Archive for July, 2009

Protecting Trees

Mvule trees have three primary hurdles to overcome in their early life: humans, animals, and drought.  With the compensation program in place, the human obstacle is fairly easily overcome.  Regular watering helps the tree make it to the next rainy season (some ideas about this in a future post).  And as you can see below, trees can be protected from goats and cows fairly easily as well.03062009

At the far left, you’ll see the Iganga District Forestry Officer for the Ministry of Environment.  He went with us to Waliibo village to see Mvule Project at work.  Our field day left him rather impressed–and who wouldn’t be?  These Waliibo folks are serious about their trees!

The enclosure is made up of small sticks tied together with banana fiber (both are readily available at every home and cost nothing).  You’ll notice the nest surrounding the tree.  This material will act as a nice, natural mulch.  As the seedling reaches the top of the enclosure the caretaker will open up the top to allow the tree to shoot to the heavens.

If any of you were worried about your poor little $19.95 tree, then fear no more!

Where does my money go?

In the earliest development stages of the Mvule Project, one of the primary goals was to get a majority of the capital into the actual village.  This seems obvious enough, but most projects cost money in other places.

We needed

  • Ugandans on staff to manage the project
  • An office for coordinating
  • Internet access for relaying data (like this blog post)
  • Transportation to villages
  • Didactic tools for explaining the overall idea

A second goal was making tree prices affordable kept our price to just under 20 bucks.

With these two goals in mind, here’s how things shook out:

Cost Breakdown

Village (55%)

This amount can be a bit deceiving as the actual percentage for the village is 66%.  For illustration purposes we divided the 66% into two categories: money for the bank account (55%) and financial incentives encouraging people to stay with the project (11%).

The 55% is used to add capacity to the village.  Each village decides how this income is used in their villages.  Some are building schools, others are starting goat projects, still others are building clinics, the list goes on.  The idea is that people in impoverished circumstances can control what happens in their village.  By empowering local infrastructure and leadership, people are given the freedom to choose their next direction.

Village Care Plan (11%)

Sleazy get-rich-quick schemes are ubiquitous in Uganda.  Those who suffer the most from such plans are the rural poor.  Most such schemes ask for “deposits” from villagers, promising huge payoffs in three months.  Our program never asks for a shilling, but the payoff is a year away.

For many, this is a suspicious sign.  They try to anticipate how we are ripping them off, speculating with land-grabbing initiatives.  Our Village Care Plan was built to calm worried farmers.  Essentially, we offer each person planting a tree a few small incentives to plant.  This comes in the form of soap, sugar, other types of trees, and a visit from a mosquito-net selling medical doctor from the US.

Ugandan Administration (19%)

The Mvule Project began with local leadership in mind.  Viability depended on the project’s adaptation into localized organizational structures.  Our office is strategically placed at the center of Jinja town, above the grooviest cafe in town.  This great location came with cheap rent and a great social network (two thumbs up!)  Our onsite staff need transportation to the most rural of places, and while this isn’t the most exciting of expenses it is crucial to the work.  Administration expenses also include handouts (that we translate into Lusoga) and radio programs that promote the project.  Overall, it would be tough to find a group doing the same amount and quality of work on a smaller budget.

Shipping (15%)

This title is also a bit deceptive in that it catches a few more items.  For every tree we sell, we want the buyer to receive a Mvule Project packet.  Our hope is that you are able to share this DVD with friends, family and coworkers in order to promote healthy relationships between African and the West.  But this 15% also holds a small contingency fund as well.  The Ugandan economy is not the most stable of environments, leading to drastic levels of inflation and fluctuating exchange rates.  We didn’t want this variables to affect the village program, so that small contingency can keep our Village figures stable.

There you have it!  If you have any further questions or comments about the cost breakdown, we’re available.

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