Page 1


Issue 04

Middle East, North Africa and South Asia

January – March 2014

Boarding school The Afghan kids trading the streets for the skate park

Brave new world

India’s icon

Grand designs

Can new technology solve some of the developing world’s oldest problems?

Exclusive: business legend Ratan Tata on the curious case of philanthropy in India

How Dubai Cares hopes to reshape the global education landscape

The sixth ode Auction of Arabic masterpiece to help with funds for refugee crisis UNHCR to be the charitable beneficiary of special auction lot Philanthropy Age is delighted to be auctioning The Sixth Ode by internationally acclaimed artist Ali Omar Ermes at the Christie’s Middle East sale of Arabic, Iranian and Turkish art on Wednesday March 19th 2014, with the charity proceeds of the special lot being donated to UNHCR – the United Nations’ refugee agency. The sale will be held at 7pm (UAE) at Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai, and the auction will also be streamed live on, allowing internet bids to be made alongside the usual telephone and in-person bidding. More details of the sale are on the Christie’s website and on The Sixth Ode (1993) is acrylic on paper, sized 250cm x 225cm, and features an ode by the pre-Islamic warrior poet Anter Ibne Shaddad. It comes from a group of


seven acclaimed Ode paintings by the artist, celebrating the Seven Odes of Arabic poetry, Al-Mu’allaqāt Al Saba or the Seven Prize Poems, which enjoy a special place in Arabic literature due to their eloquence and historic relevance. When a poem was judged to be exceptional, it was inscribed in gold on silk cloth and hung in the Al-Ka’ba as a sign of general acclaim. Over the years, the prize poems that were hung at the Al-Ka’ba assumed a universal context and appeal. The full 85-line ode by Anter Ibne Shaddad is featured on The Sixth Ode artwork. The poet was famous for both his romance with Abla Bint Malik, as well as his fairness and strict ethics. The Sixth Ode has a pre-sale estimate of $120,000-$180,000.

7pm (UAE) Jumeirah Emirates Towers Dubai, UAE March 19th 2014

Ali Omar Ermes is widely considered to be the world’s greatest living Arabic artist.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on December 14th, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. UNHCR is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. As one of the world’s oldest and largest humanitarian agencies, UNHCR has won the trust of the international community by being the only United Nations agency to have been twice awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work. In more than six decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, around 7,000 staff members in more than 120 countries continue to help some 43 million persons.

Ali is a thinker as much as he is an artist; an intellectual, and a champion of the Arabic language, whose inspired and inspiring work is steeped in academic rigour, and in Islamic thought and culture, and is always the result of painstaking research. His work is part of some of the most influential collections in the Islamic and art world, displayed in museums such as the British Museum, the Ashmolean in Oxford, and in the national galleries of Jordan and Malaysia. Ali’s art is collected enthusiastically by royalty and continues to be widely commissioned by governments and ministries. His work is also featured in many influential private collections including those of the Sultanate of Oman, and the seat of UK government, 10 Downing Street. Of late, Ali was commissioned to paint Tawasul Al-Himam, ‘The Continuum of Resolve’, celebrating the themes of Dubai’s now successful bid to host the World Expo in 2020. The work was presented in October 2013 to Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline & Group and chairman of Dubai’s Higher Committee for Hosting the World Expo in 2020. This painting, initiated with the support and encouragement of Reem AlHashimy, the UAE Minister of State, and managing director of the Higher Committee, is now considered to be the definitive Expo painting. It gives voice to the unshakable resolve of people and nations to improve things for the future, contribute to human civilisation, and connect to humanity, by pursuing their vision and making the right decisions at the right time and in the right place.



In this issue...



REGULARS 08 10 12 14 74 76 79


Need to know


Learning curve Dubai Cares CEO Tariq Al Gurg on the UAE-based foundation’s plans to reshape the global education landscape


Evolving innovation How private sector firms and non-profits are collaborating to develop life-saving technologies for the field


Digital dollars Behind the mobile money revolution aiming to bring financial services to the world’s poorest communities

The Moment Global Eye Guest Column One Day Trends The Next Step


Rooftop farming in Cairo


Green shoots The initiatives and innovations digging to the root of poverty among India’s smallholder farmers


Wheels of change Why a skateboard park in Kabul represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Afghanistan’s impoverished youth


Bridging the gap Tahir has become the first Indonesian to sign the Giving Pledge. He tells us why other billionaires should follow suit



Jobseeking in Palestine







India’s icon

In an exclusive interview, business legend Ratan Tata tells us why his country needs to change its approach to improving the lives of those mired in poverty

70 5


With our thanks to...

Jonathan Kalan

Jonathan Kalan is an award-winning journalist who has worked for the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, Associated Press, and the International Federation of the Red Cross, among others. In this issue, Jonathan explores the rise of rooftop farming in Cairo.


Barbara Ibrahim

Barbara Ibrahim is the founding director of the John D Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo. She has published widely in the areas of gender and health, Arab philanthropy, youth studies and higher education. In this issue, she writes on the opportunities for private philanthropy in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Sameer Hajee

Sameer Hajee is the CEO and co-founder of Nuru Energy, an award-winning social enterprise that seeks to solve the global problem of energy poverty. An authority on rural energy provision through microenterprise, in this issue he tells the story of the Nuru Light, an innovation that has already changed the lives of thousands of households across Africa.

Harshvardhan Patil

A photographer, graphic and web designer based in Nagpur in central India, Harshvardhan Patil has been capturing the lives of others on film for more than a decade. In this issue, he travelled into the rural heartlands of Maharashtra in order to record the work of the Tata trusts.

Amanda Mustard

An award-winning photojournalist based in Cairo, Amanda Mustard has contributed to titles including Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, TIME and Internazionale. In this issue she ascends to the rooftops of her home city, to meet the urban farmers driving a food revolution.


Philanthropy Age is published by Touchline FZ-LLC The publishers regret that they cannot accept liability for errors or omissions contained in the publication, for whatever reason, however caused. The opinions and views contained in this publication are not necessarily those of the publishers. The publishers take no responsibility for the goods and services advertised. All materials are protected by copyright. All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form (including photography or storage in any medium by electronic means) without the written permission of the copyright owner, except as may be permitted by applicable laws.

Touchline FZ-LLC 4th Floor, Pink building, twofour54 media zone Khalifa Park, PO Box 77826, Abu Dhabi, UAE Tel: +971 (0)2 234 4598 Editorial Team: CEO, Editor-In-Chief Leonard Stall

Senior Editor Andrew White

Editor & Web Editor Joanne Bladd

Assistant Editor Adrienne Cernigoi

Arabic Editor Fawaz Jarrah

Translation Zaineb Bouftass

Publishing Director Salem AlShaikh

COO Waleed Gubara

Director of Digital Juan Whitby

Digital Design Director Matt Walker

Business Development Mona Mahmoud

Office Manager Linda Musco

For advertising enquiries: Andy Baker

Touchline FZ LLC Studio Ahmad Marei; Anas Ahmad Albounni; Michel Al Asmar; Qaiser Nawaz; Sam Birouty

Contributors: Chris Assig; Anthea Ayache; Sameer Hajee; Barbara Ibrahim; Jonathan Kalan; Jason Simmons Images: Getty Images; Reuters; Kemal Jufri; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; ColaLife; Dubai Cares; The National; Razan Alzayani; Matternet; senseFly; Souktel; Skateistan; SCIAF; WFP; Nuru Energy; Yaruz Sariyildiz; Md Farhad Rahman; Jay Bendixen ISSN: 2306-0328 Distributed by: GLS Media Services Printed by: Emirates Printing Press, Dubai

The pace of change New technologies hold tremendous potential for the developing world, both in terms of saving lives, and increasing access to opportunity. They can offer faster, cheaper and more effective solutions to on-the-ground requirements across the aid and development spectrum. They can open eyes and fill stomachs, clothe children and help lift generations out of poverty. In this issue, we explore some of the innovations changing lives in impoverished and underserved communities around the world. From the hydroponics technology allowing urban farmers to grow crops on the cluttered rooftops of Cairo, to irrigation techniques bringing life to the cracked soil of rural India, advances in the developed world are providing solutions for those in less progressive corners of the globe. Some are closer to fruition than others: Typhoon Haiyan came too soon for the deployment of waves of search-and-rescue drones. However the enthusiasm with which teachers in the Afghan capital Kabul have embraced the opportunity provided by mobile money, suggests that the developing world is ready and eager to engage with new ideas and innovations. Many humanitarian organisations remain wary of overnight change. Why trust technology that may be cutting-edge, but is unreliable or unwieldy, at the expense of tried-and-tested, if antiquated, equipment? After all, in harsh and hostile environments, equipment designed for the developed world can cost lives if it is not suited for deepfield purpose. Similarly, there is little point installing sophisticated infrastructure in areas unequipped to maintain or take advantage of such technology. This is the dilemma we face in the early years of this century: at what pace do we impress our brave new world upon those less fortunate, so that they might be empowered most effectively? Andrew White Editor, Philanthropy Age

The publishers seek to broaden the knowledge and understanding of good philanthropy and do not seek to promote the interests of any one individual, organisation or agenda. Individuals and organisations are featured solely according to the merits of their philanthropic endeavours. Go interactive with Philanthropy Age and Blippar. Just follow these simple instructions on pages 33, 36, 56, and 69: (You can download the Blippar application for free from the Apple App store and Google Play)



Founder Sponsors:







Nine things you should know... 1

Malaria push saves 700 lives a day Since 2000, an estimated 3.3 million lives have been saved thanks to international efforts in the fight against malaria. According to a study by the World Health Organisation, a global drive has cut malaria mortality rates by 45 per cent worldwide, particularly among children under 5 – the group most vulnerable to the deadly disease. International funding shot up from less than $100m in 2000 to almost $2bn in 2012, providing insecticide-impregnated nets, diagnostic testing and post-infection treatment.



2 The battle continues, however. It’s thought malaria claimed 627,000 lives in 2012, while 3.4 billion people around the world are still at risk from the mosquito-borne disease and parasite resistance to insecticides is increasing. Further donations are still required to fill the $2.6bn annual funding gap, and finally eliminate this preventable killer.

$10,000 The ‘registration fee’ demanded by al-Shabaab militants from food agencies to reach starving Somalis, according to a report by the Overseas Development Institute on the 2011 famine


“It is more difficult to give away money intelligently than to earn it in the first place” Andrew Carnegie, American industrialistphilanthropist, 1835-1919 4

19 6


Better late than never: the World Trade Organisation has reached an historic global trade deal that will benefit poor nations, including simpler customs procedures and duty-free and quota-free access to rich-country markets for the world’s least developed countries.


The number of people worldwide who lack access to clean water, according to the non-profit agency charity:water, underlining the need to help the 783 million people that the UN says suffer from water scarcity. An estimated 66 per cent of the Arab world’s fresh water comes from outside the region

No money, more problems. Restricted access to financial services is holding back the chance to escape poverty. Just 2 per cent of Pakistani adults save money at a financial institution, according to the World Bank, and nearly 200 million micro- to medium-sized enterprises in developing countries lack access to affordable credit.



Poor, rural or minority children are less likely to access education and health services due to lack of birth registration, according to UNICEF. The UN’s children’s agency says 230 million children under five globally – or 1 in 3 – have never been recorded. In Yemen and Pakistan just 17 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively, of children’s births are registered.


“His greatest gift: his recognition … that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us” US President Barack Obama pays tribute to the late Nelson Mandela





Friday, November 8th, 2013

Storm of the century O

n the morning of November 8th, super Typhoon Haiyan – one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall – hammered into the eastern Philippines, leaving destruction in its wake. More than 5,000 people died and at least 11 million are thought to have been affected by the disaster, after sustained winds and intense low pressure combined to propel a 5-metre surge of water across Leyte and Samar provinces, sweeping away cities and submerging rural communities. The international community has responded with urgent appeals for help: the UN has said it needs more than $300m for food, water and shelter, while individual nations including the UAE and the US have pledged millions of dollars in aid. What’s clear is that the real task still lies ahead: such is the scale of the devastation, the events of November 8th 2013 will impact the humanitarian agenda in the MENASA region for months and years to come.  n



Typhoon Haiyan: road to recovery The scale of the fall-out from super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is overwhelming. Known locally as Yolanda, the 300 kilometre-an-hour winds and overwhelming surge of water claimed nearly 6,000 lives. By December 2013, 4 million people had been displaced in 44 provinces, according to the UN’s humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, which has delivered food aid to more than 4.1 million of those affected. With 225,000 people taking refuge in displacement camps, the International Organisation for Migration says that Filipinos themselves are taking the strain as nearly 4 million people shelter with friends and family.

The coverage of Haiyan to date has focused on the immediate aftermath: children left without shelter, homes obliterated and long food queues. Attention is just now turning towards the real challenge of rebuilding shattered communities. More than 50 aid bodies, including the United Nations, launched a strategic response plan in mid-December to meet the relief and recovery needs of 3 million people. It will take years to piece the nine typhoon-damaged areas back together and with the onset of the rainy season in January, the urgency of funding reliable shelter for the survivors is only more acute.

A long way to go Humanitarian organisations estimate that 70 per cent of the funding needed to provide relief and early rebuilding efforts for 3 million people over the course of 2014 alone is unmet. Fifty-four aid agencies initiated a joint response plan calling for $791m in pledges for the year, which they hope will help bolster the state’s own rehabilitation programme. Top of the agenda are shelter, food security,

$791m Level of funding requested

Climate of disaster agriculture and education. Just weeks after the typhoon hit, only 381 evacuation centres were still open, providing shelter to more than 100,000 people, according to OCHA. Schools that were used as emergency shelters are slowly returning back to teaching but children remain particularly vulnerable: UNICEF estimates that children make up 1.8 million of the 4 million displaced.

$240m Level of funding recieved


Funding still required

In Haiyan’s aftermath, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called the typhoon a wake-up call for the international community to speed up efforts on climate change. A recent World Bank report found that the economies of fast-growing, middle-income countries suffer most from weather-related disasters because they have increasingly high-value assets that are exposed to environmental damage. The winds that battered the Philippines were among the most powerful ever recorded.


Annual loss to the Philippines’ economy from storms, according to its lead climate change negotiator, Nadarev Sano. Typhoon season costs more than 2 per cent of GDP each year with at least another 2 per cent required to fund reconstruction efforts


Annual cost of weather-related damage and losses globally *Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Dec 16, 2013


* Source: World Bank


Building for the future The sheer scale of the reconstruction needed is daunting: 12,110 districts and 59 cities were affected across nine regions. According to the UN Development Programme, the $5m it has pledged to clear debris from typhoon-stricken areas represents only 25 per cent of the funding needed to clear all the rubble before rebuilding can even start. Poor construction quality was highlighted as one reason Typhoon Haiyan was able to obliterate so much infrastructure. As well as funding, the natural disaster-prone country is in desperate need of advice on flood- and wind-resistant housing, health facilities, schools and public buildings.


