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Mpule Kwelagobe

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Doversity Live

Doversity Live


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Steven Putter and I will be speaking with prominent activist, humanitarian, and eco-lifestyle expert Mpule Kwelagobe about her journey from Miss Universe 1999 to the UN, World Economic Forum, and her work with Steven and the Imagine Rural Development Initiative.

More information about about Ms. Kwelagobe is available at www.mpule.com and you can learn about the 'Imagine' initiative at www.imaginezambia.org.


0:00 Ryan Orrock

Hello everyone. Okay. Alright, so well (laughing). Okay, there we are. Hello everyone. This is Ryan Orrock and I am here with Steven Putter and we are waiting for Mpule to show up. Getting a bit of an echo, Steven do you have something on I guess as an echo or?

0:32 Steven Putter

Not that I know of. I don't know what I have, you now. Is it better now?

0:40 Ryan Orrock

Let see what happens. Hello Mpule, is that you?

0:49 Mpule Kwelagobe

Yes, it is me.

0:50 Ryan Orrock


0:53 Mpule Kwelagobe

Thank you.

0:55 Steven Putter

Hi Mpule.

0:56 Mpule Kwelagobe

Hi Steven.

0:58 Steven Putter

I am getting a bit of an echo here through I don't know if somebody has something else open that gives an echo.

1:08 Mpule Kwelagobe

Is it on my side? It could not be though.

1:13 Steven Putter

Okay, wait a second. Let me see if I can get this testing under control and then we will be right here.

1:22 Ryan Orrock

So, Steven, I am getting an echo and I am not really sure how to deal with it.

1:30 Steven Putter

I have closed my BlogTalkRadio browser. Mpule, maybe you can close yours two and we can see if it actually works better.

1:39 Ryan Orrock


1:40 Steven Putter

Everybody that is listening, this is the first time that we are using this platform. So please be patient.

1:46 Ryan Orrock

Okay. I think I got it now and here we are again. Okay, thank you for your patience and welcome Mpule.

2:02 Mpule Kwelagobe

Thank you again.

2:04 Ryan Orrock

Yeah well, we think we have figured this it out and Steven and I were every excited to talk with Mpule, who is a New York City-based sustainability and eco-lifestyle expert, environmentalist, television host, international spokes model, global speaker, media personality, United Nation's Goodwill ambassador, a global leader from the World Economic Forum For Tomorrow and a young global leader and a former Ms. Universe from 1999 and Mpule is very active in humanitarian work and human rights work and we are very excited to hear about that today and she hold a degree in political science from Columbia University. So with that, welcome again and thank you for taking the time to be with us.

2:59 Mpule Kwelagobe

Oh no. It's a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

3:01 Ryan Orrock

So, you know I just wanna have this be sort of relaxed discussion about the issues that were facing now with environment sustainability, humanitarianism and I cannot think of anyone who'd be a better expert with Steven and I have to be here than you, so can you tell us maybe a little bit about what you do and what your priorities are at the moment?

3:32 Mpule Kwelagobe

This is for me or Steven?

3:34 Ryan Orrock

For you Mpule, for you.

3:36 Mpule Kwelagobe

Okay. So, what I choose in now is that I run my own think tank. I do have a think tank on indigenous development. I spent a number of years focusing on sustainable development and of course, you know, a lot of people always wonder what is the difference between indigenous and sustainable development. The difference is just in the perspective. Indigenous development is the development that is originated from the community. So, the communities having their own development agenda and having to see professionals and researchers and other people supporting this development agenda and it really is sustainable development that is what indigenous development is, it is much more sustainable form of development. I feel that you know sustainable development and we've come to know it. It really reflects a lot of policies and development framework that across this outside of countries that are you know generally crafted in America in the US which means New York and D.C. and that I have done sort of impose of government and impose on communities with very little cost from the community themselves and so you know I think that it really depends and needs to move from indigenous development. It looks very serious as a global community to achieve sustainable development to eradicate poverty to a real-life food security and even realize the millennium development goals or talk about indigenous development and you are sure that the voice that are most heard are those of the global communities and indigenous people and that they are driving now the development agenda and then we come in to support and bring in, you know additional resources until the skills that they need in order for them to realize their own development.

5:35 Ryan Orrock

Right that sounds great. Now, how do you support, for example what is some examples of how you can support local indigenous development?

5:47 Mpule Kwelagobe

Well you know I think one of the things of course is that we all see a business -- I have been, in my work I tend to focus more on African country so, you know it is a result then all you know we really talk about what we could do enough, I guess. If we really need to strengthen communities and one of the things that for me is very defining about my work is that not only this acknowledge culture as a fourth pillar of a development, it is because a lot of people sort of look at the economic pillar than the environmental pillar and the social pillar, but for me it is really same that culture is not only the fourth pillar, it is the actually most important pillar. The reason why development has not worked in Africa is because it does not take into consideration the role of culture and the role of cultural institution and cultural leaders and then what we need to do is to strengthen these community networks. We need to strengthen cultural institution. Now, I don't need to __6:44__ culture. There are some things about culture in Africa and in African country that need to be eliminated. You know especially when culture is more of practice or when if it's discriminating, it fringes on people's human rights. For example, when you look at women's right and things like, you know female genital mutilation for example, but it does not mean that the culture does not have a very important role to play in development and so I feel that this is what we need to start as though we need to strengthen our cultural institutions, then it strengthen the network and then even really look at the role of ICT. How can information and communication technology come into this to strengthen our linkage rate within communities and between communities and to reassure that like I said as we are having these dialogues and conversations outside of these communities in the Western part of the world, then we ensure that at every given moment, we are listening as well to rural and indigenous people and really, you are trying to understand you know with this developing goal that really work in this community and some development goals will not work if they are so far remove away from people's culture.

8:07 Ryan Orrock

Alright so. That's sounds like a really interesting a novel way and I think much more effectively to the development work. So, how do we promote the local cultures? How do you ¬ what things do you do so that the culture can find it on voice?

