By: Michael Dale Issue: Vision Section: Community
A New Business Approach to Charitable Work
TIFIE Humanitarian (Teaching Individuals and Families Independence though Enterprise), a Utah-based international organization, is pioneering a new approach to charitable efforts in West Africa. Founded in 2007 and dedicated to fostering long-term, self-sustainable philanthropic support, TIFIE trains individuals to establish sustainable business enterprises like agricultural development farms, medical initiatives, business entities, and successful distribution, transportation and construction service companies.
TIFIE believes in lifting the human spirit by supporting orphanages, renovating and building schools, supplying reliable and portable solar energy, developing water projects, and delivering life-altering change. With this paradigm-shifting approach to humanitarian aid, TIFIE strives not only to help those in need, but helps people realize their potential for self-sufficiency and prosperity.
Robert Workman began looking for humanitarian opportunities in 2005, after 30 years as a successful entrepreneur and owner of Provo Craft and Novelty. He wanted to focus on something that would more profoundly change people’s lives—giving rise to TIFIE Humanitarian. During his extensive business travels, Workman had seen free-market concepts flourish in places like China and India, improving lives with fresh opportunity. His vision was to utilize tried-and-true business principles within a humanitarian model to provide sustainable change. This vision took root in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where Workman fell in love with the people and their culture. He also recognized the massive challenges of daily life and lack of opportunities for livelihoods. Working in the DRC was a challenge, making it the perfect place for him to plant the first seeds that would become TIFIE Humanitarian.
Through his experiences with TIFIE in disadvantaged areas of Africa, Workman realized the severe need for a reliable power source there. As a result, he founded GOAL ZERO to help deliver dependable, socially responsible, and eco-friendly power to people around the world. Together, GOAL ZERO and TIFIE Humanitarian foster economic development in underserved countries by establishing sustainable business enterprises that produce goods and services and create lasting jobs.
GOAL ZERO and TIFIE were conceived to work together not only to provide access to portable power, but also to empower, by providing tools and skills for sustainable humanitarian efforts. TIFIE receives a portion of proceeds from all GOAL ZERO purchases, which covers the operational expenses for the organization. “Not only is this organization providing a basic necessity of light, but it is also teaching the value of financial responsibility one light at a time,” said Robert Workman. “Staying within our mission of providing long-term, self-sustainable philanthropic support, we believe these programs will make a tremendous difference.”
TIFIE’s local entrepreneur programming focuses creating food security and increasing economic prosperity through rural road repair, seed multiplication, market development, education, microenterprise, orphanage repair, water procurement and health and HIV projects. Farmers receive agro-enterprise training to assist in building links to markets for increased profits. Currently, TIFIE is working to improve food production and climate mitigation by forming voluntary farming associations, thus providing farmers the opportunity to increase their economic benefits by ensuring resource conservation.
TIFIE also supports small enterprises in partnership with the Catholic Church and provides training, seed grants and technical assistance. TIFIE has implemented a seed multiplication project with two local associations—comprised of almost 50 percent women. These groups have successfully multiplied cassava, corn, peanuts, cowpeas, soybeans and planted seeds on 120 hectares of land, almost tripling the income of each family involved. Moreover, TIFIE recently built a warehouse that houses excess goods before being transported to the market in Kinshasa.
Serge Tshibangu is a prime example of how the training and opportunities that TIFIE provides gives a family true independence. Tshibangu has been working at the TIFIE farm in Dumi for over 18 months. Before moving to there, Tshibangu and his wife Kito lived in Kinshasa with their two children, Jasmine and Ivory. He is currently working at the TIFIE Farm as the agronomist, strategizing and implementing best practices for agriculture and animal husbandry.
Moving from the city to the farm was a huge change for his family, as life in the city included modern conveniences such as running water and flushing toilets. Thanks to GOAL ZERO however, Tshibangu can fully power batteries and lights out on the farm. And, he has taken the initiative to create his own business of producing and selling charcoal—DRCs only heat source for cooking—in nearby villages. Oftentimes, villagers make charcoal and sell it to generate income, and with the help of TIFIE, Tshibangu has been able to produce additional income as well. With the profits, Tshibangu has been able to purchase two hectares of land near the main TIFIE farm, where they are planning on building a large home. It is a positive step for them—owning their own property and raising their children in a clean and safe environment.
In many villages of the DRC, smallholder farmers rely on subsistence farming to meet basic nutritional needs. Farmers are discouraged from planting cash crops because of their inability to warehouse, protect, and transport their crops making it difficult to generate an income worth their time and effort. Furthermore, many farmers utilize agricultural practices that deplete soil nutrients, increase desertification, negatively impact water conservation efforts and otherwise make the land incapable of supporting crops in consecutive seasons. In addition, due to frequent droughts, poor harvests and a lack of technical expertise, the quality of agricultural seeds has declined over the years.
Since 2007, TIFIE has operated agriculture programs focused on helping farmers and villages improve food availability, food security and increase economic stability with sustainable agricultural practices. TIFIE provides education and technical assistance to farmers in agroforestry and seed multiplication—encouraging changes to cropping patterns, reforestation and diversify of harvests that can enhance overall economic livelihoods.
TIFIE has experimented with cassava, pineapple, moringa, acacia, eggplant, hot peppers, and corn to identify which plants would thrive in the local area and would best help village farmers generate household income. The organization has planted 247 hectares of cassava, 100 hectares of sweet potatoes, two hectares of pineapple, and over 40,000 moringa and acacia trees.
The organization’s efforts at providing employment and sustenance through agriculture are based on the complex growth and production cycle of cassava—a highly nutritious, staple food for many African people that grows in poor soil/low rain conditions. And, at any given time, TIFIE’s farm in Dumi can easily employ up to 200 people. This combination of farming and agri-forestry provides sustainable employment to Congolese people from eight different villages, as well as providing them with agricultural training that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives.
For more information, visit www.tifie.org.