In November of 2019, BamCashea finally raised the funds to purchase a stainless-steel grain processing mill in order to maximize efficiency of the 13-step process of producing shea butter from shea nuts. This reduces the hours of labor– by several days– that the women of the Norntoma Cooperative spend processing shea nuts into butter. After collecting, de-pulping, drying, and cracking the shea nuts, women can now grind the nuts with a machine rather than pounding them in small batches by hand. Once the nuts are crushed, they are then fried, and ground again into a paste. This second grind will also be mechanized by a mill, whereas the nut bits were previously smashed in small batches by mortar and pestle. There are many more steps before the paste is finally hand-whipped into butter by the aluminum pan, but perhaps this gives you a glimpse of why BamCashea is motivated to change the fact that these women —here, and all over the shea growing regions– are often paid less than 1 USD per kilogram of shea butter.
So, this piece of equipment we purchased from a connection Isaac and Tabatha had made in Ghana with the inspiring Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture (KITA), was contracted to a man outside the city who required an 80% down payment (mostly to finance the purchase of his materials) and we waited for delivery. Almost a month after ordering the mill, the man was suddenly unreachable. This is tricky in a lot of ways, but most notably because it is still possible to ‘disappear’ in Ghana. 5 cedis (1 USD) can get you a new SIM card (with a new number) and then -poof! – you are gone to those who don’t know you personally. Luckily, Isaac had a friend who knew the mill manufacturer well, and in another stroke of situational fortune, Treasurer Alice discovered some relatives live nearby Kumasi where the shop was. Alice and the Cooperative decided to act and sent Alice to stay with her family, and to visit the shop every day supervising the man until the mill was completed.
Finally, and even though the man had not paid for its transportation, Alice arrived back in Bamboi with the processing mill. The women were elated, until solemnly and quickly discovering the motor that was placed inside the mill was not the right electrical phase for the wiring. There are no electricians within the Norntoma Cooperative, nor the board of BamCashea; however upon previous consultation with Olo, the Cooperative’s local electrician, we had specifically ordered a three phase motor for the type of electrical wiring set-up at the Norntoma Center. The 15 Hp motor delivered was a single phase, which will require the Center to be re-wired to accommodate the equipment. And to add insult to a slow injury, many of the essential parts for the mill’s operation were not included (such as the belt and power switch).
As you can imagine, no one is happy with the situation at hand, but this type of business transaction is unfortunately so commonplace in many parts of the world and why this article is simply an anecdote from another place on our planet – one without warranties or guarantees—where things aren’t so easy. It is hard to be unimpressed by the women’s level of tolerance, who take it all in graceful stride as they have most of their lives. The Executive Director Tabatha, on the other hand, was not so poised for accepting the poor performance.
Tabatha has pushed for local manufacturing of equipment rather than international imports, both to infuse the local economy with capital from BamCashea’s donors, and encourage the development of local skills in high-quality natural resource processing equipment. BamCashea and the Norntoma Cooperative had intended to work with this manufacturer for the foreseeable future in the acquisition of things like a hydraulic oil press and distillation equipment, to broaden their resource processing horizons, but this threw a serious wrench in our plans. Long story short, a handwritten message was sent via What’sApp images to the mill manufacturer with an avenue for him to repair the relationship, but that it would not be easy to make up for the violation of our trust and established expectations. Our hopes are not high, but finding a new manufacturer in Ghana may not have great odds either.
The Cooperative has already arranged for Olo and the Volta River Authority to upgrade the electric wiring at the center, and Isaac has gathered enough support from community members to purchase the remainder of the small and essential parts to get the mill running. They are relentlessly shooting for their goals to generate income and livelihoods from the local hard labor, encourage more pride in products made locally in Ghana, and develop an industry in Bamboi that discourages deforestation.
You can check out some the amazing work that BamCashea and the Norntoma Cooperative have accomplished in the last year, and some of the talented women that are binding together for good at BamCashea.org. We are currently looking ahead to shea season, beginning in late March, and are currently fundraising to purchase bags of shea – at prices above market value due to the labor that harvest entails — to be stored properly and whipped into beauty products sold by the cooperative for profit. Each bag is 85kg and ran about 300 Ghana cedis in 2019. This translates to roughly 60 US Dollars and represents almost a week of nut collection for a single woman on average. This year we would like to purchase at least 12 bags for the Cooperative, as capital for the year of processing ahead, and we would love your help. Go to Bamcashea.org/donate to give what you can today!