8:26 Mpule Kwelagobe

Well, I think the first this you know is to seek and to understand and I think this is something that you know Steven and I have been talked you know engaging a lot about. It is just that the whole thing of seeking to understand first and foremost we must go to people. We must go to rule out an indigenous people and step at their feet and listen to them and hear them and be able to understand and to be able to respect their views because I think especially when we are talking about development. The development that tends to be promoted is the development that really spent on economic growth and as a result then, you know, it seeks to commodify nature and commodify, you know natural resources and to realize that when it comes to rural and indigenous people, they hold a different view and different prospective about nature in that tourism nature. Again, you know nature is the center of all human life. This is what the theme is all about, but they do not necessarily view it with that idea of comodifying it and exploiting natural resources beyond their carrying capacity, so we need to first of all fit at the feet of rural and indigenous people and listen to them and hear them and be able to respect their views and to respect their views, understanding that somehow rural and indigenous people is their cultures have evolved in it they have evolved with the people. They managed to learn natural resource management and this is something that it is very, very critical for us to learn today you know we're facing the crisis and I think if something just boggles my mind, how evil you know a big chunk of the world is either oblivious to this or somehow manage it to you know live day by day without really paying attention to this, but we are really facing an environmental crisis when we look at climate change and our best hope of being able to know how adapt and mitigate climate change is to get really by learning from indigenous and rural communities.

10:32 Ryan Orrock

Right. So, do we just have to completely ignore the economic side when we are working with these communities or is there a place that look at the economic as well.

10:43 Mpule Kwelagobe

I think there is a place to look at the economic, but like I said, it is not a part of balance field when you know people sort of understand the value of nature you know rural or indigenous people, they understand the value of nature of course because it sustains them, but they are quick to put an economic price on it and towards the result, do not ever necessarily really know the economic value of what they are sitting on. Now, of course we know that in business for a business to be efficient and to be effective, they have to be an economic value attached to it and you know, we can appreciate that above business and I think that's what we really need more in the development agenda is more efficient and effectiveness. So, there is a plate for economic within all of these, but before though, it has not been a fair game because, for example, let's take indigenous knowledge and all traditional knowledge. You know indigenous people, they understand their value of their knowledge in how it helps them to survive day-to-day and how they can adapt to something, but you don't really know that this is information that if in packaged store what they know about indigenous herbs and roots and tubers, they do not necessarily know that with this information that if it packaged, it could actually worth billions of dollars. So, there's a place in this for economics, but so far, it is just really not benefited the real people that are generating this knowledge and this system.

12:20 Ryan Orrock

So could you give us some success stories about using this approach or are we at the every beginning of this process?

12:29 Mpule Kwelagobe

I think to a degree, we are at the beginning of this process, but they have been in terms of just really be, for example let's seek agriculture because I think that's really were you know sort of you know that this course is right know is looking at the role of agriculture in food security and food sovereignty. One of the things is that they are really understanding how indigenous and rural people have felt affected on agrobiodiversity and while we don't really see the scale of success in Africa, we do receipt examples in South America. I know that Cuba for example is one of the countries that when it comes to what he should be able to do with the agriculture is one of the country that people point to is that Cuba is on the verge of achieving food sovereignty and the agriculture is not run one you know _13:31_ you know it is not a _13:33_ based economy you know because of -- although we know that the support situation and the embargo and all of that. So, as a result, they were really able to implement a holistic agricultural system and one that integrate agrobiodiversity and what we see then you know with the Cuban model in terms of a country achieving food security and food sovereignty, it is admirable and you became skilled up and you know all the better for it.

14:07 Ryan Orrock

So, for those who may not know exactly what your terms mean, Can you briefly define both food security and food sovereignty for us?

14:16 Mpule Kwelagobe

Oh, I wish I document the part of it that I could read because I think a lot of other people obviously have better definitions of food security and food sovereignty. Maybe Steven would like to add on his definition of food security and food sovereignty.

14:33 Ryan Orrock

Alright Steven.

14:35 Steven Putter

Food security. Food security for me is you know having your storage of your food in such a way your local storage of food in such a way that your surface can carry you for at least one or two years. When necessary in case of a drought that needs security, in other words, you secure your resources to actually overstep anything that can happen in the future. Sovereignty to me as far as food is concerned is to produce what you can produce in the country and to overproduce in such a way that you can actually turn part of that production into an economic status where you can buy in what you can...

15:35 Mpule Kwelagobe

Hello? Hello?

16:07 Ryan Orrock

Okay. Are we back? Yeah we're back. Alright. Sorry people we just have a bit of...Okay sorry we have a bit of a technical bump there. But you are saying that you could have foods over and the overproduction in the country so that you can use the economic production to buy what you can't produce. Is that right Steven?

16:35 Ryan Orrock

Alright. And well I have a question and that is what I have read is that may be the developed world in Europe and America that there is a bit of opposition in terms of well if they start producing so much and so efficiently, are they going to compete with our market and are farmers going to be put under pressure out of business. Is this an issue or is this not an issue?

17:08 Steven Putter

Well you know we have to take a hard look at humanity and position of the speech you said at the moment. At the moment, we are sitting with 20,000 people per day that is dying of hunger-related diseases. Most of those are children, so is it really fair of us as a species to start fighting about production and production market as far as food is concerned. Their question really is should food be on the type of market that allow us for that kind of competition that actually needs the scarcity to be there in the first place and Mpule, may be you can say something about this as well because it is something that I am really passionate about. We talked about overproduction in America and some other countries and millions of tons of food being thrown into the ocean and all kinds of funny things and in the meantime, we know exactly what's happening across the globe and which is even start happening in America now. I mean there is more hungry children in America and than there has been ever before, so how are we managing? How natural resources as far as it comes to food security and food security for whom in the current model we have to ask ourselves.

