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

Photo of Cultivate Team
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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


Year founded


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:

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

  • Ashoka page or contact


Join the conversation:

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!

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