drones or donkeys

Drones or Donkeys?

In what could be one of the most significant failures to improve the life of mountainous small holder farmers in Kasese, the use of donkeys was recommended to help farmers move their crops down to formal markets.

Why donkeys?

Today, most of the small holders in the mountains are women. They walk down the mountains with their crops for 3-5 hours, baby on back, to sell whatever they can carry. This is one key reason why mountainous families, over 150,000 households, are locked into poverty today.

The researchers asked: why not send in donkeys? It makes a lot of sense. (By the way, finding this research was hard. It may not get much publicity because the project failed. But with this failure we may find foundational concepts that can ultimately succeed.)

Candidly, we never knew this project existed when we were granted a visit to the Mayor’s office. “Mayor,” we pleaded, “we think a fundamental development issue in the mountains is nutrition and to address this means somehow improving household income.” If you look at the research, improving nutrition and income always go hand in hand. In other words, a nutrition program is typically unsustainable if incomes aren’t improved.

The Mayor agreed. After convening two strategic meetings, his office concluded that steep terrain is one of the deep issues that is blocking socioeconomic development in the mountains. He was aware of the donkey project. “They ended up eating them for food,” he said. The project failed. The people are hungry.

When that failed the group met again and determined that it might be possible to implement “trams” at various points in the Rwenzori mountain range, however, this proposal is very expensive, ecologically insensitive and was off to a slow start. So when we mentioned using drones, the Mayor was intrigued. We explained the platform and our early ideas of how this could work.

Drones…Not Donkeys!

Today we are working with a group of social visionaries to develop a cargo drone platform, linked to mobile payments, that mountain small holders can use. Its sort of like an “uber in the sky” on a “pay as you go” basis. Before onboarding the platform, mountain small holders must go to Village Trainings in nutrition, soil fertility and financial planning…so the link between better income and nutrition improvement is sealed.

GlobalRise is building a Digital Food System that will deploy cargo drones for food, medicine, soil inputs and more. We are also implementing digital health tools that can monitor the journey of children in the mountains from stunted to healthy!

The “system of systems” will be proven and we hope that it will eventually be handed off to the government via a PPP (public private partnership) and scaled. This will require workforce development in UAV aviation, digital health, food and information technology and much more!

To enable this, one of the GlobalRise team is a board member of Rwenzori International University in Kasese, helping them to create a Tech Innovation Center for student training.

Click here to learn more about our program: https://www.globalrise.org/projects/community-to-country/

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