18:33 Mpule Kwelagobe

I absolutely agree. I think that first and foremost, it is just really have to recognize that the food is the basic thing like you know like more and for example, and like Steven said, you know is it the right thing to commodify you know food and put in the market and _18:54_ put it. You know the issue for example when you look at food based securities in Africa, it is only security does not occur because of the storage of food, but occurs because the market sales deliver food and prices for the poor people can't afford and you know when you realize that it is something. It is not because the shortage of food, I mean, you know last night I was reading _19:23_ it came across at the statistics that it was so amazing to me, and they were saying that you know with some continents throughout one existing among the schools that all of the coherent Africa growth. I think it has something that stripped down Africa produces 250 million tons of food in a year and that is a Western country throughout 222 million tons of food. When you realize _19:50_ Steven said that the number of people and the number of toll and especially that are dying everyday, you know because of hunger and starvation and hunger-related diseases. It is established here and so I think it is beyond this and there is a point is that, it is not because the storage of food are nothing, a lot people as they you know would assume that food crisis occur at the time when there was shortage of food, but that is really not the case, it is not because of shortage of food, it is because food is secure and __20:25__ poor people to afford and when you look at _20:29_ Africa families, rural families then become 50% to 70% of their budget on food alone. And so when commodity crisis go up and food crisis go up. Poor people respond by cutting the food that they eat they reduce the calories, they go for cheaper foods that has less nutrition but did why and you find that there in Africa, there is more malnourish people or infected women and children in rural areas which again is such a tragedy that was recurrent.

21:05 Ryan Orrock

So, it's a bit of lack of consciousness as a profit versus people mentality that we're also fighting is that fair to say?

21:16 Mpule Kwelagobe

Yeah I think it is _21:17_ that on the things that about it and if we don't _21:22_ conserve a bit effort to teach the direction were in _21:25_ because now and we know that you know the global the competition now is about removing in piece of paper for the economy now when you look at a biofuel it is possibly welcome at the idea of cleaner energy and to _21:40_ fuel-based energy. So when you look at a biofuel already now a lot of country that are have been major crude exporters are searching a lot of their going you know going _21:58_ that are go into biofuel and this means you know even more challenging for food import in the country in the development world especially Africa.

22:10 Ryan Orrock

Right. And I think one thing that I like that Steven talks about it's very important is with the destruction of the environment, you have also talked about this Mpule we are all in this together, there is no planets that can produce then it doesn't matter what -- as on our bank balance at the end of civilization. So there has to be a type of consciousness shift away from me and my profit to how do we all go down this process together and I love Mpule that you are also time out listening to those who were trying to "help" so that we can actually find out what they need and give that to them. So, if we can talk a bit about the consciousness shift to the ideas that are coming up. What's happening in the developed world to, or what can we do to help people to change their minds about things and stop running for profits of the custody environment and what type of new ideas or consciousness shift needs to happen in the local areas. Let's say in Africa so that they can become, they can have their food security and food sovereignty.

23:27 Mpule Kwelagobe

Well, you know for me it is you know I think it will take something it would be shocking you know for the global community become together and to really crack a different global development agenda when we looked at you know that last major occurrence yet sort of changed the global direction. It was World War II and from World War II across most of the __23:56__ institution and you know a lot of people saying that in fact, this is what we really needed. I guess this if these things changed at a global level and it is really a true for agriculture is that one of the things that in again have been instead of talking to Steven about this and says, when you look at the billions of dollars that are _24:18_ the agricultural sector in Africa, a lot of it is going to come from the global level. The eight countries along with a couple of other donors for example. From this 2008 food crisis and then the __24:34__ voluntarily plus 22 billion dollars for agricultural developments and a lot of that money _24:41_ the agricultural sector in Africa, but the question is, are we accepting that money in a way that if you are going to benefit the people that are hungry and that are poor. And you know, so it is really gonna take some kind of nature and I don't even know what it is and I don't know why we have to wait for some _25:02_ and in order for us to adapt the much more sustainable path. We are hoping of course that the real plus 20 that there is enough consensus in that and the real plus 20 for the world government and bilateral and multilateral institution to we come out with not just you know a different framework but even institutions that will really monitor a good culture and monitor food security and ensure that we began to rule for security away from market and just really like Steven and I have been saying that it is a basic human right and should not really be placed in the market the way it is placed in the market.

25:41 Ryan Orrock


25:43 Mpule Kwelagobe

Steven, what do you think?

25:46 Steven Putter

Well you know it is a very valid point that you brought up is the amount of money that is coming into Africa for agricultural development and I don't have to tell you that if you're going to Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, DRC, it doesn't really matter where you go to. You said there is no real reflection of what that money is doing on the ground in the average rural village and I think there is slowly an awareness and a change in channeling. The financial flow that is coming to Africa -- you know, I am not a supporter of aid because I hate drug dependency and dependency is a terrible thing as the world is actually realizing. And not only in Africa, you can see the dependency syndrome in America, you can see the dependency syndrome in the UK and you can surely see it in Africa, an aid and wealthy programs has got a lot to do of that. Now the question is, you know, do you get rid of __27:04__ programs and do you get rid of aid? We have to be careful to try and think about things that one day is one way and the next day is another way, because it's unrealistic and we cannot do it. But there has to be a transition period where we actually moved from aid to investment and actually create a space for the people that is actually now on welfare and on aid to actually come into their own rights in ecological sustainable way.

27:41 Steven Putter

Thus slowly but surely, you can see this happening in a lot of models and certainly our group is doing our best to open the channel straight between the funder and the community because there is just too much funding that actually get swallowed up by the administration of funding and not actually reaching the village itself. Also, what we want is investment, but not only investment as far as financial terms is concerned but also investment incapacity. I always laugh when people ask me if Africa is as rich as you say, why isn't it developed? And I say well, it's simple, you cannot dream about owning a BMW if you don't know that a thing like a BMW exists. First of all, you have to have the information and then on the basis of that information, you can decide then you know what of that information you can see in your own natural resources and how you can actually develop those natural resources in ecological way and capitalize on it, do actually buying the things into the community that you can use in the community. The lack of management system as far as our buyers is concerned. It's staggering at this stage, especially if you relate it to the technology that is available for such systems to be implemented where we can actually take care of our natural resources in an ecological way. So these are the things that need to change as far as I am concerned, to actually really have a positive outcome globally and it is just something that we need to take seriously and we need to start collectively working on and we need to relate to each other across the oceans and across continents and say, "How do we set up the systems? How do we actually do it the right way? What about __29:50__ there is a saying, first do no harm."

