Specifically, I helped with process mapping, looking at due diligence tools and finding opportunities for process improvement.
Hi! From Hunt Club?
November 3, 2014
I know, right? Aren't CARE assignments about going to Zambia, India or Peru and using our business skills to help the communities on the ground? The life-changing experiences we've heard from past EDC participants come from living abroad, experiencing a different culture, and definitely from seeing first-hand what extreme poverty looks like. What can I learn about international development sitting here on Hunt Club and having Thai Express for lunch?
It turns out, I can learn a lot! I'll spare you the difference between international programs and international operations or how to create a program strategy based on a theory of change. I won't even get into details about gender, food nutrition and security, village savings and loans or sustainable agriculture. Most of you know more about partnerships, due diligence, microfinance, sourcing and supply chains than I ever will.
I'll tell you instead about what I'm learning here that I'd like to bring back with me in two months. After all, that's what I do. I'm a business analyst. I can apply the same concepts and tools in different contexts. I gather information, synthesize it, analyze a process and find what's working well and where we can improve. Then I make recommendations.
My biggest takeaway in the last two months is how important it is to make a connection between every employee and the organizational vision, mission and goals. My personal and professional experience began to change when I met the people who work at CARE. Even though I haven't met a single one of their beneficiaries or lived in their communities, I sense from every CARE Canada employee that he/she understands the WHY (and they are helping me to understand it as well!). You see it when you walk around the office. You hear it in their voices. You read it in strategy papers and program implementation plans. It comes across in major gifts campaigns and in conversations with the private sector. Everyone understands the WHY and thanks to them, so do I.
You have to watch this video from the program director of CARE International to understand what I mean. In a time when CARE is going through a huge organizational transformation towards a vision that they believe will best position them to fight poverty and social injustice now and in the future, when the Millennium Development Goals seem out of reach and the effects of climate change are becoming more prevalent, when over 800 women die every day due to pregnancy and childbirth and an estimated 50 per cent more food will be needed by 2050, CARE seeks "a world of hope, tolerance and social justice". However, donors expect non-profits to utilize less than 10 per cent of their budgets on operational costs. HOW are they supposed to do this? WHAT does each group within CARE need to do to achieve the organizational objectives? These are the obvious questions to ask. What I have observed is that you can't underestimate the power of WHY. You'll eventually get alignment, commitment and buy-in because everyone understands and believes in the WHY, or in other words the purpose behind what they do.
A strong WHY can serve as a framework for every conversation. WHY can build trust between lines of business and help us become more efficient. WHY can help us achieve that trusted partner model we continuously strive for internally and externally at EDC.
India - Small Business and Social Enterprise Advisor
Underwriter, Credit Insurance and Bonding
Sally Guo joins CARE India as a Small Business and Social Enterprise Advisor to work in the cities of Barmer and New Delhi. She is working on two small social businesses to promote the health of girls and women in rural areas, as well as to improve the capacity of masons to build earthquake resistant and environmentally-friendly constructions.
A girl's story: that's how it goes
December 8, 2014
In the villages of Mudo Ki Dhani and Dhandhalawas, where I am helping with CARE's sanitary napkin project (see my previous blog), an average girl is married off by her parents around the age of 17. She stays home until 18 and then moves in with her husband, who she has likely never met and lives in another village. She settles into the role of maintaining the house, the fields and focuses on having children.
"Aren't you going to miss home?" I asked one recently-married girl. She was silent. Sharda, her 13-year-old friend said, "that's how it goes". There wasn't any resentment or grief in her tone. It is this quiet acceptance that struck me. For a girl growing up in this region, the idea of what do I want to be when I grow up seems not to be an option.
The vast majority of girls accept their fate, which has been shaped by generations, because the alternative is beyond their ability to fathom. In my training sessions with twenty women belonging to a self-help group, only a handful were literate in Hindi, could recognize numbers, and do simple math. All of them had never left their home further than the nearest market. In fact, they were afraid to travel far without their husbands due to the socially-appropriate behaviours that are so deeply engrained in their minds. As such, concepts such as cost negotiation and marketing are very foreign to them and difficult to initiate for someone like me who is working on a project aimed at empowering women. Sometimes empowerment concepts clash with tradition, or rather this traditional role of man and woman. That is why successful livelihood projects often require both individual commitment and society support to implement and sustain.
My role as Small Business Advisor is very much like a Small Business Account Managers at EDC. Every village I visit is like a new prospect, bringing a new set of characters, motivation and communication style. This experience has been a continuous challenge with lessons learned each time on how to better convey our messages. I now have a better appreciation for the amount of patience and inner motivation demanded of an outreach worker in Barmer. It is difficult to see any measurable results in a short period of time, but with one visit, one will be convinced of the importance of capacity development in rural India and the growth of human resiliency. CARE is pioneering the sensitization work, which is an ongoing effort to encourage women to feel comfortable with thinking about the possibilities outside the status quo and educating them in taking control of their own health. With less than a month to go, I want to thank my teammates in CIB and the Western Region for their support. In all honesty, I am excited about returning to Vancouver. However, like Megan said in her blog, the people I have met in Rajasthan - their warmth and strength - will always have a place in my heart.
SWAGAT: Welcome to India
October 9, 2014
Three weeks have gone by in what seems like a blink since my arrival in New Delhi. Although I completed my orientation, my head is still trying to grasp CARE India's grand mission: to combat extreme poverty for marginalized women and girls of the "Dalits" caste and the "Adavasi" tribe.
Today, the social caste system remains prominent in every aspect of life in India. Children born into a lower caste are significantly disadvantaged in being able to lead a dignified life. The Dalits are the "untouchable" population, segregated by social norms and believed to be "polluting" to others. As such, they are often relegated to tasks such as manual scavenging. These traditions are often most alive in rural areas, and the impact is magnified by gender, making women the most vulnerable.
One reason for their extreme poverty is a lack of education. Most girls drop out of school when they get their first period (if not earlier), because they are not equipped to deal with menstruation. Nearly 70 per cent of Indian women use old rags instead of sanitary pads, leading to potential reproductive infections, and public embarrassment at times. These challenges sound like something you read in history books - except this happens every day only an 18-hour flight away from Canada.
