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Plant With Purpose - Restoring land and lives in rural communities in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

We equip farming families to reverse the interconnected cycles of deforestation and poverty leading to prosperity and a restored planet.

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Please see attached User Experience Map. During the Beneficiary Feedback Phase we sought feedback from our Africa Program Officer and local DRC team. Image 1 shows our working group discussion. In this discussion we realized that our User Experience Map could better highlight the fact that farmers are empowered to make economic choices (Image 2). Our local team also gave useful feedback on how to make our User Experience Map better reflect our program model. (See Images 3-5).

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Our baseline study shows that the average family in the area where we work eats 1.3 meals per day, and 95% reported that they went at least one entire day in the past month without eating. Environmental degradation is one of the primary culprits of such extreme poverty. Ultimately, farmers’ own desperation and desire to provide for their family motivates them to treat poverty and environmental degradation as an urgent priority. Through Plant With Purpose’s holistic model, farmers are empowered to use local resources and talent to create change within their own community. VSLA groups leverage farmers’ own savings to make loans, generate interest, and create a financial safety net. Farmers are in turn equipped to start small businesses, invest in their farms, and send their children to school. Moreover, farmers learn to implement sustainable agriculture techniques on their own farms and community land, and often utilize local seeds and other materials for their tree nurseries.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

The area of South Kivu where we work is currently degraded by erosion, deforestation, and loss of water resources. 86% of partnering families have no source of income beyond agriculture and fishing. There are also no roads in the watershed area. Families have to be self-sufficient because they have little access to fertilizers or imported goods. Finally, the recent history of this area is rife with violent conflict, further exacerbating poverty and environmental degradation.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

Because Plant With Purpose focuses on improving mindsets and behaviors rather than merely short-term program success, we expect sustainable transformation to take root within the larger ecosystem. As farmers care for the environment and gain economic tools, vegetation cover will increase according to NDVI data, and the overall economy of South Kivu will improve. Restored land and an improved economy can in turn decrease conflict and improve governance and investment in the next generation.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

With our idea, land will be replenished and farmers will rise out of poverty. Drastic improvements will occur in South Kivu, as evidenced by our 2017 impact evaluation. Within seven to 10 years we expect farmers to thrive on their own. To ensure financial sustainability, Plant With Purpose diversifies funding through individual, foundation, and corporate partnerships. Our Board of Directors, executive director, and development team secure ongoing funding through grants, donations, and events.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Plant With Purpose values ongoing user research and seeks feedback from local teams about ways we can improve our programs. We prototype various monitoring and evaluation and agriculture techniques. In the attachment section you will find a packet describing the process we took to prototype an agriculture technique called the 2-4-2 system, including local team feedback and focus group questions. We have also attached photos of partnering farmers implementing the 2-4-2 trial. In the attachment section you will also find quarterly highlights from our DRC team, as well as economic and environmental impact evaluation questions, and activity descriptions. Prototypes, highlights from our local team, and impact evaluation data allow users to participate, and allow us to better understand and refine our program in order to meet local needs. Throughout both phases we received feedback and encouragement from other nonprofits and experts, allowing us to learn about new tools and practices.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

Because we have already successfully completed the first three years of our pilot project in the Kakumba watershed, we plan to spend the next three years growing and deepening our partnership (Development Phase 2). See attached image to better understand our implementation phases. In FY2019 we will partner with more than 1,300 farming families, mobilize farmers to plant 160,000 trees, host agroecology workshops with a combined attendance of 3,780 and start 12 new VSLAs while strengthening 50 existing groups. We anticipate these goals to increase in subsequent years. This year we will also expand our program to the neighboring watershed of Kambekulu. This was our baseline comparison group three years ago, and we are now returning to work in it. In years 1 through 3, we will focus on building trust and credibility within this watershed (Development Phase 1). Please see the attached GANTT chart, which outlines our intended work plan for the Kambekulu watershed in years 1 through 3.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

Our talented DRC staff team of 16 is comprised solely of locals. The team is led by Chef de Programme Birori Dieudonne Gaparani and is responsible for on-the-ground implementation of our program. John Mitchell, Director of International Programs, leads a U.S.-based team that includes Africa Program Officer Jared White. They support in-country staff with technical expertise, collect data, and refine field practices. Bob Morikawa, Technical Director, leads our monitoring and evaluation efforts.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

BridgeBuilder funds would support equipment and personnel costs associated with all program activities including Farmer Field Schools, agroecology training, tree planting efforts, and VSLAs, among others. Ultimately, the funds would be a catalyst for bringing our program in Kakumba to the next phase of development, and for launching our program in the Kambekulu watershed, empowering 1,035 new families to care for the planet and experience prosperity.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1. What type of proxy indicators can we use to measure user income? 2. At times Plant With Purpose collects baseline data in areas where we don’t currently work. How can we mitigate unintended expectations from baseline participants in these areas? 3. We find that in rural areas there tend to be fewer sources of data and we primarily rely on self-reported information. Often this information is based on participants’ feelings or what they choose to share. Is this type of data sufficient? Is there another way to collect objective data and/or verify the participant data that we collect?