29:57 Ryan Orrock

That's right.

29:58 Steven Putter

And aid was a wonderful idea, but we have to actually look at it with clear eyes and ask ourselves, is it the best way forward? Throwing money at a problem, it has never worked. It's not even working with the financial crisis and it certainly has not worked in Africa. Partnerships -- investment and partnerships that is really the answer and a management system that is actually not a nationalized management system, but rather __30:33__ management system that can be implemented. To me, there is more and more people that is actually starting to work again and actually starting to talk about the right things, which is the first step I think.

30:52 Ryan Orrock

Alright. If I can take this conversation a bit of a lighter now, we have been dealing with some rather intense issues. I mean, there are intense problems and things that need to be discussed, but Mpule I think you're quite a bit of a success story for someone who comes from Africa and has accomplished amazing thing. Would it be alright if I ask you to describe a bit your history and how you came from your beginnings? What was that like and then to Miss Universe and then how you came into this area and be working with humanitarian and ecological concerns.

31:31 Mpule Kwelagobe

Oh wow! This is like the story of my life, it's...

31:34 Ryan Orrock

Yeah well, take your time. Well, I think people can learn from it. That's why I would like to hear a bit about it.

31:43 Mpule Kwelagobe

Okay, I will try and summarize it because it's -- you know, as Africans we are great storytellers and we need like a fire and sitting outside in Zambia for me to tell you the whole story of how I came to be where I am. But I will try and summarize how I sort of arrived at this point. I was actually 17 and I was in high school when I was crowned Miss Botswana and at that time, I had the fortune of representing Botswana at the Miss World Pageant which I did not win. But this sort of got me into this line of work in one of those -- you know, a lot people sort of look at beauty pageants and disregard them, but beauty pageants can be a great way for women who might not otherwise enter this type of work to really get an introduction to it. And the way that I get it was that at Miss World, I met and befriended Miss Zambia, Tukuza Tembo who was then, a couple of months after we returned from the Miss World pageant, invited me to come to Zambia to view and support some of her HIV/AIDS projects. So that was my first sort of depth into development work and into __33:00__ work was actually traveling through Zambia as Miss Botswana. Then about a month or two after that, Miss Uganda invited me to come to Uganda and see some of her projects and so I went to Kampala and Jinja. At that time, it was surprising because about two years later, I learned that Botswana had the highest HIV incident rate per capita, but at that time, I was just really ignorant of what was happening within my own country and it took for me to travel to Zambia and Uganda for my eyes to become open.

33:35 Mpule Kwelagobe

And once I got back to Botswana, I sort of got recruited into a trend -- a project in my high school that was called PACT. What PACT did was they identified popular students who could then be trained to really be a positive role model to the peers, because the PACT project understood that young people tend to influence each other more than the parents and elders influence them. And so they would identify sort of a popular but positive young people and they would train them and then would see well then go out and when your friends ask you for information about relationship then about this and that and that, hopefully, you'll be able to advise them in a positive way. So that was sort of my first step into this kind of work. Then of course, fast forward two years later -- another pageant, another Miss Botswana pageant, but this one qualified me to represent Botswana to Miss Universe pageant and I was actually the very first woman to ever represent Botswana in the Miss Universe pageant and it's historical, I want that pageant. As Miss Universe, my platform was HIV/AIDS and I think this was now when I really just encountered the impact of HIV/AIDS in Botswana, and of course all who's suffering here in Africa. I was the first universe to partner with the Harvard AIDS Institute and really learned from Dr. Rick Marlink in ethics and you know, went up to Boston to the Harvard AIDS Institute. They explained everything to me about the subtype virus that you find in Africa and how you change and how it spreads quickly as I really learned from the best and really got -- as much as possible, I really try to open myself up to learning.

35:35 Mpule Kwelagobe

And to try to understand, not just the scientific and medical aspects of HIV/AIDS, but talking to people and for me what was heart breaking is __35:45__ to travel as Miss Universe was coming across people they have been ostracized by their family, and people that were communicated by family, by loved one. I interviewed a young woman and she was in her early 20s who is a long-term partner and the father of her children had infected her with HIV and she began to exhibit some of the symptoms. He ran away and left her there and nobody in her family wanted to deal with her and keep on the community __36:20__ her and the few people that were looking after her after she would eat, they would now ensure that her utensils and her plate were kept at a distance away from other plates and utensils. It takes to hear these kinds of stories and to be fitting. Like I said, when you fit and people speak and you hear the stories and you have really begun to understand that. Whatever we think about HIV/AIDS, that's not based on __36:46__ sleeping a lot. A whole lot of women have conflict in this from life partners, from husbands and boyfriends and fiancées and the children's fathers. And then you understand the economic factor of HIV/AIDS that because of economic dependency on them, a lot of women even if they know that their husbands or boyfriends or whatever are cheating on them, don't question it because they're economically dependent on them. So I was really young when I got to -- when I was introduced to this line of work and then a couple of months after winning the Miss Universe pageant, I was doing an interview. Somebody said, "What are you going to do after Miss Universe?" I said "Well, I would love to be a UN Goodwill Ambassador" and as it turned out, somebody from the UN was watching that interview and I got a call from the UN saying we would love to have you as a Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS Youth at Sub-Saharan Africa.

