Posts Tagged ‘education’

I came across the blog post of a new Kiva Fellow, James Allman-Gulino, who recently came to Uganda to work in micro-finance.  James points out that the public infrastructure in Uganda is so poor that perhaps big picture issues like proper roads and health care must be addressed before tools like micro-finance can truly work to alleviate global poverty.  I’d add education to that list as well.

I’ve had this conversation a few times recently and it ultimately comes back to the same broader problem.  I’m no expert on African politics, but my understanding of the situation is that taxes on the wealthy are not always collected and distributed properly (to put it very mildly).  This leads to schools that must be funded largely through private tuition, which easily costs $800 USD per student per year at the high school level (this may include room & board plus supplies).  For a typical rural family earning less than $1,000 USD per year, it makes sending the children to high school and beyond exceptionally difficult if not impossible.  The result of this is a massive population that is not adequately educated in topics like health, science, math, and business.  It’s therefore not surprising to hear people in the villages tell me that they know their water is clean because they don’t see any worms in it, or that they didn’t do the analysis to realize that there are cheaper alternatives to boiling water or risking typhoid.  It’s also not surprising that many people don’t have the skills to grow their small businesses or develop products and technologies they can sell to wealthier nations to grow their national economy.

The other problem with the lack of tax dollars going towards infrastructure projects is that it blocks the creation of tens of thousands of jobs nationwide.  How many people does the American government directly or indirectly employ through public works projects?  Those payroll dollars then circulate throughout the broader US market, enabling economic growth and a relatively good standard of living.  Of course there are the other benefits of more efficient distribution of good and services that lower costs and increase the serviceable market of businesses.

Typical village businesses

Typical village businesses

Typical Village Road

Typical Village Road

Sadly, I don’t have a solution to this problem.  Shy of the African governments and upper class deciding that they’re ready to make large personal sacrifices to help their countrymen or organizations like the Gates Foundation building thousands of schools and funding them for several generations, I’m not sure how this core problem gets corrected.

I think the international development organizations are commendable in doing what they can to try to alleviate poverty and suffering.  I believe that they do make a real difference in people’s lives, though they may never fully eradicate social injustice.  That said, I do believe their is room for improvement in the non-profit sector in terms of working together to achieve economies of scale.  I wonder how many different small organizations are working in Africa right now to improve access to water, education, health care, and financial opportunity.  I also wonder how much more effective we might be if we formed stronger partnerships.  Why should a hundred groups spend a small amount to each educate a few hundred people on clean water when we could pool our funds and launch a massive campaign that would reach a whole region?  If I spend money building a water kiosk to promote clean water, why should someone else spend the same money building a stand down the road selling mosquito nets?  Couldn’t we just build two stands that sell both, enabling us both to double the reach of our program?  It’s certainly sometime I’ll be thinking about as I proceed with my project.

Sorry for such a long and preachy post.  I’ll try to stay more upbeat in the coming week.  In the meantime, I very much welcome your thoughts on this or any related topic.  If you want to check out the Kiva blog, the link is below.


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Over the past several months, I’ve come across several articles and books that have been extremely informative regarding the topics of clean water and financial services in third-world countries.  I’d like to share them both as a resource for current and future volunteers, as well for anyone else who might be interested in learning more on these topics.  Some PDFs are large files, so I’ve just listed the URL.  Over time, I may add to this list, so feel free to check back occasionally.

Water Purification and Storage

Financial Services

  • Portfolios Of The Poor by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven  –  A fantastic book providing an in-depth look at the cash management practices and needs of the world’s poor.  (Thanks Richard for the recommendation)
  • Banker To The Poor by Muhammad Yunus  –  An interesting story about Nobel Prize winning Muhammad Yunus and the creation of Grameen Bank, one of the largest self-sustaining micro-finance institutions in the world.  (Thanks Ed for the recommendation)

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I wanted to share some details about an incredible program called Kick it with Kenya.  One of the biggest challenges to educating people in rural, developing areas on the benefits of safe water is not being able to reach large numbers of people at once.  There are no television commercials, no magazine ads, and very few large organized events.

To get around this problem, we’ve started planning the second “Kick it with Kenya” inter-village soccer tournament.  Soccer is one of the few activities that can draw a crowd, and we have some lofty ambitions.  This year, we’re planning to reach roughly 16,000 people in over 40 villages.  At each of the 40 regional games, we expect over 300 people to come watch.  That presents a perfect opportunity for us to conduct educational seminars about critical health issues like clean water, distribute medicine and conduct HIV testing, and promote and sell water filters.  At the finals in the larger town of Kitale, we expect around 3,000 people to attend!  Opportunities to reach this many people in this region are extremely rare.  Keep in mind that if we can educate one or two people from a household, the benefits will reach the rest of the people in the household.  With an average household size of 8 people, that means we can potentially impact over 100,000 lives with this event.

As you might imagine, this event is not easy to pull off and is certainly not free.  The total cost of the tournament is roughly $13,000, and we have very little time to raise the funds.  If you’d like to help, your donation would be deeply appreciated.  Here are some of the ways your donation could help:

  • $1,500 pays for the total salary, transportation, and promotional materials costs to demo the water filters and provide educational seminars at the 40 soccer games.
  • $800 provides a water filter for each of the 40 teams so the players can drink clean water while they practice and play in the tournament.
  • $350 pays for the promotional materials at the finals, where we expect to reach 3,000 people.
  • $13,000 pays for the entire event – and I’ll buy you dinner at almost any restaurant you choose.  I’m pretty sure a plaque or small statue could also be arranged.

To donate to this amazing program, please visit the following site:


When asked to specify the purpose or sponsored volunteer’s name, enter “Jeremy Farkas – Clean Water Project

All donations are tax deductible and are greatly appreciated.  Thank you so much for your support!


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