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

In response to our Beneficiary Feedback Phase research, we modified our User Experience Map and engaged the local DRC team to increase participation. The expert feedback we received reminded us of the importance of continually improving our data collection method, tools, type, and frequency. We are excited to research new tools like the gross margin analysis, recommended by Matt Lineal. This tool could help us monitor and collect data on participants with small businesses and ask ourselves reflective questions like, “Are they making progress?” and, “What is their margin?” We also realized that we could improve our GPS-tagged georeferencing and other tracking technologies, and are excited to do further research.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

We are encouraged by and appreciate the expert feedback, as we are in the process of implementing several of the recommendations and have been discussing the cost benefits of each. For example, we are kick-starting a participatory process of standardizing indicators for improved comparison over time and increased alignment with outputs, outcomes, and impact levels. We are engaging the local team in this process, which will have multiple iterations and opportunities for feedback and group participation. We also appreciated the Field Guide to Human-Centered Design resource that the OpenIDEO staff emailed to us. Upon reading through it, we realized how much the spiritual renewal component of our program model aligns with human-centered design principles. Before starting the DRC program, we spent time learning from and listening to local farmers in order to understand their spiritual beliefs and practices. We wholeheartedly support the Field Guide’s sentence that reads: “Empathizing with the people you’re designing for is the best route to truly grasping the context and complexities of their lives.” By partnering with the local churches and providing them with resources and opportunities to engage congregation members at a deeper level, we're not setting out to change beliefs, but rather amplifying those that families already have. We have found that this is a really good way to bring about sustainable positive behavioral change from within, ultimately helping to bridge prosperity and planet.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

In the section of our proposal where we discussed our expansion to the Kambekulu watershed, we went back and made the point that “This [watershed] was our baseline comparison group three years ago, and we are now returning to work in it.” We appreciated Matt Lineal’s insight regarding the expectations that may be set up in comparison group communities when conducting a baseline study. In response to the idea of paying survey participants for their time, Matt explained, “This should be done with great caution, as it can promote dependency and be counteractive to sustainability.” Plant With Purpose has made the decision to not pay impact evaluation participants for their time, because of its potential to undermine sustainability efforts. Although community members in Kambekulu had to wait three years, they will now have an opportunity to participate in the program as the members of the Kakumba watershed did, and they will not start the community development process with the expectation of receiving direct handouts. Additionally, in the first section that asks about how our idea has evolved or responded to our user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and to insights from the Expert Feedback Phase, we went back and highlighted the fact that the feedback we received from other nonprofits and experts allowed us to learn new tools and practices. The ability to communicate with others in the BridgeBuilder community has truly been an asset - one that has helped us learn and continue to refine our ideas. More specifically, the “comments” function of the BridgeBuilder platform allowed us to gain insights and exchange ideas with many wonderful, like-minded nonprofits and individuals. We received both encouragement and resources throughout this process. For instance, just yesterday a fellow BridgeBuilder participant told us about the Poverty Probability Index tool, which we will further research and share within our team. We desire to continually improve our program by researching and implementing tools such as the ones we have learned about from BridgeBuilder experts and program participants. Ultimately, we want to ensure that our program is centered in results-based improvement.

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Plant With Purpose partners with 1,318 farming families in South Kivu, DRC, equipping them to restore their land and prosper. We do so through a holistic model of community development focused on economic empowerment, environmental restoration, and spiritual renewal. Next fiscal year, we will train and equip 12 new Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), where farmers save money and take out loans that allow them to invest in small business, their children’s education, and their farms. We will host sustainable agriculture workshops with a combined total attendance of 3,780, teaching participants techniques such as composting, watershed restoration, and agroforestry, which they can test through Farmer Field Schools. These techniques allow farmers to replenish their land and grow more crops. We will also mobilize partnering farmers to plant 160,000 trees on their farms and common areas as well as promote Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) initiatives. Finally, through partnering with local churches, community members will grow spiritually and address pressing community needs. Our pilot program in South Kivu, launched in 2015, is the first time we have used and tested our full model from the very beginning of a program. Impact results from 2017 show that all families in the Kakumba watershed where we work: -Are growing a diversity of crops, including 82% more varieties than in 2015. -Have 2.5 months of emergency cash savings set aside. Families in the comparison watershed have enough savings set aside to cover only two days’ expenses. -Send eligible secondary school girls to school 2.6 times more frequently than in 2015. Also in Kakumba: -95% of families were able to sell some of their crops, compared with only 66% in the comparison group. -15% of women hold leadership positions compared with only 4% in the comparison group. We are now ready to replicate and scale our model to new watersheds and the country of Ethiopia this year.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Rural farming families facing extreme poverty and environmental degradation in South Kivu (like Monika and Kamuno) benefit from our idea. Monika and Kamuno have eight kids. They live in a simple mud brick house with a thatched roof, and rely on their land for their livelihood. Due to poverty and land degradation, they struggle to eat. Monika says that her kids have gone full days only eating cassava leaves. Thanks to Plant With Purpose, Monika and Kamuno are planting trees and learning about soil conservation techniques. They also participate in a VSLA group called Umoja Wetu (Our Unity), where they have access to entrepreneurship and basic business skills workshops. Kamuno shares, “Before…we often just felt hopeless. After joining, we thought maybe if we just really work hard and work together, we can live a better life.” He adds, “Today my kids are eating well. With the new techniques, we get more than we did before. I am easily paying the school fees for my children."

