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CAN FARMERS THRIVE WITHOUT A TRADITIONAL SALARY AND YET AVOID POVERTY AND HUNGER?

Updated: Apr 23


 "How will you reach your destination when you are headed in the wrong direction?"

 

Can we fly without wings, have a face-to-face conversation without being next to each other, or travel faster than a horse ride?

Some things were unimaginable during most of human history, but they became apparent and the norm after a mind shift combined with innovations.

Can farmers live with dignity and happiness without personal income or a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual paycheck?

 

FARMERS WITHOUT INCOME

My parents lived for 73 years on the Kibbutz, which they established, but never received a paycheck during their entire lifetime, and yet, not once suffered poverty or hunger.

Not one paycheck, not even once in a lifetime, and yet not impoverished, not homeless or hungry.

They had all they wished for. My mother said, "I had more than I dreamed of. We never dreamed it would be so wonderful”.

My parents were never rich nor poor; they belonged to the Israeli middle class, although their bank account (when they had one) was as dry as the Sahara on a hot summer day.

Above all, they never missed anything and were among the happiest people I knew.

I was born in the Kibbutz my parents established, and I lived there for 35 years, during which I never received a salary or paycheck.

Like my parents, I never missed a thing, never suffered hunger or poverty, and always had more than I needed and bargained for.

So, what do you think? Is there more than one way to fight farmers' poverty (SDG #1) and hunger (SDG #2)?

Who do you think is having a life filled with more happiness, a farmer with above 1.9 $/day, say 2 $/day, or my parents, who had received no paycheck their entire lives?

Let us ask ourselves again: should our goal for impoverished smallholders to earn a surplus income above 1.9 $/day be our primary goal (SDG #1)?

Or should we aim for something else, as my parents and other Kibbutz members do?

If it is the second, do we walk on the path that will take us there?

How can we reach a better world if we are unsure of our goal, or even worse if we aim for the wrong goal?

What should be our goal for impoverished farmers?

 

NO MORE HUNGER!?

Out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the UN has announced, the number one goal, SDG #1, is - No More Poverty.

Extreme Poverty is defined as a daily income below $1.9.

“No Poverty” is a clear-cut, sharp, and simple goal and should be easy to achieve. After all, the UN does not aim for all farmers to become millionaires or part of the middle class.

Hence, the current approach to the challenge is straightforward: exceed the 1.9 $/day income target by one cent or more.

Please assume that we reached the 1.9 $/day income and passed it by one cent or even one dollar.

Are farmers earning 1.91 or 2.9 $/day are fine? Is the world truly a better place under such livelihood conditions? Has such an income increase resolved the problem of smallholders' poverty?

You don't need much time to answer decisively - "Of course not!"

But how is it possible that even if all the smallholder farmers on the planet earn more than $1.9 a day tomorrow, it is still clear that the situation is not good?

If an income of $1.91, $2.0, or even $3.0 per day fails to substantially improve access to essentials like food, water, housing, education, healthcare, and overall happiness, why would we prioritize it as the #1 SDG?

How should we define a more worthy goal, and what should it be?

Are there examples of more worthy "SDG #1" like goals that are defined differently?

 

FAILURE IN SETTING GOALS

What will you think about if I say, "Do not think of Elephants"?

Our minds work in a way that we can't "not think" of something, so instead of not thinking about Elephants, you find yourself thinking about it.

When we say to a child, “Do not touch this chocolate," we get the opposite reaction, as from this moment, the child's only focus is on touching and reaching the chocolate.

Similarly, when we define a goal of "No more poverty", we, unfortunately, define what we will get after dropping the word "no", which is "Poverty".

When setting a "Daily income no less than $1.9 per day" goal, we will get "Daily income less than $1.9 per day".

Do you get it?

These goals related to SDG #1 cause us to focus on the problem in a narrow and limiting way rather than on the solution for those farmers' lives from a broader perspective.

This approach perpetuates poverty.

