Day 563 - Volunteer Service - Organizing Plant Sales

These are questions asked by the Texas students from Global Business Brigades that will becoming to Panama to help our local group of woman start a small plant sale business.

Will there be pots ready for sale in January? If so, will they be able to maintain them until March if we cannot transport in January?
There are pots that are looking good. If we don't have any big problems, you will have these ready to sell:
2 Bowls (1 Leonarda, 1 School) (out of a possible 8)
7 Urns (1 Leonarda, 2 School, 2 Sobieda, 2 Rosa) (out of a possible 16)

They can be maintained until January, no problem.

How long do the plants take to grow?
That's a good question. It depends on quality of soil, light, water and which plants and how big the plants they used were to start. The fastest we have done is one month. But there are some that are still not up to par after two months. Soil quality is something that we need to address. I will work on that before you guys come.

How many plants will be in each pot?

This is an example pot with Raya de Luna, Begonia y heirba buena.

I have asked the women for three, but some have more. I have seen as
many as seven in one pot. The instructions they were given we to have 3 plants 1 tall, 1 bushy, and 1 trailing (vining), and of those three at least one must have flowers. The others can be nice foliage.
How much does each pot cost?

Glazed Urns cost $5.00
Terracotta Bowls cost $4.00
The women have told they will probably earn $7-10 per pot. They have not had to pay for the cost of the pot. The money from GBB paid for the pots. I would like for them to start considering how to buy the pots themselves to make the system sustainable with out Earth Train, Peace Corps or GBB.

What kinds of plants will be growing?

This is a demonstration pot Sophia and I made at EarthTrain's Centro de Madrono.

There are many different combinations. They are not specifically wild plants of the jungle of the region. Many are domesticated species like coleus, jacob's ladder, moss rose, begonia, bromeliad. Some are plants collected locally like bromeliads, orchids and a trailing begonia. The pots have a combination of foliage and flowering plants. I only have one lady who is trying orchids. I kind of discouraged them from growing orchids, because they are so slow growing. I was also afraid they might start poaching them out of the jungle. Not every orchid in our jungle has nice flowers. Most orchids flower for a
day, or have really small flowers and are not appropiate. Nathan from EarthTrain would love for us to produce orchids though.

Do you think the women would prefer to set-up a cooperative for the plant sales?

It has been my experience that Panamanian culture does not work well in a cooperative. They work better in family groups. I think of this group as a "decentralized plant nursery". Each woman is in charge of her flowers and her pots. Although they will be sold as a group, they will receive the profits of their individual potted plants. This makes more work on the sale end, but it cuts down on the back stabbing that is prevalent in groups. It also rewards them on quality of their work. We need your help figuring out the best management system for them. I don't have anyone really stepping forward as a leader yet. What woul
d you all suggest?

Will they want to split profits evenly, or would they like a merit-based system?

So far, I have been considering a merit based system. Perhaps they receive a certain amount for the pot when it is selected to go to the gallery, and then an amount after their plant sells. Maybe a consignment system, where they receive 40% of the sale price only after the plant sells. This is a big question and one that needs to be an
swered. I don't know the best solution. I do know if they split the profits evenly, it will encourage slacking. Also we might set up one way to start for the first round of sales. Then when you guys come back next in March we can discuss and evaluate how it worked and alter it as necessary.

If you have any pictures of the plants they aregrowing, we would love to seem them.
There are some photos up in this gallery: Plantas Ornmentales.

These are the pots at the school. They are actually much fuller now.

Our digital cameral is crapping out. I don't know when we will have a working one again. So if I can get you pictures I will, but no promises.

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