According to this recent article in The Economist, Seed Change’s model of tackling poverty is pretty close to the ideal. The article outlines recent work done by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo (and several others) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (who are also authors of the highly readable and informative Poor Economics of a few years back). Mr Banerjee and Ms Duflo are renowned data-driven economists who have championed evidence based approached to evaluating development programs. They claim to have found an anti-poverty strategy that works all the time, with all people, in all settings. And it just so happens that the strategy is almost exactly the strategy that Seed Change uses.
Over the past 60+ years the world has tried many different ways to lift people out of poverty. Microcredit, cash transfers, one-laptop-one-child and so on. All had some success, all had some failures. Some worked for entrepreneurial poor people, most didn’t reach the very poorest. But it seems that giving people the combination of an asset (a cow or a chicken or *ahem* an oil palm tree), some limited income support (so that they aren’t forced to sell the cow when someone needs to go to hospital or eat the chicken when they have no money for food), and follow-up training and support (to keep people focused and enthusiastic) lifts all types of people out of poverty. And importantly keeps them there.
While clearly we weren’t in their study, the model is very very similar to the one we designed and are running. Seed Change provides an asset (palm trees, an asset that yields for 30 years no less), doesn’t provide income support (our budget really doesn’t stretch that far, plus it’s pretty hard to sell a tree that is planted on your farm. And even harder to eat it), but do provide training and support through bi-monthly village meetings run by our Community Development Officer.
So it is official, The Economist and MIT say that the Seed Change model works. Our program may not be the absolutely cheapest around – US$375 per family for an acre of trees and year of training and support – but the type of program we are running has been rigorously shown to lift people out of poverty (even the poorest of the poor) and keep them there. A once-off never to be repeated hit of $375 to lift someone out of poverty for good. That’s a pretty darn good investment in someone’s future.
So if you would like to help us continue lifting people out of poverty for US$375 (or any other amount really), get over to our donate page. Science compels you.