37:37 Mpule Kwelagobe

And I did that for 10 years and it was just really, really incredible work and there is really no way that you can go back to whatever career path that I had is a vision for myself after being interviewed for this work and talking to people. And not just being able to talk to people, but as again to realize that these people don't have a voice in international __38:00__ and if I could use my voice in some way to convey those stories, then this is really what I want to do with my life. I want to use my voice to convey the voices of people that are __38:14__ and so marginalized that their voices are not being heard and this is where I am now. I realized of course at some point that -- I didn't just wanna be a spokes model for stuff. I really wanted to understand the issue for myself and that's why I went to Columbia and majored in Political Economy and began to do research for myself so that I could really understand the issue for myself and not to be given a certain perspective of issue, but to really understand it in a very independent way and that then led me to establishing __38:47__ sustainable and indigenous development.

38:50 Ryan Orrock

Well, I'm sure what you're doing has inspired a lot of people from Africa, from Botswana to take a more active role in what's going on and look at these issues. When I hear you talk about the shunning and excommunication really fighting that, it sounds like a gigantic task but something that you were really born for.

39:14 Mpule Kwelagobe

It is again - gigantic task and I really wish more young people would truly embrace in this line of work, but - it's a challenging work. It's very challenging in so many ways especially because - for me I am a very impatient person and I'm very impatient with change especially and so if we know that there is a crisis that's going on like we know __39:41__ right now with the food crisis going on. You feel that we should be able to mobilize and we should be able to mobilize very quickly and when you don't see that's happening, there is also the potential for disillusionment and for disappointment and I think - for a lot of young people, it then - when you look at other industries for example like - pursuing industries that are much more economically rewarding and __40:07__ you achieve more fame, it's - we're competing with that, we're competing within that phase so - I think a lot more young people would look up to you - icons like Beyonce and maybe somebody like Kim Kardashian long before they are looking, what I'm doing just simply because of just, it's challenging, but we need young voices in this. We need young energetic people to be mobilized, to really create this change because it's really not - the change is not going to happen with just me and Steven and I think this is what we're trying to face. It's not just going to be two people, we need more and more people to really be joining us and to be - and so that we can all share and grow up on this and more efficiently meet young people to really take up these issues.

41:03 Ryan Orrock

Right, now the big thing that you mentioned at the beginning is your think tank. Can I just ask how you set up your think tank, how you run it and who participated in things like that?

41:15 Mpule Kwelagobe

Well, the think tank itself really - brought from the work that I did with the UN so as a UN Goodwill Ambassador, my work was two pole. One was the grassroots level of work and so of course I would travel a lot to the developing world and I would - especially, yeah in Africa, the other aspect of my work was really about international advocacy and so I have addressed members of the US Congress. I have addressed the UN General Assembly. I addressed the Donor Government, the European Donor Government and so my think tank is really about, one, it's really about conducting research. You have to be able to understand the issue and able to understand the complexity of the issue, but also be able to then through researching and be able to see the opportunities, but - it's evolving because my think tank is relatively new. It was established last year and I did a research for Botswana on how Botswana could transition to a green economy and took that research to Botswana and presented it in Botswana and presented it to government ministry then to a parastatal and to our public - and private institution and then ended up speaking at the government very first a green economy workshop that was open to high level government and _42:55_ parastatal. So, what I envision happening is really to move more into - from having a research institution to begin to move more into investment and again this is something that is just beginning to come along.

43:17 Mpule Kwelagobe

But it is to really look at impact investment and how my think tank can really leverage investments for - areas of opportunity that we see especially within the agricultural sector and other sectors as well that are intertwined with agriculture like water and energy. So, we're still new, we only about - a year, less than a year and half old and I think there are great things ahead and - we're just really very excited at the prospect of investing in people and in investing in Africa and encouraging a different development dialogue in Africa.

43:59 Ryan Orrock

So, are you focusing a lot on Botswana and what you can do there as your native country, your home country?

44:07 Mpule Kwelagobe

Well, the reason why I settled up with Botswana, first of all, is because it is my country, but also because I went to Colombia University on a full government scholarship and - I am not unique in any way. There are hundreds of students from Botswana in American Universities, all 100% scholarships from our government and for me it was my way of giving back to my country or it's my way of being a - one of the things in Botswana right now is that the government realizes that the need, there is a desperate need to diversify our economy and I think this is true across most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is the need for diversification and so I wanted to - give back to my country in some way and I said well, if I am thinking and I'm a researcher, what better way of giving back to my country and really be able to say "Thank You" for that investment in me of __45:02__ with the Colombia than to actually commission a research paper and to try as much as possible to engage the government and ministry then government officials on the concept of the green economy because -- the green economy is a very new concept and I think it's being messed with mixed reactions in Africa because for a lot of countries in Africa, they have not undergone industrialization and so for them, they view the green economy as potentially something that is going to - infringe or prohibit the industrialization and so I wanted to really use Botswana as my starting point and Botswana is just really one of those countries that if you're going to do any work or advise any country, you wanted to be in Botswana because it does have a good track record economically. We are, I believe the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa that is ranked as an upper middle income country by the IMF and the World Bank.

46:06 Mpule Kwelagobe

Because of our high GDP per capita. In fact, it's on the same level at Turkey or Mexico, but beneath that you do realize that poverty is kind of high, unemployment is kind of high as well and when I say high I mean - on average maybe about 30% for both poverty and unemployment and did you see that we have one of the highest Income Gini Coefficient in the world that shows a very huge disparity of income between - high or new people and poor people. So, I want to set up with Botswana because of all these reasons that I have just given because it is my country, but also because I think that - Botswana has always been one of those countries that is upheld in Sub-Saharan Africa and so Botswana could really implement the green economy and do it in a way that benefits poor people, benefit the youth, benefit women and ensure that there is more equitable distribution of income then I think that it would really then pave the way for other African countries, but my work really now is looking at agricultural dependent countries for me because really the focus of my work and that's going to be the purpose of my think tank for probably the next decade. We are going to really truly be focusing exclusively on the agricultural dependent countries like - Zambia like Ethiopia, Mali, Ghana, Rwanda and so forth.

47:34 Ryan Orrock

So just to take a start back thanks for the explanation about that. I want to ask a question either for Steven or for you Mpule. What are the earmarks of a green economy? How would we know if we reach that? What does that look like?