To address such challenges, CARE has set up a district-wide maternal health initiative in Barmer, Rajasthan. The work CARE does is very much needed. My role as social enterprise advisor sounds simple: design and implement basic business training for village women, prepare a business plan and financial projections for a low-cost sanitary napkin manufacturing unit.
However, it is much more complicated. Where to start? How do I simplify business knowledge so that someone with absolutely no background understands? How do I explain opportunity cost to someone who lives in a desert hamlet and walks more than 10 km a day to fetch water?
It reminded me how lucky we are at EDC, to work with people who speak the same language and to have a common understanding. And it struck me how applicable the "know your customer" concept is here. Just put yourself in her shoes! To create communications that resonate, I realize I have much work to do. I need to visit desert communities and hear about their lives and challenges. Today, as I arrive to Barmer (the community where the manufacturing unit is located), I take stock of the tasks ahead and look forward to the challenges that await me. I'm sure everything will turn out to be theek-hai (OK in Hindi). I will keep you posted!
Zambia - Private Sector Engagement Advisor
Manager, Corporate Banking
Marianne McInnis joins CARE Zambia as a Private Sector Engagement Advisor in Lusaka to lead the formulation of a country-level private sector engagement strategy and continue the work by Bruce Dunlop on the Strengthening Cash transfers for Access to finance, Livelihoods and Entrepreneurship Project (SCALE).
As the sun sets on my African adventure ...
December 16, 2014
In less than two weeks, I will take my last steps on Zambian soil. It doesn't seem possible ... I just got here. My work has taken me from the villages of Katete to the conference rooms of Lusaka.
In Katete, I had the chance to observe a number of independent Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), in action. Sitting in the blazing heat, the VSLA members dutifully followed the prescribed meeting process, set out by CARE. Very few of these people were able to read or write, so every part of the process was communicated verbally to the group. First, they arranged themselves in a circle according to their member number (members are fined a few ngwee if they sit out of order). Then, they prayed. They counted and verified the money in the box. They counted and recorded the new savings deposits. They counted and recorded the new loan disbursements. And, finally, they recounted and verified the money in the box. The whole process took over an hour. It was clear to me that all the VSLA members were very proud of what they were accomplishing. One of the members (a man wearing a frayed green jacket, red pants and worn-out shoes) sat absolutely still during the entire meeting. As our group prepared to leave, he came to shake my hand. He looked me square in the eye, put his hand on his heart and offered me the traditional handshake (grip hands, grip thumbs, grip hands). Wow!
Back at the office, I developed an extensive training guide to help VSLA members, like those in Katete, move closer to realizing their true potential as entrepreneurs. By broadening their business acumen, CARE's hope is that they will be better equipped to select, plan and manage an income-generating activity that will be profitable and sustainable. What's next? The CARE Zambia office will collaborate with an organization called the Platform for Social Protection to train the next wave of Zambian small business owners.
On another track, I was involved in the preparation and delivery of a multi-stakeholder Private Sector Engagement workshop, led by CARE Canada and hosted by CARE Zambia. CARE was well represented at the workshop with colleagues from Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa (a.k.a. the Region). During this workshop, the stakeholders shared knowledge and perspectives on, and debated the challenges and opportunities of, engaging potential partners, from the extractive sector, to aid in the delivery of some public services such as health facilities, educational institutions and transportation infrastructures. It was a rare opportunity for me to observe candid discussions on such a relevant topic. What's next? I'm working on a company assessment tool that will be used to help in the selection of potential partners from the Zambian extractive sector.
I enjoyed so many things about Zambia. Though, my all-time favourite moment was during a visit Megan and I made to Kawaza elementary school, near South Luangwa National Park. As we entered one of the classrooms all of the children sang ... "Welcome Friend". It was wonderful! Afterward, I took a seat at an empty desk at the back of the classroom and was immediately swallowed up by a sea of children. They had questions for me. I had questions for them. In the end, it was a 12-year old artist named Zebediah who stole my heart.
I will never forget my time in Zambia!
To EDC and CARE: I will be forever grateful for being given this opportunity. Zikomo (thank you).
To Megan Murray, my travelling companion, sounding board and fellow safari survivor: You are one of the coolest and kindest people I know.
To the 2015 Advisor: be prepared to live, work and play like never before in your life (we will talk).
To everyone else: Mutendele unkhale nanu pa ino nthawe ya Christmas (May peace be with you this Christmas).
Making my mark on African bamboo!
September 14, 2014
Can you find my 'M' mark on this bamboo graffiti wall?
As I write, I've been in Lusaka at the CARE office for exactly two weeks. During that time I've been an information sponge... one week in orientation sessions plus one week reading background material.
My position title is Private Sector Engagement Advisor. The majority of my work will be to facilitate collaborative partnerships between companies and communities, in a number of Zambian provinces. The extractive sector is my main focus, for now. I report to the Assistant Country Director and work with a student intern from the University of Zambia. I'll also be working to help vulnerable families, who receive government funding in the form of cash transfers, embrace the concept of saving and lending to help them develop an increased level of financial independence. I'll have more to share on both of these projects once I start my field work.
One of my CARE colleagues took us (Megan and the interns) on a tour of Lusaka and the surrounding areas. One of our stops was the KuKu compound.
There were moments that warmed my heart, and... then there were moments that hurt my heart.
At the end of our tour we stopped at a local zoo. My favourite moment was when we met a very shy lion... I called him Chintu Cha Bwino (the beautiful one). At first he stayed far back in his huge field, so everyone else moved on. But I was determined to have my first lion encounter. I started talking to him... silly, I know. But, ever so slowly, he zigzagged toward me, never looking in my direction. Finally, he leapt up onto his platform and posed for this picture. My CARE colleague called me the Lion Whisperer (lol!).
I'd also like you to meet Ollie, who suffers from a serious case of attention deficit disorder. I can't believe I got this shot.
