Rural System
 Sustained rural lands; sustained profits

Rural System

A Planning and Design Document

Where there are needs, there are opportunities.

An enterprise is being planned to be developed in a rural portion of the eastern USA. It has real potential for further development, expansion, and diversification within a similar unit in Senegal. The unit would be much like a franchise or a division of a conventional corporation.

This note attempts to describe it and the fundamental concept behind it. For the developers, the concept is at least as important as the structure and processes. It is an enterprise that is self-consciously directed at improving the quality of life in Senegal. That may raise a red flag for some people. "What's wrong with our quality of life!!??" but for others it simply is to recognize that many people in the country do not live under the best conditions, that water, food, and health can be improved, and that soil is lost, wildlife species are endangered, pests abound, some water is polluted, vandalism and poaching are common, and improved crop and livestock production may be possible. When people live at environmental margins, their health and prosperity suffers occasionally.

Prior work was and still is done on state and federal lands. "Extension" and cooperative "outreach" programs have provided free advice. Agencies and their programs are unstable, citizen distress in service is high, and a small public staff cannot make needed improvements on so many widespread private lands. Public attitude is against increased agencies and their high costs. Ecotourism-type activities need careful management to avoid their perils. Towns have conflicts with but depend upon rural neighbors. There is low incentive for agencies to increase efficiencies or accountability. "Environmental impacts" are expressed daily. Theft and arson is common. Thousands of acres need services. Society rapidly urbanizes, increasing a nest of rural problems. There is a timely opportunity to continue functions begun by some agencies, meet citizen needs for services, create new markets, respond to new needs (e.g., security for and demands of eco-tourists and residences at the urban fringe), and to capitalize on vast government research results in natural resource management. We work for the youth, and elderly. We bring the millions of dollars spent on research, the advances of science and technology, to the people of the country. We reduce the risks, that's all. But of course that's not all.

The System

We can start with simple descriptions. What's a system? We're creating a rural system that has the parts shown at the right. We'll not emphasize it very much only to note that it is general, that many things in life look like it, and that when anything that is vital and lasting, then it has the parts shown here. At least it is a good way to look at thinks, to analyze them and to design them. When things are seen as subsystems, they fit together quite well. When we discuss rural systems, we take on a very large, diverse range of topics.
Cutting forage from a tree for goats suggests the difficulties and marginal existence of a man and his relationship to the land.
Unless we have a way to fit them together, treating each as a subsystem, then we may fail. We want to design a healthy, successful system that addresses the total needs of the people of the rural areas of Senegal and surrounding areas. Urban areas are involved and related, but they are very complex and there are many financial and other resources and specialists already involved with those urban topics.

As we see Rural System, Inc. we begin to edit and clarify a set of objectives for it and it reduces to:

Describing how to do that is what this note is about. It may not be possible, but then feedback will work to modify slightly the objective (shown by the arrow from feedback to the objectives in the above diagram), and the system will then be operational.

Profits emerge from both production as well as costs. We work as hard to reduce losses and costs as we do to stimulate ideas for production and efficiencies.

Land is a code word for all lakes, ponds, streams, wetlands, soil, crop fields, gardens, mined areas, pastures, rangelands, brushy areas, fencerows, and forested areas. It includes the roads, trails, houses, barns, and related buildings. Whether it is "wild" or "rural"not may be only a temporary Designation and that is often a personal perception. Land is a volume, not just an area, and throughout the Rural System it is usually treated as many 30 x 30-yard squares, from 1 mile below sea level to 1 mile above the Earth's surface. It is "land" as in "landscape." Rural is similarly a difficult word. It is the total non-urban system, but includes urban factors as they affect the conditions and dynamics of the rural volumes and their people over time.


"Making profits" is a distinctively different phrase than is usually found in conservation and environmental science texts. Rural System, Inc. brings an almost radical idea into the wildlife, restoration, and preservation community. (I address it here and it will be treated again briefly below, because it can influence how readers react to the remainder of the text.)

I understand and acknowledge "love of the land," ethical dimensions of forest communities, the need for personal responsibility for the land and its future, some of the theological dimensions of land stewardship, and a desire for healing the land. I know about the literature of non-market values, non-consumptive resources, and appeals to the existence and intrinsic values of Nature. I know of several theological views of Nature and the environment. But I also know that I have begged for money for education and research for years and, though somewhat successful, I have not been able to stabilize a program. I know that conservation education or environmental education have worked very poorly. The rhetoric of outdoor life, restoration, and protection has moved a few people to act to make significant changes in land and resource management, but, even though notable, they have been few. Similarly, those efforts in economic education (1930's) have had little success.