Total number of houses destroyed or damaged by the super typhoon

600,000 Number of houses out of the 1.1 million that were completely destroyed


Estimated cost of removing debris and of rebuilding affected towns and cities, according to the government of the Philippines


Value of loans granted from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to help fund rebuilding efforts

* Source: International Organisation for Migration, Dec 4, 2013; World Bank, Nov 18 2013; ADB, Nov 13, 2013

Not out of danger yet Disease could yet threaten the lives of the survivors. Poor sanitation and mass displacement of people has led to an increase in dengue fever cases, while the UN is stepping up its vaccination drive for children against measles and polio. Maternal health is also a key challenge: an estimated 3.7 million women of child-bearing age need specialised services according to the UN population fund, UNFPA. Some 1,000 children are born each day in typhoon-affected areas; 150 with life-threatening complications.


Total amount aid agencies say is needed to meet healthcare needs


Amount committed so far to fund emergency health needs


Number of boys and girls under five suffering from severe acute malnutrition in seven provinces

*Source: UNOCHA, Nov 2013



Opportunity at a time of transition Sociologist Barbara Ibrahim explores the findings of a landmark study on the potential impact of private philanthropy in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings


About the writer Barbara Ibrahim is the founding director of the John D Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo. She has published widely in the areas of gender and health, Arab philanthropy, higher education, and youth studies. The report was co-authored with Mark Freeman, founder of the Institute for Integrated Transitions in Barcelona


ince 1970 more than 50 countries have transitioned out of civil war or longstanding dictatorship. These are hopeful moments when the normal course of events speeds up and opportunities emerge for significant societal change. Often the transition comes unexpectedly, as was the case recently in Tunisia and Egypt. That can mean rising expectations on the part of citizens just when political uncertainty and shocks to the economy bring temporary hardship. Governments are often too new or inexperienced during these early transition periods to be able to cope alone. In such moments, private philanthropy has an important role to play. Working directly with civil society organisations, philanthropy can help build responsive entities such as media watchdogs or consumer rights groups that give citizens a sense of participation. They can support emerging human rights groups that promote inclusion for minority groups. If police or judicial reform is needed, private foundations can offer their prior experience and resources. International foundations are also able to support the growth of local philanthropy, which will provide sustainable funding sources once a transition period winds down. It is true that large bilateral or multinational donor agen-

cies often step in with major financing to help during transitional periods. However, their assistance is slower to be released and may be tied to political considerations. Private philanthropy has the independence and flexibility to offer rapid assistance and to work with governments, non-profits and the business sector. Over the past 35 years, foundations have acquired valuable experience in transition settings worldwide. Some can point with pride to elected presidents in emerging democracies who had been supported to hone their leadership skills in civil society organisations before the transition took place. In other cases, relatively small grants helped get a truth and reconciliation commission up and running at a critical time just after protracted violence ended. Unfortunately, that learning was not gathered into one guidebook or shared widely. Given the unpredictable nature of many transitions, this left some inexperienced foundations understandably reluctant to launch new programmes. As a result, the recent transitions occurring around the Arab region have not received as much global philanthropic support as earlier transitions in southern Africa or the former Soviet republics did. To address the need for wider sharing of good practices, two organisations joined forces in 2012 to survey previous foundation experience and produce a ‘framework guide’ for sound transition grantmaking. The Institute for Integrated Transitions and the Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement spent nearly a


year conducting in-depth interviews with foundation leaders and transition experts. The resulting publication, of which I am a co-author, is titled ‘Supporting Countries in Transition: A Framework Guide for Foundation Engagement’ and contains an overview of the common features of democratic transitions and those following the end of civil strife. In the publication, we describe the concept of informed risk-taking in order for foundations to avoid missteps and reap the opportunities for positive impact. This means that while all foundations expect to exercise due diligence in their grantmaking, transition situations demand additional information gathering. Which political actors are rising and who is losing influence? What are the economic perils that could affect prospective grant programmes? Despite increased risks of failure, veteran foundation leaders argue vigorously for the heightened impact that is possible with transition grantmaking. For example, shortly after Egypt’s January 25th uprising, the Ford Foundation designed a special appropriation to help initiatives around civic education and social justice. Even though government donors eventually made much larger contributions, the speed

and flexibility of the initial ABOVE  Tahrir Square, in the heart of the Egyptian capital foundation grants meant Cairo, has become a symbol of that a number of important transition in the Middle pilot programmes got off East region the ground when needs were greatest. One small grant has resulted in more than 15 student debate clubs in public universities where none existed previously. We also learned that donors need to be prepared to stay engaged for at least five years or longer. Transitions may take a decade before the ultimate destination is known. Donors who pull out too soon leave behind half-completed agendas for capacity development, and frustrated grantees. International donors increasingly see the advantages of partnering with local foundations that are likely to stay the

“When opportunities emerge for significant societal change... private philathropy has an important role to play”

course over time. A popular form of local philanthropy that emerges during many transitions is the community foundation. In this model, rather than depending only on wealthy donors, a community assesses its needs and then pools the contributions from many ordinary citizens to reach its goals. Libya and Tunisia are countries where community philanthropy is helping to meet the needs of towns and villages just beginning to develop civic institutions. Our findings make a strong case for donor collaboration and sharing rigorous evaluations of what works – as well as what doesn’t – in times of transition. By sharing experiences more openly, international philanthropy will be better prepared the next time a country leaves behind violent conflict or moves toward more democratic governance. Finally, support for inclusion of all political, social and religious elements of society is a key to rebuilding lasting institutions. That may offer one of the most effective ways for foundations to pursue and achieve disproportionate positive outcomes which would be unattainable in more ordinary times. n



Learning curve Dubai Cares has ambitious plans for change. CEO Tariq Al Gurg reveals how the UAE-based foundation hopes to help reshape the global aid landscape for education

BY  Joanne Bladd ali’s woes extend to the classroom. Nearly 900,000 children are out of school in the febrile west African state, which has grappled in recent years with sectarian fighting, rebel uprisings and a coup. Thousands more, particularly girls, barely scrape through primary school, with preventable health woes a driving factor in dropout rates. Intestinal worms and chronic malnutrition go hand-in-hand with a lack of access to clean water, curbing school attendance and sapping children’s ability to learn. The toll on Mali’s economy is heavy: adult literacy rates for 15 to 24-year-olds are 56 per cent among men and just 34 per cent among women. Dubai Cares is battling to raise the bar. In 2010, the UAE-based foundation invested $16m in a four-year scheme to install safe water and sanitation facilities in 726 schools across Mali. The model, rolled out with partners including Oxfam and the UN’s children’s fund, uses lessons to spur the uptake of hand washing and other simple but effective hygiene practices among schoolchildren. Through shrinking the risk of disease, it hopes to slash absenteeism and chip away at dropout rates among students. “I’ve learned it’s important to drink



clean water to avoid stomach ache and diarrhoea,” says 10-year-old Youssouf Dissa, a student at N’tjibougou primary school in southern Mali. “And you have to wash with soap every time before and after food and after using the latrine.” RIGHT  Dubai Cares operates The model has won largely in developing countries. more than just applause. To date, the foundation’s In three years, it has programmes have reached more ballooned to include more than 8 million children than 1,500 schools and reeled in enough extra funding – $10m in total – to safeguard its survival when Dubai Cares bows out later this year. For Mali’s fraught education system, the gains have been enormous. “We’re covering almost 35 per cent of schools across the country with the programme now,” says Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares. “It’s hard to grasp the scale of the impact it’s had. Many UN aid agencies are now beginning to replicate the model within their own international programmes.” For Dubai Cares, education is a ticket out of poverty for developing nations. Formed in 2007 by the emirate’s ruler, the foundation has elbowed its way on to the global aid scene, seeking to bolster access to primary tuition in poorer countries. At first, its efforts

came in the shape of donations to existing aid players. But gradually, spurred on by Al Gurg’s arrival in 2009, it shifted from simply funding programmes to driving them. Its initial remit was to reach 1 million children; at last count, it had passed 8 million. “I saw we could stay effectively as a cheque-writer, or be part of the change, and be alongside the decision makers,” he says. “I wanted Dubai Cares to be part of the global debate on education. Once we’d reached the four-year mark, we were ready to be an active partner.” To date, the foundation has poured more than $136m into 72 schemes across 31 countries, ranging from school feeding plans to teacher training. It doesn’t


ABOVE  Al Gurg pictured during dabble in short-term a field visit in Sudan. Much aid; programmes last, on of Dubai Cares’ work focuses average, from three to five on Africa, where the need for years. By Dubai Cares’ lights, improved access to primary education is vast this is catalytic philanthropy: with innovative thinking, each dollar spent on education can reverberate across the wider economy. “Time and time again, countries have proved that education is the driver for economic development. It works. It can eliminate poverty,” Al Gurg says. “An educated mother will teach her child. An educated mother vaccinates her child. The impact can be felt through generations.” Less than a decade ago, philanthropy was seen as a sideshow to the real business

of development aid. Foundations were a source of cash for established aid actors, but had little sway or say in how money was doled out on the ground. Increasingly, these lines are blurring. In under seven years, Dubai Cares has gained the ear of some of the industry’s largest players. This is in part a reflection of the efforts it has made to compile and share data from its programmes. The foundation blends field visits with employing third-party consultants to track the impact of its spend and see how it could improve. In 2012, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon invited Dubai Cares to join a fiveyear panel tasked with shaping the global post-2015 blueprint for education. This



The amount invested to date by Dubai Cares in 72 programmes across more than 30 countries


“Time and time again, countries have proved education is the driver for economic development” seat at the table was proof, says Al Gurg, that aid agencies have something to gain from private donors. “We want evidence-based programmes. We use data to show what works, what doesn’t, what we’re missing – and to show that education is a mechanism to wipe out poverty,” he says. “This analysis is the most important thing we bring to the party. It really opened our partners’ eyes and showed there is a new player in the sector with a lot of thoughts on how to move the conversation forward.” Much of this change will have its roots in disruptive innovation. The role of


private philanthropy, says Al Gurg, is not to develop in parallel with traditional global aid agencies but to challenge them. In straitened times, when state financing for development work is sliding – aid from rich countries to poorer nations fell by 4 per cent in 2012 – philanthropy is often seen as a quick way to fill the yawning cash gap. Instead, he insists, it should play the role of risk capital, dabbling with new ideas that can be scaled up by governments or official agencies if they prove to pay off. As a small, nimble outlet – Dubai Cares employs just 31 people – it has the edge over large non-profits, who often must battle red tape

and funding barriers to trial new methods. “We take calculated risks. We fund innovative pilot programmes. We are here to help change the game,” says Al Gurg. “Development has been running for 40, 50 years along the same lines, and needs a shake-up. We need more efficiency, lower costs, and the ability to create more social impact. “I think of it like large ships and tug boats,” he continues. “We can help nudge the large players on to a new course, if we have the right data to prove our case.” This seed funding is particularly critical as the debate over the changing pattern of global poverty heats up. Data suggests

The National/ Razan Alzayani


that a rising number of the world’s poorest people – those who survive on less than $1.25 a day – now live in middle-income, rather than traditionally ‘poor’ countries. For the aid industry, this is a sharp dilemma. Once a nation crosses the threshold into middle-income status, it may see its foreign aid cut, or no longer qualify for help from certain development players. Richer states, the argument goes, can afford to take care of their own. For families living below the poverty line in these countries, or for national schemes that rely on aid to exist, private donors may become a vital flow of funding as traditional streams dry up.

In October, Dubai Cares pledged $6m to fund education programmes for girls in South Sudan, Mozambique and the Philippines, in partnership with the development agency Plan International Canada. The money will be used to bolster primary school attendance and to increase the number of girls continuing to secondary education. The World Bank tags two of these countries as lower middle-income. Partly as a result, said Tanjina Mirza, vice president of international programmes at Plan, it can be “very difficult” to attract foreign donors. The funding will be rolled out over four years. By then, Dubai Cares expects the scheme’s success will enable MAIN  There are an estimated it either to drum up fresh 57 million children out of school financing and scale up, or worldwide, a critical barrier to net government ownership. the economic development of poorer nations “With any programme, if you get the innovation right LEFT  Dubai Cares believes and mix it with the right providing education for children scale and sustainability, it operates as a catalyst for change can be incredibly effective,” in the wider community says Al Gurg. “But you have to be in the big leagues, sitting on the right panels and talking to the right players if you really want to impact the development industry. You can’t do it alone. You need the data to show that it works, and the size to command attention.” Al Gurg’s policy of change extends to Dubai Cares itself. A former banker, he is results-driven, favouring an impact-led approach to philanthropy that is popular in the west but rarer in the Arab world. Under his steer, Dubai Cares has streamlined its operations and increased its analysis of how its funding is performing. Programmes are rigorously monitored for success and failure, and the results fed back into the foundation’s future plans. This year may see further tweaks in strategy for the foundation. Dubai Cares has to date shied away from emergency aid – there are, says Al Gurg, “plenty of actors” in the field already – but the ripple effect of the Arab Spring, and the ongoing conflict in Syria, has prompted a rethink. “What’s happening in the Arab world has

“What’s happening in the Arab world has opened our eyes to how some ‘emergencies’ can last for years” opened our eyes to how some ‘emergencies’ can last for years,” says Al Gurg. “When this happens, education is never classified as a first response: it’s shelter, medical, food. As part of our 2014 strategy, we may look at programmes for the longer-term conflicts here in the region.” Still, the focus will remain firmly on the estimated 57 million children out of school worldwide. From its early days as a sizeable giver to other aid agencies’ programmes, Dubai Cares has morphed into an active campaigner for universal education. Its schemes span from school health and nutrition, to teacher training and sanitation, all aimed at removing barriers that keep children in poorer nations out of the classroom. In Ethiopia, it is backing a pilot scheme in 30 schools, which sources produce from smallholder farmers to provide school meals for local children. This is paired with a school-based deworming programme, to bolster the health of students, and funding to improve the water, sanitation and hygiene facilities on offer. In total, the three-year scheme is expected to tackle the school health and nutrition needs of 30,700 children, alongside providing a guaranteed income to struggling local farmers in the eastern African country. “That’s a programme designed by us, to champion healthy, well-fed children with access to education,” says Al Gurg. “It epitomises what we are about. We were created for a cause that we believe in, but we also want to play a part in shaping the global story on education. I think we can.”  n



MAIN  Dubai Cares is investing $1.7m with the aim of enrolling more than 7,000 Bosnian children in preschool classes over a two-year period



Early learning in Bosnia-Herzegovina:

Class struggle BY  Joanne Bladd


The National/Razan Alzayani

attling coloured blocks around a table, Nejra Zukan looks like any other child in her preschool class at play. But this is a day her mother doubted she’d see. Six-year-old Nejra has Down syndrome and, until recently, no public school in her home city of Visoko, in central Bosnia-Herzegovina, had the means to offer her a place. Now, thanks to a preschool scheme funded by UAE-based foundation Dubai Cares, Nejra receives 15 hours of free schooling a week; tuition her mother hopes will bolster her chances of netting a place in mainstream primary school in a year’s time. “We’ve already seen positive changes; she loves school,” says Fahra Zukan. “She’d never had the chance to attend before, because there were no facilities for her. Even if there were, it would have been very difficult for us to find the money. But now we hope she might be able to attend primary school next year.”