I've been attending the Sunday mass at Mary Immaculate Parish. Near the end of the service they asked all the visitors to come to stand in front of the altar... so I did. The choir and entire congregation (about 500 or 600 people) sang and clapped (some even ululated) while the parish priest and his associates welcomed us, one by one... amazing!!!
Signing off for now. From my house to yours, take good care.
Zambia - Social Enterprise Development Advisor
International Financing, Guarantees
Megan Murray joins CARE Zambia as a Social Enterprise Development Advisor in Lusaka to work on the development of a business-viable social enterprise aimed at improving the health and well-being of Zambians.
There is no 'P' in business. Or is there?
November 14, 2014
When I last checked in, I had mentioned that funding for the social enterprise was a moving target and, as such, my ability to participate in field work was an unknown. I have since received the news that funding for my main project will not be secured before January 2015. You can guess what that means. It's not unusual for NGOs to see funding delays on projects given that securing funding usually entails a fairly detailed proposal process, including lots of negotiation and documentation. I've been kept quite busy assisting in many of these initial sponsor deliverables.
I had mentioned in my last blog that I was hoping to see the 'Product' and 'People' components of business first-hand. Despite not being able to meet with the community in regard to the social enterprise, I had the good fortune to be invited along on a workshop relating to another business-related project. The workshop was hosted by CARE and participants included farmers, agro-dealers, and a Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock official. We were problem-solving around issues relating to the vegetable supply chain. While we soon found out that production itself was very successful, commercialization was fundamentally flawed. None of the players had a good understanding of the others' roles under the project, nor of their own. In addition to that, the agro-dealers (effectively the middle-men and middle-women) lacked business skills. CARE has now committed to engage a trainer for this purpose in December. It was interesting to contrast this exercise with some of the detailed workflow mapping exercises we've done at EDC.
Of course one of the most rewarding aspects of the placement itself has been interacting with the community. Two weekends ago was Independence Day, and Marianne and I went on a safari long-weekend. We met a lot of interesting personalities in the bush (some more aggressive than others!). On the final day we visited Kawaza village, located on the border of the South Luangwa Park. There, we met so many wonderful people, each of whom had a smile for us despite the extreme heat and rampant poverty. One of the children asked me to be her friend while another asked me not to forget her. I can tell you that I sure as heck won't!
There are so many experiences, learnings and memories that I will be taking back with me. Right now my mental hard drive could benefit from some defragmenting! I am so incredibly thankful to have been given this experience. The world has gotten a little smaller and that feels wonderful. Before we came here, we heard CARE Canada staff who'd travelled here tell us that they'd left their hearts in Zambia. I'll need my heart back home, but in it I hope to bring some little pieces of the strength and resilience of all the wonderful people we've met here. On a bad day, all I have to do is think of those smiling friends in Kawaza village, and nothing will seem so bad.
Starting a business from scratch- the road to sustainability
October 16, 2014
Today's blog is brought to you by the letter 'E' with honourable mention to the letter 'S'.
'E' represents enterprise and empowerment and 'S' helps his fellow letter out by bringing in the sustainability aspect. In this regard, 'S' allows 'E' to continue to do good work and stand on his own over time.
I have spent most of my career at EDC working in the small business segment and that is where a good part of my heart lies. During our first weekend in Zambia, some colleagues took us on a drive around Lusaka where we were able to see compounds (some call them 'slums') first-hand. One of the things that fascinated me was the number of stands where people were selling everything from vegetables to mops to car parts. On a major thoroughfare it is not unusual for someone to come to your window with talk time (phone minutes), running shoes, or even puppies for sale.
My work in Zambia involves helping develop a sustainable social enterprise (a for-profit business with a social purpose) that will allow sales people to sell health products (e.g. condoms, contraceptives, nutritional supplements) into communities, as well as to provide important health messaging. This is not a new concept. In fact, from 2009 to 2014, CARE worked with community-based volunteers who did just this. Although it was a highly successful initiative, it wasn't sustainable. There were stock-outs and it was difficult for the volunteers to compete with the free products being handed out by the government. On top of that, the program remained contingent on donor funding. This is where the vision for the social enterprise started. The idea is that by combining the sale of low margin health products with that of higher margin consumer goods (e.g. solar lamps, talk time), the business can have a better chance of becoming sustainable. The new social enterprise will seek profits through an integrated supply chain that aims to provide efficient and timely supply.
The other fundamental element of the social enterprise is that it will provide sales agents (with a focus on women) with business skills training, essentially developing skilled entrepreneurs. Herein lies the empowerment component.
Just like Sally said in her blog, starting a business from scratch is no small feat. My first month has involved reviewing budgets, setting timelines, meeting with donors (I could write a whole separate blog here!), initiating a business plan, and researching policies and regulations. At this point donor funding is a moving target on which field work remains contingent. Before my time is up here, I am hopeful that we will have an opportunity to meet with the community and hear people's voices. This way, we may develop a basket of goods on which the enterprise and its entrepreneurs will base revenues. Perhaps my next blog will be brought to you by the letter 'P' for product (and people).
This video provides a window into the experience of employees placed in Zambia.
Zambia - Local Economic Multiplier Advisor
Vice-President, Risk Management and Acting Chief Risk Officer
Bruce was a Local Economic Multiplier Advisor at CARE Zambia. He worked on a project to measure the economic benefit that Zambia's Social Cash Transfers (i.e. welfare) have had on local economies.
November 27, 2013
When I told people I was taking this role, many people said to me "I'm sure it will be life changing" and I nodded my head sagely and agreed. But I didn't really know how or why it might be life changing - instead I just decided to let it happen and see what the outcome was. And that was lesson one.
Lesson One: Enjoy the moment: I hope I have learned to enjoy the present instead of worrying about the future so much. In Canada we are always looking ahead, planning our week / month / year, planning for retirement, planning our next vacation. In Zambia, people live for the moment to a much greater extent. I think they may do so because life happens much more quickly in Zambia. You get married younger, you have kids sooner, you die sooner and you never know what problem might be lurking around the corner, so you need to embrace life now. I realize that I stink at enjoying the moment. I hope I have learned my lesson.