Gaze font- suggestion for members' badgeI know very well how steadily the bills flow into people's house. Taxes must be paid. The electricity must be constant for medical, refrigeration, and working needs. "Discretionary income" means little more than an occasional candy bar. People in the country have to find the money to pay the bills! We cannot count on charity, foreign development funds, or politically-derived sources ... for long, for continued high quality, productive land use and management. Taxing land creates enormously harmful secondary consequences to farming, people, and settlement patterns. We have to get money to pay for the affairs of the region in the "old fashioned way" by work, ... but the actual work can be and has to be different, because now things are very different. Rural System, Inc. is about making money by decent work, about creating a system that allows money to be made, and assuring that it continues to flow. The two main reasons ... for the good of the people and the good of the land.

Direct financial gains from the proposed corporation will, by design, benefit members, contract-holders, local governments, students and schools, and the land. Successful employees are likely to benefit handsomely. Secondary gains are from employment, a tax base, safety and security, improved health, and a spreading private-profit concept of improved and sustained natural resource management.

American Football

Leaders of rural and forestry projects have concentrated on soil, livestock, and trees. Rural System takes a different view.

I think there is a lesson for the country that can be learned from the American football enterprise. That enterprise is very large and diverse and includes tour buses, advertising, cheerleaders, stadiums, uniforms, publications, TV, ... and the football. The ball itself is essential, but almost irrelevant to the modern, profitable total enterprise. Similarly, a regional, environmentally-related, total enterprise can be created. The physical resources are essential ... but almost irrelevant.

Giles granddaughter #9By analogy with American football, somewhat with soccer or Senegal's "football," when it comes to the regional problems, we have had our eye on the ball too long. We have talked about trees, about charcoal, seed sources, and pests and complained about environmental regulations. We've been "brought up" to ask for government help. We are gripped by the limitations of the single "cottage industry." We have not pondered the potentials of an integrated regional enterprise. We have been independent landowners! But now we are threatened, and some individuals, even whole counties, are begging for help. We can be independent ... and dead. We need some group work. We can ask for major government help, but that has not been forthcoming, and there has been little change after 50 years of spending the little that has been provided. Adults in the region can't vote their way out of regional problems.

Charcoal, the major energy source, destroys forests essential for stabilizing the land, improving the water balance, and gailing other lasting economic benefits such as those from ranging.

A Factory

What if we saw land (described above) as a platform, perhaps a factory. It has no pre-defined roles, no boss telling what is to be planted or produced. What if creative people were allowed to think about what could be produced on each tract, each platform...that will make the most money over the long run. We can learn from the elders for they know things that will fail, but we may come up with new ideas, new approaches, new uses, especially when put together in new ways. There are few laws that say exactly what will be the uses of a tract of land or water. Perhaps forests, perhaps millet, perhaps an office, perhaps an amphitheater, perhaps a solar collector. We can put new knowledge with computer maps and select best areas for producing things, where costs will be least, where insect and disease losses will be reduced. Rural System holds that every 30 x 30 meter spot on Earth is unique and thus computer applications can be used (and need to be) to see that each spot is used extremely well. Average or approximately the best uses will not suffice. We now have GPS and GIS and we need to use those investments already made. A gold mine of knowledge and technology exists; rural system knows how to mine the rich seam of ore. The financial gains will be in the gained efficiencies, the reduced losses and crop failures, the optimum grazing levels.

One result of this idea is evident. For there to be a long-lasting, productive, profitable factory or land platform, it must be managed and maintained very, very well.

Pooled Funds

Rural System is a conglomerate of small enterprises. Most will not work or be profitable for long when conducted alone. No longer solitary or paired, they work together for sustainability. They will work when operated as a single system.Economies are experienced through planned synergism, through diversity, and through a common administrative resource (accounting, marketing, computers, logistics, legal, etc.). All financial gains and losses are pooled. We all have incentives to help each other; we are protected in bad years, we gain from successes elsewhere. We benefit from reduced costs. We pay a part of salaries in stock so that we have a substantially employee-owned company. We work for our company. The better the company, the more our worth; the greater the stock dividends to each employee. Throughout, we work to develop financial incentives. Underneath is the great incentive ... that resources will be better managed than at present when guided and informed through financial incentives.

What is Rural System. Inc., Really?

Enough philosophy and general concepts. I have describe it in a draft Business Plan. I've reduced the idea to one page as follows:

What's Rural System, Inc.?

