The (BoP) Project Photo Essay: KOMAZA

By Jonathan Kalan

Four billion people on this planet live in relative poverty. While each of their situations are unique, most of these 4 billion people share a similar set of economic constraints, collectively placing them at the Base of the Economic Pyramid (BoP). Among their daily struggles, they face significant unmet needs, a dependence on informal or subsistence livelihoods, and are often forced to pay higher prices for basic goods or services than wealthier consumers- either in cash or in effort they must expend to obtain them. They live in informal settlements, lacking access to clean water, sanitation services, electricity, water, basic health care, and modern financial services.

While traditional forms of aid and NGOs have certainly had an incredible impact in these areas, they often fall short of addressing critical issues and providing real sustainable solutions to escape the poverty trap and enter the formal economy. Over the past 25 years, social enterprises and entrepreneurs like Grameen Bank (Mohammed Yunus), Ashoka (Bill Drayton), and many more have been developing innovative approaches to meet the needs of those in the BoP, leveraging the powers of capitalism to help entrepreneurs lift their communities out of poverty. Unfortunately, much of the general public is still largely unaware of these approaches, and the growing movement towards social enterprise and market-based solutions to poverty. Their stories, successes, challenges and breakthroughs are inspiring; yet they are far too often left untold. Until now.

My name is Jonathan Kalan; I am a photojournalist, activist, aspiring social entrepreneur, and founder of The (BoP) Project. Over the next year, I will be traveling throughout East Africa documenting the untold stories of those at the Base of the Economic Pyramid, working directly with social enterprises, entrepreneurs, and innovative nonprofits to produce independent media and visual portfolios of their stories.

Through visual journalism, we hope to teach people about the growing social enterprise movement and the viable alternatives to traditional aid. In addition to covering these stories on The BoP Project blog, and returning with a full photo-journalistic piece to share with galleries and interested publications, I will be contributing to various other blogs, publications, websites, and communities focusing on these issues along the way.

The first enterprise to be highlighted along this journey is KOMAZA, a nonprofit social enterprise based in eastern Kenya that is building Africa’s “First Nonprofit Forestry Company”, working with rural farmers to develop small micro-forestry projects.

Check out the photos and story below:

This is not a solo project; in fact it is anything but. My aim is to collaborate with as many organizations, individuals, and enterprises in the sector to help spread these stories far and wide, and to maximize the impact of The BoP Project. If you, or any aspiring social entrepreneur, innovator, writer, photographer, student, executive director, CEO, etc… with the skills and the passion to move this social enterprise movement forward is interested in contributing, please feel free to get in touch at Jonathankalan[at]gmail[dot]com. Same goes for recommending an enterprise. While the list of high-impact organizations in the area keeps growing, so does the excitement, adventure, and the stories that are waiting to be told…

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