Lesson Two: Western problems are not problems: It relates to lesson one, but when I list out the top problems in my life, they just pale in comparison with what people face here, even employed people with decent jobs! During my time here, one of my colleagues, Alfred, lost his 5 year old daughter to dehydration! I was appalled - to me, you don't die of dehydration. My taxi driver, Isaac, who supports an extended family of 10, was told his father needed to have his leg amputated. He didn't have the bus fare to get his dad from his village 6 hours away to the public hospital in Lusaka. Kat and I helped him out, only to find that the public hospital, where the cross-infection rate is 40%, botched the surgery and he had to have it re-done at a private hospital. A good friend I met here at CARE, Anisha, is 25 years old who has lost both her parents already, in their 40s. Mine are 77 and 79. I'm almost embarrassed by what I would have told you were the problems in my life before I left. They are not problems at all. It is just not reasonable for me to be stressed out, given what I've got. I hope I have gained some perspective.
Lesson Three: Be courteous: For all my complaints about inefficiency here, there is one thing Zambians never forget to do: they always greet each other every day. There is always a "good morning and how are you" (Mowaka Bwanji in Nyanja, Mwabuga Buti in Tonga) exchanged with every person. It is considered very rude to just jump into business talk right away without enquiring how the other person is doing. I am very guilty of that at home, particularly at work. I am going to try to be much more polite.
None of these are new concepts and much of it is stuff I already knew deep down. But it's different when you stare at it in the face every day and really let it sink in. Now that I know what "life changing" means, I want to thank everyone who supported me in allowing me to have a life changing experience.
Access to savings and credit
November 5, 2013
My intern, Andrew, asked me "When did you open your first bank account?" I told him I thought it was when I was about eight. I remember my mom walking me over to the Royal Bank at Westgate Shopping Centre and introducing me to the manager. I got my own passbook and I remember it being a big deal - almost ceremonial.
Now, imagine that you live in a village, 35km from the nearest paved road (because your family has lived there for hundreds of years) and you have no access to transport, not even a bike. It's a 3 hour walk to the nearest town and there is no bank there. How do you save money, even if you want to and how do you arrange a line of credit to fund your great idea? The only way, other than the local loan-shark, is to join a VSLA (Village Savings and Loan Association), which have been set up all over Africa by CARE and other NGOs, both international and local.
In the developed world, we take access to credit for granted. Much as I opened my first bank account when I was 8, I think I got my first credit card when I was 19. Imagine if you had neither? You can't function in Canada without at least one credit card. For example, everyone in Zambia has a prepaid cell phone, so they have to constantly stop and top up their "talk time" (luckily there are guys selling talk time on every street corner). When I explained that we have post-pay phones, the CARE driver Moses said to me "but what happens if you don't pay". I said "the phone company just bills your Visa card". He was baffled. Not many people have credit cards. But I digress...
My main assignment here was to design and carry out a survey of VSLA members in order to estimate the local economic impact of the income generated by the borrowings and interest earned from members of these constructs. I cannot explain how fascinating it was to sit under a tree in a local village and chat (my Tonga is limited – so via an interpreter), with the villagers.
We asked them what they did before they learned to save money and how they coped before they could borrow. Here are some of the verbatim answers:
- Before having a means to save, I wasted my money on unnecessary things
- I had no means of paying school fees and went hungry a lot
- Borrowing money in the village was very expensive – interest rates were high (25% quarterly is not unusual)
- I would try to borrow from relatives, but they would turn me down
- I was doing gardening but as I am 73 years old, it was getting very difficult
- Before joining, I was unable to borrow to buy fertilizer, so crop yields were poor and I could not afford school fees
- I worked in someone else's field. Now I have started my own business.
- I used the interest income from the VSLA to buy my wife a mattress. Next year I plan to buy one for my other wife.
So, people who previously could not, can now save and borrow. And the spirit of entrepreneurship is amazing! Everyone is ready to take a risk and start a business, so they can help their kids and move up the economic ladder. The three top categories that people spent their borrowings on, from our survey, were business inputs, agricultural inputs and school fees.
Access to savings and credit is not a panacea for poverty, but it is an absolutely critical component of economic self-sufficiency. And I'm really proud to say that I am helping CARE build a case for doing it a sustainable way, by building evidence to influence the government and by transferring knowledge to local partners, so that CARE can eventually phase itself out of the business and no longer need to intervene.
Helping people take measured risks in order to make money and improve their lives – sound familiar? It's exactly what we do every day at EDC. The ability to save, borrow and invest is a key component of business that we take for granted. It's great to see it sprout from nothing due to the ingenuity and hard work of a bunch of dedicated people.
Twalumba Kapati (Thank you very much in Tonga).
What do $500 million and $12 have in common?
October 4, 2013
My work with CARE involves designing and carrying out a research study in a couple of rural villages in Zambia. CARE has been helping the Zambian government roll out a "Social Cash Transfer" system over the past few years and it now reaches 50,000 of the poorest households in the country, giving them 60 kwacha ($12) per month to supplement what income they have. The Government plans to triple the number of recipients over the next few years. To give you an idea of how poor the recipients are, here are a few stats: less than 20% of the children in the recipient families have shoes; 20% of the recipient families eat only one meal per day. So, while 12 bucks doesn't sound like much, it makes a big difference to the recipients.
But what aid organizations are discovering is that one of the keys to breaking the cycle of extreme poverty, to stop it from being passed down from one generation to the next, is to help people learn how to generate their own income and join the economy. One of the main hurdles, beyond having some cash to begin with, is access to credit and to markets. That's where CARE comes in, helping villagers set up "village savings and loan associations" (VSLAs) and agricultural depots and giving them some training on how to run a small business.
Although it's on a tiny scale compared to what EDC is used to seeing, this sounds an awful lot like the linkages we are always trying to make with our clients. We look at supply chains and facilitate Canadian companies' access to markets and give them access to needed credit. What do I know about Social Cash Transfers (SCT), VSLAs and running a survey with a Randomized Control Test (RCT) at a Non Governmental Organization (NGO)? Other than realizing I'm on a brand new acronym learning curve, it reminds me a lot of a project I worked on back in 2005. My VP at the time, said to me "here's an idea, now go figure it out – and have it implemented by Christmas." So, while the differences in my daily life are pretty stark (like the location and temperature of the meeting rooms), work is work, wherever you go!
