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Our Work: 2007-2015

Our Work During 2008-2011, we worked extensively on education in the Lunsar area. We built two schools. That 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 logistic support is needed. Part of our work included interviews with the staff, and through them we 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 kee precords
  • Support the nurses’ efforts in public health
  • Provide opportunities for continuing education
  • Before January 2011

    Our WorkOur Work

    Drilling a borehole using manual methods (left) and lining the hole with PVC pipe (right).


    During our first few years, we carried out projects in 6 clusters of villages (33 villages total) near Lunsar in the northern Province. We talked extensively with local residents in each area and then tried to help with the improvements they felt were most important. Our work during this period included:

  • Building two schools, four latrines, and two wells
  • Establishing a microfinance program with 80 borrowers
  • Coordinating an extensive education program
  • Training teachers to use computers
  • Leasing farm equipment to farmers
  • But by early 2010, we concluded that these projects were going to have the long-term, sustainable, positive effects we wanted. So we gradually moved away from these projects and developed a new approach.

    After January 2011

    Our Work

    A modern cassava processing plant in Nigeria. A peeler like one pictured here in front of the building will be purchased by Village Hope and installed in the processing plant in the current project area.


    Our new approach seeks to raise the standard of living among people in the project area by launching businesses that use modern methods. Village Hope aims to replace poverty with the infrastructure for a middle class life, marked by confidence and optimism. Experts are invited to assist Village Hope in designing the business and donors are asked to provide initial funding. These advantages let the business pay high salaries and carry out needed community projects. Once the business is launched, it receives no more donor money. Donor support is used to replicate the approach in new locations. We refer to this approach as the “charity-business model”. Its features include:

  • Detailed study of the product’s value chain
  • Extensive market analysis for the product
  • Tractors and implements imported from the US
  • A modern processing plant in the project area
  • A Farmers Assistance Program that makes fertilizer, equipment, and training available to farmers
  • High salaries (ultimately $20/day)
  • Surplus funds directed into community projects
  • Our new approach is beneficial, sustainable and scalable.

    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."