Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Zambian made phones

So, you can now buy Zambian made mobile handsets...

Maybe not manufacturing but assemblying. And this seems to have coincided with an increase in tarrifs on foreign made handsets. Is this a start of diversifying the local economy outside of copper and agriculture?

This initiative is supported by various dev agencies including JICA. Interestingly they are implementing kaizen in plant operations.

I wish the development sector would implement Kaizen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Check this out: I came across this article in NYT today on French farmers diversifying their investments. Into cows!

When I first arrived in Zambia in 2007, I worked on the PROFIT project that is trying to improve smallholder participation in the beef industry. One of the focuses was to develop private vet services available to rural communities to improve livestock health so that farmers could start managing their cattle as an income source and supply improved quality into the formal beef industry.

I remember the conversations in communities and with farmers who looked to cattle as social status, and for a select group, who were starting to manage cattle as an income source. I remember trying to wrap my head around how farmers saw cattle - as a social status, as bank to invest profits from this year's maize harvest into, as a dowry for wedding, as an ATM for withdrawing money when they needed to send a child to school, or as a losing stock by selling it at 50% price when it was sick. Trying to explain this to colleagues and friends back home was difficult as having a bank on four legs doesn't exactly register for you if you live in Vancouver. But I guess what's interesting is that a farmer in France could have more in common with a farmer in Malama community in Zambia.

As much as the NYT article might highlight a similar valuation of cattle between farmer in France and a farmer in Zambia, that might be where the similiarities stop.

Take for example, a French cow has access to a massage contraption (see first photo) . In Zambia, farmers are trying to figure out how to keep their cows alive as foot and mouth disease, CBPP and other tick born diseases will devastate herds, resulting in lost capacity for farming ( as cattle are used in land preparation) which has direct impact on food security, or resulting in regional travel bans on cows, limiting farmer access to markets ( and thus the income available). A COW in France receives approximately $2/day in subsidies….contrast this with ~60% of Zambians ( read: PEOPLE) living on less than $1/day). Something about that just doesn't seem quite right.

There has been a really interesting initiative coming out of the EU: that has advocated for EU countries to publish agricultural subsidies as a move to increase transparency. Turns out that subsidies are somehow subsidizing Weight Watchers meals for the US and the UK. Something about that doesn't seem quite right either...