Friday, October 23, 2015

EPN Heroes: The Five Core Capitals

In our last post we introduced Father Godfrey Nzamujo, the founder and director of the Songhai Center. He and his team of educators have trained thousands to use agriculture as a vehicle out of poverty. 

After returning home to West Africa during the famine of the 1980's Father Godfrey encountered a "logic of poverty." He noticed two underlying premises driving the way his countrymen thought about stemming economic deprivation: 1) a dependence on foreign aid, and 2) the need for large amounts of capital to create economic production.

Although foreign aid can be a wonderful tool to address the immediate needs of people, it rarely, if ever, addresses the root causes of poverty. For example, Tom's, the popular shoe brand, promises to donate a pair of shoes in Africa for every pair purchased here in the States. This means that many people who need shoes receive a free pair. Great!

Unfortunately, "shoelessness" is only symptomatic of the real problem -- poverty. Giving away free shoes won't create economic opportunity for those who need jobs that pay livable wages. Worse yet, when a village's market becomes saturated with free shoes, the local skilled craftsmen who make and sell shoes can't compete. With this logic at work, the impoverished stay dependent on foreign aid and never become self-reliant.

Great at solving "shoelessness", not so great at eliminating poverty.

Another tenant in the logic of poverty is that massive amounts of money are needed to create economic opportunity for those who have none. If this is true, countries struggling to provide basic services will never have the stockpiles of cash necessary to combat the root causes of poverty. Father Godfrey however, is proving that remarkable economic opportunity can in fact be created without a large infusion of money.

Father Godfrey preaches that there are five "core capitals" at work, in sequence, to create wealth: 1) human 2) environmental 3) technological 4) social and 5) financial. By properly investing in people, using the right technologies to leverage environmental resources, and selling society on their benefit's, significant financial gains can be made to benefit all. Let's take a closer look.

"To cultivate human capital, " says Father Godfrey, "you must recognize the productive and creative potential of all individuals, regardless of their socio-economic status. Once you recognize this fact, you can develop their latent productive potential through education and vocational training."

With a team of highly trained individuals, you can cultivate environmental capital, especially in the form of agriculture. By using the right technological capital, which in this context includes machinery, tools, and specialized techniques, you can ensure the relationship with the environment is productive and non-destructive.

The Songhai Centre makes terrific use of renewable energy, like solar power.

When you produce valuable goods with previously untapped human potential and with non-destructive methods, agencies, institutions and the public start to demand that these principles be adopted as the norm. This creates social capital.  Financial capital is the offshoot of an economic system that maximizes human and environmental potential, not the impetus that makes it possible.

Need more proof? Father Godfrey started the first Songhai Centre in Benin with a team of high school dropouts on a 2.4 acre strip of infertile land. Today there are 13 Songhai Centres in 4 African nations. Each are "doing more with less" by rethinking how to address poverty and making tremendous use of capital sources that traditionally go overlooked and under-appreciated.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

EPN Heroes: Father Godfrey Nzamujo

Father Godfrey Nzamujo

Next in our EPN Heroes series we are featuring Father Godfrey Nzamujo. Father Godfrey is the founder and director of the Songhai Centre, one of Africa's premier technical schools.  He firmly believes that "agriculture can be a weapon of mass construction." 

We see many common themes among our EPN heroes. They see opportunities to make their world a better place and share a passion to make it happen.  Godfrey Nzamujo, known simply as Father Godfrey by his peers, is innovating new ways of wealth creation for Africa's most impoverished and underserved. His contribution to agriculture research, science, and the eradication of poverty aren't just inspiring, there heroic.

Father GODFREY NZAMUJO, is a true renaissance man.  Born in Kano, Nigeria in 1950, he has a B.A. in Modern Philosophy and Mathematics, an M.A. in Theology and a PH.D. in Economic Philosophy. As if that weren't enough, he has an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles and a PH.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California at Irvine.  We're still trying to figure out how many languages he speaks.

The Songhai Centre, Benin

While working as a professor in California in 1984, west and central Africa experienced one of the worst famines in recorded history. Everyday, on every news network, he watched his countrymen literally starve to death. Equally distressing was the foreign response to the crisis. Nation after nation poured into Africa, handing out food and clothes, flooding the economy with aid, but not opportunity. 

"It's good to provide the hungry with food," he said, "but it's far better to provide them with opportunities for self-sustainability. The key to ending poverty is to make the impoverished productive." He committed right then to go back home and reverse the "logic of poverty" at work in Africa. 

When he arrived back home in Nigeria, Father Godfrey met with local government officials to pitch an idea to transform the fight against poverty. He envisioned a place where people would be trained to use technologically advanced, eco-friendly agriculture to launch their own businesses and feed their communities. With visions of petro-dollars dancing in their heads, the Nigerian officials thought agriculture seemed pretty mundane.  They turned him down.  But Father Godfrey was undeterred.  

He traveled to the neighboring country of Benin. After meeting with national officials there, he was given one hectare of land (roughly 2.4 acres) to begin work on the first Songhai Centre. With a staff of seven local high school dropouts, he converted a section of once infertile land into an agricultural oasis. People from all over Benin started flocking to the Songhai Centre to learn agriculture and entrepreneurism from Father Godfrey. 
What once was a wasteland is now a lush field of nutritious greens!

Twenty-five years later there are 13 Songhai Centres in four African nations, each of them equipping agricultural entrepreneurs with the tools and training necessary for economic self-determination. Additionally, the groundbreaking research being done in these facilities is helping the world better understand how farmers can have a symbiotic relationship with mother earth. Father Godfrey's impact on the lives of his pupils, colleagues, and countrymen is immeasurable. His commitment to excellence and service is utterly awe-inspiring, and of course, heroic!  

In our next post we will take a look how Father Godfrey five fold approach towards creating wealth in some of Africa's most economically depressed areas.