47:52 Mpule Kwelagobe

I will let Steven answer this.

47:54 Ryan Orrock

Okay. Great. Steven talk about green economy please.

47:59 Steven Putter

Well, green economy is just a sustainable economy. It is actually running on zero waste principles where you actually don't have to damage your environment in order to actually develop and sustain, I don't want to use the word sustainability and I don't want to use the word survive because to me, they are very ugly words - Africa deserves more than to sustain itself and it deserves more than to survive. It actually deserves to live equal to the abundance that is actually available and it's really to capitalize on that abundance in an ecological sustainable or abundant way, that's green economy. You look at inclusive business models and triple bottom line business models with the social aspect than environmental aspect and the economic aspect is actually to look after in equal urgency.

49:06 Ryan Orrock

Okay, so how and what is that you two got together? What kind of projects are you thinking about together and how are you working together? Either one.

49:20 Steven Putter

Well, we are a very interesting group of international people that has actually emerged and are actually talking on a very high level to each other about design and what is the next best step forward and we have spent hours and hours really pinpointing - how to actually step forward and Mpule is a breath of fresh air and - the African Diaspora needs to play a much more important role than they are actually playing at the moment and I think Mpule found some synergy into what we're trying to do at Water's Edge and I will let her explain what we're doing at Water's Edge and why she actually - why that synergy is there and what makes sense for her about Water's Edge and our project that we are doing there.

50:42 Ryan Orrock


50:44 Mpule Kwelagobe

Yeah, like Steven said on, we have all been - I think - what's wonderful is that we were all individually moving towards the same point and to be able to encounter each other and to form a community of knowledge and the community of sharing has been a very important first step and we are now realizing that we can only share too much knowledge, but part of this is _51:16_ development is that you have to be able to prove that what you know actually works and to be able to prove that your theories are in fact can be successful and cannot only be successful but that you can actually create a matrix of success that other people can learn from and I think this is where we are, it is realizing that we need to move beyond this being a community of knowledge and sharing and in moving to be in a community of practice and I think that we all agree that - Water's Edge is very exciting because it represents a lot of what we all believe about the development, a path that we need to be pursued in Africa.

52:04 Mpule Kwelagobe

It is one that, like I said it indigenous one that really puts the community at the heart of the development framework and one in which the community themselves truly drive the development framework in which your command could be able to support this community and to learn from this community and to not command you know assuming that we know everything in the route of urbanology that we are going to impose outward development agenda within people or rather to say that well, you know communities have you know African's societies have provided for hundreds and thousand of years so it is not like you know __52:44__ so they knew how to organize themselves and I think for me this is what I said Steven is as he is shared with me more about what and show me some of the design and it is like, its truly amazing how much she understand of African community organization pre-colonialism, because there were structures in place. And I think for us, this is what is exciting about what is it. Now for me you know while this things that I always look for is I always look for platforms in which to bring this kind of dialogs because this is really what I do best, and I am hoping that as we move forward with what is agent as we learned from it, but I could bring this type of model to an international platform to be able to engage with government and to be able to engage with multinational corporation to really be able to ensure that they understand what we are talking about can work and does work and I think, I truly believe that what is edge world indeed that example that really show a symbiotic development one that truly is you know cultural and social and economic and environmental.

54:04 Ryan Orrock

Right and you just stated a topic that I think is really important to look at and I am going to ask a question which might be a bit - some people might see it as inflammatory, but yes Africa was functioning before the colonialist, before the "white people" showed up is the solution and just to leave Africa alone with the problem solve themselves again.

54:32 Mpule Kwelagobe

Well you know I think there is still a very big gap in terms of knowledge and skills and resources so I do not think that is about leaving Africa alone because you know we still really don't, you know we still need capacity development in Africa, but if this is about looking you know its about looking at the fact that you know African societies, you know if they have that long knowledge system that need to be just as respected as Western knowledge system. So we had our own version of science and one of the things again is I was really in the research paper that talks about in degenerative communities in Central Africa and how they can predict with the parent and how they can, and they have heard simple things, this very simple things for example like do you asking a committee of women how the -- for example when that soil is not nutritious enough and the woman will see that they can just still believe of whatever it's growing and you can tell them that the soil is not nutritious and this thing overlooked we overlooked just because you know you are not qualified in science they tend then to be overlooked and the fact that I work a knowledge system a transmitted blood orally and the our knowledge system tend to be overlooked to undermine and not well respect it, but I don't think it is much causing that our Western community should live Africa, but it is about really saying that there are knowledge system that are existing and have existed and have sustained communities for thousand of years in Africa and if truly want you know for African countries to achieve development understanding that we are all interconnected. Were interconnected so for Africa to achieve its whole indigenous development, it will benefit other countries around the world, this result is really about saying that, let us all come together and find solutions, but in short or at the end of the day this solution agreed with the communities and that these communities themselves are determining their own agenda.

56:51 Ryan Orrock

Right, well I am sure that -- you go ahead, go ahead Steven.

56:57 Steven Putter

If I can just come you know they ease a very big shortage of technology and the capacity to use technology in Africa. But there is an also cultural system that works extremely well as far as community, self-managed goes as far as community consensus skills. It is very eloquent models. The models in which our communities are built in the more traditional ways. It is extremely eloquent. It's in Africa in the traditional communities, you would not see old people being pushed outside of the community, it's an integrated model. This is things that I personally feel that I am sending you know with both foot, one foot in Africa one foot in the best system model, but there is a lot of Africa traditional society seat up that can be embraced by the Western world in which we have seen in the Western world you know the country seeking the society where everybody is actually split of the rest and it has not had good results. So it is not an either or to me it's the integration of the based systems that we can think of and in body actually mentioned quite a couple of times tonight and I'm glad that she mentioned it you know.