Nejra is one of more than 7,000 Bosnian children Dubai Cares hopes to enrol in preschool classes over the next two years, following the launch of a $1.7m educational drive in November. The Early Learning Education programme, carried out in partnership with the UN’s children’s fund, Unicef, will target children aged between 4 and 5 in a bid to unlock access to organised early learning in the country. The scheme will span 45 municipalities in the Balkan nation and seeks to reach 350 children with learning difficulties or disabilities, and around 400 Roma children. Both rank among the community’s most marginalised groups. “Children in 30 per cent of all municipalities across Bosnia-Herzegovina will now have access to preschool education,” says Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares. “This programme will help develop human capital. Educated youth will

“There are clear correlations between preschool education, learning outcomes and even salary”

have a key role to play in the prosperity and growth of this country.” In rich nations, preschool offers a year of play and classes to prep children for the more serious business of learning. Gains include better literacy, language, and numerical skills and, crucially, an opportunity to tackle learning difficulties at an early stage. Children who skip this stage may reach school unready to learn – and never catch up with their peers. Compulsory education for Bosnian children kicks in at 6 or 7, a late start by European standards. Worse, only a fraction of cities offer state-funded preschool classes, and often at just 150 hours of tuition per child a year. Less than 14 per cent of Bosnian children are currently enrolled in early education, according to Unicef, a figure that plummets to 2 per cent among the country’s poorest families, and 1.5 per cent among the Roma population. Backed by Dubai Cares, the aid agency hopes to enable more children to start preschool at the age of 4, and to double the class time offered to 300 hours – or six months – for each child. “This programme is a way for us to reach some of the country’s most vulnerable


children,” says Florence Bauer, Unicef representative, Bosnia-Herzegovina. “There are clear correlations between preschool education, learning outcomes and even salary. This is something that has an impact on a child’s whole life.” Bosnia-Herzegovina’s fragmented school system is a legacy of the country’s brutal 1992-1995 war. The bloody siege of Sarajevo, which left an estimated 100,000 people dead, is still visible in the mortar shell scars and partly destroyed buildings that mark the Bosnian capital today. It remains a fragile state marred by ethnic divisions, economic hardship and a system of political power sharing so unwieldy that it stifles decision-making and slows crucial reform. More than half of Bosnian youth are unemployed, marking one of the highest



Percentage of Bosnian children enrolled in preschool education

rates in Europe, while national joblessness rates hover at more than 25 per cent. The country is in the familiar bind of a middle-income state. It’s not poor enough to readily attract funding for its school sector, but isn’t rich enough to make up for the loss of those development dollars. “It’s a little outside the global agenda,” says Bauer. “The war was 20 years ago, so many people don’t realise there are still such difficulties. I think Bosnia-Herzegovina has dropped off the radar a little.” The programme also seeks to train preschool teachers in spotting and supporting children with learning disabilities, and other conditions such as autism. State-funded aid for special needs children in Bosnia-Herzegovina is almost nonexistent, and many fall through the cracks of the public school system. For children of poor families, or those in rural areas, the barriers to accessing support are even higher. By intervening early, Dubai Cares and Unicef hope to help more children progress through mainstream school. “Special needs support here is so weak. The goal is to catch the at-risk children early, so they can hopefully go on to regular school,” says Nirvana Pistoljevic, the executive director of Edus, a non-profit that trains teachers to work with special needs children, and is working alongside Dubai

The National/Razan Alzayani


Cares and Unicef. “The training is to identify the children’s needs, [offer] basic intervention and building blocks. It’s a first step.” Those in government are eager to see the scheme expand, and grow long-term, a prospect that will require fresh donors and, eventually, state ownership. “We are just at the beginning of this very important process,” says Dr Goran Cerkez, assistant minister of health, Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. “If we want to really help our children, it has to be with a longterm plan. It’s not about emergency aid any more, but development: we don’t need fish, we need to know how to fish.”  n

ABOVE  Dubai Cares hopes to enable more children to start preschool at the age of 4, and to double the amount of class time offered to 300 hours per child





Evolving innovation Private sector firms and non-profit agencies are joining forces to develop new technologies offering faster, cheaper and more efficient solutions to a wide range of humanitarian problems

BY Anthea Ayache hen the mothers of Ngombe, on the outskirts of the Zambian capital Lusaka, gathered under a shaded canopy late in the summer of 2010, they did so to help save the lives of their present and future children. Over the course of an informal hour, they took the opportunity to share first-hand views on diarrhoea-related child deaths, the scourge of communities the length of the African continent. A handful had suffered the heartache of watching helplessly as a child succumbed to the preventable disease, while all had spent scarce finances treating the country’s third biggest killer of children under five. Now the women had a chance to contribute directly to a solution. The Kit Yamoyo, meaning ‘kit of life’ in the local Chichewa dialect, is an oral rehydration package that is the brainchild of Simon and Jane Berry, co-founders of global non-profit organisation ColaLife. Their award-winning idea was to develop an anti-diarrhoeal kit that could slot into Coca-Cola crates, piggybacking the world’s most desirable distribution chain and proving that if Coca-Cola could reach the


remotest parts of Africa, then so too could much-needed medicines. The Berrys approached affected communities in Zambia to formulate a culturally relevant design that would be effective, affordable and accepted by its intended recipients. “A key thing we did was to involve the end users right at the very beginning,” recalls Simon Berry. “It was during that process we realised that measurement was a critical issue. Aid organisations were providing communities with 1-litre sachets yet a single child will only drink about 400ml. The end-users didn’t know what a litre was and even if they did, they had nothing to measure it in.” Happy with their eventual design, the couple approached their private sector partner, Pharmanova, to investigate whether a simple plastic container carrying the World Health Organisation (WHO)recommended quantity of anti-diarrhoeal treatments (oral hydration salts, zinc, and soap) could also serve as a measuring and mixing device, while still having suitable dimensions for Coca-Cola crates. “Collaboration with the private sector

was absolutely crucial,” says Berry. “We had no implementation capacity ourselves because we didn’t want to become a part of the local infrastructure. We want to bring people together who are already here to do what needs to be done.” The Kit Yamoyo, which affords a minimal margin to the manufacturer and a profit for rural shopkeepers, retails at the same price as a bunch of bananas, making it affordable for mothers. While saving lives through creating value from a profit chain, the innovation also shows what can be achieved when private sector expertise is harnessed for humanitarian causes. Collaborative practice between public and private sector players to innovate for social good is no new concept, but such partnerships have never been more in-demand. Traditionally opposed actors are coming together to design mutually beneficial low-cost, effective products and processes. While the private sector has historically been absent from the humanitarian sphere due to the assumption that aid should be provided by governments or related agencies, attitudes that now ‘crowd in’ in commercial companies, rather than crowd them out, are prevailing. “I think there is gradual shift, but I still encounter some scepticism,” says Alexander Betts, professor at the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre, and director of the Humanitarian Innovation Project. “That comes from a view of the private sector as being profit maximising and therefore purely driven by a motive to make money, something often seen as antithetical to humanitarian response.” However as crises around the globe – both humanitarian and financial – develop, and the need for critical funding soars, both sides are stepping outside of their traditional roles and recognising the mutual benefits and possibilities that can come from collaborative innovation. “I think there’s a recognition from the commercial sector of their responsibility for global health,” explains David Kaslow, vice president of PATH, a Seattle-based



non-profit organisation ABOVE  ColaLife piggybacks on the distribution chain of Cocathat pioneers sustainable Cola, allowing it to reach people health solutions. “Likewise in remote corners of Africa there’s a shift from those in the public health sector RIGHT  The SoloShot single-use syringe has delivered more than to realise the value that 6 million vaccinations since it the commercial sector can was introduced in the early 90s bring to bear. It’s going to be difficult for the public sector to redundantly replicate what the commercial sector does really well and it actually doesn’t make a lot of sense so, if there’s a way of working together, then it’s a win-win situation.” With the rise of information and communication technology and other response processes, humanitarians are looking more and more to experts in the private sector to co-develop and invest in new solutions. “The private sector plays a fundamental role in humanitarian response generally,” explains Kim Scriven, manager of the Humanitarian Innovation Fund

“When you have simple, inexpensive technology with the right partner, you can really get that innovation scaled up”


(HIF), which supports the development, implementation and testing of innovation in humanitarian contexts. “However it has a particular role to play in developing innovation, bringing in new ideas, new technologies, and new processes.” He highlights a recent partnership between the HIF, UNICEF and a global software company, Thoughtworks, to build an open source mobile phone and data storage application aimed at speeding up the process by which separated children are reunited with their parents in emergency situations. RapidFTR (Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification), which is still in its pilot phase across several locations in Asia, Africa and South America,

allows aid workers to input vital information from displaced children into a mobile phone, effectively streamlining the current antiquated process, which relies on time-consuming paperwork and leaves children vulnerable to exploitation. RapidFTR is presently being rolled out in Tacloban, the Philippine city worst affected by the recent Typhoon Haiyan. Other simple innovations such as PATH’s SoloShot syringe, which brought together non-profit and private actors in the name of innovation, have changed the lives of millions. The design, which was created in collaboration with BD, one of the world’s largest syringe manufacturers, was aimed at curtailing the spread of infection by


preventing needle re-use. Recent studies suggest that of the annual 12 billion injections administered globally, more than 40 per cent happen with unsterilised syringes, predominantly in low-income communities. Recognising a problem that could be effectively and affordably addressed (the SoloShot currently retails at $0.02 more than disposable syringes), the organisations developed a syringe that would auto-disable once its contents had been delivered. “It was originally introduced in the early 90s,” explains Kaslow, “and it is estimated that 6 billion vaccinations have been delivered through the SoloShot syringe in 40 developing countries since. So when you have simple, inexpensive technology with the right partner, you can really get that innovation scaled up and outdoors where it’s needed.” From a development perspective, such innovation is sorely needed. At a conference in July last year Valerie Amos, the United Nations undersecretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, highlighted the fact that many of the tools and processes which are currently deployed in humanitarian crises were developed decades ago and consequently are no longer fit for purpose. She also stressed the need for ongoing investment and innovation in the humanitarian space. “In terms of child mortality if we continue at the current rate of progress it will take more than 100 years for child survival rates in sub-Saharan Africa to get to the level they already are in Europe today,” warns Simon Berry at ColaLife. “That’s why we need innovation, because steady progress at current rates is not going to solve the problem for literally a century.” And although access to affordable, lifesaving technology is of obvious benefit to the aid sector, the for-profit partners gain too. For the private sector, such work is not only an effective brand-marketing tool but also an opportunity for greater profit margins in high-volume markets. Commercial multinationals are

Case Study: The IKEA Foundation prototype shelter The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has the capacity in an emergency to assist 600,000 people within 72 hours. However, as a consequence of the unfolding crises in Syria and the Philippines, and countless other humanitarian emergencies, the organisation is being pushed to its very limits. Collaboration between UNHCR and its largest private sector donor, the IKEA Foundation (which recently pledged a funding commitment of $95m over three years), has resulted in a solar-powered prototype shelter for emergency housing – an innovation that could make all the difference to displaced communities and refugees. Currently in the pilot phase, the IKEA shelters could soon be a viable replacement for UNHCR canvas tents. Potentially transitional and therefore fit for UNHCR purpose, the homes that are currently being field tested in the refugee camps of Ethiopia and northern Iraq are made of lightweight polymer panels that attract solar energy, provide UV protection, and are thermally insulated, keeping them cooler during the day and warmer at night.

“The shelters will be a better solution against the heat, rain and dust,” says Olivier Delarue, who leads UNHCR’s partnership-building efforts with the corporate sector. “For the first time, it will offer a solar electrical source for lighting and phone charging. This is a tremendous development when you realise that almost all the camps are not on an electrical grid and therefore are pitch dark after 6pm. It will provide an opportunity for children to study at night and also some dignity and protection.” The partnership brings together UNHCR, Swedish social enterprise organisation the Refugee Housing Unit (RHU), and the charitable foundation of corporate giant IKEA. With its partners’ help, the IKEA Foundation has been able to mass-produce the shelters, and drive down the unit cost from $7,000 to $1,000. “Each [partner] adds something unique,” explains John Spampinato of the IKEA Foundation. “RHU is nimble, flexible and super innovative. UNHCR has tremendous competence and global reach. And the IKEA Foundation plays the classic non-profit role of offering financing to overcome a market failure.”



“There is a graveyard of attempts to develop products outside of consultation with communities”

profit-making not philanthropic, but as Scriven points out; “Humanitarians will be doing things their organisations are designed for and the private sector will be doing things in their interest. It’s when those things are mutually beneficial that there is scope for successful collaboration.” With acknowledgement among the world’s largest intergovernmental organisations that funding is becoming progressively limited, private sector support is a valuable option. “If you can innovate for, say, the 43 million displaced people in the world,” explains Betts, “you are in turn effectively innovating for the bottom 2 billion who live on less than $2 a day. That may be an exaggeration, but it highlights a very real business motive.” For all the opportunities that may follow, it goes without saying that innovation by definition carries a risk of failure. Although many organisations have a desire to develop new tools for the humanitarian sector, they may shy away from carrying that risk alone. Add to this the natural caution of regulatory bodies, and progress can be slow. “Some of that [risk aversion] makes sense,” says Kaslow at PATH. “However some of that is a conventional way of thinking and we need to break out of that.

