Cultivate

Has developed a personal initiative and resource allocation decision tool for subsistence-farmers facing climate variability.

Photo of Cultivate Team
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Written by

I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Cultivate

Year founded

2013

Initiative stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $1k - $10k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 10 - 50

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Mexico

Headquarters location: City

Mexico City

Location(s) of impact

Zambia: Chibombo

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Generally, in subsistence farming economies, the decision to cultivate has a short-term goal to subsist, between six to twelve months, the length of a cropping season. Weather variability due to climate change is threatening this goal setting. Moreover, by reducing one season's economic results, future results are also threatened. Subsistence farmers are losing the benefits of a short-term subsistence perspective, facing now, more complex decisions to subsist, ones that require different goal timeframes.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

We have developed a tool to manage the shift in decision's complexity and goals' timeframes, subsistence farmers are facing nowadays. It is a tool based on system thinking principles. It has the objective to foster agripreneurship by developing personal initiative traits: self-starting behavior, persistence, and long-term orientation; traits that have shown successful improvement of small-businesses gains. The tool helps visualize and test the main interactions and feedback effects among the critical components of their livelihood. It has a shared-learning component that provides more meaningful learning experiences and helps visualize the consequences of group behavior on the environment. The most promising aspect of creating shared value is its ability to help farmers grow by understanding before, during and after the crop season the need of combined strategies to pursue their goals; helping them point out their most sensitive drivers of success while adapting effectively.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

From 2013 to 2017, Cultivate worked with 22 head of families in Chimbombo, Zambia. Cultivate started with an initial participatory modeling workshop of 3 hours building the main interactions and feedback effects among the components of their livelihoods, their farming system. One year later, a facilitator visited the community for a follow-up, 100% families' heads had been using the tool to guide decisions to improve their livelihoods. This second visit focused on the questions that have come up and on the environmental feedback effects caused by group coping mechanisms, e.g. all people burning trees to obtain charcoal to sell. By the end of this session the head of families reported, in total, a combination of 35 strategy formulations used for livestock, cash, food security and land; each combination tailored to the specific needs of each family. These results showcased the personal initiative orientation of the decision tool and a departure from cookie-cutter solutions.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Cultivate started as a research project sponsored by The Research Council of Norway. The grant incorporated a body of young and senior researchers on Food Security and System Dynamics. Once the grant ended, in the middle of 2017, a graduated master student from this body, together with Dr. Kopainsky, project's lead researcher, started a self-funded process to refine and scale the methodology incorporating human-centered design. Next step in the roadmap is to develop a full experience live prototype: from educating facilitators on the methodology, to surveying the development of the community after one year of use. This step, with a duration of 2 years is planned to be deployed in Chibombo, Zambia and one-second location. Cultivate is actively seeking funds for the development of this step.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Projects like the Pastoralist Field School, have focused on understanding the extent of a single strategy to develop the capacity of rural communities. They present a gap between knowledge and intention and interaction. To close this gap, Cultivate’s decision tool focuses on four pillars. fostering understanding of: the complex interactions they face, the uncertainty involved in their resource allocation decisions, goals' timeframes and the development of personal initiative traits.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

Returning to Chibombo; one year later after giving the first workshop. Farmers were eager to discuss their decisions and the questions that arose about their first trials with the tool. They were able to visualize the systems map, and their conversations presented complex scenarios. They talked about factors that affected their family decisions, among other topics: cultural values (polygamy and alcoholism), transactional factors (elder’s leadership) and gaps in the social support programs (fertilizer programs) to fulfill their goals. At the end of this second workshop, the 22 combinations of the self-formulated, 35 strategies offered a glimpse of the tool’s capacity to move away from cookie-cutter solutions into individual case scenarios, all, after two interventions of 3 hours length. You can read more about the project at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319506943_Transform

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Ashoka page or contact

Evaluation results

2 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 50%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 50%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 50%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 100%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 50%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 50%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 50%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Didas Mzirai

It's a great initiative, and my organization had similar plans as we are also working with farmers in Kenya, and climate change is also affecting production, but I was not sure about the technology you're using, because you just said a "tool". Otherwise, it's a wonderful idea, and the potential is high. Kudos for the achievements so far in Zambia

Photo of Cultivate Team

Thank you very much Didas. It would be great to talk with you about your project! The tool we are using is a decision-tool based on complex system analysis. This project started with the goal to adapt high-level mathematical analysis (used in policy decision making by governments and NGO’s) into a low-tech tool used directly by the end-users, the farmers. It intends to spark action into them and ignite multiple creative scenarios for solving decisions that otherwise would have, in their minds, just a couple of solutions (e.g. instead of planning to work on other's land, think one year ahead and improve crop storage).

Photo of Didas Mzirai

Sure, We can talk!

Photo of Chris Vousvouras

That's a fascinating journey you have undertaken with farmers in Chibombo. Can you please provide more information about the scale-up plans and the financial sustainability of your work?

Photo of Cultivate Team

Hi Chris, thank you very much for your comments.

Scale-up plans
There is a need for national and multi-national agricultural companies for market research and product innovation for the Base of the Pyramid.

Financial sustainability
Marketing budgets from product and service companies with 2-3 year programs.

After pondering about the plans to scale up we concluded that launching the project as a BoP marketing research agency for agricultural companies is the best way to go to provide options to small-scale farmers, maintain a sustainable operation, and add value to the chain (bottom to top). For example, these first results, with 40 families, presented a clear tendency towards two products and one service. Products that are in great need, that have high leverage impact on the system (food security), but, currently, with lack of innovative options, not commercially available or misrepresented on awareness campaign efforts in the location.

Photo of David Strelneck

I'd be interested to know feedback from your Cultivate learning on our approach of focusing on nutrient cycles as basis for local opportunities. Through the models of social entrepreneurs around the world (many Ashoka Fellows and others), we see a pattern of local opportunity for local people using local resources when they understand and pay attention to nutrient flows between ecosystems and soils, soils and farming, farming and food, food and local health and wellness...and then cycling of byproducts or nutrient-rich waste back into soils and ecosystems again. The benefits are nutrition, food security, land resilience, carbon capture, biodiversity, and more. Do you see this pattern in any of your work, or is there opportunity to introduce the pattern for locals to consider through the kind of work you do?

Photo of Cultivate Team

Hi David. Yes, the team has explored that pattern. On the decision-tool, this topic is introduced by the causal relationship: inputs -> lands. On a research level, this pattern has been explored by studying the trade-offs of short and long term production activities vs. outcomes. Below you can find part of the preliminary results:

“Smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan African (SSA) recurrently face situations of complex and dynamic decision trade-offs, which include allocating money between short-term and long-term oriented production actives. Short-term oriented activities such as fertilizer application help to cover immediate food needs, however compromise on future food production. Long-term oriented production activities such as building up soil fertility are important systemic leverage points for future food production, however compromise on today’s harvests. This article uses a Cournot field experiment in Zambia to investigate dynamic farm management decision-making with conflicting production objectives in a dynamic context. The results reveal that, overall, Zambian smallholder farmers are biased towards short-term oriented production activities, which leads to a suboptimal performance in production. Despite this bias, farmers applied a variety of distinct dynamic and non-dynamic decision strategies with varying production outcomes. The production outcomes of some strategies were highly depended on the endogenous interaction with other strategies. Given the fertilizer bias, our findings suggest that a mind shift towards long-term oriented production activities is required to sustainably increase food production in SSA. The variety of decision strategies and their endogenous interaction reinforce the need of building adaptive capacity on smallholder farms to apply context specific decision strategies.”

It would be nice to talk with you about the projects!