58:52 Steven Putter

It's not for us to come and change cultural systems like that, it is for us to actually learn from them and actually see what value they bring to the whole set up of communities from very young children to the very old. At the end of the day, what we say needs to be brought to African and this is really the basis of water edge is to bring the latest technologies and actually integrated into the African system whatever communities can come in and say I have got a stream, I can actually create electricity out of my stream, or I have got a stream, I can actually breed fish or I have got very little water so I can do aqua panels and actually come and learn from the incubator and being take the models the easy can work in the communities back to their communities and actually developed themselves will be in the instruction. At this stage in the development in Africa, I am probably one of the biggest spokes of brings the African culture back into communities because in a big things through colonialism, a lot of that culture has been lost throughout Africa and you can clearly, you can so clearly see if you are going to the deep rural areas with the culture is still intact and you compared that to the semi rural areas with that culture has been lost you know even if you have never been to Africa and I show you the difference and you'll be able to see it and you will just shake your head it because of the massive difference between the two communities and with African communities, but the one has adopted the Western secular culture and the other one is still embrace in the community culture and it's a huge difference and even I think each evident Botswana as well and probably if you go into the deep rural or you should go into the same rural around places like Cameroon for instance. There is a huge difference.

1:01:20 Ryan Orrock

So, this is much about learning from Africa and they can sense us some community models as it is looking at technology or bringing technology to the villages and the people who can used it in Africa. I think a lot of people have been very inspired by that conversion, very inspired by your life, Mpule, and I would like to know for people listening how they can get involve to participate with you in this, what can we do?

1:01:54 Mpule Kwelagobe

Oh. Well...

1:01:57 Ryan Orrock

I mean the donation, is there are ways to finance it or how can we help you?

1:02:03 Mpule Kwelagobe

Yes. I think this is what we're now actively trying to put together is really understanding that you know that it will require what we are talking about to be able to bring technology. We will require resources in financing but you know from distant research that they have done when we look at in terms of -- the set of the global organizations and governments what being estimate in order to achieve for example the security in Africa. The numbers are so high, much higher than if it's indigenous development and development that is directed by the community if knowing years you know the billion and billions of dollars, but it looks still require resources and we will require that you know communities have access to mobile phones and especially for women set there in Africa they have access to labor-saving technology because that really is a big area with all these problems for women is the number of power be spent collecting water and fuel what in rural areas and so we will need to invest in labor-saving technologies like clean cook stoves and you know __01:03:29__ and water well for women. So this is what we're now put in together is being able to come up with the models of how much it will cost and actually right now we put in together both a capacity development, a strategy for our indigenous development work and now beginning to put together the impact investing strategy that you know that will -- determine how much you will cost to fund it.

1:03:59 Mpule Kwelagobe

So we will have I will have this information up in my website currently under being construction, it does not really reveal a great deal of what we currently do now, but I hope that that information will be available up on my website within the next couple of weeks and hopefully people can begin to release the form what we are doing and I'm sure even with Steven that you know people can access a bit imaginezambia website and learn how to support his work.

1:04:29 Ryan Orrock

Right. And I will just give your URL that will be shortly updated and that's mpule.com, is that right?

1:04:40 Mpule Kwelagobe


1:04:41 Ryan Orrock

Okay and people can get in touch with you through that.

1:04:45 Mpule Kwelagobe


1:04:46 Ryan Orrock

Alright. So, Steven what can we do to help?

1:04:52 Steven Putter

Well, obviously you know we all looking at actually putting up new path ways of micro investment for Africa, where people are insured that not only -- it is not a donation, it's actually an investment because if we don't keep the people that's willing to actually help Africa sustainable themselves then you know we're going to run out. So we believe more in micro investment than we believe in donations at the moment if people want to help you know with our course and building what we are building you know they are welcome to go to our webpage as well, it's www.imaginezambia.org and the donations are welcome. We can set and use it to the whole set up for folders, but shortly they will be -- we will publish a consortium of people in the United States that will be managing an micro investment fund so that we will be able to actually highlight different aspects of communities that will enable this communities to take up micro investment and actually pay back in a short period of time and that's really what we are looking for. When we talk about zero waste and I put it actually you know mention such an important part of green economy or green development.

1:05:59 Steven Putter

But yet that's not an economical advantage and if we don't take the waste of human energy out of the equation, so that they can actually use that wasted energy in order to produce something that's economically viable for them. Then you get to the stage where you can say they are now at the stage where they can take the micro investment, they can capitalize on the resources that they have in ecological way and then you can repay the loan and that loan then can go to another village. It's not a donation that gets lost in the village and just stay in one village. It comes back so that it can go to another village. It comes back so that it can go to another village and it's a small micro financing and that is actually going to see the difference in Africa and Mpule, you can -- I don't know how you see but that is the way that I see, it's the difference in the way the we fund development in Africa, that is going to make the difference.

1:06:40 Steven Putter

We so far finally talk about zero waste systems and recycling and compositing and solar panels and green energy. And zero waste systems, if you really look at whole systems' design then the amount of energy that does not -- that goes into the end result actually have to be assist as well. At the moment, a lot of the development drives in Africa come and teach them a cultural garden and they teach compositing and things like that but all the waste in human energy is not being addressed, which actually keeps a community an economical because you cannot run any economical system when 80% of the people's time is actually not use in creating the product that carries value. So that is one of the things that we address and we address that through micro finance. The communities in Zambia and Botswana, Malawi doesn't matter where you go in Africa, they've got tremendous potential. They can actually -- with the little bit of investment -- they can actually wipe out a lot of that wasted energy and actually used it to actually produce something that they can then actually sell. To actually buy things like extra solar panels, a computer for the school, put in the internet service for the school and this to me is development. People in Africa eat, you know? I've -- my time in Zambia has been wonderful because I've been introduced to so many local vegetables that you know my buying of vegetables have trapped by about 75% because I use quite a lot out of nature.

1:10:03 Ryan Orrock

So, is this like akiva.org model, are you working with them or you're going to set up your own microfinance system or what your ambitioning?

