I had the opportunity to visit Plant With Purpose’s Tanzania programs last January with the amazing videographer Shaun Boyte, who produced this video for us. It does a great job of portraying the positive impact that tree planting has on the lives of farmers and on the environment. We heard many farmers say that since they had been planting trees, rainfall had increased and the weather was cooler than in the past. This local deforestation has been strongly linked to the melting glaciers on Kilimanjaro. If the the local farmers’ efforts are multiplied, it seems very possible that the melting could be reversed.
Our good friends at Wings of Kilimanjaro (WOK) are starting up the mountain for a third round of paragliding and fundraising for Tanzanian charities. I had the privilege of joining them in 2013 and had a really fantastic time, summiting along with 95 others from more than 20 countries. In the process we raised over $600,000 for reforestation, water and education projects in Tanzania.
This year’s climb and flight will benefit WorldServe’s water projects, providing clean water to Masai communities in northern Tanzania. You can learn more about the project and donate here. Congratulations and best of luck to organizer Adrian McRae and everyone participating in WOK 2015!
Climbers and porters moving up the mountain
WOK 2013 supported tree nurseries like this one, at a local Tanzanian school, and helped us plant hundreds of thousands of trees
In my role at Plant With Purpose, I’ve had the opportunity to work very closely with a number of corporate partners who have very generously supported our work. (When I say “corporate” I have in mind here primarily family-owned business rather than publically traded companies.) We have had, and have, some incredible relationships with companies that have been a great blessing to our work, and a few that have been a bit more challenging. What makes for a healthy partnership between a charity and for-profit company? I’ve been thinking about that this week, and so with that in mind, here are my Six Keys to Healthy CSR Relationships: These relationships work great when there is…
- A Great fit between companies’ values and that of the charity. This goes beyond the obvious things to avoid such as promoting tobacco, casinos, etc. For us as organization that promotes environmental restoration and sustainable agriculture, it means looking for companies that truly share these values. Some of the values we share with our partners include emphasizing organic products, economic justice, environmental sustainability, empowerment and fairness.
- Reasonable expectation with regard to promotion. It’s great to celebrate the partnership and put the companies logo and contribution on the website and in the newsletter. But business should recognize that charities are not there to drive product sales. This might seem obvious, but…
- Trust. This relates to values but goes a bit further and speaks of a willingness to take the partners interests into account when making decisions that will have PR implications for the partner. I once had a partner warn me about some unjustified negative press they were getting that they were concerned might reflect badly on us as a their charity partner. It turned out to be nothing, but I was really grateful that they were concerned and gave us a heads up about it.
- Honesty about the real impact. Charities are always looking for ways to communicate, and dramatize, the impact of our donor’s gifts. It’s part of what we do to express gratitude and encourage deep and lasting partnerships. With corporate partners we are also coordinating that messaging with their marketing strategy and needs. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as the messaging honestly reflects what the charity is able to accomplish with those funds. This need to balance simplicity of message with the reality that development is complex…
- Corporate program expertise, if appropriate. We were once approached by a company that wanted to build a dam in a country where we work. And they knew how to build dams! But they had no idea how to translate that expertize into a foreign context. In the end, nothing got done, other than waste a lot of time that could have been spent securing funds in a more appropriate way. To give a more positive example, we have had some valuable agricultural training from U.S. experts- the difference was that they were not trying to include us in their money-making venture. If there is appropriate expertize, then that is a bonus to but don’t try too hard to translate a U.S. corporate model into the context of charity’s program.
- A long-term relationship. It is much healthier for the charity to have consistent, long-term support rather than a big windfall or promises that are never fulfilled. This also gives both sides the opportunity to try different promotions and to test out the partnership. Ideally, both sides benefit and the missions of both the company and the charity are advanced.
This is the first time I’ve tried to write about this topic and I welcome your thoughts and feedback!
Despite all the upheaval in Burundi, Plant With Purpose’s programs there continue to function much as before, with the exception of those closest to the capital, where the violence has been the worst. One thing that we are quite interested in understanding better is how the work we are doing in communities is helping people weather the current upheaval, helping them to continue to farm their land and to maintain trust in their communities. One statistic that we track very closely is the average weekly savings rate across the program. We currently have 6,500 families in 268 groups. The savings rate over the last six quarters is shown here:
What does the increase in savings rate mean? While it might reflect a measure of fearfulness and lack of opportuntity to invest money on things like crop inputs, hopefully it also reflects the deep level of trust amongst that VSLA groups help to foster. One would also hope that the trust fostered by these groups could also help prevent a deepening cycle of violence in Burundi.
A Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) meetings in southern Burundi
I’m about two years late in posting this, but it brought back some great memories:
I had the opportunity to visit Plant With Purpose’s program the Pare mountsins of Tanzania a few months ago to participate the third annual Village Savings and Loan (VSLA) Competition Celebration. The event was the culmination of a year long competition, where 125 VSLA groups competed in tree planting, adoption of organic farming methods such as composting and pest management.
Groups arriving for the celebration
We’re in the process of putting together a video of the celebration, but I thought I’d post a few pictures. It was a joyful and inspiring day, especially encouraging to hear farmers talk about how they were learning from each other, the impact on their farms, and their hopes to do even more in the coming year. (Photo credit to Shaun Boyte.)
Plant With Purpose’s team of agronomists, with prizes for the winners
Sharing knowledge and vegetables
Burundi has been in our throughts and prayers a lot lately, as they struggle with violence surrounding the president’s bid for a third term. I’ve been privileged to visit Burundi a few times in the last couple of years and shot this video of the Nyakazu Gorge. It does a pretty good job a highlighting some of Burundi’s incredible natural beauty, as well as the problems of poverty and environmental decline that farmers are working to overcome. If you like it, or have any feedback, leave a comment! Thanks.