Dear Francois,

It is wonderful to hear someone on this list express a problem of this kind. This is exactly the kind of thing that a design for/in development initiative should tackle. There is already a good amount of people working with design to solve problems related to basic needs in developing countries. Nonetheless, I don’t often see design initiatives aiming at improving the economic development of a developing nation. So I congratulate you for being there doing what you’re doing.

Since I am from Colombia, a developing country, I feel empathic with the kind of need you have right now. Colombia nonetheless, can’t complain, has grown a lot in the past two decades. Design education is quite developed (though not integrated into industry… another story), and industries like the floriculture industry is one of the most important of the country.

Colombia is the second flower producer and exporter in the world. I was planning to answer your email when Ken actually mentioned my husband and me to you. We are writing to you off-list as well, since we have family working in the flower industry, and Carlos, as Ken said, is a packaging expert who worked in the industry in Colombia many years. 

So the message for the list is that, in a case like yours, it might be interesting to do benchmarking in another developing country that has managed to succeed at the same business, with the low resources, knowledge and scientific research that are common in these countries. Still, I’d like to stress the need to invest in design research and practice on initiatives to tackle business issues in developing countries. It’s not just about feeding people, but about ’teaching them how to fish’: e.g. how can design profitably work to achieve innovative and globally competitive small businesses in developing countries?

I’d encourage you and the list to think about the problem and invest time and resources in researching about it. Apparently there are still many needs to solve in this industry, even in developed countries like Holland, which is the biggest flower exporter in the world (selling, amongst others, Colombian flowers :-)). It would be interesting to see a major globally-relevant innovation for the flower industry to come out of Rwanda.

Best regards,

Maria F. Camacho
Doctoral Design Research Fellow
Sessional lecturer, Swinburne Design Factory
School of Design
Swinburne University of Technology
Melbourne – Australia

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