I was at a presentation last Friday where the founder of the concept of Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholemew, presented his company's newest product: a prepackaged, no-tool-required, easy-assembled squarefoot garden designed to be distributed through humanitarian efforts. In the lecture he said they intended to “give” them away which made me immediately hesitant thinking about problems created by other free handouts bednets, clothing, etc. I would instead see squarefoot gardening as an excellent business opportunity that microentrepreneurs should be anxious to adopt. I would feel more comfortable selling them the package, one could subsidize it in some manner or offer a flexible payment schedule, but having them invest in it would give them a sense of ownership and stewardship that would lead to greater success and dignity than a free handout. That's where I weigh in on that debate.
I get most excited about the multiple aspects of squarefoot gardening that could be fantastic microfranchises, either as distributors/educators/seed distributors/compost makers.
If you haven't heard of it before, square-foot gardening (or outside of the U.S. 1 meter squared gardening) is a simple gardening technique that is more efficient than traditional row gardening. The organization claims the same crop yields can be obtained in 20% the space with 10% the water usage over tradtional methods.
The organization is extremely socially minded and focused on empowering the poor to get themselves out of poverty. They have had amazing success in multiple countries around the world, showing great adaptability across cultures and conditions. Their stories also show great confidence in the poor themselves, who have seen the value of the idea, sought education about it, and ran with it. Including one case of a loose book finding its way from Nepal into the hands of an entrepreneur in India who used the methods to subsequently launch a training school for square foot gardening.
For more info:
Their book over at Amazon
A website endorsement from a Purdue gardener of the concept
Post at Get Rich Slowly