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PhD student from the University of Copenhagen has started an unorthodox development project on her own. She is helping villagers in one Southeast Asian country by selling custom-made müesli at home
The principle behind it is simple.
You go to her page Mueslimatters, choose which ingredients you would like in your muesli, and then e-mail it. All profits she makes goes to new cattle in a poor, rural village in Laos.
PhD student Catherine Hepp calls her project the Spoon-to-Cow project, and it all started during fieldwork as a plant scientist in Ban Navene and Ban Ko Ngiaw in Laos. She was impressed by the limited amount of resources that the villagers have there and decided to go beyond her PhD study and help the people directly.
The headman of Ban Ko Ngiaw, Si Thong, suggested that a pair of breeding cows would be highly useful since the offspring could be passed on to other members of the village. The cattle is used there as an insurance, since in precarious situations (unexpected diseases, low yield of harvesting, debts, etc.) it can be traded for money.
Cattle in Ban Ko Ngiaw
”I wanted to help them somehow. When you are in this area you hear all these discussions about what to do and how to do it but nothing concrete comes out of it. The big organizations sometimes do not work, and they lose money along the way. I think in some cases it can be very simple and very direct,” says Catherine Hepp.
After knowing how to help the villagers she needed a plan to make the profit necessary to buy the precious cattle. This is how the ‘Spoon-to-Cow’ project emerged.
”I thought of selling personalized muesli after a trip to Germany. It is pretty big there, and people like ordering custom-made muesli,” says Catherine Hepp.
Catherine Hepp holding a bag of her muesli
So why should anyone buy this muesli? ”Because it tastes good and because it will have everything you like in it! In addition, you are supporting a good cause and it’s cheap!” says Catherine Hepp.
A family in Ban Ko Ngiaw
When asked how many bags she has to sell, Catharine Hepp laughs and says ‘quite a lot’.
”I am not an economist, I am a developmentalist. It really does depend of how many nuts the people put in their bags. The whole point was not to make the bags outrageously expensive especially since I pay taxes, but it should be more than 300 bags”.
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