We started with a simple question: can rural poverty in Zambia be eliminated in one generation sustainably, without going through a carbon based economy?
Guided by the principles of the Earth Charter, Victor Phiri, National Coordinator for the Workers Education Association of Zambia (WEAZ), and George Sherman, Board member of Earth Charter US (ECUS), developed the COPE Project. COPE is an ambitious 20 year plan to eliminate rural poverty by creating a Contentment Economy based on the traditional cultural practices of the villages. Key to eliminating poverty is the elimination of health problems through sustainable methods. Thus, the project initially focuses on solar and fuel efficient cooking, water purification, and waterless toilets.
The extra time and energy people have due to more health and less labor intensive practices can be used in any other way the people choose in accord with their traditional cultural practices. This will include education for young girls, women’s social groups focused on crafts or micro lending, expansion of small scale agriculture, and the stimulation of small scale local economies based on supplying the technology for the cooking, water, and toilet aspects. Each village is trained in all details of the project, and all that is required is that they agree to train a new village each year. And each year each new village agrees to train another village.
The first two phases have been completed. One village has been trained, along with trainers from WEAZ, in the construction and use of solar cookers, water testing and water purification. A second village has been trained in the construction of waterless toilets. In the next phase, both villages will receive training in other technique. Thus, in 6 months, both villages will be ready to use the entire COPE Project, and begin expanding to other villages around them. So far, the trainings have been far better attended, and included far more women, than originally expected. Also, the members of the villages are acutely aware of how the project can help them break the cycle of poverty that damages the dignity of their lives. By using only local people to run the project, COPE costs only a small fraction of the amount normally used by an NGO, and the Project avoids the suspicion of outsiders trying to tell local people what to do. Total costs are not yet determined, but so far the entire project, which is funded by ECUS, is less than $10,000.
Find here a slide show on the work done on waterless toilet construction at Chongwe communit.
Ordinary people to ordinary people, joining across an ocean, united by the principles of the Earth Charter, without the intervention of governments or international NGO’s, the COPE Project aims to create a new development model to accelerate the elimination of rural poverty.