Africa Coordinator Update

Happy New Year!

2010 was another amazing year for the work in Kantolomba. Here are a few highlights. There are now 450 children eating every day, and more than 40 people are employed full time. Regular health care is available at the community center, young girls at risk for prostitution and early marriage are being mentored, the students have a sports program, homes continue to be renovated to provide safe, healthy shelter for community members, and there is a new revolving loans fund to meet individual financial needs.

We have a promising new venture on the horizon. Brian, a new monk at the Monastery, discovered a Zambian-made cook stove that is far more fuel-efficient than the ones most people use, which are about 15% efficient with 85% of the heat being wasted. The new stoves are about 60% efficient, a huge difference, since it is not unusual for charcoal to consume over 40% of a family’s monthly budget! But the new stoves cost a few dollars more than the traditional ones. Sadly, this is a perfect illustration of the poverty trap. This cost difference is enough to prevent people from buying the better stove. Over the life of the stove, however, they would save hundreds of dollars on charcoal. Another benefit is that these stoves emit far less harmful smoke—a great kindness to the environment and people’s lungs.

We have begun to sketch out a plan to help folks buy the new stoves. This is where we are so far:

Short-term loans will be made available to individuals to enable them to buy a stove. Charcoal savings will build quickly, and they will pay off the loan within a few months. Here is the vision: An individual asks for a stove loan. She is enrolled in a program that will have her track her income and expenses for one month. She participates in basic finance classes that will teach her about tracking and other sound financial practices. At the end of that month she receives her loan, buys a stove, and is taught how to use it most efficiently.

There are tinsmiths in the cooperative with the ability to produce the stoves right there. Income from making the stoves and teaching others to make them has the potential to create a very lucrative industry. Brian and a team of consultants are working on a plan to begin production of the stoves in March. This is the first business opportunity where all the factors are coming together: there is the local expertise for production, materials are available close by, and there is the market for the finished product.

How will we fund the loans for this new venture? Cheri has been conducting an email class based on her new book, What You Practice Is What You Have. Participants commit to making self-mentoring recordings and listening to them every day. For each day missed, participants donate $5 to the Africa Vulnerable Children Project. We have received $2,395 so far, and these funds will be used for the new stove loans! (If you want to know more about the recording practice, you can find it in Cheri’s new book. If you want to join in the commitment fun, you can find a monthly tracking calendar here.)

Be sure to check out our new source of regular news from Kantolomba, Muyunda’s blog.

As always, thank you to everyone for everything we are doing together to continue this transformation. It is an exciting time indeed.

On behalf of the team here and in Kantolomba, we wish you a conscious, compassionate 2011.

In lovingkindness,
Africa Projects Coordinator
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