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Village Hope is interested in establishing programs through which people in developed countries can participate in our poverty-reduction efforts and learn more about the causes of, and remedies for, poverty in remote villages through their particular interests. We have some ideas about how to establish programs of this sort, but we need help in evaluating and implementing them.

If you are looking for ways to engage in poverty-reduction work, please consider helping us. Here are some of our current ideas:




We need your help

Village Hope, Inc | PO Box 1636, Boise, 83701 | (208) 870-9806 | info@villagehopeinc.org

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Cassava


Part of our second cassava farm, planted in 2013

Our first enterprise under the “charity-business model” (see What We Do) is a cassava farm and processing center. Cassava is a tuberous plant, widely grown in the tropics.

Working closely with government scientists, we planted 50 acres of cassava in 2012 and another 130 acres in 2013. We were ready to harvest the tubers by 2014, but unfortunately the Ebola epidemic began then. Cassava tubers can remain in the ground for up to two years after they mature, however, so we can still harvest them in 2016.
Cassava  is  the  third  largest  source  of  carbohydrates  in  the  tropics.




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Gari


Gari is packaged in moisture proof bags and sold retail
in 1-kg bags (upper) or wholesale in 65-kg bags (lower)

Gari is a dried, roasted, granular product made from cassava tubers (see Cassava Farm). We have studied the value chain for gari intensively. Using traditional methods to produce gari, it is not possible to pay workers high wages and make any profit, but with modern methods a substantial profit can be made. These methods include:

  • Farm equipment to grow and harvest the cassava
  • Mechanical peeling of the tubers
  • Processing peels into pellets for pigs and chickens
  • Mechanical grating and sieving
  • Large rotary roasters
  • Packaging equipment
  • Trucks to transport the final product to market
  • Gari  is  widely  consumed  throughout  West  Africa.



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    Other Businesses

    Farmers learning how to use modern methods.
    A large network of extension agents, supervised by government scientists, exists in Sierra Leone.

    During the past four years, we have investigated several other potential businesses: While more study is needed, our initial findings are:

  • Rice offers high potential for growth and profits
  • Aquaculture may be useful but involves substantial technical problems
  • Coffee is better suited to higher areas of the country but then might be profitable
  • Poultry could be a good source of nutritious food and employment but will probably not produce significant surplus funds.

  • Overall, we conclude that we are not restricted to cassava; many other opportunities exist for businesses that can pay high salaries and will generate funds for community projects.
    With  proven  success  in  one  business,  we  expect  to  operate  many  others  as  well.




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    Loans


    Obai Kamara of Robomp to whom we gave a small
    loan so he could start a black smith shop.

    In 2009, we established 8 microfinance groups, with a total of 80 women and men, in 8 villages surrounding Lunsar. We worked with them for the next few years but found that they were unable to make money — a result that has occurred, unfortunately, in other remote areas of Africa.

    Our new program, however, should make it easier for entrepreneurs to succeed, because we will be able to offer them more assistance, for example:
  • market analyses
  • Transportation
  • Repair shops

  • In the Farmers Assistance Program, which we will carry out with Extension Agents, cooperating farmers will be offered much larger loans enabling them to obtain fertilizer, use of tractors, and markets for their products. This assistance should substantially increase their incomes.
    Loans  are  an  essential  part  of  our  approach  but  other  activities  are  also  be  needed.



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    Gender Equality


    Kadiatu Bangura, the leader of one of
    our first microfinance groups.

    Women were our best microfinance customers, and our first team leader in the cassava business was a woman. Typically, women in the villages where we work are serious about employment and professional advancement. Toward promoting gender equality, our plans include the following goals:


    Employment
  • Half the employees — and supervisors — are women
  • Women receive the same salaries as men
  • Women are encouraged to hold all jobs
  • Day care programs are provided

  • Health
  • Free food is provided to pregnant women
  • Family planning assistance is available on request

  • Professional development
  • Adult education classes are available at nominal cost
  • Training and low-cost loans are available to women entrepreneurs
  • Opportunities exist to save
  • Formation of women’s groups is encouraged
  • Village  Hope  is  committed  to  helping  women  realize
     their  full  professional  and  personal  potential.
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    Education

    During 2009-2012, we worked with MIT and the Harvard Graduate School of Design on the ways to build more inspiring schools using local materials.

