According to the chaos theory and more specifically to what is commonly known as the butterfly effect, small differences in a dynamic system could trigger vast and often unsuspected results. Also known as the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, this mathematical concept observes that the wing movements of a butterfly might have significant repercussions on wind strength and theoretically, could cause tornadoes halfway around the world.
Adjusting Edward Norton Lorenz’s theory to social business, Xavier de Bayser offers us a unique perception in which the flapping wings of a butterfly may, with a domino effect, generate large advantages in developing countries. In his book, “L’effet Papillion” (2011), Mr. de Bayser explains the very concepts of sustainable development, socially responsible investing, and social business. He demonstrated that, under certain circumstances, a new economy focused upon assisting developing countries is not only feasible but also profitable for some companies as can be seen in France with Danone and Essilor. The social business strategy is hence a way of maximizing both financial returns and social goods.
Tomorrow’s economic growth relies on the Bottom of the pyramid (BOP represents 60% of the world’s population). Yet, unlike Europe, Asia will have to multiply its production by two and a half and Africa by five if it wants to face the rising need for food. Whereas men used to produce more with more, they will now have to produce more with less: less water, less land, less energy and less chemistry – all this while respecting the environment. This is tomorrow’s challenge. It is by coming back to the basics of agriculture and by readapting it to the needs of populations from poor areas that we could solve a major part of starvation issues in the world.
Through a philanthropic itinerary, Mr. de Bayser analyses three butterfly effects in progress, three French examples of social business, three commercial firms oriented in humanitarian affairs, symbolized by three bags of seeds. If the seed is of good quality and is sown in optimum conditions, it can provoke a chain reaction that will ultimately result in a ”butterfly effect of food”. All three concepts are major agricultural innovations that enable auto-production for auto-consumption in developing countries.
The first kit is a bag of “super-vegetable” to fight starvation and desertification in country-sides. This concept was introduced by Pierre Moussa and Jean-Marie Cordier with the creation of a corporation with a humanitarian purpose: vegetable seeds for Africa (also known as the JTS project or tropical garden seeds). From this unconventional way of fighting against chronic malnutrition and starvation in African countries emerged, a major agricultural innovation, the JTA project (tropical improved garden or “Jardin Tropical Amélioré”). Not only does it provide technology and training to cultivate a vegetable garden 12 months out of 12 but on a more social level, it also increases the employment rate in developing countries and ultimately the quality of life.
As revolutionary is the bag of black powder also known as the “green charcoal” or “biochar” technology developed by Pro-Natura (global NGO approaching problems of poverty and environment) in order to fight against deforestation and greenhouse gas emission. This practice converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.
The third packet of seed is a bag of “green powder” known as alfalfas aiming to fight against malnutrition. Indeed, in case of malnutrition, the body needs “green” proteins. To cope with this issue, a company, France-Luzerne, produces alfalfas –one of the plants that generate the most proteins.
How would this type of project benefit a country like Sri Lanka?
Precursor of social business in France, Mr. de Bayser presents us with simple (yet global) solutions that will impact tropical countries such as Sri Lanka, at four different levels: food, social, economic and environment. By buying a garden or by simply getting a license with a one year follow-up by JTS, any Sri Lankan entrepreneur could bring a significant change to the country and more particularly to the North and North East regions of Sri Lanka where civilians need to rebuild their lives by subsisting both financially and elementarily.
By creating direct or indirect jobs throughout the year, a concept such as the ameliorated tropical garden could be a step toward overcoming social inequalities in post-war Sri Lanka –especially when it comes to youth. According to its recent World Development Report (2011) the World Bank states that “violence is spurred by lack of jobs among the youth, inequality between social, ethnic, regional or religious groups as well as infiltration of trafficking networks (…)”. Unemployment is indeed considered as the main motivation for recruitment into both gangs and rebel movements (“Lack of jobs among youth a recipe for wars: World Bank”, Kuburu Mugambi). Keeping people employed and financially independent could be a possible bridge in the peace building process.
A concept in line with President Rajapaksa’s home gardens?
This innovative concept echoes President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s recent project of establishing one million home gardens in Sri Lanka. Also promoted by the Mahatma Gandhi Centre, the home garden project aims in attaining self-sufficiency but also in lowering vegetable prices in the country by providing food-security.
It must take into account a fundamental technical aspect of the problem which is that different varieties mature at different times of the year. It does not either take into account the environmental and social approaches developed in the JTA program. Done on a larger scale (more qualititative than quantitative) home gardens could provoke a positive chain reaction in our everyday life, whether socially or financially.
Such North-South cooperation will initiate a further switch in mentalities by creating a more ethical mindset in Western multinationals but also by enhancing partnerships with microcredit bodies in the South. The best illustration been the Grameen DanoneFoods, a joint venture launched in March 2006 by Muhammad Yunus and Franck Riboud. This unique community-based business model produces the well-known Shakti Doi yogurt. Its mission is “to reduce poverty by bringing health through food to children” in Bangladesh. Aligned in this community-based model, the concepts developed by Mr. de Bayser could be a way to bring further awareness in the western countries by not only emphasizing on solidarity but also on mutual learning.
(The writer holds a Master Degree in International Law from the Sorbonne and a Diploma in International Governance for Sustainable Development from Sciences Po, Paris.)