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Plant With Purpose is unique in that we understand the vicious cycle of environmental degradation and rural poverty, and we address these problems together. We’ve also seen that it works best when the local church and local leaders take an integral role in development. We have been fine-tuning our solution to rural poverty and environmental degradation over the past 30+ years, and now, for the first time ever, we have been able to implement this newly-refined, holistic model starting on Day 1 of a new country program. In doing so, we are successfully bridging “planet and prosperity” in South Kivu, DRC. Plant With Purpose is also unique in that we rely on local leadership and have many strategic partners in South Kivu, including our partner organization Eben-Ezer Ministries. Pilot Project Manager Birori Dieudonne Gaparani and his local team of 13, including Pastor Sibomana, are all native to the DRC. Local leadership garners trust and promotes long-term sustainability and success.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Majority Adoption: I have expanded the pilot significantly and the program product or service has been adopted by the majority of our intended user base.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Plant With Purpose (www.plantwithpurpose.org) reverses poverty and deforestation by partnering with farming families and empowering them through sustainable agriculture training, tree planting initiatives, Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), and church and school partnerships.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Prior to working in South Kivu, DRC, we had been working in neighboring areas and saw a pressing need for expansion to this region. We held relationships with local leaders in South Kivu who were eager for us to come and work. We also saw that the critical Itombwe rainforest was at risk, and that we needed to act quickly. Finally, we were excited that this would be the first region in which we could implement all parts of our holistic model from the very beginning of the program.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

“Prosperity” in South Kivu is impacted by a lack of economic opportunity. 86% of the families in our partnering communities in the DRC have no source of income beyond agriculture and fishing. Furthermore, roads in the area where we work are scarce. Families walk long distances on difficult terrain to reach markets or other resources. They have little access to fertilizers or imported goods. Our baseline study shows that the average family in this area eats 1.3 meals per day. Finally, a decades-long civil conflict has impeded food security, market access, and poverty reduction. “Planet” is influenced by local land degradation including erosion, deforestation, and loss of water resources. Many family farms have steep hillsides with very little topsoil. Deforestation in the DRC is a serious problem and only 3% of the land is arable (Source: World Bank). With each rainfall, there is further erosion that leads to a decline in farm productivity.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Our DRC project is a joint project of Plant With Purpose and Eben-Ezer Ministries International. Pilot Project Manager Birori Dieudonne Gaparani, who directs our project and is our immediate contact, legally works for Eben-Ezer. Our program thrives largely because of our locally-led staff and the beneficial partnerships that we have established in South Kivu. In addition to Eben-Ezer Ministries, we maintain strategic partnerships with churches, schools, and government authorities in the area, which allow our programs to be more effective and sustainable. In the DRC, Plant With Purpose currently partners with 20 local churches. These churches provide a platform through which we can better serve the community and show farmers that they have a purpose in tending to their land. In Tanzania, we partner with CARE to implement a Go Green project focused on making clean energy technologies available to women. We are open to engaging in similar strategic partnerships in South Kivu.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

-Farmers in South Kivu are eager. Farmers in this region have a tremendous amount of capacity, but historically few economic opportunities. -The faith community is willing to take action and speak up about vocation and the care of the planet. -South Kivu has been overlooked by other NGOs. Many tend to work in North Kivu and Katanga to the south because of their mineral wealth. There is therefore both space and need for Plant With Purpose in South Kivu.

Geographic Focus

This idea targets South Kivu, DRC. We work in rural communities facing land degradation and poverty.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

12 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • Yes

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

Last year we submitted an idea to BridgeBuilder Challenge, but it was slightly different than this year’s idea. Last year we focused on “peace, prosperity, and planet” in both Burundi and the DRC. This year, we have narrowed our idea to just “prosperity and planet” in South Kivu, DRC. We have done so because the DRC is where we have been able to implement our newly-refined program model from the very beginning of the pilot program. It is also where we are seeing rapid yet sustainable economic growth and environmental restoration, leading to improved livelihoods, restored ecosystems, and climate resilience. At this time last year we were partnering with 775 families in South Kivu, DRC, whereas now we are partnering with 1,318. Last year we had trained and equipped 21 VSLAs with a total combined member equity of $6,824 USD and a 4% return on savings. Now, we have trained and equipped 50 VSLAs with a combined member equity of more than $20,190 and a 9% return on savings. The number of VSLAs has more than doubled and member equity has nearly tripled in just one year. Additionally, last year farmers had planted a total of 165,000 trees since the beginning of the DRC program, whereas now they have planted more than 459,300. Focusing our entire holistic model on just one region has allowed us to test very clearly the impact of our model and ensure that our idea is both scalable and replicable. We are now poised to scale this model to new countries and regions (such as Ethiopia and an adjacent watershed in the DRC) starting July 1, 2018.

