Dale Lewis | COMACO
Fellows work to maximize the impact of their ideas through design. They work through a systematic process driven by the five elements of scalability: real impact, big bang for the buck, lasting behavior change, easy replication, and the right path to scale. Fellows participate in the program for two years, working through several design iterations.
THE IDEA: COMACO
Turn poachers into farmers through access to markets: assist poor farmers in return for "conservation farming"- no poaching, no burning/clearing and good soil management
HOW IT WORKS
- Mobilize farmers into producer groups, using lead farmers to introduce improved farming skills
- Regional hub buys commodities from farmers through local trading depots and processes them into value-added products
- "Conservation farmers" who give up poaching and burning earn an added premium value for each kg sold
- COMACO's business arm drives national and regional sales of It's Wild! products
- A group member who violates conservation pledges will cause entire group to loose entitlements to premium prices
- As COMACO diversifies products, groups also diversify to specialize in both on and off-farm commodities, like honey.
THE PERSON: Dale Lewis
Dale Lewis is a PhD ecologist in Zambia with a new approach for wildlife conservation: that people, not wildlife, must be the focus
Dale Lewis started out as an elephant researcher in Zambia and segued naturally into conservation. When traditional conservation strategies didn’t work, he and his Zambian team took a radical new approach: starting a business to provide good markets for farmers willing to quit poaching.
Millions of rural farmers across much of Africa live far from markets and are forced to scratch out a bare subsistence living. Desperate for income, farmers often fall prey to markets that concentrate wealth in urban centers, suck up resources, and degrade their land. Dale and his team had seen the failures of both conventional rural development and traditional conservation. They came up with Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) to help isolated subsistence farmers and beleaguered wildlife at the same time. COMACO currently works with 10,000 farmers who give up poaching and burning by providing key inputs, a little training, and a market for their crops. COMACO then processes the crops into value-added products sold on supermarket shelves under the “it’s Wild” brand. They return the profits in the form of premium prices to “conservation farmers” who take good care of land and wildlife. By using a successful conservation and agriculture intervention, COMACO saves thousands of wild animals every year. With the enthusiastic support of the Zambian wildlife authority, COMACO is extending the program to new parks and wildlife zones and perhaps into the Congo.