BamCashea is a female, volunteer-run, Portland OR based 501(c)3 non-profit working in Ghana to improve the resiliency of rural livelihoods and natural resources.
View the GlobalPDX Newsletter shared on January 8th here.
By : Christopher Ingraham
Jan. 6, 2020 at 5:00 a.m. PST
“Trust your gut.” It’s something we’ve all heard (and probably even expressed at one time or another), an exhortation to not overthink decisions in realms as diverse as business, sports, dating and politics.
But is it actually good advice?
In a new paper published in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, a trio of British economists applied some brainpower to the question of gut feelings and found that people who second-guess themselves make considerably worse decisions than those who stick with instinct. The researchers focused on prediction accuracy in sports betting but said their findings would apply in any realm where people have to make educated guesses about the future.
The economists gathered data on 150 users of a popular sports betting and prediction website. This was a representative sample of a subset of bettors vying to predict outcomes for all 380 soccer matches in the English Premiere League during the 2017-2018 season.
The final data set consisted of 57,000 individual predictions, each consisting of a user’s best guess of the final score of a given match. Users were called on to predict scores and could revise their forecasts up to the minute the match started.
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Revisions were infrequent: Only 6 percent changed their predictions, with the typical user revising 15 out of 380, and most of those occurred within minutes of the initial forecast. The authors speculate that in such cases, users typed in a prediction and looked up some relevant information on the match before quickly changing their mind. But there also were a number of instances involving large segments of time — days, even weeks — between prediction and revision; such bettors waited nearly two days, on average, to switch gears.
The researchers specifically wanted to know whether the revisions were more accurate than the originals.
In theory, there are a lot of reasons to believe this might be the case. A person would presumably revise a prediction after obtaining new information, such as an analyst’s match forecast or a team roster change.
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In practice, however, the opposite was true: Revised forecasts accurately predicted the final match score 7.7 percent of the time. But the unaltered forecasts were correct 9.3 percent of the time. In other words, revised forecasts were about 17 percent less accurate than those that had never changed. “Game players would have been better off sticking with their first judgments rather than ever revising,” the authors write.
So where did the second-guessers go wrong? For starters, the researchers controlled for match-to-match and player-to-player variation — it isn’t likely the case, in other words, that matches receiving more revisions were more difficult to predict, or that bad guessers were more likely to revise their forecasts.
The researchers found that revisions were more likely to go awry when forecasters dialed up the scores — by going, say, from predicting a 2-1 final score to 3-2. Indeed, across the data set, the bettors systematically underestimated the likelihood of a 0-0 draw: an outcome anticipated 1.5 percent of the time that actually occurs in 8.4 percent of matches.
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That suggests a general forecaster bias toward scoring as opposed to nonscoring — or, more broadly, toward things happening rather than not. Few people, after all, watch a soccer match and hope that nobody scores.
One final, tantalizing piece of evidence: Forecasts revised after a longer period of time were considerably less accurate than those changed within a few minutes. This suggests that overthinking it, or “over analysis” in economics parlance, was a key driver of the revised forecasts’ relative inaccuracy.
In the end, the authors write, their findings “could have relevance to other contexts where judgmental forecasting explicitly takes place and which have real economic importance, such as in company management and planning, financial markets and macroeconomic policy.”
For those of us not in the prediction business, the findings can be boiled down to a simple message: Trust your gut.
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Got a knotty nonprofit strategic problem to solve? I just wanted to pass the word that the Harvard Business School Ass’n of Oregon is taking applications for its Community Partners program.
Through this program, HBSAO partners with local nonprofit organizations to help them solve a wide variety of managerial, competitive, and analytical challenges. They assemble teams of volunteer consultants, from Harvard and other top business schools, to tackle questions such as:
- What is the social ROI of our service?
- How can we effectively scale our organization?
- Where should we invest our limited resources?
It’s a great opportunity to get some free consulting and develop your support network! Applications are due by May 13 for pitch night on May 23. You can apply here. And please feel free to pass the word to others you know who might be interested.