42 comments

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Photo of Ashley Tillman
Team

Hi Ellen Davis I enjoyed reading that your spiritual renewal component of your program model aligns with human-centered design principles, we are always working to refine how we use and talk about human-centered design, based on how organizations around the world iterate and adapt the methodology. Would love to learn more about the spiritual renewal components of this program!

Photo of Corbyn Small
Team

Ashley Tillman  Hi! Thanks for your question and for your (and OpenIdeo's) continual desire to ask great questions and to learn! I'll include a short snippet from our submission for context and then additional response below.
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By partnering with the local churches and providing them with resources and opportunities to engage congregation members at a deeper level, we're not setting out to change beliefs, but rather amplifying those that families already have. We have found that this is a really good way to bring about sustainable positive behavioral change from within, ultimately helping to bridge prosperity and planet.

Service, work, peace, love of the marginalized, and care for Creation (the Earth) are all integral teachings in the Bible. Often times though, around the globe and here in the US, churches can become disconnected from practical applications taught in the Bible. Framing training of environmental stewardship and management of household wealth in a Biblical context helps amplify existing community beliefs into tangible and sustainable action for those families and for the planet.

For example, here is a teaching that gives a really strong foundation for Plant With Purpose to stand upon as we start work in a community that often has many churches already present (it is important to note that participation in Plant With Purpose's programs is not dependent on particular religious belief and thereby not required of any participant. We gratefully work with everyone who is willing to work with us). On of the very first verses in the Bible, Genesis 2:15 says, " The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." By partnering with local churches and church leaders, we are able to engage congregations to participate in the stewardship and renewal of the land through a lens that is already familiar, thereby helping them increase crop yields and restoring land for future generations. Furthermore, in communities often neglected or looked down upon for being agrarian, through the Biblical lens we're able to speak to the nobility of agriculture and being a caretaker of the land.

Another example of Plant With Purpose seeking spiritual renewal via human centered design has to do with 'marred self-image'. The Bible teaches that mankind was made "in God's Image" and we see disempowerment as a form of spiritual poverty when someone feels like they do not have the ability to change their or their families' circumstances. Last week when I was in Haiti, I spoke to a Haitian pastor who said that because of the massive amount of short-term aid and missions projects, many Haitian churches are stuck in a cycle of waiting for someone from outside of the community to help address challenges (I'll note that this is not a blaming statement, rather a statement that bad aid has been perpetually "done to" Haitian churches rather than in "partnership with.") The pastor explained how incredible it has been to empower members of the church in Plant With Purpose's training sessions, which talk about the talents, skills, and resources that each of us have. Access to workshops and financial tools, he said, has resulted in families who are no longer waiting for outside support, but instead taking initiative to improve their community on their own. Some other examples of church partnership and empowerment that I have personally heard are churches who, as a result of the training they receive, decide to repair water sources for the community, engage in support of local schools, repair physical structures on their own church, and improve infrastructure of roads, bridges, or community centers. For Plant With Purpose this represents dignity and a community of individuals who have agency to improve circumstances and actively live out their faith.

I'd love to talk more with you about this if you have further thoughts or questions! Please reach out.

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Ellen,

I love the photos of how you workshopped the User Map! I am, however, having a hard time seeing the end product. Can you let me know where it's attached? I'd love to have a look at how it came out!

Many thanks,
Kathleen

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Hi Kathleen Rommel ,

Thanks for your interest! We listed the User Map under our "attachments" section. It's entitled "Plant With Purpose Experience Map_May 2018."

Let me know if you are still having trouble finding it.

Thanks,
Ellen

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Found it! Thank you, Ellen. :)

Many of the challenges outlined in your user experience are similar to the communities we work in, and it looks like we have quite a bit of overlap with your program and another business type we focus on, groundnuts/soya. In particular, we have wrestled with similar questions that you outline in your expert feedback. If it's of interest, I'd be happy to share what indicators we use for measuring income / household economics.

Thanks again!

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Hi Kathleen Rommel ,

That's neat we have so much overlap! We would love to hear which indicators you use for measuring income/household economics. Would you mind emailing them to our Africa Program Officer, Jared White at jared@plantwithpurpose.org?

Thanks so much! We look forward to learning more and to further sharing ideas.

Best,
Ellen

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Will do! I'll drop him a note. :)

Photo of Anubha Sharma
Team

its painful to read about the kind of poverty where people have to go hungry in agricultural communities. poor information and lack of education has led the land workers to plunder our natural resources with no work being done to replenish. Education and training goes a long way in reversing and creating sustained transformation. congratulations on your project.