If they are too risk-averse they slow down the development of products for people who really need them, so there’s an opportunity cost linked with that delay.” While conscious of the need for due diligence, humanitarian organisations are keen that this should not act as a barrier to change. “The humanitarian system is risk-averse but it is becoming less so,” says Scriven at HIF. “We’re creating spaces that allow organisations to form new partnerships and take risks in ways that protect beneficiaries and users, but also allow the organisation to fail and try new things.” While it is agreed that more room must be made for measured risk, humanitarian organisations are quick to emphasise that this should not open the door to untested practices and technologies. One of the most important factors on which experts are unanimous, is the need for a ‘bottom-up’ methodology for innovation, where from the very start the design is made in consultation with the end-user. “It’s one thing to take a product design and show that it works technically, but it’s another to identify that it is going to be used and seen as appropriate by

ABOVE  Valerie Amos, the head of the UN’s refugee agency, has warned that many of the tools deployed in humanitarian crises are no longer fit for purpose

the community,” explains Betts at the University of Oxford. “There is a graveyard of attempts to develop products outside of consultation with communities. I visit exhibition fairs where companies are trying to sell products to the humanitarian world. They may have done a three-day trip to Haiti to look at the post-earthquake environment; the assumption is that they can design a product to sell to international organisations. It doesn’t work that way.” Maintaining a constant dialogue with the communities for which the product is designed is critically important, and organisations agree that when there is a clear line of sight, the stages of development have a much higher probability of success. Nevertheless, emergency situations do not always afford the luxury of time. “In theory a humanitarian aid agency that’s developing a new programme should be as focused on the users as Apple is when they’re developing a new iPad,” says Scriven, “In practice, that’s not always the case; the imperatives to move quickly and the incentives from donors don’t always align to make that happen.” Despite these hurdles, it is clear that collaboration between the private and humanitarian sectors will drive much of the in-field technology of tomorrow. That a simple idea such as ColaLife could be named by PATH as among 10 innovations that could save the lives of 1.2 million children and mothers by the end of 2015, is testament to the impact of innovation – and to the mothers of Ngombe. n



Urban gardens in Egypt:

The rooftop revolution



BY Jonathan Kalan o view Cairo from the air is to be confronted with a startling sense of uniformity. As far as the eye can see, monuments of ancient civilisations, 20th century skyscrapers and informal low-rise settlements are caked in a thousand shades of tan: sand, dust and dirt cloak the landscape. Yet these days, if you look a little closer, you might see some spots of green – and growing opportunity – for Cairo’s 9 million residents. Founded in 2011, an urban farming start-up called Schaduf is working to transform Cairo’s rooftops – often tenant scrapyards amassing decades of decrepit furniture and other rubbish – into healthy, sustainable and productive micro-farms that green the city and create a local, organic source of fresh vegetables. Using low-cost and locally available materials, Schaduf has developed a hydroponic farming system that helps low-income residents turn their rooftops into blossoming vegetable gardens filled with rocket, lettuce, parsley, dill, coriander, spinach and more, generating muchneeded extra income in the process.


“We’re taking [local] produce, selling it in upscale markets, and bringing the money back to lower income areas,” explains Schaduf CEO and co-founder Sherif Hosny. Born and raised in Cairo and with an MBA from the city’s American University, Honsy took an unusual route to the rooftops. He first worked in food packaging in Dubai, and went on to become managing director for Middle East and Gulf at Rio Tinto Alcan, part of the one of the world’s largest metals and minerals firms. It wasn’t enough, however. “I felt like I wasn’t adding a lot of value,” says the 34-year-old. So, like many who find themselves spinning their wheels in a corporate environment, he decided to quit and travel the world. Along with his brother and eventual Schaduf co-founder, Tarek, Hosny spent time with Worldwide Workers On Organic Farms, a global volunteer exchange in organic and sustainable farming. Working at an aquaponics farm in Louisiana, the two brothers had little experience in agriculture and so volunteered to help the farm’s owner run the business side of his operations. When the farm owner

“We have a lot of unused rooftops, a lot of unemployment, and a good climate”



mentioned he was trying to ABOVE  Schaduf has installed gardens on the rooftops of small find a way to help victims buses, in an effort to spread of Hurricane Katrina, they the word about the viability of suggested he reduce the rooftop gardening size of the aquaponic systems so that people could use it in their homes. While the product didn’t quite take off in Louisiana, it sparked another idea. “We also thought we could do the same thing for Egypt,” Hosny recalls. “We have a lot of unused rooftops, a lot of unemployment, and a good climate [for growing].” In March 2011, on the heels of Egypt’s revolution, Hosny and his brother returned to Cairo to start building prototypes. “We had to make [the system] cheap,” Hosny says, if they expected Cairo’s low-income residents to be able to purchase it on loan, for which the acceptable range is between EGP2,000 and EGP3,000 ($290 and $440).



The rise in income of some Cairo residents, thanks to rooftop farms


“Our first model cost more than EGP10,000 ($1,430), but people didn’t want to take loans that high,” he says. Eventually, they shifted away from aquaponics – which uses a fishtank with raised beds, with plants receiving nutrients from the fish waste – to a much simpler hydroponics system, a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. “To learn about fish and vegetable farming at the same time is difficult,” Hosny explains. “Plus, power cuts in summer can be difficult for fish, when you consider cooling, heating, and water filtration.” Today, the hydroponics systems cost around EGP2,500 ($358) for 20-squaremetres of growing area in a 45 sq m space, and are estimated to last for 10 years each. Cairo has always been host to a somewhat ad-hoc rooftop farming culture – many rooftops have geese or chickens – but this has never been formalised, connected or commercialised. Schaduf, named for an ancient irrigation tool that is still used by farmers in many countries today, and which lifts water to irrigation canals for harvesting crops, aims to concentrate and commercialise rooftop farming in Cairo by developing clusters of 10 or more urban micro-farms in different neighbourhoods around the city. The firm adds value by playing an active role in the process, from financing and

training to creating market linkages. By teaming up with local microfinance institutions, they first help clients secure loans for setup, installation, seeds and fertilisers. Schaduf offers clients a month of free training on sustainable urban micro-farming, and then sends professionally schooled agronomists to stop by on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to check on each farm’s development. The final step is delivery to market: when the vegetables are ready to harvest, Schaduf purchases them from the farmers at fair market prices, and delivers them to local markets and restaurants. Without the essential market linkage,


Blipp To view interactive content, see page 7 for instructions

the whole endeavour, says Hosny, would be unsustainable; similar government programmes have failed in the past. “If it doesn’t make profit, it doesn’t make sense.” By aggregating farmers and bringing their produce to market – while taking a small cut to fund their own operations – the company is able to expand and thus extend its social and economic impact. To date, Schaduf has trained more than 80 farmers at three training centres located throughout Cairo’s lower-income neighbourhoods. Around 40 rooftop gardens are up and running so far. Most residents in these neighbourhoods earn between

EGP600 ($86) and EGP1,000 ABOVE  Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral ($143) a month; from a 45 nutrient solutions in water, sq m garden that requires without soil; each hydroponics less than 30 minutes of system costs around EGP2,500 labour a day, they can earn a further EGP200 ($29) to EGP300 ($57) per month – an additional income boost of as much as 40 per cent. Yet increased income, according to Hosny, is only one part of the company’s social impact. “There’s less garbage on rooftops, and kids are playing on those rooftops because they are nicer,” he explains. “In addition, if we grow to a larger scale, you can decrease the temperature of

the local micro-climate.” Plants, he explains, can absorb the heat and CO2 emissions. Of course, it will take more than a few dozen rooftop gardens to improve the climate of one of the world’s most polluted cities, and at the moment Schaduf is taking small steps forward. “It’s something new, and people are still afraid,” says Hosny. “We’re starting with something small, so people can get used to it.” Schaduf will only be profitable when it has reached hundreds of farmers, so in the meantime it is also selling systems at a markup to hobbyists who want to build their own gardens. The company has even installed mini gardens on the top of a handful of small buses that nudge around the city’s clogged streets. It’s mainly for show, but it makes a powerful statement: if you can grow vegetables in the thick smog of Cairo traffic, you really can grow them anywhere in the city. Slowly but surely, the green shoots of a rooftop revolution are emerging.  n



DIGITAL DOLLARS Mobile money is at the heart of a digital payment movement that aims to deliver financial services to the world’s poorest communities BY Adrienne Cernigoi ueuing at the bank is a familiar gripe, but for teachers at Aishai-Durani high school in Kabul, Afghanistan, it was the cost of getting paid. Each month they would wait for up to four hours to collect their salaries. If they didn’t reach the cashier’s desk by 1.30pm, they would return the next day to queue again. Now they receive their wages at the ping of an SMS. They are part of a pilot project through which 500 teachers in Kabul use their mobile phones to receive salary payments. The scheme



also provides them with a bank account, allowing access to other financial tools. The group is part of a global digital payment, or m-money, revolution. In just six years, the industry has swelled to 82 million subscribers worldwide, with subSaharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America leading the charge. It has been hailed as an example of how technology can be harnessed for the poor, to bring financial services within reach of the unbanked. The concept is simple, but the impact significant. Mobile phones are used to perform banking functions quickly and

cheaply, including paying bills, transferring cash to other users, and receiving funds. The idea is compatible with any phone: an agent deposits cash into a virtual wallet, and the recipient is sent an SMS alert and security pin, allowing them to cash in the value. The issue of financial inclusion is an acute one. One in two adults globally do not have a bank account, according to the World Bank. The Washington-based International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, estimates that banking services reach just 22 per cent of working adults in South Asia and 12 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. Such limited inclusion is seen as a primary obstacle to economic development. The world’s 2.5 billion unbanked are reliant on cash, which is easily lost or stolen, and can prove expensive to use for small transactions. Up to a quarter of savings


MAIN  Mobile banking has been hailed as an innovative way to bring financial services to those in remote areas, such as small business owners with little access to mainstream banking

are lost a year when cash is stockpiled at home, claims Tillman Bruett, manager of the mobile money for the poor programme at the UN’s Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). Paying bills by mobile phone can be up to 40 per cent cheaper than a bank visit, says Michael Wakileh, CEO of software company ProgressSoft, which specialises in digital payment systems. And these problems are if you can get money at all. “Putting a bank branch in a rural area where you don’t have a dense population is expensive. The beauty of mobile money is that it’s a lighter touch way to reach people,” says Greta Bull, programme manager for the IFC’s Partnership for Financial Inclusion. Among the most successful digital payment models is Kenya’s M-Pesa service. Conceived for microfinance loan repayments, M-Pesa launched in 2007 and has

enjoyed phenomenal growth. Some 70 per cent of Kenyan adults use it today, helping to drive financial inclusion levels in the African country from 41 per cent in 2009 to nearly 67 per cent today. With similar underlying trends, poorer Arab countries are ripe for m-money. A European Investment Bank study in 2012 of six Arab states, including Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt, found mobile penetration at 105 per cent. Access to finance, by comparison, was a meagre 36 per cent. For these large, young and unbanked populations, mobile money could be used to transfer remittances and pay bills. In such a new industry, the need to keep transaction fees affordable can be lost as private operators scrap for a slice of what some have called a mobile money gold rush. The data is tempting: more than $4.5bn was transacted globally

over mobiles in the month of June 2012 alone. Operators also face eye-watering set-up costs for digital payment systems of between $7m to $10m over three years. But keeping user fees low is critical if these systems are to attract the low-income households that comprise much of their target market, and scale up. “If I pay my electricity bill, but you charge me $1.50 to $2.00 per transaction, I would rather take the bus and stand in line for four to five hours to pay $0.50 or $1.00,” explains Joey Mendoza, mobile money result leader for USAID’s financial access programme in Afghanistan, FAIDA. In Afghanistan, less than 5 per cent of the population is banked but mobile penetration stands at 45 per cent. Mobile operator Roshan launched its M-Paisa service in the country in 2008, and began disbursing civil servants’ salaries a year




Mobile money generates 60 per cent of GDP in Kenya, according to industry group GSMA later. The network charges $3.50 for each salary transfer, a cost that the US military has been forced to subsidise. Until users see the added benefits of mobile money, they will not accept being charged to use the service, says Malalai Wassil, chief legal officer at Roshan. “Until, say, a farmer starts to see he can use the system to increase quality, or even barter, I can’t get him to see that he should be charged 1 to 2 per cent for each transaction,” she says. “When you have 1.2 million registered users and a lot of them are poor people our aim is not to charge an arm and a leg.” Balancing profit and access is a delicate act, but income is key to mobile money’s long-term future. Industry body GSMA reports that of more than 200 digital payment systems worldwide, just 14 are currently in the black. “The only way a service can keep running is if everyone involved makes a profit, however small,” says Paul Makin, head of mobile money for e-transaction agency Consult Hyperion. “We reckon until you get to around the 1 million customer mark, you’re not going to be profitable.” In Afghanistan, mobile operators are trying new approaches. “You can’t have volume of transactions if you have a barrier to entry that’s very high. Etisalat [which offers digital electricity payments] and Afghan Wireless [which remits teachers’ salaries] have got it right,” says Mendoza


Blipp To view interactive content, see page 7 for instructions

at FAIDA. “They’ve said they will only recover their fees, not make money, in the next four to five years. OPPOSITE  One in two adults The strategy is to get new worldwide do not have a bank customers and have a account, according to World retention programme.” Bank data The next step is to create a cash-lite system. While distance is no barrier between sender and recipient, users are still reliant on mobile money agents to cash in their money transfers. These agents, which are often small businesses or grocery stores, enable customers to convert electronic transfers into currency and back again. Managing this network of agents, however, is expensive. “They’re using the money in their tills to help finance this cash-in/cash-out system. If they run out of money then their whole business has to shut down. The further you get from densely populated urban areas, the more costly it is to make sure that ABOVE  Some 82 million people worldwide use mobile money networks, with sub-Saharan Africa one of the largest markets

liquidity is in place,” says Bull at IFC. Industry analysts have suggested replacing money with digital payments, turning a mobile phone into a virtual wallet. Rather than cashing in money transfers, users would instead pay for purchases or settle bills with their phones, by waving the handsets over an electronic reader. The value of the bill would be deducted from their electronic balance, without any cash needing to change hands. In Afghanistan M-Paisa is looking at linking its money agents to a virtual payment system, Wassil says, to allow these digital transactions. Technology can also combat the risk of fraud, ensuring even the most basic of phones can make payments in shops. Consult Hyperion has developed a prototype tag, WinguPay, which uses a radio signal to connect handsets with receivers at cash registers. Each tag costs $0.70 and can be attached to any device. The company is trialling the tag in




Virtual Spring Security, poor infrastructure and corruption make money a challenging business in Afghanistan. There are 38 ATMs and 350 bank branches across the country serving more than 30 million people. In 2006, less than 1 per cent of government employees were paid electronically; by 2012 this figure had risen to 70 per cent. Mobile operator Roshan began disbursing salaries for teachers and police officers in 2009. Starting with 200 payments a month, the M-Paisa system is now the vehicle for more than 10,000 salaries a month. Civil servants previously had to wait for government agents to arrive in their district to distribute bags of cash. “Prior to using M-Paisa, about 30 per cent of their money was being skimmed off the top. Our CEO was stopped by a police officer to say thank you for giving him extra money. The reality was they were only being paid their real salaries,” says Malalai Wassil, Roshan’s chief legal officer. In Kabul province, another 500 teachers are receiving their salaries via mobile money. The USAID-funded programme FAIDA began the pilot in April 2013 with four schools. The plan is to extend to 60 schools by 2014, reaching approximately 6,000 teachers.

Nigeria, using it to send agricultural subsidies to farmers. French-based firm Tagattitude uses a phone’s microphone to emit a burst of sound – similar to a coded chirp – and complete payment transactions. The connection between poor, rural communities and financial services remains weak. The cost of setting up a mobile money system, building an agent network and luring customers means digital money remains a largely urban phenomenon. “Mobile network operators are not charities. So they go for the low-hanging fruit first: the densely populated urban areas. As those areas get saturated they’ll go further out,” says Bull. As a result, mobile money has yet to touch the world’s poorest. Those at the bottom of the pyramid face hurdles including not being able to afford a mobile phone. In some societies, women may not be allowed to own their own handset. In Pakistan, a poll of 4,940 rural households last year found respondents used mobile money between two or five times a month. The study, however, carried out by research consultancy Intermedia, found demand for over-the-counter (OTC) transactions – where agents complete the money transfer for customers using their own handsets – to be significantly higher. Pakistan’s EasyPaisa system, a tie-up between Tameer Microfinance and telecoms firm Telenor, has 5 million OTC users against 2.4 million mobile wallet customers. “Is it complete and total financial inclusion? No. But they’re still making a payment. Payment services are a gateway to other services,” says Bull.

