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Knowledge is Contagious


Written by Plant With Purpose on August 12, 2009 in General

by Aly Lewis

In last week’s post about PWP’s innovative mushroom modules, I mentioned that “PWP has worked directly with Oaxacans to establish 15 mushroom modules, and even more families have begun their own mushroom modules as program beneficiaries share their knowledge and expertise with friends and neighbors.” 

Indeed, much of the impact of PWP’s programs goes beyond our initial investment into a community. Plant With Purpose will train a group of 15 or so people on topics such as starting a mushroom module, building ecological latrines, or applying sustainable agriculture techniques to their land.  In addition to the training, PWP will provide some start up materials to help community members implement the projects. 

With the mushroom modules, for example, PWP trains a group of interested farmers in the technical aspects—like where mushrooms grow best, when to plant, when to harvest—and provides some start up materials such as the mushroom spores, but the community members provide the sheds, the corncobs to grow the mushrooms on, and do all of the labor themselves.  Once one family or community group has started one, they can share both their crop and their expertise to help their friends get started.  Because PWP’s projects are designed to utilize readily available materials, they’re pretty easy to replicate. Instead of giving out handouts that won’t last, PWP equips farmers with the skills and knowledge to implement sustainable projects that will transform their lives and the lives of their community.  In this way, the projects aren’t really our projects, but the community’s. 

Our impact evaluation reports from last year showed that:

In our program in Oaxaca, 52% of PWP beneficiaries have shared their knowledge and experience with 1, 2, or 3 other people. 

In Haiti, on average, 33.4% of PWP participants have trained a neighbor on one or more of the techniques taught to them by PWP. 

And, on average, 21% of non-beneficiaries in a PWP Tanzania community have copied or learned techniques from the PWP beneficiaries and then applied them to their own land. 

At PWP we’re big fans of the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This ripple effect is exciting to hear about and truly one of the most significant aspects of our program. Not only are we teaching 8,500 or so farmers directly how to earn a livelihood, but those 8,500 farmers are in turn teaching their neighbors to be self-sufficient, and the impact goes on and on.

This willingness of community members to share their knowledge and success with their neighbors made all the difference for Gerardo Miguel Martinez of La Muralla, Mexico. Last year Gerardo’s neighbor, Señor Gumersindo, invited him to be a part of a community greenhouse that PWP had helped begin. Gerardo says, “Thanks to Plant With Purpose and at the invitation that was extended to me by my neighbor, Señor Gumersindo, we are now working in a greenhouse, which has helped us a lot. Not only do we have tomatoes to eat but also to sell to our neighbors and the farms nearby. In this way we can benefit everyone, because we sell the tomatoes at a good price and the people in this region don’t have much income.”

This is just one of many examples of PWP’s ripple effect that is fostering long-term transformation in communities around the globe.  Stay tuned for a weekly “Ripple Report” to hear more stories of how rural farmers are sharing with purpose. 


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