Rural System, Inc. is a proposed not-for-profit corporation, a conglomerate of 57 small natural resource related enterprises. Some of the enterprises, subsystems, are new, some very old. It is a system doing modern, sophisticated, computer-aided management of the lands and waters of an eastern US region in order to sustain long-term profits and
"proposed" may be deleted soon
quality of life for citizens. Concentrating on outdoor recreation, specialized tourism and rural development, including forest and wildlife management, it works on restoring, enhancing, and gaining lasting production from the rural resource base.

The umbrella entity is a conservation and education organization. It may use national and state lands and waters but, most importantly, it provides opportunities for the owners of private lands and waters (often for absentee owners) to experience profits related to superior land management. While managing the assets of such lands, Rural System, Inc. provides related services and products from the unified business units. Half of these units work from the managed lands called Pivotal Tracts that are under contract. A central unit provides incubator-like services and allows the corporation to harvest public research investments, to achieve economies of scale and division of labor, to gain synergism, and to stabilize employment.

The enterprise leads the region in computer-aided, year-around, private land management. It shares funds with citizens and originators. It links citizens as well as visitors to the land and its long-term potentials for profits. It provides an alternative regional identity, one of a place for modern rural resource development and management. It links buyers and users with producers of certified forest products and wildland resource opportunities from well-managed rural land and water resources. Successes are achieved via diligent work with personal incentives, diverse enterprises and products, and computer optimization of a total system. It overcomes the old failures of natural resource management, i.e., diseconomies of small-scale operations, mixed objectives, lack of diversity, seasonal work, lack of annual income, and failure to add value to products and efforts. It capitalizes on innovative uses of the Internet, global positioning satellites, and computer mapping throughout the region.

The vision for the enterprise is that its success in improving the social, economic, and environmental health of the region can allow the enterprise to become more effective and expand. Thus, similar influences can be transferred, years later, throughout a region near southwestern Virginia, then internationally. The work will be recognized as the product of a special paradigm in rural resource and wildland management. As such, Rural System, Inc. will become a profitable conglomerate operating well past this century, given its 150-year planning horizon sliding forward annually.
Robert H. Giles, Jr., Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
formerly of the College of Natural Resources, Virginia Tech
504 Rose Avenue, Blacksburg, Virginia 24060
November, 2002

I've written more (with some overlap) in an effort to address The Bottom Line which seems to be the main interest of some people.

General ideas about ecotourism and ranging can be found in the web site.

I wrote about modified systems work in Agroforestry Systems a few years ago: Giles, R. H., R. G. Oderwald, and A. U. Ezealor. 1993. Toward a rationally robust paradigm for agroforestry systems. Agroforestry Systems 24:21-37.

"People at the Edge" was written about people at the edge of parks and such areas in India. I think it holds for Senegal.

Given that there are over 50 proposed enterprises within the system being designed and that there are office-based and largely outdoor-based groups, I have selected a few of special relevance in Senegal. These, I believe, can be developed as an important entity of the total system. (Some of the following notes to which you may link by merely clicking on the marked words are within a folder delivered to a US county economic development group. The county name was Craig and the project code name was Pivotal.)