Aid agencies, too, are adopting digital payments to reduce costs and distribute help more efficiently. The UN’s World Food Programme in October replaced its paper coupon system with electronic cards for 800,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon and 300,000 in Jordan. The new e-cards, which are automatically recharged each month with $27 per person, allow users to buy food for their families in local shops. Donor funding has played a crucial role in kick-starting the sector. M-Pesa was born of a partnership between mobile giant Vodafone and UK aid agency DFID. Each put in £1m ($1.6m) to develop a pilot project. After six months, DFID exited and left Vodafone to commercialise the service. Charitable foundations are being encouraged to engage with mobile money services, in an effort to reach the World Bank’s target of universal financial access by 2020. “There aren’t a lot of examples of this reaching our target population. There is a role for our organisations to look at more difficult countries, help defray the costs and encourage the private sector,” says Bruett at the UNCDF. “The potential is tremendous. But we’ve got a way to go before we can do what we really want, which is reach the poor.”  n

ABOVE  The World Food Programme has rolled out electronic cards for Syrian refugees, enabling them to buy food and goods at local stores

“The potential is tremendous. But we’ve got a way to go before we can do what we really want, which is reach the poor”



Financial muscle The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation believes that ‘digital money’ systems offer the greatest potential for the world’s poorest households to access formal financial services, weather financial shocks, and take maximum advantage of any opportunities to move out of poverty. Philanthropy Age talks to Rodger Voorhies, director of Financial Services for the Poor at the Gates Foundation, to learn more


Why are traditional financial systems failing the poor? Around 2.5 billion people, the 77 per cent living on under $2 a day, are excluded from current financial systems. Why? Firstly, the traditional financial system is built around a transaction size that is too large for most poor people. A poor person who wants to buy a day’s worth of sugar is being forced to shop in a hypermarket and buy 5kg of sugar. It’s the same with financial services, where the poor want to transact in small amounts but are forced to transact in large ones. Secondly, at the moment serving the poor doesn’t work well for most providers either. The infrastructure of branches, ATMs and debit cards is expensive to build and maintain, as it was originally built for the middle class and the wealthy in urban areas, not explicitly for reaching out to the poor. Thirdly, the infrastructure does not always reach into communities where many rural poor live.



What impact does this have on the lowest-income households? It has a huge developmental and welfare impact on [poor] families. Because the poor are cut off from financial systems they are forced to store value through physical assets – cash, jewellery or livestock – and that’s just not a safe or reliable way to save money, so savings are not there when they are needed. It means that the poor are constantly in a cycle of having to come up with ways of dealing with economic shocks. Every time there is an

unanticipated life event, good or bad – like a wedding, new baby, illness or drought – it pushes them further into poverty. If they had access to even small amounts of savings it could buffer them against risks, like having money to care for a sick child.


Would a digital approach help to address these problems? Yes. Because basic financial services are not available to the majority of the poor, it ultimately means that 45 per cent of all adults are not getting to participate in the formal global economy, which is missing out on the productivity of these 2.5 billion people. This can be addressed by moving to digital financial services, which also takes out 90 per cent of the cost of delivering financial services to poor people. We believe that one of the ways that government can play a role is to begin to digitise their payments to the poor. We think that also saves money for the government, as well as providing a way to financially include poor people. According

“It’s the difference between a farmer having a dirt floor and a concrete floor, or a tin roof versus a thatched roof”




Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Number of people excluded from mainstream financial systems

to a study in Mexico where the government has started to digitise some of the payments they make to the poor, they saved $1.2bn last year. Using the same approach, the savings in India could be even bigger, perhaps up to $20bn, so we think that there is a very positive macro effect on the public sector by doing this. On a micro scale, recent studies have begun to show that increased access to digital financial services has a real impact on the poor. One example comes from smallholder farmers in Malawi. When farmers had the money for their harvests paid directly into a bank account, rather than in cash, 35 per cent began to save money for fertiliser for the next year. This, in turn, resulted in a 22 per cent year-onyear revenue increase for the farmers using

this ‘commitment savings ABOVE  A lack of access to basic financial services means that account’, and a 17 per cent around 45 per cent of the world’s increase in their disposable adults are not able to participate income. The really cool in the formal global economy thing about this is that it’s the difference between a smallholder farmer having a dirt floor and a concrete floor, or a tin roof versus a thatched roof. Access to financial services has a big welfare effect and that’s where mobile money and some of the new technologies finally make this possible.


What are the key challenges? First, what is the right regulatory environment to create innovation that works for the poor? Much of the financial system is built around serving the wealthy and the middle class. Therefore, to some

regulators and policy makers, it can appear risky to open up that market to real digital innovation in order to change the cost structure and reach down to the poor. We’d like policy makers to have a much bigger and more open-minded view of the world. For instance, rather than having to have an ID or passport to open an account, which poor people can’t always provide, voice biometrics could be used for groups like women and the illiterate. Alternatively, low-cost mobile imaging technology could be used to replace manual paper-based verification and registration processes. It must be less risky to have all of these poor people in the system, rather than out of it. Second, most financial services providers do not see the poor as a market, and yet we think that they are. We have seen other sorts of service providers reach into this demographic profitably, like cell phone providers and Coca-Cola. You can get a Coke in almost every village in the world. We need the private sector to be even more innovative. We are seeing that in some areas. For example, Bkash in Bangladesh – which is a full-scale mobile phone-based payment switch – will soon reach 10 million customers. In the future, we also need to see savings, credit and insurance services offered to the poor, and not just payment systems.  n



A future at their fingertips Jobs are hard to come by in the West Bank. Forty-one per cent of young people in the territory are out of work, and a third of those in employment are paid less than the minimum wage. In the information era, however, all is not lost. An estimated 80 per cent of residents own a mobile phone and one enterprising social initiative, Souktel, is taking advantage of this to tackle the problem of unemployment. More than 5,000 young people have so far been placed in jobs as a result of Souktel’s simple SMS system, which matches jobseekers with prospective employers – an inspiring example of everyday technology changing lives.



Jobseekers create a mini-CV of their skills in SMS format, which can be forwarded to employers, and can receive job adverts circulated by recruiting firms

Young women make up 43 per cent of Souktel’s JobMatch database. Rural isolation and a traditional society make it difficult for them to find work


A subscription to Philanthropy Age is

FREE Just pay for the courier

One year: GCC $25 (4 issues) Europe $60 US $80 Rest of world $60 To subscribe please go to: Or email us at:


CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE Two-thirds of JobMatch’s female users say their access to jobs has “doubled or tripled” since using the service; “Unemployment is a problem that affects all members of the community. It’s tied to every aspect of life here,” says co-founder and CEO Jacob Korenblum; Since its launch in 2006, close to 20,000 workers and hundreds of companies have signed up to use JobMatch, according to Souktel; JobMatch aims to save users time and money. Messages cost jobseekers just $0.09 per SMS, while employers can aim adverts at users with specific qualifications, at a cost two-thirds lower than the price of advertising in a newspaper



Green shoots

Meet the non-profits and private companies digging to the root of poverty among India’s smallholder farmers BY Joanne Bladd ndia’s economic miracle has yet to work its magic in Yeluvahalli. Just 108 kilometres outside Bangalore, the pulsing heart of India’s technology boom, the village is home to dozens of small-scale farmers struggling to coax a living from tiny patches of land. For 50-year-old Shivanna, the annual harvest is barely enough to feed his family and too small to sustain them through the droughts that haunt the village each spring. In an attempt to boost his crop yield, he has shouldered debts to buy chemical fertiliser. “The rains have reduced a lot, especially in the last four to five years,” he says. “It is also much hotter in the summer, which means the water in the village ponds dries up before the dry season is over.” Shivanna’s misfortune is a grim reminder of an uncomfortable truth. India, despite its ambitions as a rising economic giant, is still struggling to thin the ranks of the rural poor. Towns and villages house around 70 per cent of the Asian country’s 1.2 billion people, a large number of which exist on the knife-edge of poverty. Three out of five Indians live dangerously close to the



breadline of $1.17 a day, with the spending growth of the poorest 40 per cent still trailing the national average. While one India is prospering, driven by a small but thriving urban elite, the other has failed to catch the rising tide of wealth that has recently transformed the country’s cities. Smallholder farmers, overwhelmingly, are in the latter camp. “India’s pattern of economic growth is not equal,” says Sumiter Broca, policy officer with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Asia-Pacific office. “The rewards have gone to those with some sort of qualifications or skills, or with capital.” Agriculture employs more than half of the Indian population, but accounts for around just 13 per cent of the economy. “Many of the rural poor can barely read or write, and they are geographically isolated,” Broca says. “They don’t have many options. It’s the 1 per cent of the population that has done well.” Across India’s villages, this economic partition is only too visible. Farmers survive with scattered pockets of land, poor roads and no water or electricity. Illiteracy is


“Many of the rural poor can barely read or write, and they are geographically isolated. They don’t have many options”


“If we can improve water access, some of these farmers will be able to take a second or even third crop each year, or start a small kitchen garden” rife, so workers farm by instinct rather than information. A lack of access to cash or credit means only a handful have access to modern farming methods and equipment. More than half of cultivated land in India is rain-fed rather than irrigated, and crops from rice to cotton are at the mercy of the monsoons. Good fortune can be fleeting: smallholders are often one bad harvest away from catastrophe. Government data shows more than 15,400 farmers took their own lives in 2012, as drought pushed them further into debt. “Farming is an incredibly difficult occupation,” says Broca. “Even down to personal risk in terms of injury or death. It shouldn’t be romanticised.” Tackling these problems demands a radical overhaul of India’s farming industry, starting with its poorest players. Scotland-based charity SCIAF is among those digging to the root of rural poverty and trying to bolster incomes for smallholders.The organisation pairs with non-profits in northern and southern India to improve farmers’ skills, boost their yields with basic techniques, and to part-finance small loans to help them buy equipment or seeds. They also work to band local farmers together in co-operatives, creating scale for collective economic clout. “Most are facing the same economic and social problems,” says Percy Patrick, programme manager for India, SCIAF. “When you are going together to trade


in the market or to the local government, your voice is more likely to be heard.” Alongside its partners, SCIAF works with more than 3,400 households across India, largely in Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Most are supporting families of five or more, on less than 2 acres of land and just a few dollars of income a day. More than half are women. Almost all are illiterate. The co-operatives double as a source of credit, or saving scheme. With few assets to hedge against, mainstream banks are wary of lending to marginal farmers, who often struggle to secure the cash to buy seeds and fertiliser in the planting season. Instead, farmers are nudged towards moneylenders, who charge exorbitant interest rates for loans and can lay claim to their harvest or land if they fail to meet their repayments. “With the co-op, you might pay a small percentage of interest, but it’s much safer than dealing with loan sharks,” says Patrick. “We promote a policy of saving among members, and that money can be used not just for farming, but also for education or healthcare or for other purposes.” Some of the biggest wins, says Patrick, have come from improving farmers’ access to water, either by reviving community ponds, digging wells or installing small dams. “These villages are totally dependent on rain,” he says. “If we can improve water access, some of these farmers will take a second or even third crop each year, or start a small kitchen garden. It means they aren’t dependent on one harvest, and they have food for a longer period of the year.” Creative solutions are also coming from technology start-ups, both in the social enterprise and for-profit sectors. One example is Digital Green, a company that began life as an offshoot of Microsoft Research and now works with farmers all over India. The firm creates short ‘how-to’ videos to demonstrate specific skills or farming techniques, which are screened to groups in other villages. The videos star local farmers, captured using cheap cameras, and broadcast using pocket-sized

SCIAF/Simon Murphy


projectors. The aim is to spur the adoption of new methods, and questions asked by farmers during the screenings are fed back to shape the topics of future videos. As a visual medium, its neatest trick is sidestepping the problem of illiteracy, estimated at 40 per cent in India. “If we’re screening a video about cattle, but someone asks a question about, say, pest control on cauliflower, that helps inform the next video we shoot,” says Digital Green CEO Rikin Gandhi. “But the first questions we hear are always about what is the name of the person in the video, about their family and what village

SCIAF/Simon Murphy

SCIAF/Simon Murphy


is, say, an outbreak of a particular crop disease, whether the local market will be closed on Tuesday; it’s very specific.” The data is gathered by a hive of up to 400 reporters, who swarm local markets to gather up-to-the-minute information. To date, 1.3 million farmers in 50,000 villages have signed up for the service, but RML says it is still battling to reach India’s poorest. “We’re still working to engage more subsistence farmers,” says Mehra. “Even at this low cost, they might not find it economical.” The firm is dabbling with a shorter subscription period, covering only the harvest season at a lower cost. It is also in talks with state governments to potentially subsidise subscription rates. If it succeeds in scaling up to a much larger audience, the windfall could be significant – both for RML, and the isolated smallholders it reaches. “Younger farmers see about 9 per cent higher pricing using our information,” says Mehra. “Subscribers who sold directly to traders saw an 8 per cent price increase.” Jaswinder Singh, a potato and rice farmer in the Punjab, is a case in point. He used the data to haggle for a better price for his crop at his local market. “A local trader wanted to purchase my potatoes for Rs365 ($5.90) per bag,” he says. “But since I knew the market rate

CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Shivanna and his wife struggle to survive; women farmers are among the most marginalised; agriculture is India’s biggest single employer

“They are in limbo. Even though they oversee the land, women aren’t acknowledged as farmers” is he or she from. The local element is very important to the process.” To date, Digital Green has reached more than 150,000 farmers in India, Ghana and Ethiopia, with a library of 2,608 videos. The project, which is part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation, puts the cost of getting a farmer to adopt a new behaviour at between $3.50 and $4. “Farmers need to see higher earnings from the produce they grow,” says Gandhi. “It’s a major challenge, but by teaching better practices, we can help them to achieve it.”