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Hi Anubha Sharma  ,

Thank you for the encouragement. We agree that education and training are important keys to sustainable transformation. I also enjoyed reading about how Angel Xpress Foundation is working to provide free learning centers in order to bolster education and life skills. Keep up the good work!

Ellen

Photo of Anubha Sharma
Team

thank you ellen

Photo of Yossef Ben-Meir
Team

Hi Ellen,
We at the High Atlas Foundation also observe and seek to address the cycle of environmental degradation and poverty in rural communities. The fact that you are now partnering with so many families is wonderful. What are your evaluation methods to track the progress of the 1,318 families impacted by your project thus far and how do you plan on tracking progress as your project expands? If it may be helpful, there are participatory evaluation descriptions we’d be glad to share with you, which help generate community-driven data and local plans for project improvement. Additionally, we would be glad to learn more about the results your project has generated since last year.

Photo of Corbyn Small
Team

Hello Yossef,

Thanks for your question and the work that you do through HAF! We currently use a handful of M&E methods ranging from self-reported surveys like you describe, to third party data sources like NDVI which can monitor change in vegetation index over time in the areas we're targeting our efforts.

On an ongoing basis we'll collect in depth data every 3 with occasional other surveys in between that time. Please do send anything you think may be helpful, it would be interesting to learn about the participatory evaluation descriptions you've used and what you've found most helpful (please email to corbyn@plantwithpurpose.org). You might be interested in the 242 trial data that we recently added to our posting. Lastly, Matt Lineal provided some excellent feedback in another comment thread on July 17th (scroll down) which you might find interesting and helpful.

Thanks!

Photo of Yossef Ben-Meir
Team

Dear Corbyn,

Thank you so much for this information. The kind of data you are gathering is of interest to us. I will send to your email address the description of participatory evaluation. I wish you all the best.

Ps. Plant With Purpose is an awesome name.

Photo of Aline SEJOURNE
Team

Hello Ellen Davis,
I like how your idea sees the interconnection of poverty, environment, and human sustainable development. Congratulations! From what I heard, DRC also possesses natural disaster risk, such as landslide, volcanic eruption, flooding, and earthquake. It seems you could also utilize your home improvement idea to reduce those risks for the community there. Good luck!

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Hi Aline SEJOURNE ,

Thank you for your encouragement! We've found that Plant With Purpose's holistic model empowers farmers to gain resilience in the face of natural disasters. We saw this concept displayed a few years ago when Plant With Purpose partnering farmers in Haiti were better equipped to withstand the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew.

I was excited to read about your work with Indonesian brick makers and all that you are doing to help families withstand earthquakes and storms. All the best!

Sincerely,
Ellen

Photo of Joy Banerjee
Team

Hello Ellen ,

Good Project , All the best.

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Thank you Joy Banerjee ! I also enjoyed reading about your project and the way you are promoting eco business and reducing damage to the environment. All the best to you as well.

Sincerely,
Ellen

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

I love this project idea and the way that you incorporate people, planet, and prosperity in a way that benefits all. I look forward to hearing more and would love to connect about how we might be able to incorporate some of these ideas in our project in Salinas.

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Thanks Marnie Glazier ! I enjoyed reading about the Arts and Innovation Hub - I love how you likewise care for farming communities, and desire to address Salinas’s youth violence, poverty, and social inequity. Let us know if you have any specific questions about Plant With Purpose's model or agricultural training workshops. It would be great to keep exploring overlap!

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

Yes, I agree. It is always beneficial to try to engage partnerships & I would love to hear more about the agricultural training workshops!

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Hi Marnie Glazier ,

We recently posted an attachment entitled "Plant With Purpose DRC Activity Descriptions," which gives a detailed overview of our agricultural training modules. Hopefully this is a helpful resource! Let us know if you have any questions.

Thanks,
Ellen

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

Thanks so much, Ellen. I will check it out and get back to you.

Photo of Matt Lineal
Team

Hi Ellen,

It was a pleasure to read through your concept. As a reviewer, I wanted to provide feedback on your core outstanding questions. My precept in making this comment is that the right answers will come from local partners, VSLA leadership and other stakeholders. That said, I hope my experiences and outlook from a decade of integrated international development efforts in Honduras, Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria can contribute in some small way.

1. What type of proxy indicators can we use to measure user income?

Income is notoriously difficult to measure with smallholder farmers in rural areas. Income sources can be highly varied and hard to quantify, reporting barriers are high, and records are scarce. Instead of pointing to specific indicators, as these may be context and livelihood specific, I'll mention a few general categories.

Livelihood zoning and rural livelihood economics can provide a helpful snapshot for a given population segment. This will incorporate an analysis of sources of income, amount, seasonal calendars, risks, and coping strategies. Understanding livelihoods can provide invaluable context in program design and implementation, particularly in scaling up an intervention.

