The talk below is by Quetsol cofounder, Juan Fermín Rodriguez, given at the finale of the Unreasonable Institute 2012, at which he was one of 22 social entrepreneurs from around the world to be named Unreasonable Fellows.
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In November, 2011, I took a trip to Nepal to visit an international development NGO called CHOICE Humanitarian. I met the organization’s former CEO earlier in the year and was struck by the statistics he presented—contrary to many NGOs’ M.O.s, the rural villages that CHOICE works with have an abnormally high success rate after CHOICE’s involvement is over. Their model of teaching leadership over the course of their development projects trains villagers to take control of their own further development, so when CHOICE leaves, they’re self-motivated and empowered to keep their own improvements going.
After five days volunteering in the office, getting to know CHOICE and how they operate, and exploring Kathmandu, I joined CHOICE’s Kiran Neupane on a trip to visit a few of the villages CHOICE works with. We were accompanied by a few members of Kathmandu’s Rotary Club which was supporting some of their work and we stayed two nights in villagers’ homes. CHOICE and the villages we visited were preparing to launch a new home-stay-based trekking route the following month and we were a friendly group to give them a trial run.
The people were friendly, open and wonderful as Kiran checked on and showed us the progress in different villages. CHOICE works on a variety of projects, letting the villagers decide their own priorities, and we saw a few schools and a health outpost tucked into the steeply sloping hills and cascading rice paddies. But one recurring item really struck me as I saw them installed in many villagers’ households—the bio-gas digester.
What is a bio-gas digester and how does it work?
* Time to check your squeamishness at the door. We’re about to talk about poop and pee. We all make it, we all have to do something with it, and here’s a way to harness some good from it. *