At present, Project COPE is offering three entrepreneurial opportunities: Tractors, Crops, and Apiculture.
Why the Tractor:
Tractors. A recent epidemic of hoof and mouth disease has destroyed most of the draft animals in many of the villages around Lusaka. Without draft animals, subsistence farmers have to use manual labor to prepare, plant, and harvest their crops of maize. This dramatically limits the amount of land they can cultivate. China pioneered the use of two wheeled tractors to improve agricultural outcomes. These same tractors are now being made available in Zambia. The tractors typically have two cylinder diesel engines which do not require much in the way of maintenance. A local farmer with a two wheeled tractor can prepare his or her own land in a much shorter span of time. This would allow them to then rent out their services to other local farmers. Thus the tractor owner not only improves their own harvest but the harvest of those around them. At the village level, the price for hiring a neighbor’s tractor services can be a portion of the harvest rather than hard cash. The tractors themselves have multiple uses. Besides plowing, the tractors can also be adapted to planting, cultivating, and harvesting. There is a wagon attachment that allows the tractor to pull harvests to the local market. The power takeoff can run water pumps or grain milling devices. A good entrepreneur can turn a two wheeled tractor into a flourishing business which not only helps the entrepreneur but provides a needed service to the village community.
Crops. The traditional crop of subsistence farmers is maize. Maize is a seasonal crop, and so there is opportunity to plant additional crops that either grow in the off-season, or extend the nutritional content available to the villagers. Moringa trees are a hearty, drought resistant shrub like tree that grows well in Zambia. The leaves of the Moringa tree are a great source of vitamin A which is a chronic deficiency in Zambian children. It is sometimes called the most useful tree in the world because besides the leaf, there are uses for seeds, bark, and branches. It takes about two years for the tree to reach maturity, but after that it produces constantly. Another alternative crop can be fresh vegetables. Fresh vegetables are in high demand in the villages, but normally are hard to grow because they need irrigation during the dry time of the year. If a villager has access to a pump or a two wheeled tractor that can run a pump then they can successfully grow a high demand crop that meets the nutritional needs of their fellow villagers. One of our members has recently been trained and certified in sustainable vegetable cultivation which uses just a fraction of the irrigation needed in traditional farming methods. This skill will be shared with interested farmers in our target villages. Soy beans also have potential. Not only are they a source of food, but they can easily be converted into biodiesel, which is the main fuel for the two wheel tractors. Thus, the two wheel tractor program can become self-sustaining. There are several other crop alternatives in Zambia that Project COPE would explore with local agricultural entrepreneurs.
Apiculture. Apiculture is the keeping of bees. Zambia is a particularly hospitable environment for apiculture. For villages in which a group of entrepreneurs would choose to keep bees, multiple job opportunities open up. First, the hives must be constructed. The use of local materials and local designs would provide opportunities for villagers with carpenter skills. To gather the honey the workers must wear protective clothing which gives local tailors employment. There is also the opportunity for more employment in the processing and marketing of both the honey and the wax. Villages in Zambai that have adopted apiculture have seen their annual incomes almost double.