15 December, 2011

Making sense of a difficult issue

"Seth Godin speaking at Acumen Fund’s 2011 Investor Gathering on the difficulties social enterprises face in selling their products to low-income markets."

It is such a delight when someone manages to explain a complex problem with common sense. Seth Godin, one of those people with equal part heart and brain, often manages to do just that. His explanation about why do people not buy something that is really good for them is spot on.

In the work I've been doing with NGOs there has been a reoccurring problem with adoption of new practices. In part, the problem lies with the risks of failure. If, for example, a woman planting her household garden uses new types of seeds (often more expensive) or new types of plants, there is a higher risk that the crops might fail... then she can not feed her family.

The solution we came up with was to set up a co-op garden initiative for the women to participate in. If they succeeded in growing better crops with less susceptibility to disease, we thought it would make it easier for the participants to take the step and buy the seeds the next time around. Yet, this hasn't necessarily proven true. The costs/risk factor continues to make the choice difficult.

Maybe we have to take into account what Seth Godin is saying about purchasing something new and the need for community efforts to influence individuals.

And maybe Kilimo Salama is not only a way of reducing the existential struggles of failed crops. It could also be a way of building up a community that helps small-scale farmers feel confident to adopt new ideas, get access to vital information, and more crucially, support their efforts for improved lifestyle.


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