1:10:15 Steven Putter

We will definitely set up our own micro investment initiative. Like I said earlier, there is so many diasporas in Africa that can actually set on the board and actually make sure that the funds actually __01:10:27__ it's going to and we want to extend an invitation to the diasporas, to the African diasporas in the United States to contact us and actually become involved because there is so much that can be done and it's such a benefit for Africa to have diasporas there that can actually work in a relation to ASEAN you know at home and actually set up the systems that will actually see the benefit go to the communities.

1:11:05 Ryan Orrock

Right. Okay. Again, we're running out of time here, but I wanna thank you Mpule for being with us and ask if there is any final message that you would like to present to our listeners, people interested in the topic, anything you would like to share?

1:11:25 Mpule Kwelagobe

Oh! (Laughs) You know just -- we need support in this type of work because this is not the dominant conferences right now and so whatever it is the people can do especially for people that are you know listening in the web, one of the things to be able to support it is just in your own lifestyle as well. One of the things that I hope to do is that I do advocate for sustainable lifestyles because at the end of the day, America has less than 5% of the world's population and it consumes more than 80% of the world's resources. So, sustainable development globally will not be achieved unless sustainable consumption is also promoted and there is a lot of consumption that goes on in America. So, it's much as possible I think if people could find ways of consuming in a sustainable way and for entrepreneurs to produce in a sustainable way. I think it's been a go hand in hand. So you know for some people the best way they can do in terms of development in Africa is through micro loans, but we also just really need to be able to look it out own life as well and people as entrepreneurs. How can we produce in a much more sustainable way? As consumers, how can we consume in a much more sustainable way and how we can help to write that, and for me as a mother, I think I appeal to mothers out there that one of the best reasons we can change in this world is to really start with our children. My son is 4 years old and I don't really came through even know what the word sustainable means and even if it was presented to him, but we've tried it as much as possible to expose him to a sustainable lifestyle to make him appreciate, for example, a vegetarian lifestyle.

1:13:18 Mpule Kwelagobe

We tried as much as possible to you know take him up in New York so that he can really appreciate farming communities and being on a farm and then standing the importance of nature in his own development. So, for mothers out there, the best way which we can change this world is to start with our children, the younger they are will be introduced to sustainable lifestyle. They will grow up with it so then they will not know any other way, but then child could be sustainable in their lifestyles and how to pursue and enjoy green lifestyle. Like I said, for entrepreneurs that's another powerful way. Currently, the sustainable economy in the US outside if we exclude energy extends at about between 300 and 500 billion dollars and I think we need to grow it, we need to grow it and we need further consciousness to keep growing in the US and we need to keep all the phone calls who can you know can continue to petition that long our representative to ensure that our states and our cities, also or pursuing a green models as much as possible and I think this cause keeps of growing and growing and growing and growing. Hopefully within that will also be growing the idea of cultural diversity of truly celebrating cultural diversity because this is what we are finding in Africa is that biodiversity and the preservation of and conservation of biodiversity goes hand in hand with cultural diversity and as more and more cultures disappear they take along with them all that cultural knowledge in with them, and that cultural knowledge in with them is what allows us communities to know how to preserve other biodiversity and how to quite resist with nature. So whatever we can do to just truly support this and I know that cultural created on the US really understands this and really get this then we just truly need to be able to support cultural diversity because in the development world the wisdom and the knowledge of communities even embedded within other culture.

1:15:30 Ryan Orrock

So many excellent point and are really is our children's world and to expose them to this ideas and to the idea of the connection __01:15:41__ rather than trying to raise the next investment banker (laughs) maybe a good way to save the planet in a long term so thank you for sharing that.

1:15:55 Mpule Kwelagobe

Thank you.

1:15:56 Ryan Orrock

Any final words Steven?

1:15:59 Steven Putter

Yes, I would love people to do just imagine for a moment that they're standing on the moon looking back at the planet and they will realize that it's actually a very small rock that we all live on and that the East __01:16:21__ that America's backyard is just African's front yard, and Africa's front yard is just Australia's backyard, and that we all neighbors and that we are joined by this little space __01:16:39__ that circling us through space and that at the end of the day all that the visions that we have created does not change that fact that we are one species on one planet with one collective future and that that future actually belongs to the children and what we are doing today is we are creating the quality and the experience of that future. If we can all just do that, if we can all just stand on the moon for 10 minutes and look at this little planet that's floating through space, I think we will have a much clear of perspective when we come back and we looking our children's eyes and we ask ourselves, "What are we doing? What am I doing today, in order to actually create a sustainable abundant planet for our future generations?"

1:17:33 Ryan Orrock

Well thank you both so much for sharing part of this journey with us that despite being around for a long time this new paradigms, this new ideas are just beginning to grow like all of this sustainable food projects and just shooting out there and shoot in their very beginning. It feels like this is the very beginning of something very big and I think that's inspired a lot of people who've listen to this. I just wanna invite everyone who wants to stay in contact with the Imagine Rural Development Initiative. Make sure you go to imaginezambia.com and like the Facebook page...

1:18:13 Steven Putter


1:18:14 Ryan Orrock

Oh excuse me, .org, thank you .org and to like the Facebook page, if you are on Facebook and also subscribe to this Twitter feed we have a lot of -- Steven is constantly putting out good ideas articles and things on the Twitter feeds for imaginezambia and of course you can reach Mpule at mpule.com and when that site then I hope we will also have the opportunity to stay in contact with you via newsletter or Facebook or various other things.

1:18:49 Mpule Kwelagobe


1:18:50 Ryan Orrock

Alright, so thank you very much, it's been a fascinating discussion and lots to talk about, lots to think about great expectations and great effort, but I sent a lot of hope in both of you and I'm sure that this project will be what you imagine onto the even that it takes just quite a while to get down.

1:19:13 Mpule Kwelagobe


1:19:15 Ryan Orrock

Alright. So thank you a lot. Take care and until next time with Imagine Rural Development Radio. Bye-bye.

1:19:24 Mpule Kwelagobe

Thank you.

1:19:25 Steven Putter

Thank you. Bye-bye.

1:19:26 Ryan Orrock