Gross margin analysis is an incredibly helpful tool for complying with "do no harm" principles and evaluating outcomes, particularly with loan-based or livelihoods interventions. Relying on financial models, local data, and expert analysis, a reasonably accurate estimation of impact of a particular income-generating activity can be assessed. That said, this tool is often best suited to evaluate a particular activity, not all the income a rural household may earn. This tool can be used to calculate changes even over very short periods of time.

Lastly, but certainly not least, are asset-based indicators for assessing wealth status. There are numerous systems here, each with its relative merits and drawbacks. The more categorical nature of these types of asset-based indicators can generally make it harder to pick up on smaller scale change over time, and so longer time frames may be necessary to measure change (years not days or months).

2. At times Plant With Purpose collects baseline data in areas where we don’t currently work. How can we mitigate unintended expectations from baseline participants in these areas?

Recognizing the time poverty that smallholders farmers face is appreciated and the right starting place to root this concern. If the organization has the will, intent and means to scale up to those areas eventually, it may be sufficient to express the intent to work in that area in the future. In my professional experience, while the time horizon of communities may not value a promise that will come to fruition a year or two away, the communities were invariably welcoming when the intervention did start up there. If the project has no intent in working in those areas, then there should be a careful consideration of what is most appropriate for the context and honors the time of the participants. In some circumstances, it may be thanking them for their time and being incredibly frugal with the time requested when scouting new potential areas that might not be good fits. On the other hand, some countries and contexts have gauged it appropriate to pay a token sum of money for the participants' time. However, this should be done with great caution, as it can promote dependency and be counteractive to sustainability.

3. We find that in rural areas there tend to be fewer sources of data and we primarily rely on self-reported information. Often this information is based on participants’ feelings or what they choose to share. Is this type of data sufficient? Is there another way to collect objective data and/or verify the participant data that we collect?

Self-reported data provide incredibly rich sources of information. To inform certain decisions, in fact, self-reported information from participants is the only right source of information. There are ways to strengthen and compliment this information.

One way is to standardize questions asked and repeat them over time, to then track change. These can also be GPS-tagged so they are georeferenced. Tracking trends over time and space add a whole new dimension to the data.

Imposing quasi-experimental design by having a non-intervention comparison group is another way to bolster the utility of results. With the proper design, self-reported data can provide a basis for demonstrating attributable impact of the intervention.

Yet another dimension of self-reported data is to conduct deep dives. There are participatory community-based evaluation techniques, qualitative methods, and focus group discussions as just a few of the general ways to drill down into the data.

- I hope this feedback provides helpful food for thought. Thank you for sharing and reviewing my comments. Sincerely, Matt.

Photo of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO)
Team

Hi Ellen!

This looks like a great, inspiring project! How precisely do you feel that employing local community members as the primary agents of change in this project has helped it move forward and set it apart from other organizations doing similar work. How do you you plan to keep these community members at the head of the organization as it continues to grow? Thanks!
- The SHOFCO team

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Hi Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) ,

Thanks for your great question! To clarify - are you more interested in how hiring local staff has helped our organization move forward, or how involving community members has? Ultimately, we have found that empowering local staff and participants leads to long-term, sustainable development. We provide families with access to financial services, and the tools needed to sustainably manage farms and participate in asset-based community development. As partnering farmers take ownership, they garner the trust and excitement of other community members, and entire watersheds begin to benefit from our program. Our 2017 impact evaluation data (see attached report) confirms this concept. Because we have involved farming families in the process early on, they will be equipped to graduate from our programs within seven to ten years. Research shows that development projects that depend on subsidies tend to not be sustainable, setting us apart from many organizations doing similar work.

Thanks,
Ellen

Photo of Kathleen Rommel
Team

Hi Ellen,

Wow! We share similar programs and the entire Yamba Malawi team is impressed with Plant With Purpose's efforts. While reading your questions for Experts, I was struck with how similar our challenges are. I'd love to be kept in the loop as you receive feedback on those questions, particularly through #1 and #2, as these are the very same topics our team has been discussing in recent weeks.

Keep up the great work (and beautiful marketing assets)!

Kathleen

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Hi Kathleen Rommel ,

Thanks for your encouragement! We are likewise impressed with Yamba Malawi's work. I really enjoyed reading about the the Chiseka Beekeeping Project.

We are looking forward to hearing expert feedback on the questions we posed, and we'd love to pass along information gleaned!

Thanks,
Ellen

Photo of Allan Okoth
Team

It is great whta you are trying to accomplish, keep up the spirit, however maybe you can share more about DRC's ecosystem because what the news capture is conflict, can you share the positive side that will make your project a success?

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Thanks for your great question Allan Okoth ! You are right that the conflicts, political turmoil, and health risks in the DRC do, at times, overwhelm and dominate the news. However, in the Uvira and Fizi regions where we work there are numerous positive ecosystem qualities, which are conducive to program success. For example, locals possess a wealth of pre-existing knowledge as well as an eagerness to work hard and cooperate with community members. The DRC is also rich in natural resources and biodiversity, including many rivers, forests, fertile land, and minerals. South Kivu is home to the Eastern Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei), as well as other primates, and there are large areas of forest, especially in the upper parts of the watersheds where we work. Lake Tanganyika, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, is another asset in this region. Sadly, wildlife poaching, logging, and pollution from mining threaten this area, making our work even more needed.

