It seems as if the world is really doing its best to self-destruct these days, helped on in leaps and bounds by us clever monkeys. While trouble brews all over, I am going through my normal morning routine in the greenhouses, hatching plan F (or is it G by now?) to get some community systems off the ground here in my part of the world. If ever there was a time for things looking bleak though, it is now. The world economy dictates the amount of foreign aid that 1st world countries are willing to toss at developing countries, and with the decline in spare cash world wide, the signs coming forth is not good for what I'm trying to do here. The UK has just released a statement that it is cutting aid to 16 countries, curbing its spending in others and needing to redirect its focus on projects that show returns. I’m sure this trend will be replicated all over the place. Our local Metro is also realizing how much it overspent with the World Cup football, and cut its next budget by a full R1 Billion. If they could not see their path open to funding a school project last year they sure as heck will have a good excuse now. It seems as if help for the needy is about to become a whole lot more difficult to provide.
So what now? I have been expecting this “take care of the home front first” shift in developed country spending for some time. The woes of our Metro is not news either, but it leaves precious little window of opportunity for a project to come off the ground in a developing country where the type of project I’m interested in is likely to be categorized as high risk. Not high risk because of it being aquaponics, or high risk because it is me putting it forward, but high risk because my country has managed to stuff up agricultural reform efforts to the tune of an over 90% failure rate. I’m sorry to say this, but much of this failure is down to politics and plain arrogance. Expert help is not sought and if an expert gets something off the ground, there is a rapid and persistent attempt to get rid of him/her because the project must be in the hands of the “people”. I’m not a people it seems. Co-operatives they call it. What it boils down to, is that some form of communal governance must be set up with everybody represented. This does not work, but what the heck, the people like it to bits because they are in charge. Being in charge of a dead horse is better than being told how to keep it alive. Having a dead horse is better than just being allowed to handle someone else’s. I experienced this when a bunch of people with no relevant training clubbed together to form a co-op, wanted to farm tilapia and got me involved to help with their business plan. They were already asking the Metro for money, a lot of it, without even having a system design. They thought that you just needed to have a greenhouse full of tanks. They forgot about the filter. When we tried to re-direct them, they accused me of trying to steal their idea. Needless to say they were told to go play in the traffic, but this is not an isolated case.
So, I was thinking, how do I get a project off the ground where I help people that need help but where I stay in a position to steer the hardware, the finances and the business plan? Well, apparently not with Metro money, or the international aid they administer either. The plan I’m putting together now is to investigate the potential for social network fundraising. I had mentioned it before, but together with corporate finance from this side, it is one of the last avenues available to explore. As I am already going after local money on this side, I thought that it may just be the right time to toss this concept out at the type of people that have more experience about social fund raising – you guys. My concept is to put together a campaign for a site such as kickstarter, where a project is described and people can donate if they believe that it will be a worthy project. If possible, I’d like to get some feedback from this forum regarding the process and the chances of making a success of it. What I have in mind is a small commercial scale system that can be used for training, while surplus produce can potentially be sold to cover the running costs of the unit. Profit, if it exists, can be ploughed back into the system. I’m not looking to make money off this one – just to cover my time and expenses, and to push urban agriculture as a method of community development.
Anyone with comments, suggestions or pointers are welcome to reply, as I need as much help with this as I can get.