Technology firm Reuters Market Light (RML) is also digging deep into India’s villages. Tapping into the Asian state’s high mobile penetration rates, the firm uses an SMS service to send data on crop prices, weather and agricultural tips to farmers. For about $1.60 a month, rural subscribers receive three or four texts a day to their mobile phones, tailored to the sort of crop they farm, and their location. “We cover everything from pre-sowing to post-harvest; everything the farmer needs to make better decisions,” says Amit Mehra, founder and CEO, RML. “We track whether prices are up or down, if there



$4 The cost of getting a farmer to adopt a new skill using Digital Green’s ‘how-to’ videos for potatoes, I sold them at the rate of Rs427 ($6.94) per bag.” The involvement of private sector companies and non-profits may be critical in the evolution of India’s farming sector. The state has poured billions of dollars into subsidies in India’s countryside, to chip away at the damage caused by water scarcity, skewed market pricing and a lack of rural infrastructure. These efforts have done little to lift the wider industry, in part because of corruption and inefficiency. “There are schemes to support farmers but accountability is an issue, both in terms of funding being distributed and corruption,” says Patrick. “And that’s assuming the farmers even know about the scheme and how to apply for it.” He recalls an incident after a local non-profit partner Prakruthi had helped more than 500 rural households in Jharkhand apply for government-issue ration cards. Designed to aid India’s poorest, these allow the holder to buy state-subsidised food in ‘fair price’ shops. A year after the applications had been submitted, the local government in Ranchi, the state capital, had yet to issue a single card. “When we met with local officials, they said they’d received the forms but didn’t have any blank ration cards to give out,” says Patrick. “That continued for three years.” Non-profits realise that changing the market requires lobbying the government for better agricultural policies. Oxfam India, which works with 69,000 small farmers through a clutch of local partners, uses

grassroots findings to persuade the state to tweak or redirect funding. Among its priorities is ramping up smallholders’ access to public investment and improving rights for women farmers. “They often can’t access state schemes for subsidised seeds or farm machinery because they don’t have enough land, or the right information to apply,” says Sabita Parida, project coordinator for smallholder agriculture and climate change. “It’s a maze, which is why they struggle. Especially if they live in remote rural areas.” Women farmers are particularly neglected, despite carrying out an estimated 70 per cent of all agricultural activities. Old power structures can bar them from securing joint title deeds to their land, leaving the asset in their husband’s name. Without this piece of paper, women are trapped, unable to access state training, subsidies or credit. Worse, if they are widowed, or their husbands leave for nearby cities in search of seasonal work, they are not recognised as joint owners of the land.

ABOVE  More than half of cultivated land in India is rain-fed rather than irrigated, meaning farmers are reliant on the monsoons for survival

“They are in limbo,” says Parida. “Even though they oversee the land and take care of most of the production, they aren’t acknowledged as farmers.” Oxfam’s Aaroh campaign in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh works to increase joint land titles, and quash cultural taboos. Since 2011, it has helped more than 600 female farmers to secure rights to their land, largely through community mobilisation efforts that give women in these impoverished villages a collective voice. Pressure is increasing on the Indian government to align its economic interests with those of the rural poor. For Parida, this requires investment in rural roads and storage, better access to quality seeds and fertiliser, and use of irrigation. Some of this can and is being supplied by non-profits and private sector firms, but the fat injection of capital needed to improve the lot of farmers will remain a state concern. “India’s economic growth is not equal for all. Farmers are left behind,” she says. “Without public investment in agriculture that divide will only widen. It’s the only way for India to see universal growth.”  n



Lighting up rural Africa Sameer Hajee, CEO of Nuru Energy, reveals how social entrepreneurship is helping to shed light on the global problem of energy poverty


About the writer Sameer Hajee is the CEO of Nuru Energy, an award-winning social enterprise that seeks to solve the global problem of energy poverty. An authority on rural energy provision through micro-enterprise, he was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year (Africa) in 2012 by the Schwab Foundation and the World Economic Forum


uru Energy began five years ago with a simple notion: to build a sustainable, scalable solution to displace the kerosene that more than 2 billion people worldwide still burn to generate light. Study after study has found the world’s poorest spend upwards of 25 per cent of their income on kerosene, at a cost of $17bn a year in Africa alone. Many of these studies also clearly outline the difficulties inherent in changing this practice. A 1991 study looking at the potential of photovoltaic technology in Rwanda cited high investment costs, unavailability of credit, and maintenance and repair problems as hurdles to its widespread use. Last year, a study of the off-grid lighting market in Africa found similar barriers to its scalability. Progress, it appears, has been slow. Kerosene is an unsafe, expensive and environmentally unfriendly means of generating light. Yet 90 per cent of Africa’s rural poor still use it. To better understand why, our team did something radical – we

asked them. We lived in a village in the Republic of Rwanda for two months, observing and asking questions, and came away with a far clearer grasp of the problem. We learned that kerosene is portable, reliable and can be bought in increments: villagers can buy as little or as much as the cash they have in their pockets. We also saw that in households with a daily income of less than $2, kerosene was primarily used as a source of lighting to carry out fixed tasks. By comparison, other lighting options in the market – such as solar lamps and home solar lighting systems – had prohibitive upfront costs. These ranged from $8 to $10 for the cheapest, high-quality solar lamp to more than $100 for a home solar system. Even pre-paid home solar systems require a $15 or more upfront fee, and a fixed daily $0.50 fee. While these products are aimed at the poorest market segments, the unfortunate reality is that the associated costs can make them unaffordable. Our aim was to create a solution from the ground up; one that mimicked the appeal of kerosene, but that was cleaner and more affordable. By helping the world’s poorest to spend less on energy, those savings could then be leveraged to help

“Innovation starts from the grassroots. As we combine old and new technology, we have a fighting chance of alleviating energy poverty”


lift them out of poverty. The solution had to make both economic sense, and also fit within the culture these households were used to and valued. Our answer was the Nuru Light, a portable, rechargeable light source that could be used alone for most household tasks, but could also link into other Nuru Lights to create a chain. This Lego-like chain could then be used to illuminate larger areas. We also created ‘snap on’ accessories, such as a mobile phone charging device and an LED bulb, which turned the Nuru Light into a very bright room light. These accessories were cheap as they didn’t need their own internal batteries and, like the Nuru Light itself, could be purchased as and when a household had the money to do so. To create a reliable source of energy generation, we looked at human rather than solar power. Not only is it a free source of power, but it is available anywhere, at any time. Using pedal-based technology to tap into the human energy available in these villages could, we thought, be a game-changing solution.

Not everyone agreed with the idea of pedal power. Some potential donors we have approached see it as an archaic technology, with one asking: “How would it look if we, as Europeans, funded Africans to pedal for their power? Something we wouldn’t ask our fellow countrymen to do?” As a result, the current version of our off-grid generator also includes a solar panel as a back-up option. To tackle the issue of affordability, we reviewed two successful business models. The first was from the telecoms industry. Given the explosive growth of mobile phones in rural markets, operators have clearly met the challenge of affordability. Their model is to build infrastructure, and generate income through talk-time rather than by high margins on handsets. We also examined models that used collaborative consumption as a means to slash the cost for individual users, such as Netflix and Zipcar. In both cases you don’t purchase the end product – movies and

ABOVE  The portable, rechargeable Nuru Light can be used alone for household tasks, or linked in a chain with others to illuminate larger areas

cars respectively – you just pay to use it when you need it. The result was standalone pedal generators, located centrally and owned and operated by village-level entrepreneurs, or VLEs. These entrepreneurs don’t take a margin on the Nuru Lights they sell to consumers, but do earn a small profit when they recharge the lights. This model cut the upfront cost for users, who then pay as and when they choose to recharge their lights. We knew we were on to something. Today, we have more than 1,200 VLEs across East Africa, but this scale-up has not been linear. When we realised that we couldn’t earn a profit on the initial sales of the rechargeable Nuru Light, we instead decided to take what we called a microfranchise fee from our VLEs. With 80 VLEs, this was feasible. With 1,200, we had to think again. Now, each of our pedal generators is mobile-money enabled. It’s the perfect way to transact with our entrepreneurs in often-remote villages. To further boost market penetration, our VLEs have also started selling the lights at below-cost, knowing they can recoup the loss through recharge revenue. Our social lenders cover the full cost of delivering the lights to the VLEs, and wait to see their investment repaid from a portion of the recharge revenue. Innovation starts from the grassroots. Five years ago, our technology and business model could not have worked. But today, as we combine both old and new technology, we have a fighting chance of alleviating energy poverty, once and for all. n





MAIN  Drones, seen here in use in Haiti, could offer a means to deliver critical aid packages to remote populations without allseason road access

Rise of the drones:

Aid by air BY  Adrienne Cernigoi

rones are more typically associated with armed conflict than humanitarian aid. However, for two ambitious technology start-ups, Matternet and senseFly, these flying fleets could hold the key to delivering vital supplies to remote areas without reliable road access. California-based Matternet believes drones are critical in reaching the unreachable. The firm is using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to connect with some of the 1 billion people in the developing world without access to all-season roads. In sub-Saharan Africa, 85 per cent of roads are unusable when it rains, leaving whole communities cut off from medical aid and other services. The cost of building all-weather road networks for these regions could run into billions of dollars, and take several decades to achieve. Matternet’s solution is to build a network of landing stations 10-kilometres apart, and use flying drones to ferry lightweight goods between the bases. A


UAV would take 15 minutes to carry a 2kg package between stations, a size large enough to deliver vaccines or lab samples, for example. The projected cost of each drone would be between $3,000 and $5,000, according to Andreas Raptopoulos, founder and CEO of Matternet, with each landing station costing about the same amount. The company estimates it could cover an area of 138-sq-km with 150 UAVs at a cost of $900,000. After that, each drone trip would cost between just $0.50 and $1.00. By comparison, says Raptopoulos, building a 2km, one-lane road requires closer to $1m in funding. Matternet envisages building the biggest network since the internet, and revolutionising the delivery of supplies. “I see it becoming a platform for economic growth,” says Raptopoulos. “South Africa and southeast Asia have seen explosive growth but they have poor infrastructure. There is an opportunity to



build even better systems than those seen in the West – just as Africa leapfrogged the developed world with mobile phones. We are creating a new system for the future.” The UAVs got their first test run delivering aid packages to camps in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. Tests have also been carried out in the Dominican Republic, and Matternet is keen to establish a base in the Middle East as a hub for the wider region and North Africa. The next trial is planned for Lesotho in southern Africa, where Matternet is also in talks with the healthcare non-profit Doctors Without Borders to carry diagnostic tests for HIV from clinics in remote regions to hospital labs. Seventy per cent of people in Lesotho with HIV/Aids live in rural areas. They need blood tests twice a year, but with only 152 rural clinics in the whole of the country to collect the

“We are creating a new system for the future”


Blipp To view interactive content, see page 7 for instructions

samples, and 19 hospitals to CLOCKWISE FROM TOP senseFly utilises drones’ mapping abilities perform the analyses, it is a to support aid work; Matternet daunting challenge. puts the cost of each UAV at between $3,000 and $5,000 “We are raising funding now for a test project. We have a goal of $250,000 to pilot for one month,” says Raptopoulos. Matternet isn’t alone. Drone technology is being harnessed more and

more by non-governmental organisations to improve their work in hard-to-reach or insecure locations, from monitoring deforested areas in Brazil and combating wildlife poaching in Nepal, to surveillance of potential conflict hotspots in South Sudan. Swiss-based senseFly is using boomerang-shaped flying machines to seize on drones’ mapping capabilities for


“It’s cheaper and easier to use than planes. Once you have the drone, you can use it as many times as you want” humanitarian purposes. In early 2013, the firm joined up with Drone Adventures in Haiti, mapping areas affected by the 2010 earthquake and the 2012 hurricane, after satellite maps were rendered dramatically out of date. Backed by the UN’s International Organisation for Migration, senseFly’s eBee drones mapped 45-sq-km in six days. The 3D maps pinpointed dangerous riverbeds at risk of flooding camps, and identified shantytowns to help speed aid distribution and development of infrastructure. Flying between 90 and 150 metres above the ground, the eBee drones can produce high quality maps of between 3cm and 7cm per pixel. According to the company, each drone costs around $22,000 and can fly for 45 minutes on a single charge. “It’s cheaper and easier to use than planes. Once you have the drone, you can use it as many times as you want. Compared to satellites, we are much more precise and can operate even in cloudy conditions,” says senseFly’s Sophie Secretan. SenseFly is working with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining to eliminate abandoned explosives in post-conflict areas. “We create a precise map of the area before they go in with their demining instruments,” says Secretan. “Mines are often under branches, trees and grass, so you won’t see them on the pictures. But having an up-to-date map of the area is really helpful.” The opportunities for innovation in the humanitarian sphere are growing as governments open up cautiously to civilian drone use. In late 2013, the US’ aviation administration outlined the conditions under which small drones could be flown in US airspace, clearing the way for the testing of new applications.

ABOVE  Following the 2010 “We live in an era of earthquake in Haiti, Matternet unprecedented technologdrones delivered aid packages ical possibility,” says to Pétionville tent camp in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince Raptopoulos at Matternet. “We have to use our ingenuity and technological prowess to build the most advanced technologies we’ve ever created, and take them where they are needed most.”  n



BY  Andrew White is employees talk of an almost obsessive attention to detail, and the considered pauses he takes before he delivers approval or reproach. His critics begrudge him as the inheritor of an opportunity, a legend by dint of dynastic succession rather than entrepreneurial distinction. The rural poor speak of him as an almost otherworldy figure, able to change lives at the stroke of a pen or the inflection of a bushy grey eyebrow. In the flesh, Ratan Tata addresses all three perceptions. He reels off statistics as though they were laid out in front of him, speaking slowly and deliberately and clarifying even the most innocuous of verbal missteps. He makes no claim to have been an empire-builder, when referring to his past as the “custodian” of a company of which less than 2 per cent is owned by the Tata family. When he speaks of India’s manifold problems, he does so with a fierce authority that would lift the hearts of millions of Indians without a voice. “Slumdog Millionaire was a successful movie and there are a number of people who think it showed India in a bad light,’ he says. “It showed India in a realistic light. We should all be ashamed of what [inequality] there is, and try to solve it. Are we doing it? No. And that’s something that really needs to change.” From his nondescript offices in Mumbai, the 76-year-old former chairman of



India’s icon Ratan Tata has achieved almost legendary status among many of India’s 1.2 billion people. In an exclusive interview with Philanthropy Age, the former chairman of the Tata business empire tells us why his country needs to change its approach to improving the lives of the hundreds of millions of Indians mired in poverty

the Tata business empire is attempting to spearhead that change. Now retired from the corporate sphere, he retains the chairmanship of the Tata trusts, a group of some of the country’s oldest and certainly most high-profile philanthropic organisations. The trusts hold around 66 per cent of the equity capital of Tata Sons Limited, the holding company of the Tata Group. Founded in 1868, the Tata Group encompasses more than 100 companies across sectors as diverse as IT, engineering, energy, steel, chemicals and automobiles. For more than a century, a significant proportion of the conglomerate’s profits have been ploughed back into helping change the lives of impoverished Indians. While the Tata Group routinely spends 4 per cent of its net profits on activities related to corporate social responsibility