Since beginning our work in South Kivu, partnering farmers have planted thousands of trees (including more native trees) and diversified their crops. Fewer farmers are practicing burning, and more are using FMNR. Plant With Purpose is also creating awareness and knowledge of practices that improve soil and watershed health through training workshops and supporting local group action. All of these activities are boosting the health of the ecosystem - an outcome which we will monitor and evaluate through tracking change in vegetation and conducting triennial impact evaluations.

Photo of Jean-Marc Mercy
Team

Ellen Davis ,
Congratulations! You have made it to the shortlist and Refinement phase. You are doing an amazing job in the South Kivu, DRC. Jaskeerat Bedi  and myself will be helping you with tips and resources to further refine your idea. Please consider the following recommendations, answer the following questions, and leverage the user experience map and these prototyping tools https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B3G2w5FERlm5Z0Foc2ozT3dDa2M to further refine your idea/project:
• Add “Plant for Purpose” in the idea title, so that it can stand out. You may edit and save your entry.
• Leverage the user experience map to illustrate what the user journey will be like.
• Specify how you bridge the gap between farmers and potential buyers. Will you connect them to new markets where they will sell their crops inside or outside South Kivu to increase their income?
• What challenges do you foresee in implementing your idea?
• What are the timelines and key milestones in the implementation phase?
• How will you measure success?
@Jaskeerat: do you have any additional questions?We’ll be rooting for you!
Jean-Marc

Photo of Corbyn Small
Team

Jean-Marc Mercy Thank you so much for your input! I am one of the team members at Plant With Purpose. We've been working through this next phase, gathering feedback, talking with other team members, replying to comments, and have a collaboration meeting tomorrow to revise content based on your input. We're grateful to have been paired with you given your incredible experience in human centered design and The Bridge. I really enjoyed seeing the video of you being recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting!

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Hi Jean-Marc Mercy  

Below are our responses to your great questions and comments. Thank you so much for your valuable insights! Let us know if you have any additional questions.

Thanks,
Ellen

1. Add “Plant for Purpose” in the idea title, so that it can stand out. You may edit and save your entry.

Great idea. We just updated our title.

2. Leverage the user experience map to illustrate what the user journey will be like.

This is also a great idea. We have attached our User Experience Map and feedback from our Program Officer and DRC Country Director regarding ways we can improve the map. We have further expanded upon these ideas in our narrative.

3. Specify how you bridge the gap between farmers and potential buyers. Will you connect them to new markets where they will sell their crops inside or outside South Kivu to increase their income?

We now realize that our User Experience Map may lead people to believe that Plant With Purpose’s goal is market-focused (i.e. similar to One Acre Fund). We will want to clarify this point on our map, as linking farmers to markets is only one part of the complete picture that Plant With Purpose promotes (in brief, we are not a broker connecting producers and buyers). In keeping with our desire for a participatory approach, Plant With Purpose’s primary goal is to equip farmers to use their own assets and resources and increase their ability to make choices in line with their family’s priorities (which can include starting a small business, promoting marketing linkages, sending their children to school, etc.). Impact statistics illustrating these improvements can be found in our project idea narrative and in our DRC Impact Evaluation Report attached.

4. What challenges do you foresee in implementing your idea?

Plant With Purpose’s model places human beings at the center of our work, and values involving participants at all levels of program implementation and evaluation. One of the biggest challenges, however, is introducing new ideas in a participatory way with the end goal being "behavioral change" for sustainable impact and community transformation. OpenIDEO’s resources on human-centered design and prototyping will be helpful in ensuring this process takes place successfully.

5. What are the timelines and key milestones in the implementation phase?

We’ve added more information in our proposal about the implementation phases of our program model as well as a GANTT Chart outlining our first three years of expansion into the Kambekulu watershed in South Kivu. Our FY2019 objectives in the Kakumba watershed are to partner with more than 1,300 farming families, mobilize farmers to plant 160,000 trees, host agroecology workshops with a combined attendance of 3,780, and start 12 new VSLAs while strengthening 50 existing groups.

6. How will you measure success?

Plant With Purpose values continual monitoring, evaluation, and learning. In addition to quarterly reporting on program outcomes, we also identify key indicators using a Theory of Change and complimentary LogFrame tools. We also conduct an impact evaluation every three years to gauge long-term program impact, with the most recent one taking place in fall 2017. In a nutshell, we gather both qualitative and quantitative data on a quarterly, annual, and triennial basis.