Zambia - Communications and Knowledge Management Officer
Advisor, Internal Communications
Kat was a Communications and Knowledge Management Officer at CARE Zambia. Her responsibilities included documenting stories, developing reports, learning products and strategies for select projects, as well as assisting in the development of CARE Zambia's annual report.
The best decision I made this year
December 4, 2013
It's hard to believe my assignment at CARE is coming to an end. As my Zambian friends say, time is moving!!!
I've spent the last few weeks wrapping up my work, including CARE Zambia's first Annual Report.pdf, which outlines its achievements from the past year. What struck me most when putting it together is the fact that CARE reached more than one million people through 14 projects across the country. That's almost 10 percent of the population - and the size of the city of Ottawa - who received some form of life-changing assistance, whether it's access to anti-retroviral treatment or safe drinking water or training on better business/farming practices for improved food security.
I feel incredibly privileged to have met some of the beneficiaries, who told me the difference CARE has made in their lives. I'm also happy to have contributed to CARE's mission during my time here, but I am even more proud of EDC for supporting such an amazing organization.
I've been reflecting a lot about this partnership since I started here, especially whether leaving your regular job for four months to essentially parachute into a new one is beneficial for all involved. I have no doubts that it is. During our time here, Bruce and I were able to help CARE fill a lot of the gaps with our unique skills and experience and, more importantly, I think we contributed by bringing a new perspective to the operations and programming.
In terms of benefits for EDC, we will both tell you that this has been a tremendous learning experience, which honed many of our soft skills, from taking initiative, to being innovative and resourceful in challenging circumstances, to practicing our patience! It also confirmed why we like EDC.
On a personal note, I have to say that in addition to learning about international development, CARE and this amazing country, I have gained a new perspective on life. Life is short. It can be challenging (for some much more than others), but it's also incredibly beautiful. In Canada, we spend a lot of time stressing out about things that don't really matter, when we should just focus on enjoying the present moment. Having just had this experience, I can tell you we have A LOT of reasons to be happy.
Looking back, this was the best decision I made this year, and I am grateful to everyone who made it possible. Zikomo Kwambiri!
As usual, I'll finish with my highlight/lowlight:
Highlight: Going to church on Sunday. It was quite different from any service I've been to in Canada. There was lots of dancing, singing, enthusiastic preaching...the church was packed and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Bruce even joined in on the dancing and I got to make a little speech. Who knew four hours of church could be so much fun?
Lowlight: To be honest, it's the thought of leaving Zambia. As much as I'm excited about coming home, I have really enjoyed my work here and have met some truly amazing people. I am sad to be leaving, but I feel incredibly grateful for having had this experience.
Have you thought about HIV/AIDS today?
October 29, 2013
For many of us, the answer is no. I was first confronted with this question on my drive from the airport. The large billboard – one of dozens I would see over the coming months – was a stark reminder of one of the greatest humanitarian challenges facing Zambia today.
According to the last demographic survey, more than 14 percent of the population is living with HIV/AIDS. What does that mean? It means everyone is affected by it, directly or indirectly.
To make that number a little more real, I can tell you there isn't a week that goes by when I don't see truckloads of people heading to a funeral. My colleagues have family members who are living with the disease or who have passed away from it at shockingly young ages. There's also the frequent talk of "getting tested" and "knowing your status" – words that are just a normal part of the vocabulary.
This may seem daunting, but in truth, there is great progress being made to stop the spread of the disease. Education through advertising is just one the ways the Zambian government is focusing on prevention. Another is by working with NGOs like CARE, which are targeting the most vulnerable communities to help reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and ensure access to testing, treatment and care.
I recently traveled to Chipata in the Eastern Province to learn more about one such project. Through the Integrated Tuberculosis and AIDS Program (ITAP), CARE is assisting the government in reducing the transmission of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis, reaching more than 540,000 people.
Here's how it works. Recognizing that the majority of Zambians live in rural areas that are often long distances away from health clinics (the biggest obstacle to getting tested and treated), CARE has focused on training community-based volunteers. These men and women go into the most remote villages, educating people about prevention and encouraging those at risk to visit the nearest health centre. It is there that samples are collected (blood, saliva, stool) and are sent to the hospital in Chipata for testing.
One of the coolest parts of the program is the courier system CARE has helped establish, which ensures the samples are delivered for testing in a timely manner. In Chipata, there are two motorcyclists who travel daily (up to 100 km on the most rural of roads) to collect samples from 55 health centres in surrounding communities. Whereas in the past centres had to rely on volunteers for pick-up and delivery, they now have a safe, reliable and confidential transportation system, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in testing and treatment.
Since the project started two years ago, ITAP has facilitated:
- 5,285 referrals for HIV testing, 696 of which were referred for antiretroviral treatment
- 3,742 referrals of women to antenatal services (important for reducing mother/child transmission)
- 200 referrals of HIV-exposed children for testing.
This is pretty amazing work, which not only translates to healthier and stronger communities, but ones that are more economically viable as well. If you didn't think CARE's work was inspiring enough, another component to the ITAP initiative is training the same community-based volunteers to form village savings and loans associations (VSLAs), which allow the members to save and lend money together.
I visited one of these in Lufazi, where 30 women walked me through the basics of making monthly contributions and proudly shared what entrepreneurial ventures they invested in. It was very inspiring to hear them speak of the benefits they have experienced as members of the group: education for their children, food security, financial independence, a sense of belonging and, perhaps most importantly, hope for the future. This was definitely the high point of my CARE internship so far!
Highlight: Dancing with the VSLA members in the village of Lufazi. Despite the many challenges these women face, their energy and enthusiasm for life is very moving.
Lowlight: Visiting a hospital in Chipata to learn more about CARE's projects. As important as it was to see, it was incredibly saddening to see the patients waiting for treatment - most of whom were my age or younger.
