What a Difference a Year Makes

A Message from our Founding Board Member

Peter Roberts, Associate Professor of Organization and Management at Goizueta Business School, led the feasibility study that has informed SPARC’s Ethiopian Wine Project. Professor Roberts brings significant research experience in wine economics, entrepreneurship, and social enterprise to his role as SPARC’s founding board member.

Professor Roberts in Ethiopia

About this time in 2010, I met with a group of students to begin planning a research project that would assess the possibility of developing a high-quality wine industry that could help combat poverty within Ethiopia. As the research process unfolded, the potential became (in my mind) greater and greater. After visiting Ethiopia and meeting many of its wonderful citizens, the importance of the project became (again in my mind) greater and greater. By the time we released our report in November of 2010, it seemed obvious to me that a project that would allow collectives of Ethiopian farmers to capitalize (both culturally and economically) on the potential inherent in their land was well worth the effort.

It also became obvious that this important initiative was not going to happen on its own. This is why I am proud to be associated with Sandhya’s new organization – SPARC Development. In just a few short months, she has made the required contacts and is securing the required commitments to build the necessary partnerships between “New World” and Ethiopian organizations. Here, I am referring to the folks from UC Davis and Cornell University on the one hand, and from the Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center in Ethiopia on the other.

This September, these individuals and organizations will be gathering all of the viticultural and local institutional data they need to make informed decisions about where our initial farmer-led vineyard cooperatives should be located, and which grapes should be planted. These data will also form the basis of the careful work that will follow in order to ensure that our farmer partners are well supported with programs that will set them up to become knowledge leaders in what is poised to be a very attractive agricultural-based industry for Ethiopia.

Who would have thought that so much could happen in such a short time? Congratulations to Sandhya and the rest of her SPARC Development team. You all are proving that SPARC Development is a young social enterprise worth watching (and worth supporting)!

– Peter Roberts

Visit www.indiegogo.com/SPARCdev to help us raise $10,000 and send our team to Ethiopia!

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