Photo of Jean-Marc Mercy
Team

Ellen Davis this is great! I am glad that you and your team have further refined the "Plant for Purpose" idea. Jaskeerat Bedi and myself will continue to provide support and answer to any question you might have. Please do not forget to do the following by the end of this week:
- Answer the 11 new questions added to your contribution form: 6 free response and 5 multiple choice (on the platform).
- Reach out to Jaskeerat Bedi and myself for support
- Complete the quick Shortlist Survey (5-7 minutes) in Refinement Toolkit.

Photo of Jean-Marc Mercy
Team

Corbyn Small You're most welcome. Jaskeerat Bedi and myself are here to provide the support you need to further refine the "Plant with Purpose" idea. Thanks for the great work you are doing to improve lives in the South Kivu.
P.S. I am glad you enjoyed the video :-)

Photo of Kevin Lee
Team

Hi Ellen,

Great work and really inspiring story. Have the farmers shifted crop production to higher profit crops that could be sold at the market, like mangos and avocados and other fruits and vegetables? I work in rural roads and am keen to learn more on the agriculture side, the shift from farming staples to specialization could lead to higher household incomes. Cheers!

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Thanks for your great question Kevin! We tend to find that partnering farmers know what is best for their situation and economic context. We do help them gain access to market information and foster communication within communities. Our main goal is to equip farmers to think through both the economic and environmental implications of the crops that they grow. We try to encourage diversity within sustainable farming systems, but leave the choice to the farmer. We find that generally farmers are really good at making these choices. With our help they tend to add valuable cash crops that work well in agroforestry systems and compliment the food that they grow for home consumption. Avocado, coffee, cacao, and other fruit species are popular.

Photo of David Ezra Jay
Team

Hi Ellen,
Good project and lots of trees. I love Plant with Purpose as well.
How do you track the short and long-term success of your tree plantings?

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Hi Ezra,

Thanks for reaching out. We track the number of trees that farmers plant across all country programs on a quarterly basis. Long-term, we use Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data to measure increases in vegetation density. We also conduct triennial impact evaluations, which show us how engaged program participants are in tree planting efforts compared to nonparticipants.

I was interested to read about GreenStand's good idea too!

Thanks,
Ellen

Photo of David Ezra Jay
Team

Hi Ellen,
This is super exciting. I would love to connect with you as I am interested to see what ways we can help support your project.

We are setting up GreenStand to create a scalable system that answers the question, "who planted what where and how long is it surviving." We intend to use this data to create an ongoing support system for the people responsible for keeping these trees alive. Our focus is on areas of poverty that have already been deforested.

At the moment, we can offer you a way to accurately track and map each of your trees which could help you measure the engagement levels as well. We have also been partnering with organizations that fundraise for trees and are currently linking "verified planting" to funding.

Our system is in early stages of development and we need some help perfecting virious aspects of ideas, such as our user signup process. Tying this data directly into the NDVI index is on the horizon but we are not there yet.

If you're interested, I can be reached via email: Jay@greenstand.org or phone: 1-907-342-2624

Photo of Dusti Becker
Team

Hi Ellen,
What an inspiring project that catalyzes community restoration on so many levels! I really enjoy how you weave Monika and Kamuno's story into this well crafted proposal. What a fascinating intersection of faith, conservation and entrepreneurship. I understand that churches serve as a strong platform for community buy-in, but I wonder has there been any cultural resistance or challenges to the sustainable agriculture or watershed restoration practices that are being taught?
Onwards,
Carrie (part of Dusti Becker 's team)

Photo of Ellen Davis
Team

Hi Carrie,

Thanks so much! And likewise - Life Net Nature looks like a great organization. I enjoyed looking through your proposal!

In response to your question: Occasionally we do find that newer communities have initial resistance to involvement with our program. Community members in the villages where we work are often skeptical of change and unwilling to take risks due to their vulnerable conditions. They are distrusting of government and nonprofit organizations that merely “come and leave” without long-term investment. It takes time to build trust and to teach people the importance of an empowerment-based approach rather than a hand-out-based approach.

However, we have found that farmers in the DRC have been less cautious and resistant than those in some of our other country programs. This is partly due to the scarcity of other nonprofits and government agencies in their region, meaning farmers did not come to the program with pre-existing biases. It could also be due to the early success of the pilot project, which would have encouraged nonparticipating friends and neighbors to join more readily.

Nevertheless, program participants still gain trust and assuredness when they understand our intent to walk alongside them for many years. By starting with small activities that bring about tangible results (such as family gardens, organic composting, water conservation techniques, etc.) we can build trust and work toward our larger collective goals within the watershed. Relying on local church partnerships and local staff members also goes a long way in garnering trust within the community.

Thanks,
Ellen

Photo of Dusti Becker
Team

Hi Ellen Davis !

I appreciate you sharing this, as I worked with a community watershed restoration project in Kauai that hit up against local resistance. I really like the idea of taking an empowerment-based approach with communities that are vulnerable and willing (and yes, my heart sank when reading that only 3% of the land in the DRC is arable). I also like your emphasis on trust and growing through social networks with small steps. Way to grow change!

Inspired,
Carrie (part of Dusti Becker 's team)