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Haas IBD at COMACO, Zambia

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Uploaded on Apr 8, 2011

For the last year, we have worked as a team for an organization called Community Markets for Conservation, COMACO, based in Zambia. This was one of thirty projects completed through the Berkeley-Haas International Business Development program, which sends MBA students all across the world to drive major social and economic change for clients.

COMACO provides a market-based solution to wildlife conservation by combating food insecurity through the creation of markets for rural farmers who might otherwise practice destructive land use or poach wildlife. COMACO has pioneered a 'bottom-up' model that puts food and money directly into the hands of those who need it most. In exchange for turning in snares and firearms and complying with conservation-based farming techniques, COMACO provides rural villagers with farming inputs, essential training, and a premium price for purchase of their crops. COMACO purchases the raw crop materials produced by farmers and manufactures value-added, branded products, which are sold through various retail within Zambia, as well as through partner organizations such as the World Food Program. Coupled with donor funding, the profits generated from business operations are used to support the social mission of the organization, resulting in a positive reinforcement cycle. COMACO commissioned a performance audit for fiscal year end 2010 by 8 graduate students at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business to produce an independent assessment of the organization's social impact and business performance. The goal of the performance audit was to identify areas of strength as well as areas for future development to help COMACO further its mission of facilitating rural food security to preserve wildlife in Zambia. Building upon the performance audit, the students also created a strategic plan that prioritized initiatives that will focus COMACO's limited resources on areas that are likely to create the greatest business impact.

For several months we studied the inner workings of COMACO. We used skills learned in our MBA core to conduct an extensive performance audit of the organization to really understand what COMACO was doing well and what needed to be improved before growing the business.

We then conducted dozens of stakeholder interviews and worked jointly with COMACO's staff to establish a comprehensive 5-year strategic plan. The main goal of this plan was to lay the foundation for creating a business model that was both scalable and sustainable.

Finally, we came up with frameworks and tools that the organization could use in evaluating geographic expansion opportunities.

Building off our work, COMACO has developed a comprehensive data collecting system of key metrics to assess manufacturing efficiency and costs; has created new personnel contracts with improved incentives based on performance goals; and has purchased a new, centralized processing facility to improve logistics. On top of it all, COMACO sales have exploded, passing the ZMK1 billion for the first time. Our recommendations will help COMACO strengthen as an organization so that it can continue to improve lives in Zambia.

Not only did our project have an impact on COMACO, it also had a profound impact on us. Our work with COMACO has proven to us that the intersection of business and sustainability has the power to transform lives and mitigate environmental threats across the globe. This is a lesson we will never forget.

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