Check it out: CARE Zambia is now on Facebook. If you want to know more about some of the great work CARE is doing, check out the page (and don't forget to like it!).
Seventy languages, ten projects and one giant spider
September 10, 2013
Bwanji! Muli shani?
That's "hi, how are you?" in Nyanja, one of the two main languages spoken in Lusaka (the other is Bemba) and only one of the more than seventy spoken throughout Zambia. As you can imagine, it's a little overwhelming, so I'm focusing my energy on Nyanja, much to the amusement of the locals. Thankfully, English is the official language, so communication is (relatively) easy.
As I write this, it's officially been two weeks since I started my assignment with CARE. To say that I am impressed would be an understatement. The work that CARE is doing throughout the country is incredibly inspiring. Currently it has ten projects on the go, all of which focus on promoting greater equity, improving livelihoods and creating more enabling environments for some of the poorest people in the country.
I was lucky to witness the positive impact of one of these projects, when we travelled more than seven hours to the village of Kanchele, where CARE is in the midst of a two-year initiative to educate more than 7,000 farmers (half of whom are women) on better agricultural practices. The program empowers agro-dealers in remote communities with information on improved seed use, crop diversification and proper administration of medicine to livestock. This knowledge is then passed on to farmers who are able to grow more produce (mainly cabbage, maize, okra, onion and tomatoes).
instead of making the arduous trek to the city (more than 60 km!) these farmers can now sell their produce to middlemen who distribute it for them.
Thanks to newfound access to markets, the farmers in villages such as Kanchele have shifted their focus from growing food for their immediate needs, to farming as a means to a stable income. The money from increased outputs helps buy food, animals, and, most importantly, allows them to send their children to school.
One of my roles here is to document projects like this through progress reports and human interest stories to ensure CARE can continue its important work.
Before I left Canada, most people wanted to know what I will be doing in Zambia, but many of my friends also wanted to know why EDC was doing this. They were perplexed as to why we would "give up" four people for an extended period of time to work on projects for a different organization. It's true, it's pretty remarkable when you think about it.
In my view, it sends a strong message that EDC is serious about its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility. To my knowledge, we're the only corporation in Ottawa, if not Canada, to have a partnership of this scale with a humanitarian NGO. It's impressive because it's authentic. Instead of donating a percentage of our profits (which we could easily do), we're working with CARE Canada to share our skills and knowledge, empowering some of the most vulnerable people around the world. Not only does this show we really do care (ha!), but it fosters sustainability and makes us a true corporate citizen.
And, as someone who has seen the amazing work being done in Zambia and who is currently benefiting from this professional, personal and cultural experience, I see this as EDC investing in its employees. And that, I think, is pretty cool.
Highlights: Meeting the women and children of Kanchele and hearing them speak about the good feeling they get from working as a community and being productive together. Also, watching the children's reactions to seeing themselves on camera – awesome!
Lowlight: The tarantula-sized spider I found in my bedroom...apparently they're like pets here.
Peru - Small Business Development Project Manager
Account Manager, Small Business (Quebec)
Andrea was a Small Business Development Project Manager at CARE Peru. Her role was to continue the work of her predecessors in order to document the regional strategies aiming to encourage economic and social development.
The smile that can make all the difference!
December 16, 2013
By the time you read this, my time at CARE will sadly have come to an end. There is so much to say—where to start? This has been an adventure that I'll keep forever in my heart. I'll remember it for the work I did, the people I met, the humbling life lessons I learned, the colleagues who have become friends—I'll remember it for the whole experience.
When I applied for this position, I wanted to experience something completely different from my day-to-day life, to be in another country, to be challenged, to experience another culture and another language, and to see how I would react. I thought I knew myself, but I didn't.
Adaptation and change of assignment
We live in an era of constant transformation. You have to act quickly, be resilient, adapt to change and be ready for anything. Let me give you an example. Two days before leaving, I learned that the person who was supposed to be my manager was no longer there. I was going to get another director, which also meant a totally different assignment. I first had to produce reports on my visits to production lines, and in the end I had to create a procedure manual for building a business plan, to be used by production lines and other groups to ensure their sustainability and business continuity once CARE completes its project with them. The manual can be referred to whenever applications for financing are needed to maintain operations.
After visiting several production lines in different sectors and regions of Peru, I was able to work closely with the monitoring, assessment and communication group, which was in charge of creating a visual, interactive and user-friendly manual, and I'm happy to know that my contribution will continue to be of use after I leave.
What I learned
As my colleagues Kat and Bruce have said in their respective blogs, this experience made us realize just how lucky we are, and that more often than not, the small challenges we face each day are in fact tiny when compared to what others may face. One thing that really touched me was the smile of people who have every reason not to smile. I visited a small home near Santa Teresa that Crediscotia financiera had financed. It was the home of an elderly couple who have had a difficult life and live in extreme poverty. What struck me was the woman's constant smile. I asked her if she always wears such a beautiful smile, and she answered, "Young lady, when you live as we do, never knowing what tomorrow will bring, a smile can be just what you need to get through the day, and you might also help someone who needs a smile!" I took that to heart, and I promised myself to smile more and to smile every morning when I get to work. I encourage you to add this to your resolutions for 2014.
That being said, I would like to thank EDC for giving us this wonderful opportunity we've truly been spoiled. This experience is one of the most rewarding of my life, and I think that CARE and EDC have also gained a lot from it. I also want to extend a big thank you to the CARE Peru team and the project managers I worked with in the field: Amparo, Marco, Zenon, Valerio, Carolina, Alfredo, Milton and their technical teams.
What I thought I'd miss most before leaving and what I will miss most about Peru
Before leaving, Kat interviewed me and asked me what I was going to miss most. My off-the-cuff answer was my Nespresso machine! If you asked me now what I'll miss most about Peru, I'd have to say the smiles of the people in the communities and, without a doubt, the smile of my office colleague… who brought me an instant coffee every morning!
Finally, I'd like to wish you a feliz año 2014. Remember to KEEP SMILING—it can make all the difference!
Fair trade... is it really fair?