    A school we built using standard methods in Sierra Leone is shown at the left. It’s a big improvement over no school, but local materials like bamboo (below, left) and fired clay brick (below) offer a chance to use our money for salaries not cement and at the same time construct gorgeous buildings.
    Children  everywhere  deserve  a  chance  to  pursue  their  dreams.




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    Mentoring

    We expect mentoring to be a major part of the educational program. We are particularly interested in sister school programs in which American students tutor African students in English, math, and other elementary subjects and African students help Americans learn about a culture far different from their own. We have named the program after the local word for sister, sista (see-sta). SISTA stands for:

  • Students In Service To Africa
  • Students In Service to America
  • SISTA:  Students  In  Service  to  Africa/  Students  In  Service  to  America



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    Health


    St. John of God Hospital in Lunsar, run by a religious
    group from Italy. In 2008, the Director sadly
    told us, “For most patients, we are just working on the
    symptoms of malnutrition. The solution is not better
    hospitals; it is better agriculture.”

    Our project area has a health clinic with intelligent, dedicated staff. But the facility needs to be improved, medical equipment and supplies are insufficient, and better medical and logistics support is needed. Based on interviews with the staff, we have established the following health goals:
  • Restore the clinic and supply it with needed items
  • Pay for regular visits by a doctor from Makeni
  • Provide transportation for the nurses and for patients
  • Introduce internet-based medical methods
  • Insure that a dentist and eye doctor visit regularly
  • Provide a computer and help the nurses keep records
  • Support the nurses’ efforts in public health
  • Provide opportunities for continuing education
  • Malnutrition,  malaria,  intestinal  parasites,  hernia,  cholera,  typhoid  fever,  and  now  Ebola



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    Infrastructure


    Kids at a well we built in 2010.

    In developed countries, governments provide public utilities. The government of Sierra Leone is not yet able to provide these services so we will establish and maintain them using surplus from the cassava business. Carrying out community projects like these is an essential component of our charity- business model. The services include:

  • year-round roads
  • electricity
  • high-speed internet
  • a public water supply
  • adequate waste disposal
  • Many development experts say the barriers to development are "roads, roads, roads."



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    Programs with educators

    Our staff, especially the ones who are residents of Sierra Leone, know a lot about the country including the culture, the barriers to advancement, politics and so on. We would like to find ways of sharing this knowledge with people in developed countries who want to learn more about developing countries and especially about the obstacles to poverty reduction.

    One way to do this is through educational programs. Village Hope is particularly interested in programs that would bring students from different countries together. At present, the villages where we work do not have internet connections (or even electricity) but our staff visit the villages daily and could facilitate communication. Given limited internet access and slow connections when available, messages would have to be small but would help students communicate and would provide valuable educational experiences for both groups. If helping us set up an activity of this sort appeals to you, please contact us.

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    Scholarships for secondary school

    Students must pay for secondary school and in the villages where we work, few of the parents are able to do this. One of our major goals is establishing the idea that every student who graduates from elementary school and passes the country-wide exam given at the end of the sixth grade, deserves to go to secondary school.

    Costs are not high, about $200 for the three years of “Junior Secondary School” and another $200 for the three years of “Senior Secondary School”. We are interested in designing programs under which students from our project area could earn the ability to receive needed support through sponsor collaboration. This approach would help students continue their education but would also help them accept the idea that scholarships come with responsibilities. If you would consider supporting a student in the manner described above, please contact us

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    Developing export markets


    One of the best ways of reducing poverty is by bringing outside funds into a community. We are trying to do this by helping village residents produce goods that can be sold for a profit. Our approach is to mobilize highly skilled support from inside and outside Sierra Leone, made available at no charge, while hiring residents in our project areas at salaries by local standards.

    This combination of high skill and low costs should make the businesses very competitive. We need help in finding the right products and markets. If you have experience in manufacturing, and especially in international marketing, and would be willing to help us develop new businesses, please get in touch.



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    Your own project

    Perhaps you have your own idea for ways to help alleviate poverty that we could help you with. Maybe it is establishing long-distance learning programs, testing creative ways to use computers in our villages, or trying out a new financial services program. If so, please send us a note.

    We believe that the major barriers to new endeavors in Sierra Leone are corruption and lack of skills, infrastructure, and capital. Dealing with these issues is difficult, especially from a long distance. We may be able to help you by providing contacts, logistic support, background information, and technical advice. If starting a program in Sierra Leone, espeically in one of our project areas, appeals to you, please contact us.