(CSR), the two largest Tata trusts between them disbursed an additional $800m during Tata’s two-decade tenure as chairman of both organisations. And, as has become de rigueur for successful business leaders intensifying their efforts in the philanthropic sphere, Tata is attempting to instil a corporate culture in the charitable trusts he now oversees on a day-to-day basis. “One hopes that one can treat the philanthropic activities of the trusts as a corporate entity: setting goals, looking at efficiencies, monitoring the outcome and benefits of what we’re doing,” he says. “The first thing is to question a lot of what is going on already, and it’s something I faced with the Tata Group when I started. I was told; ‘This is the way we’ve been doing things for 25 years, and who are you to ask?’ But when you’re the chairman




they have to answer, and so things did change in time.” Tata’s methods, resented at first, helped the Tata Group’s turnover grow tenfold to $100bn during his chairmanship. If he can achieve even a small percentage of that impact now that his focus is directed solely towards the Tata trusts, the naysayers are likely to be proved wrong again. “Operating traditionally is perhaps the greatest weakness of the trusts; there’s a tremendous resistance to change, and I have not shaken that attitude just yet,” he admits. “A priority is to go out and look at what other foundations are doing, broaden our thinking and benchmark ourselves against others.” Today, one of Tata’s primary focuses is on India’s so-called invisible epidemic. A 2011 study provided reliable – and saddening – estimates of child nutrition in India. The Hunger and Malnutrition survey found that some 42 per cent of children under five were underweight and 59 per cent were ‘stunted’, or chronically malnourished. Of those children who were stunted, about half were classified as ‘severely stunted’. The prevalence of underweight children in India was double that of sub-Saharan Africa. In 2012, another report by British charity Save the Children estimated that 1.83 million Indian children die every year before the age of five, the majority from preventable diseases made lethal by the malnourished child’s inability to fight back. “We are a large population: we grow at about 17 million people a year; the equivalent of one Australia or Malaysia,” says Tata. “If that new generation is weak or suffers physical and mental defects due to malnutrition, or has a high mortality rate, it’s a major issue. You cannot have a prosperous tomorrow if, each year, 17 million people are vulnerable to this infirmity. If you then look at those who do survive but survive with weakness and low resistance to various ills, then you have another problem of a high cost of health.” He argues that malnutrition is not a


“You can’t have a prosperous tomorrow if, each year, 17 million are vulnerable to infirmity” problem that has “gone unnoticed by the government”. He does, however, believe that the disbursement of “huge budgetary allocations” has been rendered ineffective thanks to inefficiency and corruption. It’s difficult to mitigate a distribution network, he admits, where government-supplied nutrient packages are more likely to be sold in the local market, than they are to find their way into the feeble young hands that need them most. Although the Tata trusts are grantmaking organisations that often work hand-in-hand with government bodies, Tata is less forgiving when it comes to other government efforts to redress India’s all-too-evident inequalities. He is particularly critical of a specific clause in the country’s new Companies Act, which mandates that large corporations must spend at least 2 per cent of their profits on CSR. “We have a phenomenon which is meant to be good but is going to be somewhat chaotic,” he says, warning that India does not yet have the infrastructure or oversight capability to successfully introduce such a scheme. “You’ll see an enormous growth in NGOs, everybody tripping over themselves to register to attract this money. However we don’t as yet know what kind of monitoring there’ll be in terms of how this money is used. “You will have a registered NGO, you will have the money, the money goes to the NGO and it may be three or four years before the whole thing explodes in a series of fraudulent operations; money being given to people that don’t exist, or causes that are subterfuge for something else.” In addition, Tata suspects that some companies will consider the mandated

donations a form of taxation, and therefore employ every means at their disposal to funnel the money back into corporate coffers. “The NGOs need to be certified by the government, but their causes are not defined, their mandates are their own, and there will be those venal corporates that short-circuit those funds back into NGOs that they are connected with under the surface,” he cautions. Tata’s suggestion is that the government define no more than five “thrust areas, things that it considers necessary for the rank and file of the people.” Specific projects should be identified and guidelines established so that funding is monitored and accounted for, and goals should be set district-by-district or state-by-state. “The whole scheme is very vulnerable to exploitation,” he warns, “and it needs much more clarification than there is currently.” That the government should feel the need to mandate giving is both a reflection of the huge economic imbalances with which India struggles, and the curious state of philanthropy in India. For a country with so much wealth, technical expertise and management talent, where are India’s great philanthropists? “The biggest philanthropic families in India have been very understated,” says Tata. “When you go into some of the rural areas you find that a handful of families have done great things for those communities. And yet the amounts that are being disbursed are small: ours is the biggest in the country and we disburse only about $92m a year. “I think we’re still a feudal country, so there’s great disparity and a relative lack of concern among many about the wellbeing of the poor around us,” he continues. “The caste system has a lot to do with it, and in certain parts of India you get almost unbelievable, inhuman actions against the lower caste citizen, almost treating him like an animal. It’s illegal, it’s not supposed to happen, but it does.” If such attitudes are to change, then much will depend on the next generation




The Tata trusts’ holding in Tata Sons Limited, which owns the Tata Group

MAIN  Ratan Tata is now devoting his energies full-time to the Tata trusts, having retired as chairman of the Tata Group in December 2012

and their approach to those marginalised and less fortunate elements of Indian society. In a culture where grey hair and experience often trumps youth, Tata argues that fresh blood must be incentivised into the philanthropic sector, in order to drive innovation and help overcome centuries-old prejudices. “The younger breed is interested in its own prosperity, and that’s another change that philanthropic organisations have to make,” he says. “They don’t pay the kind of salaries on offer in the corporate world, so they don’t attract people other than those who are willing to come for much less.

“We’re trying to change that within our organisation, by paying corporate salaries,” he continues. “If [India’s philanthropic sector] offered a respectable level of remuneration to young people then there would be those who have the same interest in making a difference to humanity, and would want to apply their ingenuity and creativity to that cause. At the present moment, it’s only the person that has that passion and is willing to make an enormous sacrifice. But I think this will change.” Tata’s introduction to the world of philanthropy was, of course, dictated by circumstance rather than salary. Yet even

his critics might admit that his greatest inheritance was not corporate, but ethical. Growing up he was inspired in particular by his grandmother Navajbai, the widow of Sir Ratan Tata, founder of one of the two major family trusts. “I learned a lot from her in terms of how she looked at misfortune and how she mitigated that for people when they came to her,” he recalls. “She had homes for the poor all over the country, or sanatoriums as they were called in those days. She operated in that way not to gain visibility for herself, but because she was very kindhearted and passionate in terms of doing away with misery.” Tata is insistently self-deprecating when talking about his own giving, describing his own personal wealth as “marginal”, and preferring instead to emphasise the institutional giving enshrined in the family companies by their founders decades ago. Nevertheless, he does admit to a sense of pride when he meets those who have benefited from the efforts of the trusts. “I was awarded a medal by the Indian government, and it was presented at the president’s official home in Delhi, a big event with horns and a procession,” he smiles. “When I was handed the medal I told President Narayanan, ‘Sir I am greatly honoured to receive this from your hands’. He replied: ‘I was a Tata scholar. That’s how I got my start in life’, and then burst into laughter. That was a great moment; I almost broke down in tears.”  n





Fields of dreams The peasant farmers of rural Maharashtra, in central India, face a constant struggle for survival. Uneducated and often illiterate, they remain wedded to outdated and inefficient farming practices and this perpetuates a cycle of poverty, with generation after generation doomed to till the same land for the same meagre returns. In partnership with government agencies and local NGOs, the Tata trusts are working to enlighten tiny rural communities as to more effective farming techniques. In villages where making the most of the soil underfoot can mean the difference between life and death, a little education goes a long, long way.



CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE  In a small village in Vidarbha, central India, a woman crosses a new man-made waterway that has enabled local farmers to improve their crop yields dramatically; using pumps to draw from subsidiaries of the main waterway, farmers irrigate fields of cotton, soybean and red gram; a farmer stands in front of his fastgrowing cotton crop; the agricultural interventions of the Tata trusts and their partners have so far changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of households across six districts in Vidarbha



CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT  Members of a ‘Producer Company’ gather in Deoli, a small city in central India; producer companies are collectives that allow local farmers to group together and overcome poor market access, lack of institutional credit, dependence on moneylenders, the presence of unscrupulous middlemen, and unfair trade practices; the group has leveraged its collective financial muscle and purchased a dal grading machine to speed production; hundreds of women are among the collective’s 2,800 small producers



Skating in Afghanistan:

Wheels of change BY Joanne Bladd



abul is a conservative city. Home to some 5 million people, Afghanistan’s capital is estimated to be the world’s fifth-fastest growing city, but retains many of the social and economic fissures created when the Taliban regime held power. The sight of a gaggle of young boys crowding the street alongside headscarf-clad young girls then, is still unusual. Rarer still, is that they’re skateboarding. Skateistan began life in 2007 in an abandoned, dish-shaped fountain in Kabul, with just three skateboards and a handful of fascinated children. The project was the brainchild of Oliver Percovich, a new arrival to the country, who saw urban sport as an innovative way to reach young Afghans and slice through barriers of gender, class and ethnicity. “It really struck me that half of the population was under 16, and that this was an opportunity to work with young kids over the long-term. I was convinced that they could change the country,” says Australia-born Percovich. “Skateboarding was so new to Afghanistan that there were no cultural barriers to it, particularly for girls. It was a sort of loophole.” From offering small, free classes in public spaces, Skateistan launched the country’s first skate park in 2009, built on land donated by the Afghan National Olympic Committee. The park and accompanying school cost $350,000, funded largely through donations from foreign embassies, while big skateboarding brands contributed kit.

All images courtesy of Skateistan


$570 The average yearly income in Afghanistan, according to the World Bank



“The most important ABOVE  The project’s ‘Back to School’ scheme aims to help thing was to build trust children back into Afghanistan’s and social capital with the public school system, offering local community,” says three years of schooling in one Percovich. “If it made sense to the local families, then that was what would make the financial capital work.” Today some 450 children, aged from 5 to 18, attend classes each week in the giant hangar, schooled by staff not only in skating, but also in maths, Islamic studies and Dari, the local dialect. More than half the students are street-working kids, while nearly 40 per cent are girls. The waiting list is 200-strong. “Street kids often have little access to education, because it is more profitable for their families if they beg,” says Percovich. “The children can earn more than $10 a day begging, while their parents only earn $40 a month. We use skateboarding as a hook to get kids into good quality education. But if students don’t attend classes, we give the place to another kid. We aren’t just a drop-in centre.”

In particular, Skateistan’s ‘Back to School’ scheme aims to funnel children back into Afghanistan’s public school system. The course crams three years of schooling into one, allowing graduates to enroll in the fourth grade at local schools. To date, 110 Skateistan students have returned to mainstream education and Percovich hopes to register another 120 children in the programme in 2014. In less than seven years, Skateistan has flourished, launching projects in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, South Africa and, since 2012, in Cambodia. Funding is raised through foreign embassies and online campaigns, though Percovich is keen to stress the need for new donors. Its operations in Kabul are now entirely locally run; of the project’s 25 staff, 23 are former students. Female instructor Fazila Shirindel is among the success stories. The teenager began as a student, taking part in street skating sessions, until her poverty-struck family removed her from school so she could earn a wage. In response, Skateistan took her on as an instructor with a monthly salary of $60, enabling her both to re-enroll in school and contribute to the family income. Today, the 15-year-old is aiming high. “I want to be the director of Skateistan,” she says, young, fearless, and ambitious.  n

“Skateboarding was so new to Afghanistan that there were no cultural barriers to it, particularly for girls”



Blipp To view interactive content, see page 7 for instructions



Bridging the gap Dato Sri Dr Tahir has signed the Giving Pledge, the first billionaire from Indonesia to do so. He tells Philanthropy Age why he hopes other emerging market entrepreneurs will follow his lead BY  Andrew White and Joanne Bladd


t is midday in Bandung, West Java, and the heavens have opened. In the grounds of Dr Hasan Sadikin hospital, patients and staff crowd noisily under red-tiled awnings, resigned to waiting out the worst of the deluge, or steeling themselves to brave the downpour in a bid for more permanent shelter. Two men press on, striding through the rain and challenging a large group of less hardy souls to keep up. One is the hospital’s director, Dr H Bayu Wahyudi, dressed in a regulation white coat. The other, casually outfitted in a grey jacket and dark slacks, is the man who is blazing a new path between private philanthropy and Indonesia’s creaking healthcare system. In April last year, when Dato Sri Dr Tahir donated more than $100m to the fight against some of Indonesia’s most pressing public health problems, the country’s most self-effacing billionaire became its most


high-profile philanthropist. Today Tahir, as he is known, is in Bandung to witness firsthand the impact of his giving, to meet the men and women whose lives his largesse will prolong, and to draw national media attention to the ongoing battle against three of Indonesia’s most belligerent killers. Home to around 45 million people, or 20 per cent of Indonesia’s total population, West Java is the most populous and most densely populated of the country’s 33 provinces. Its largest hospital, a sprawling Dutch-colonial maze, is at the forefront of Indonesia’s efforts to combat the spread of tuberculosis, HIV and malaria among its poorest citizens. Tahir’s money – directed to Dr Hasan Sadikin through the Global Fund, a Geneva-based non-profit – will enable that fight to continue for years to come. “In the past, sick people used to come to me asking me to help them, and it was actually quite straightforward because

MAIN  Tahir sees his philanthropy in action at West Java’s Dr Hasan Sadikin hospital, which caters to Indonesia’s most densely populated province

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Kemal Jufri



Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Kemal Jufri


I would just get the doctor and pay the expenses,” says Tahir. “If they were healed then I would feel joy and satisfaction, but if they were not healed or they died then there was nothing more I could have done. “Now I am learning about prevention, and it’s on a totally different level,” he continues. “It was difficult to earn the money in the first place, and so you have to find someone you trust to spend it wisely. You have to hold them accountable for how effectively the money is spent. There is a greater responsibility on me now because I want proper investment that is of direct benefit to the end-user.” Tahir’s 2013 donation was matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, establishing a war chest worth more than $200m. The first $50m was pledged to the global push to eradicate polio, a viral disease that as recently as 1998 killed or paralysed thousands of people each year. An additional $130m was donated to fight HIV, malaria and tuberculosis in Tahir’s home country, while $26.5m was set aside

to improve access to family planning tools in Indonesia and wider Southeast Asia. For the Global Fund, it was the largest gift to date by a private foundation in an emerging economy. “It’s incredibly important for us,” says Christoph Benn, head of external relations for the Global Fund. “Our efforts so far have been mainly funded by traditional donors in North America, Europe and Japan. And these economies have gone through, and in many cases are still facing, a budgetary crisis. They can’t carry the burden on their own any more.” The fund has invested more than $650m into tackling Indonesia’s public health woes, helping to treat more than 1.3 million cases of tuberculosis, dole out more than 9 million mosquito nets and fund lifesaving HIV treatment for 30,000 citizens. With a population of more than 234 million people, more than half of which lives below the national poverty line, the Southeast Asian country has a heavy load to carry. “If we want to eliminate the disease

“Success is not about how wealthy and respected you are. It’s about how you give back”


MAIN  Total healthcare spending in Indonesia accounts for just 2.8 per cent of gross domestic product, significantly below the level required to meet demand

burden in these countries, we have to work together,” says Benn. “I honestly hope many will be inspired by Tahir and see this is a very effective way of channelling their money to those really in need. This money will save lives.” In December Tahir became the first Indonesian signatory of the Giving Pledge, joining the world’s most elite group by pledging publicly to give away at least half of his wealth before the end of his life, or in his will. It marked a sea change for a self-made billionaire who has long juggled philanthropy and capitalism in a low-key fashion, parlaying millions of dollars from