 

UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL

For sixty years (1850-1910), the pioneer farmers in the Promised Land and their patrons concentrated on the problems, trying to eradicate poverty, disease, hunger, mortality at a young age, low yields, etc., and all they got was more of the same.


Then, in 1910, a small group of farmers (8 farmers and a second group of 10) crossed from the north side to the south side of the Jordan River and established a farm, which a year later would be named "My Lord's Grain Group", and in Hebrew, “Kibbutz Dgania”.


The new group, which suffered from the same problems as the rest of the farmers in the Promised Land, redefined and reframed the challenges and other critical issues they faced.


As a result, the new group devised and implemented new solutions for old problems.

Thanks to the redefining and reframing process they went through, the new group could advance in leapfrog.


They could see their way through thanks to reframing their problems and challenges and accepting their situation and limitations (e.g., being poor with few resources and living in a hostile environment).


Inspired by the socialist movement, they intuitively understood that to succeed, they must combine their forces as effectively as possible. 




From 1850 to 1910, farmers in the Promised Land focused on metrics of finance/income, yields, and efficiency (i.e., no more poverty), with an operation model that expressed those, and the result was poverty. Then, in 1910 and onward, farmers focused on vision, values, mission, and goals with an aligning operation model that expressed it (i.e., Togetherness and Collaboration attitude), and their livelihoods improved, i.e., united we stand, divided we fall.




The general form of the above illustration. Poverty or prosperity results from the metrics in focus plus the aligning operational model.

 

In short, "United we stand, divided we fall".

"United we stand, divided we fall" is a phrase used in many different kinds of mottos, most often to inspire unity and collaboration. Its core concept lies in the collectivist notion that if individual members of a certain group with binding ideals – such as a union, coalition, confederation, or alliance – work independently instead of as a team, they are each doomed to fail and will all be defeated. Wikipedia

By reframing the problem, they stopped “blaming the wind” (i.e., finance, tech, knowledge, infrastructure, etc.) for their problems and began “making windshields”.

The "windshields" were dedicated organizational and business models expressed through a novel operational model, The Group Model.

The novel operational model proved its worth as soon as the first harvest season, which, unlike previous years, this time ended with a significant profit.

Over a hundred years ago, impoverished smallholders in the Promised Land changed their history, that of Israel and maybe the world, by redefining and reframing their root problems and challenges and, hence, their mission and goals.

From that day on, no farmer in Israel who had used that "Operation system" model ever suffered poverty or hunger.

In the early 1920s, my grandfather employed this innovative operational model in his Kibbutz (today's in north Israel). In the late 1940s, my father and mother implemented the same operational model in the Kibbutz they founded, where I was born. In the early 1980s, I applied the same operational model in a Kibbutz I contributed to establishing. Conditions were different in each of the above examples, which I am personally familiar with. Yet, the outcome was similar; in all cases, it yielded prosperity and happiness with zero poverty or hunger.

This model was applied hundreds of times in hundreds of Kibbutzim over 100 years and always yielded prosperity to its members. 



 

History teaches us many cases where individuals in rural communities became prosperous thanks to exceptional personal business capabilities.

As far as I know, the Kibbutz case, originating in 1910 under the harsh conditions of the Ottoman Empire in the scorching hot and arid Jordan Valley, stands as a singular historical example of a profound, sustainable transformation of rural communities.

Starting from one rural community, akin to a spark igniting a forest fire, it proliferated across the country, seeding prosperity in the rural communities that imbraced it.

The principles leading to this transformation were replicated in hundreds of rural communities, which paved the road to establishing Israel and its famous prosperous rural communities.

In none of those Kibbutz's new rural communities, the goal was - no poverty or hunger.

It is well established that Kibbutz members enjoy a very high level of happiness, a topic to which I dedicated a previous column).

How do we bridge the gap between rural communities enjoying high happiness (and life expectancy) although their members receive no salaries or payments, not even $1.9/day?

 

DOES HAPPINESS EQUAL FORTUNE?

Western culture has taught us that everyone is equal and has the right to pursue happiness.

