For the first time today, I gave some cash to two very cool causes through organizations that allow start-ups and projects to crowdsource funding from a lot of different people.
The first is being run by a friend and former Kiva Fellow, Rebecca Corey who worked for a microfinance institution in Dar es Salaam, the capital city of Tanzania. She is back again for a way-cool music festival in Zanzibar that I hope to attend, but that isn’t the only reason she is visiting the eastern coast of Africa. The music archive at the Ministry of Culture in Tanzania has a deep wealth of great music in reel-to-reel format, which could be lost to the elements. To prevent that from happening, Rebecca and her team are going to save the archives before it is too late.
Here is the project description:
More than 100,000 hours of music like this is sitting idle and all but forgotten on deteriorating reel-to-reel tapes at the headquarters for the Tanzanian Broadcasting Corporation in Dar es Salaam. The Radio Tanzania archives are running out of time and it’s our goal to digitize and preserve them before it’s too late. Remarkably, our project coincides with the 50th anniversary of Tanzania’s independence from colonial rule. It’s the perfect time to celebrate Tanzanian culture by preserving and reviving this treasure of national heritage.
The Kickstarter funds will be used to purchase equipment for the digitization, to pay royalty fees to musicians and the Tanzanian government, and to produce a “Best of Radio Tanzania” compilation CD with extensive liner notes, photographs, and lyric translations. In order to make the digitization sustainable and directly beneficial to the local community, we are going to establish a Radio Tanzania Digitization workshop that will train Tanzanians in the digitization process and will employ locals to run the workshop in our absence.
The roots of music can be traced back to the continent, where traditional African music spread across the world and morphed into jazz, rock, hip-hop, and everything in between. When I lived in Ghana, I used to buy gospel CDs from pick-up trucks riding through the streets with speakers blaring the music and practically went deaf listening to highlife and hiplife at outdoor bars and clubs, where having a conversation is difficult, if not impossible. Music is an important part of the culture and historical tradition of African life. Preserving it is a noble cause.
There is an old Zimbabwean proverb quoted in a Talib Kweli song called African Dream that goes, “If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance.” Unfortunately, anyone who has witnessed me do either of those things knows that the saying has little bearing on reality. But still, I can do my part to help. I urge you to do the same.
The second project I supported is a fledgling Kenyan start-up called M-Farm, started by three Kenyan ladies here in Nairobi. The company helps farmers gain access to markets through their mobile phones. They are raising money to attend the Unreasonable Institute, a start-up accelerator in the United States. Here is the description from the Unreasonable Marketplace:
M-Farm enables farmers inquire about the current prices of different crops in specific markets throughout Kenya. Up-to-date market information empowers farmers as they bargain for a fair price with middlemen and purchasers.
The M-Farm system provides farmers a group selling service where they can connect with other farmers from the neighborhood to jointly market crops in greater volume, helping rural farmers access large-scale local and international markets. Farmers often need to have large quantities of produce available in a short time frame in order to sell to exporters and large-scale retailers.
We’ve more than 2000 farmers,from the pilot test we carried out,already subscribed to the system and are paying for the service. During the pilot test,73 farmers working with M-Farm who have benefited by having a 50% increase in their profits and a 30% saving on the cost of input. M-Farm has achieved this by creating direct market linkages with local exporters and international buyers who have ensured stable prices for these farmers.
They are growing fast and providing a valuable service to Kenyan farmers, who suffer from a serious information assymetry that leaves them at the whim of middlemen who use their ignorance about market prices to low-ball them on prices. Using mobile technology, they connect those farmers with markets around the country. In doing so, the supply chain becomes more efficient, food becomes cheaper, and farmers become richer.
A start-up accelerator is the kind of thing that gives young social enterprises a platform to grow and expand. So, if you have some time, support a real homegrown startup out here in Nairobi.