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Kemal Jufri


his business empire to the Tahir Foundation to fund scholarships for poor students, pay medical bills for needy local families and aid universities in the US, Singapore, Indonesia, and China. Now Tahir has stepped reluctantly into the spotlight in an effort to encourage others to do the same. Although the Indonesian government has ambitious plans for

universal healthcare, total healthcare spending in the country still accounts for just 2.8 per cent of GDP and 5.3 per cent of the government budget, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Hospitals are overcrowded, with just 0.6 beds per 1,000 citizens. And although the EIU expects spending on healthcare to rise in the near future, by nearly 12% a year on average over the next five years, that will still push spending per head up to just $164 by end-2017. At this point, a handful of donations

RIGHT Tahir’s donation of more than $100m to tackle Indonesia’s most pressing public health issues was matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“I’ve learned that it’s shameful to die a rich man”

from a handful of the country’s richest men and women could kickstart a new era in Indonesian healthcare. By bridging the funding gap between what the government can afford and what the people need, private individuals could bankroll new facilities, research and education programmes, stimulating a dramatic upswing in the prospects of everyday Indonesians. “There is dignity in philanthropy. Success is not about how well educated, wealthy and respected you are,” says Tahir. “It’s about how you give back, and so it is nothing special for me to give back to a country that has given me so much. “Philanthropy is very new in Asia, not just in Indonesia, and changing a culture is not easy,” he adds. “But I think that somebody must take the initiative and although it may take ten or 20 years, we can change that culture. I’ve learned that it’s shameful to die a rich man. I would hope to use any publicity to convince others here in Indonesia of the same thing.”  n



“A harsh wilderness full of predators” Street children in Egypt number in the hundreds of thousands. Hope Village is supporting efforts to help one of the most vulnerable and abused groups in Egypt, and integrate these children back into society. Jad al-Kareem, a senior social worker at Hope Village in Cairo, describes a day at work


iving in the streets as a child may be compared to life in a harsh wilderness full of predators. I work in a Hope Village ‘reception centre’, along with three other social workers, an educator and a nurse. The centre, which is located in one of Cairo’s poorest areas, is a day-care facility for children aged between 5 and 13 that also offers a remedial programme or rehabilitation services. My typical working day is spent either in the centre, or out on the streets.


Our purpose is to become well acquainted with street children in order to diagnose their individual problems and understand why they ended up on the streets. It’s a first step towards taking them off the streets. It usually takes a long time to gain their trust, and our first encounter with them is often on the streets, where we use special vans manned by four male and female social workers, each trained in the psychology of street children, in addition to a nurse. We go to assigned locations

where we set up in the street, putting up a table and chairs to create a friendly and welcoming environment. When I spot what appears to be a street child, I’ll start a casual conversation – these children are usually suspicious of strangers asking them personal questions – and then ask them if they’ve heard of a children’s club. We never mention the word ‘centre’, because in Egyptian dialect it refers mainly to a police station or something run by the state, and that would scare them off. I explain to the kid that children like him frequent this club to shower and wear clean clothes, have a meal, play games and have fun with other children, and have the opportunity to learn new things that make them smarter. I tell them that it’s free of


charge, and that there is no obligation on their part. When the children come to the van, they are examined by the nurse for common health issues and receive any required treatment. We seat them at the table and give them a meal. This is followed by a card game or another activity, which we use to keep them engaged and collect as much information as we can. Once the children agree to visit our ‘club’, we provide them with the location, agree to pick them up the next day, or take them along with us that day. When I’m on duty at the reception centre my work starts at nine in the morning, when we begin to receive the children. We register newcomers and keep attendance records to follow up on their individual progress. We usually receive an average of 30 boys and girls per day in each of the Hope Village centres, but if only a few of them show up, we go out to the streets to bring more. Our daily programme starts with a medical inspection, followed by a shower. At 10am we serve them breakfast, followed by a workshop in basic vocational training. At 12pm, a child is

either given a literacy class ABOVE  There are tens of thousands of street children – for those who cannot in Cairo; organisations such as read and write – or joins our Hope Village are working to remedial education class, reintegrate them into society the ‘friendly school’, which is held in coordination with the National Motherhood and Childhood Institute. This programme, which may extend to two years, enables the children to one day join mainstream school. The children take their lunch at 2pm, and around 3pm we give them informal and friendly sessions, where we educate them on the various hazards and threats they face in the streets, and how to take precautions and protect themselves. The

day ends with video games and other recreational activities. Throughout the day, but mostly during the advisory session, we take every opportunity to befriend children individually for two purposes: to gain insight into their situation, and to begin their psychological rehabilitation, which is one of the most crucial steps towards their reintegration into society. Our ultimate goal is to find a home for these children as soon as possible, using a three-tier approach. The top priority is to get the child back into the fold of his or her own family or living with a close relative. The second option is to lodge the child in one of the Hope Village shelters, which currently house 235 children. The third possibility is accommodation with one of the childcare organisations we know. Finding a home for a child according to this plan can take months; meanwhile, many of them slip away. Though we help thousands of street children to lead a normal life, our success rate does not exceed 30 per cent. We want to do more. We are operating on skeleton funding of around EGP1.5m ($215,000), contributed by local donors and international organisations, such as the World Bank and USAID. However we have had to turn down some international funds because they wanted us to follow their own agendas, which didn’t fit into our programmes. More than two decades of working with street children has taught us where the priorities are and where we can be most effective. We just need the tools to do the job. n



In numbers: an unfolding crisis 22.4 million The Syrian population

2.3Portion million of the population classed as refugees

Worsening Syria conflict spurs record UN appeal he United Nations in December appealed for a record $6.5bn for Syria and its neighbours after warning almost three-quarters of the country’s 22.4 million population may need help in 2014, as its bloody conflict enters its fourth year. The Syrian plea comprised half of the UN’s global funding plan of $12.9bn, which aims to deliver aid to 52 million people in 17 countries, and marks the agency’s largest ever appeal for a single crisis. “We’re facing a terrifying situation here where, by the end of 2014, substantially more of the population of Syria could be displaced or in need of humanitarian help



than not,” said António Guterres, UN high commissioner for refugees. “This goes beyond anything we have seen in many, many years, and makes the need for a political solution all the much greater.” The UN estimates that some 6.3 million people have been displaced within Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011. More than 2.3 million are thought to have fled the country, generating one of the largest exoduses in recent history. Many have escaped across borders to nearby Arab states such as Jordan and Lebanon, stretching their host countries’ social and civil systems to breaking point. Circumstances worsened

16 million Number of Syrians likely to need aid in 2014

further in December with the onset of harsh winter storms across the region. The flood of refugees has swelled Lebanon’s population close to the size it was expected to reach by the year 2050, at enormous cost to its economy. “Syria’s neighbours have been saving lives and providing protection, but… few refugee influxes have ever generated such a profound impact on their host countries,” Guterres said. The UN is seeking $2.3bn to help 9.3 million people in Syria in 2014. A further $4.2bn is needed to aid refugees and host communities in five neighbouring states: Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. UN agencies in June called for $4.4bn to provide shelter, food aid, water, vital healthcare and other essential support to victims of the Syria crisis. The appeal, at the time the UN’s largest, has to date been only 62 per cent funded. “It remains of lifesaving importance that the humanitarian response is supported,” Guterres said. “Massive international solidarity is crucial, not only to support suffering Syrians, but also for the countries that have so generously taken in refugees.”


Foreign charities net million-dollar gifts from GCC donors onors in the six Gulf nations gave at least $727m to charity in 2012 in gifts of $1m or more, with nearly two-thirds of pledges given to non-profits based overseas, private bank Coutts said. Some 28 pledges worth $1m or more were made in the 12-month period, with the largest gifts favouring higher education projects in Qatar, food relief in Yemen and development aid in Asian states. “As Gulf economies mature, we’re seeing a corresponding move towards more strategic decisions about how philanthropic donations are invested,” said Barbara Ibrahim, founding director of the John D Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement in Cairo, which collaborated on the report. “Major donations make a significant difference in quality health services and education.” The largest slice of aid was reserved for foreign charities, with 40 per cent of gifts given to disaster relief agencies, particularly those supporting Syria.


“Donors are globally-minded, supporting causes far from home,” Ibrahim said. The UAE led the region’s donations, pledging $232m or 32 per cent of the GCC’s total. About half of these were given to domestic charities to support housing and education, with the remaining 50 per cent given to overseas causes, including vaccination drives. Kuwait was the second most generous Gulf state, generating 29 per cent of the trade bloc’s donations. Three-quarters of gifts went to overseas charities tackling issues such as disaster relief and international security research. Three pledges from the GCC broke the $100m barrier, including one gift worth $200m from a donor in Kuwait. Almost one-third of all donations over $1m – 32 per cent – were worth more than $10m. The findings are part of a wider global report on million-dollar donors, which tracked charitable giving across the Middle East, China, Hong Kong, Russia, the UK and the US during 2012.

Value of donations in 2012

Where the $1m donations went

Below $2m

% 65 Overseas charities


$2m - $9.9m

$10m - $99m


43% 11%

$100m or more

% 19 Higher education

% 15 Human services

New plan needed for shifting pattern of poverty ew global development goals are needed to address a rise in the number of poor people living in middle-income countries and renew efforts to eradicate chronic poverty, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said in a December report. The OECD said the world must look beyond economic growth which, although critical, is not by itself sufficient to lift 1.2 billion people out of poverty. “Extreme poverty is not just about living on less than $1.25 a day,” said Erik Solheim, chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee. “Poverty is also about vulnerability, humiliation, discrimination, exclusion and inequity.” New patterns of economic growth have given rise to a “bottom billion”, or 1 billion poor people living below the breadline in middle-income countries, said Andy Sumner, co-director of King’s College London’s International Development Institute. Half of these people live in the fast-growing economies of India and China, underscoring how rising prosperity can fail to reach significant pockets of the population, yet nevertheless lead to a reduction in aid flows. “The poor do not just live in the poorest countries,” noted Sumner, adding that “nothing magically happens” when a state is reclassified as a middle-income country. Decisions on what should follow the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, should reflect the need for aid and policy to focus not only on the poorest states, but also work to reduce inequalities in richer nations, said Sumner.




You can always make a difference… The stories featured on these pages are just a starting point. Many of the organisations we focus on are saving and changing lives on a daily basis, but they need support to survive. If you want to learn more about the issues, or get busy solving them, then don’t hesitate to get in touch and take the next step on your own philanthropic journey

Mobile money The UN’s World Food Programme ( has replaced its paper coupon system with electronic cards for 800,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon and 300,000 in Jordan. The e-cards allow users to buy food for their families in local shops, up to a value of $27 a month. The WFP is 100 per cent voluntarily funded, so every dollar makes a difference.

Farmers in India A number of non-profit organisations are working to improve the lives of desperately poor farming families in rural India. Among them is SCIAF (, which partners with local NGOs to bolster incomes for smallholders, and US-based Digital Green (, which uses low-cost videos to educate farmers as they try to break free from poverty.

Jobs in Palestine With youth unemployment in the West Bank at a staggering 41 per cent, the JobMatch SMS system employed by Souktel (, which aligns jobseekers with potential employers, has proved an invaluable tool to thousands of young people and their families. More donations are needed to change more young lives.

Guiding lights The Nuru Light is a portable, rechargeable light source that is helping the world’s poorest to spend less on energy, in an effort to lift them out of poverty. The team at Nuru Energy ( is striving to scale up an already sustainable business model. Any support they receive will go a long way towards illuminating the lives of poor communities in Africa and India.

Skate parks in Afghanistan Skateistan ( is putting smiles on the faces of hundreds of Afghan youths. It is also equipping them to leave the streets and rejoin the public school system, by training them in maths, Islamic studies and language skills. Skateistan is reliant on donations, and your support will help offer a brighter future to many more impoverished young Afghans.

Street children in Egypt Hope Village ( is supporting efforts to help street children, one of the most vulnerable and abused groups in Egypt, and integrate them back into society. However the programme is running on skeleton funding, and needs support to extend the hand of friendship to those who need it most.

























D. C.


Key events this quarter January 22-25

February 3-5

New Haven


Addis Ababa

The 2014 World Economic Forum annual meeting will gather 250 political leaders, heads of international organisations and business leaders under the theme ‘Reshaping of the world: consequences for society, politics and business’.

At the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, policymakers, investors and suppliers from across the Middle East and North Africa will debate how novel technologies can tackle global hunger and feed the world.

The ninth Yale Philanthropy Conference will look at the latest trends and innovations in philanthropy in the context of the sector’s history. The event aims to foster dialogue and cultivate leadership among those working in the industry.

A two-day event, the 2014 World Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Congress will gather industry professionals and businesses to discuss challenges in global sustainability and how best to improve the effectiveness of CSR.

This invitation-only event marks the first African Philanthropy Forum (APF). Launched last year, the APF seeks to promote the sharing of insights among philanthropists, grant-makers and social investors to promote strategic philanthropy in Africa, by Africans.

February 7

February 17-18

February 24-25



Davos-Klosters Abu Dhabi













Coming up





Next quarter

April 23-25 Global Philanthropy Forum, Redwood City April 27-29 World Economic Forum on Europe, MENA and Eurasia, Istanbul




Washington D.C.

The annual Latin America Impact Investment Forum is the largest in the region. Over three days it will bring together investors, entrepreneurs, foundations and businesses looking to develop the impact investment sector.

Held every four years, the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support Forum welcomes 200 members from around the world. This three-day event will look at the power of networks in driving forward global philanthropy.

The invitation-only Skoll World Forum on social entrepreneurship is expected to attract 1,000 entrepreneurs, financiers, public and private sector delegates from some 65 countries. The three-day event will look at best practice and innovations in tackling social challenges.

The Global Donors Forum, the biennial conference of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, gathers more than 500 leaders from the public, private and philanthropic sectors to discuss prominent opportunities and challenges for giving in emerging economies around the world.

February 18-20

March 27-29

April 9-11

April 13-16

April 29 – May 1 Just Giving, Berkeley May 7-9 World Economic Forum on Africa, Abuja May 15-17 European Foundation Centre Annual General Assembly, Sarajevo May 19-21 CECP Summit, New York May 29-30 Triple Bottom Line Investing Conference, New York June 4-6 Takaful 2014, Cairo June 8-10 Council on Foundations Annual Conference, Washington D.C.



In the next issue…

How to be good nybody can give money away: the challenge is doing so intelligently and in a way which will guarantee the greatest possible impact. In our next issue we provide you with a how-to guide to philanthropy. We don’t have all the answers, and there’s no best way to make a difference. However we do have a few simple suggestions, whether you’re considering setting up a foundation, looking to learn from the experiences of others, or even thinking of pulling the plug on your philanthropic endeavours. You don’t want a lecture, and we’re not here to give you one. But wouldn’t you like to hear what we’ve learned?  n





Philanthropy Age Issue 4