November 12, 2013
If you're a coffee aficionado like me, you've probably wondered what kind of difference you can make as a consumer.
Three weeks ago, I visited some coffee plantations in the municipality of San Ignacio in Cajamaca (Northern Peru). Farmers make up 80 per cent of this rural region, which is the second poorest in the country. Coffee growing accounts for 80 per cent of total agricultural production.
Since 2012, CARE and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Canada (GMCR) have supported 140 coffee-grower families that are part of the GMCR production process.
The three main objectives of this initiative are:
- To enhance the crop productivity of small-scale coffee farmers;
- To improve household food security;
- To increase the health service utilization of children and newborns to help fight infant malnutrition.
Results show that 40 per cent of the families that participated in the project saw an increase in revenues. Moreover, improved agricultural practices boosted the quality of the coffee and helped prevent crop diseases linked to climate change. This in turn led to improved sanitary and dietary practices and better education for children.
What is CENFROCAFE?
CENFROCAFE is a cooperative that brings together more than 1,900 families in the provinces of Jaen, San Ignacio and Bagua in Northern Peru. It aims to promote sustainable development in four main areas: economic, social, environmental and institutional development. It provides technical skills assistance to farmers and has been fair trade certified since 2007. To become fair trade certified, the cooperative had to meet certain criteria, such as ensuring adequate working conditions for farmers, no exploitation of children, recognition of the work of women, social development, etc. When a coffee producer sells its crops and is fair trade certified, the cooperative receives an additional $300, which is roughly 5 per cent higher than the price of normal coffee.
Fair trade is a more equitable and healthy way to conduct trade as all parties involved can escape poverty and aspire to a better quality of life. It allows farmers and their families to not only ensure a brighter future for themselves, but, most importantly, to gain the power to make decisions regarding their needs and priorities.
In short, after having met these brave farming families and shared everyday life with them, I can confirm that, as coffee drinkers, we can make a difference by purchasing fair trade certified coffee. So, the next time you drop by your favourite coffee shop, treat yourself to a cup of joe... and make a difference in someone's life!
Although Peruvians are major coffee and cacao producers, their consumption of these beans is strangely low.
Two months have already gone by since I arrived here, i.e. almost half of my temporary assignment. In my next blog, I'll write about my lessons learned and take stock of this exciting Peruvian adventure!
Did you know that there are more than 3,000 varieties of potatoes in Peru?
October 11, 2013
When asked about Peru, the first images that come to mind are likely Machu Picchu, the Incas or their lamas. You may be surprised to learn, however, that there are over 80 microclimates in the country, making Peru an ideal and unique place to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including potatoes. There are more than 3,000 varieties of domestic potatoes–papas nativas, as they are called here–making potatoes one of Peru's primary exports.
CARE in Peru is a success!
Given that CARE Peru's strategic sectors are social rights and sustainable (economic) development, it has been developing a methodology for the supply of technical assistance called PAT (Proveedores de Asistancia Técnica) in the Puno, Ancash and Cajamarca regions. The intent of the methodology was to help very poor communities use agriculture and livestock to raise their standard of living. CARE's role has been to provide assistance to producers in the form of workforce training, technical assistance, technology transfer, business facilitation and access to markets. The methodology was introduced for one-time projects.
Beneficiaries of the programs were selected on the basis of their eagerness to work and learn, on their availability for livestock management and agriculture, and above all on their desire to become independent in order to increase their revenues�that is, on their long-term entrepreneurial vision!
Since the methodology was introduced by CARE, poverty has been reduced from 81% to 29% where the PAT projects were implemented. That's a great success, but continuity is essential if those gains are to become sustainable. That is a priority for CARE Peru.
My first priority is to better assimilate CARE's methodology, and there is no better way to do that than getting out into the field, seeing the production lines and meeting with all users of the methodology, including beneficiaries, in order to better understand them.
In an effort to ensure that the projects continue indefinitely, it is essential that the companies be financially responsible and independent. To reach that objective, entrepreneurs must be able to get the technology and possess the technical tools. That's when I step in. CARE gave me the mandate to develop a business plan that could be used by companies wishing to obtain microfinancing or a public-private partnership in order to maintain and grow their operations.
My first visit in the field took place last week in Huaraz, in the Ancash region. Marco, the PAT project lead, introduced me to the beneficiaries in the area of sheep herding. I met with two extraordinary women who were both determined and dynamic; Marina Molina and Sonia Perez are two young women whose sheep farm is a dream come true. Artificial insemination has helped them to grow their flock since the project began. They sell the milk, ice cream and cheese they produce to the city's restaurants and shops.
I should say in closing that meeting such inspiring and resilient entrepreneurs has been a memorable experience. Being an entrepreneur is not easy, no matter where you are, but seeing the smiles on their faces is magical and motivating!
Some anecdotes from my Peruvian life
The two biggest culture shocks I experienced stem from the immense traffic jams that must be overcome every morning in order to reach the office, and from the custom of giving colleagues a kiss on the cheek every morning!
Hasta la próxima!
In my next blog, I hope to speak to you of my upcoming visit to a coffee plantation in Cajamarca which has a partnership with the Canadian company Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMRC).
India - Advisor on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation
Senior Economist, Corporate Research Department
Claudia was an Advisor on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation at CARE India. Claudia assisted in developing a long-term DRR and climate change strategy, based on extensive field visits in which she reviewed and assessed CARE India's ongoing disaster risk mitigation and climate change adaptation programs.
December 23, 2013
This is my last blog as a Corporate Volunteer in India. It takes stock of my whole experience. By the time it will be published I will already be home, wearing thick winter sweaters and boots, getting busy for meetings and new projects. On the surface, everything will look the same, but deep down this experience will have changed me.
For one thing, this stint in India made me a lot more resilient. Very little scares me anymore and no challenge is too big. Being here also provided me with a huge learning opportunity – a different people, a different work culture, a new language, a different set of rules. There's no better place than India to learn the value of face-to-face communication. My bargaining skills have become really well-honed and I can cross in Indian traffic like a pro.
