Sustainable Entrepreneurship in Action – Fifty Goats

Have you ever seen true sustainable social entrepreneurship in action? I mean uncontrolled growth in the most difficult environment with the most minimal resources imaginable?

I have, and I have called it fifty goats.

Why fifty goats?

Eight years ago, I joined a phone call with my parents and the executive director of ZOCs in Zambia and we brainstormed about ways to further affect the rural community schools that Zambia Open Community Schools supports with entrepreneurial concepts that would bring IGAs – income generating activities – to grow self-reliance to support teachers & provide requisites for the community schools to continue to flourish.

The criteria would only require a small amount of seed capital, no organisational structure, no working capital, just the pure entrepreneurial spirit of those who joined the entrepreneurial experiment.

A small spark was the target, no long-winded, difficult to manage project to build, just a spark of an idea and the small amount of seed capital to get it going and perhaps some encouragement along the way.

So we started, 27 goats, 14 female and 13 male. We organised donations from some churches in Australia and away it went.


ZOCS began by simply explaining an idea. Distribute the goats between the most vulnerable families (female-headed households, often the grandmothers) in the most rural village. Each family would get 3 goats: 2 females and one male. As each individual family’s herd grew, they donated the next 2 goats to another vulnerable family and one to the community schools herd.

The thing about goats is, they are tough, they eat anything, they don’t require land rights, they don’t get many diseases and they produce protein-rich milk and meat and the ownership rights of women were covered.

And so it began.

So 7 years later, this spark of an idea, self-sustaining, self-growing at a rate without any external input is one of the most amazing things I have experienced in entrepreneurship: one of the best examples I have ever seen. I use this story in many of my discussions on the subject of innovation and entrepreneurship because when you say those words many people think driverless cars at Google or CERN in Switzerland!

The program has affected over 1,023 families in Zambian communities in the most profound ways. Children that can grow up to be healthy adults, families able to pay for the children’s education which is at the centre of any growth scenario of ANY country on earth.

So why did I call this an entrepreneurial bonfire? Because from the smallest spark of an idea a whole world opened up and grew at a rate that can’t be slowed down: the dream of many a multinational organisation! True innovation at its best operating in the most difficult conditions imaginable to most people.

Join us at Kondanani Zambia and Zambia Open Community Schools as we continue on a journey through innovation and entrepreneurship in Zambia with projects that we hope will grown across Africa and the world.

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