- Top charities
GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning.
The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that we wouldn't be prioritizing the organization in question as a potential top charity. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charity. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.
The last time we examined COMACO was in 2010. In our latest open-ended review of charities, we determined that it was unlikely to meet our criteria based on our past examination of it, so we did not revisit it.
We invite all charities that feel they meet our criteria to apply for consideration.
The content we created in 2010 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about COMACO and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions. With that said, we do feel that the takeaways from this examination are sufficient not to prioritize re-opening our investigation of this organization at this time.
COMACO creates trading centers in Zambia to facilitate local farmers' selling their goods and offers training to farmers to improve their ability to take advantage of the program.1
We reviewed COMACO in late 2009 as part of our process to distribute $250,000 in funds to an economic empowerment organization in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Our review consisted of reviewing COMACO's website and speaking by phone with Dale Lewis, COMACO's Chief Executive Officer.
We focused on COMACO because the potential impact of its approach is similar to cash-transfer programs whereby charities directly transfer wealth to poor individuals. COMACO aims to pay producers higher-than-market prices for their products thereby transferring wealth directly to them.2 However, COMACO told us that it does not have data on market prices in the areas it works and therefore is unable at this time to estimate the size of its wealth transfer.3
We evaluated COMACO by considering the questions we have for cash-transfer programs. Based on the information we reviewed, we were unable to address our concerns and therefore cannot confidently recommend COMACO to individual donors.
We note that:
"Community residents benefit from this trading centre by receiving high market value for goods they produce and having access to affordable farmer inputs and improved farming skills on the condition that they adopt land use practices that help conserve their area's natural resources." COMACO, "About COMACO."
"In order to motivate farmers to abandon destructive land use practices, it must offer competitive prices for more desirable commodities than other commercial interests who compete for the same land the same farmers. This literally means giving away a portion of its potential profits at the early stage of COMACO's development at a particular trading centre." COMACO, "Business Results."
Dale Lewis, phone conversation with GiveWell, May 25, 2010.
"The primary purpose of this survey was to establish baseline data on household food security, individual income, income sources, and estimated rates of wildlife depletion by local hunters. The College undertook this work from 18 April to 27 May, 2001." COMACO, "Preliminary Report on Luangwa Valley GMA Baseline Survey," Pg 1.
COMACO, "Annual Report on COMACO Phase Two: Expansion Across Luangwa Valley," Pg 35 shows that COMACO currently works throughout the Luangwa Valley.
"Selection of villages was based on stratified sampling in reference to a map showing the location of all villages. In cases where villages occurred near wildlife sensitive areas, the survey team increased sampling effort. Households were selected for interviews using two approaches. One was a random selection. In this case, all household names were first listed and a random selection process was used to identify those households the team visited. The other approach used a selection criteria in which households headed by known local hunters were chosen." COMACO, "Preliminary Report on Luangwa Valley GMA Baseline Survey," Pg 1.