From this, we wrongly concluded that if poverty equals misery, then the opposite of it, i.e., financial wealth, must equal happiness.

Therefore, to reach the maximum level of happiness, we must pursue the maximum wealth we can obtain.

Thus, a conceivable "happiness scale" correlates with our bank accounts, suggesting that if we spend our lives amassing wealth, we perish when this scale reaches its zenith. In line with this perspective, engraving the bank account balance on each tombstone could indicate the relative level of happiness each individual encountered.

By borrowing the mindset that money equals happiness, we get ourselves on the treadmill of pursuing something unattainable; we always look to increase our financial status but always find that others have more money than us, sending us the signal that we have not yet reached happiness.

The worst part is that when we reflect those norms on smallholders, we condemn them to a life of unhappiness, for they are at the bottom of human society's income leaderboard, using a scale where only income per day counts.

 

THINK DIFFERENT

If More Of The Same doesn’t bring smallholders prosperity, maybe Think Different will.

My parents, Kibbutz members, and I never used any competitive financial scale to measure our happiness.

We had a vision, mission, and goals that didn't aim for increased income, and yet, thanks to those and a novel operation system, my Kibbutz and others thrived.

The happiness level and life expectancy of Kibbutz members are among the highest in the world, though Kibbutz members are not millionaires.

Moreover, upon meeting smallholders, I observe a similar pattern in much wealthier societies: a normal distribution of happiness among their community members on this hypothetical happiness scale.

That is not to say that they don't aspire to improve their access to food, water, better housing, infrastructure, healthcare, etc.

Over a hundred years ago, the Kibbutz model found a way to help impoverished farmers access better food, water, housing, infrastructure, healthcare, etc., without falling into the income trap.

Think again.

Is having SDG #1, No More Poverty, i.e., income above 1.9 $/day, a good idea, or does it keep us looking in the wrong direction and away from human happiness and progress?

 

 

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Here are four ways you can work with me to help your rural communities step forward to shift from poverty into ongoing prosperity:

* Consultancy on rural communities' models: Why, What, and How, e.g., based on the Kibbutz and Moshav lifestyle models. 

* Local & National programs related to agro-produce export models - Dream Valley global vertical value and supply chain business model and concept connects (a) input suppliers with farmers in developing economies and (b) those farmers with consumers in premium markets. 

* Crop protection: Biofeed, an eco-friendly zero-spray control technology and protocol solution, is most suitable for developing countries. 

* IBMA Conference - To learn, share, and practice novel business models: the IBMA 2025 conference theme is “Reshaping Agribusiness Models for Building Prosperous Rural Communities." Register now or contact me. 

 

TAKEAWAY MESSAGES

  •  By focusing on poverty, we cause it to persist.

  •  Salary or higher income per day is not mandatory for farmers to thrive.

  •  The "soft things", i.e., vision, values, mission, etc., matter the most for prosperity.

  •  ‘Together’ is the 'Weak Power' and the power of the weak.

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More on the October 7th genocide in South Israel:

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"Mental and Economic Freedom Are Interconnected."


See you soon,

Nimrod



 




Dr. Nimrod Israely is the CEO and Founder of Dream Valley and Biofeed companies and the Chairman and Co-founder of the IBMA conference. +972-54-2523425 (WhatsApp), or email nisraely@biofeed.co.il

 

P.S.

If you missed it, here is a link to last week's blog, “The Kibbutz Enigma: Local Phenomenon Or Global Blueprint For Rural Prosperity?

P.P.S.

OPEN BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES:

  •  Exporting fresh fruits from Africa to the EU under the Dream Valley regenerative protocol brand for the 2024 season.

  •  Joining the Nova-Kibbutz concept project or establishing a similar initiative in your region.

Kindly provide your background and credentials to receive tailored next-step instructions. 

P.P.P.S.

Dream Valley is a field-proven disruptive business model based on the successful Israeli Model.

 

You can follow me on LinkedIn, YouTube, and Facebook. 

*This article addresses general phenomena. The mention of a country/continent is used for illustration purposes only.

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