I met extraordinary individuals and made a few new good friends for life. I also took the opportunity to visit the country, both for work and for pleasure and meet our gracious staff at the Delhi and Mumbai office, whom I would like to thank here publicly –you guys rule!
All in all, going into this "adventure", I thought I would be the one giving – my time, my work, my undivided attention, my perspective – and CARE would be the lucky recipient of all this. Now, however, I have a more balanced view of the 'exchange'. I got more out of this experience than I was able to give. I am very thankful to CARE, EDC and to the Corporate Responsibility Department to have allowed me to partake in this opportunity. I feel I am now much richer both personally and professionally.
Importantly, I feel that I have made a difference. My paper on climate change will be used in drawing the office's long-term strategy policy this spring. CARE's target populations (tribal peoples or Adivasi, the so-called Untouchables or Dalits, and women) are and will be suffering greatly from the effects of global warming. My paper will be the first one to look at strategies to build climate adaptive capacity among these populations. This guidance may prove useful, especially now that the India Office needs to draw its own independent strategies and policies, as it recently graduated to full-fledged membership in the CARE federation.
Greetings from Delhi!
November 19, 2013
After more than a month and a half working from the Delhi headquarters of CARE India, I recently went on my first field trip. I needed to see first-hand how CARE operates on the ground, and to better understand how climate change is affecting real people. I felt that I needed such a practical experience to do a good job on my particular project, which is to advise CARE India on how to factor climate change into its programming.
The project I visited was part of the global "Where the Rain Falls" (WtRF) program, which aims to enhance communities' resilience to climate change by improving water resource management. In India, WtRF is focused on the indigenous populations that live in remote areas, and in particular on involving women in decision-making related to water governance.
My field trip consisted of visiting a project in the east-central state of Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh is home to a large Adivasi population. "Adivasi", which literally means "forest dwellers", is a generic term referring to India's tribal communities. They are roughly equivalent to Canada's First Nations. Historically, the Adivasi were nomads, though today most of them have settled in villages. Along with Dalits (the "untouchable" class) and women and girls, the Adivasi are specifically targeted by CARE India, as they remain amongst India's poorest.
After a plane trip to Raipur, followed by a hair-raising 10-hour road trip through the remote country-side (for those of you who have driven in India, you will know what I mean!), I finally arrived in the town of Kharkhatta, one of the twenty villages involved in the WtRF project. There our team spoke with the local communities about the project, which only began two months ago.
The Advasi explained to us how the rainfall patterns had changed due to climate change. Twenty years ago, it was possible to raise a vegetable garden in the village, but this is no longer the case. Now the wells dry up after March, obliging the villagers, and especially the women, to spend a large amount of their time fetching water from the mountains for the crops. But water shortage is not the only problem; there is also greater variability in rainfall patterns that is difficult to manage. For example, when I was visiting it should have usually been a dry period, but this year it was too wet and the harvest was spoiling. Moreover, during monsoons there is an abundance of water, which brings with it its own set of problems, such as sick children.
The first stage of the CARE project involved "water mapping", which consists of measuring where water is in the region, recording when it rises and falls, and observing the village's usage patterns. Now that this is completed, efforts will shift to improving water management through better conservation methods, well rehabilitation and the use of "climate-smart" crops. Women are key to the project's success, as they are the primary water collectors in the community and are often the ones that do not have access to resources due to prevailing social inequities and ascribed gender roles. Much effort goes into reaching out to the women and girls, empowering them to make a difference in the way water is managed.
Although the trip only lasted a few days, it allowed me to better understand and appreciate the work that CARE does. I came back to Delhi energized by the experience (though tired-out by the travel!) and determined to make a difference through my project.
That's it for now.
Claudia in India
October 18, 2013
The typical question I often get asked (after my name and where I am from) is "what brings me all the way here to India, away from the comforts of my home, family and friends?" Luckily, the answer is simpler than "where I am from" (born and raised in Italy, I spent my formative years in Germany and France and have now made Canada my home). I applied to the advisor position with CARE-India because I always wanted to work in a humanitarian organization, but never thought there was a possible match between my skill-set and that required for a job in international development.
I have been working with CARE-India for nearly a month now and can see how the analytical skills I have acquired working as an economist, a sector analyst and a researcher at EDC are proving useful to CARE-India. Up until now, CARE-India has been an affiliate member of the CARE confederation under the administration of CARE-USA and is transitioning to become its own independent entity, at par with the other 12 CARE national members. An important part of gaining its independent status has been CARE-India's change in its anti-poverty programmes. Instead of directly providing food and shelter to help the poor, the office now wants to take a more holistic approach to fighting poverty by tackling its root causes. In other words, CARE-India is doing away with "providing a man a fish", and instead is striving to "teach a man how to fish". And "teaching to fish" requires strategy.
Behind any winning strategy, there needs to be a considerable amount of research and this is how someone like me can contribute. Generally speaking, NGOs such as CARE have limited resources and thus can ill afford to do expensive conceptual research on their own. The EDC-CARE partnership is therefore very useful in fulfilling this need as it provides the humanitarian agency with an enlarged and diversified talent pool that makes this type of fundamental work possible. At the same time, EDC employees, like me, gain very valuable experience working in this different setting and on very motivating projects.
Coming back to my particular skill-set and how it will serve me in my four-month stint at the Delhi office, I am tasked with preparing a strategy paper on how climate change will affect CARE-India's four main areas of intervention: Livelihoods, Health, Education and Disaster Response. During the course of my stay I will have a chance to travel outside New Delhi to the regions and report on the effects of a global warming on two programs (Where the Rain Falls in Chhattisgarh and Pathways in Orissa).
Studying the effects of Climate Change (CC) in the context of development is very important, because CC's impact will be especially disruptive in poorer countries due to their limited coping ability. If climate-specific strategies are not incorporated into development programs and policies, the situation for the most vulnerable will further deteriorate and millions more people could fall back into abject poverty, erasing years of hard-fought progress towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, established in 2000 setting eight key goals to do things such as eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.
I look forward to sharing my experience in the field with you in my next blog. Stay tuned.