  1. Inns - There have to be places for people to stay comfortably. I remember well a hotel manager in Nikolokoba Park saying "Do not send us any Americans!" (Their needs are too difficult to meet, expectations too high.) We can advertise and market rough-living and stress tend camps and back-country conditions. (These are not the high paying customers, creating some break-even analysis needs.) We need to work on hotel/motel capacity, seasonal needs, seasonal groups (e.g., bird watchers), how to "fill the beds" and the potentials with temporary camps; and coordinating short trips from town central facilities. Can we build villages or buy or rent existing ones? A group serving lunches for visitors might be explored.
  2. Camps - Hiking and camping can be favored with trails created. A contest may be useful for promoting activity for paying people who have walked all xxx miles of the Rural System Trails and visited all of the zz number of camp spots. These can be combined with GPSense tactics. Camps will need caretakers, instructors, guides, food service staff, etc. Specialized camps will work for some - a nature study emphasis, a French-Language camp, a writers' camp.
  3. Memorials - I do not know about major religious beliefs related to deaths of people in Senegal. Some people favor cremation. No matter what the major beliefs, in a pleasing special area (somewhat similar to a grave yard) memorials may be placed. An addition will be to honor the dead or a living retiring person or someone who is leaving Senegal by presenting money to write a book for him/her on a rural, natur, or natural-resource topic. Money may be collected to get a TV made of an elder(s), a way to collect folk wisdom.
  4. Pivots - These are all of the citizens who are interested and join Rural System. They pay membership fees and when the system is profitable, have dues reduced and later make a little money (dividends) in proportion to the profits. Incentives must be present. These get links to useful web sites (on which there is advertising, also bringing in funds).
  5. Nature Folks - special groups form around mammals, birds, notable owls, deer, elephants, insects, plants, and geology. Each has its own organization and all are affiliated to the central Nature Folks. International memberships are expected. At $20 each, 1000 members allows a little profit from a low cost operation but also one that can communicate well, advertise aspects of Rural System, and continue an education and marketing activity. This opens doors to conferences, booklets, translations, sale of photo supplies, and guide services. Each will probably have a contest on-going to see all of the mammals of Senegal, all of the birds, etc. Photo contests bring in money, allow advertising, and the press use results that further advertise for us.
  6. Tours Group - - working out of Dakar and towns, small trips seem best. These need to be well planned and very carefully developed. "Bad trip" reports can be very damaging for many years. Developing exchange trips is one strategy, i.e., getting people that visit to go to other trips/tours with the Group. The ranging topic is relevant. Potential tours:
    • Historical - slavery from the villages to Dakar
    • Broadly, " Slavery through History to Freedoms"
    • The developing country
    • The Ecological Zones and their key species
    • Lithology and Hydrology - sand, soils, and what's underneath
    • Everyday life
    • The Fishery (including fish drying)
    • Understanding Modern Islam - temples and their role
    • Swimming with the Manatees
    • Freshwater Fishing
    • Nesting Grounds of Shore Birds
    • The Fish Life of Senegal _ aquaria of native fish at major streamside sites
    • The Conspicuous birds
    • Desert Ecology
    • Lunar Forces and the Night World
  7. Fog Drip - When fog blows across trees, it collects and water drips from leaves. This is "fog drip" and it has been poorly studied. It can add much to the hydrology of an area but it is rarely measured. It is also the name of a company collecting local music, recording it, and selling records of it. Several recording studios may result in capturing original works from local people. Note, This is an example of not working with soil, trees, etc. It is, however, working with part of the rural resource; money is to be made legally wherever possible, and it all goes to the common good. Music can be played and sold to tourists etc. It can become background music for events and Inns. Contests can be held and best songs guaranteed a place on a record, etc. Similarly poems may be collected and sold.
  8. Products - I'm working on a plastic product useful in monitoring the rate of decomposition within soils. Resource related, it is not produced in the wild. It is an idea, high technology, and an analytical tool. Similar products, some only useful in Senegal, may be developed. Currently, products include a hiking staff, a hard biscuit for hikers, a bandanna, items of clothing, bird houses, specialty bird foods, pet bird cages, signs. These are no more than ideas that can be sold for money. People in other groups can help use them, display them, and help sell and distribute them...and produce new ideas for new products.
  9. Sculptors - Carving is already well done in Senegal. Sculptors is a club for wood carvers. Professional may join; contests are held; values of experts and winners increase. This can be a value-adding activity for craftspeople, help sell to tourists, and help move away from traditional carving into beautiful modern art forms for sale in Rural System outlets in the US.
  10. GPSence - This can be developed as a special form for Senegal conditions and dangers. People use GPS to find marked sites. It can range from personal pride to contests among members to see who can find all of the sites, white about the adventures between sites, report on nature observations at sites and on the route, etc. It can be used with autos or by hiking. Horse travel may be considered in some periods.
  11. Belles and Whistles - a car/vehicle repair group for women, this responds to changing roles of women in society. As more women get and drive cars, they need instruction and elementary skills. They pay for membership and training.
  12. Security This is a private police force, sells security equipment, and works to reduce vandalism and poaching.

    Outdoor-Based Groups

  13. The Trevey - We can offer to communities a dynamic planning system. It has been begun and the pattern set. Software is being developed. It will be a very expensive system with great investment with real payoffs. Plans, those dusty unused things, can become with the new system more like newspapers, good today, but discarded tomorrow as things change. This can have high educational value and help towns qualify for development funds since they will have a demonstrated good plan. GIS is included.
  14. Deer - Seeing all of the deer of Senegal may become an international challenge. Tours can be arranged to help. Photo contests offered, etc. Seeing them all may be similar to bird life lists. We can promote it into an international game with identification cards, life histories, exam contests for big money, TV shows, etc. Disturbed by information on introductions of animals from other countries (that will escape or be released in areas where food is limited and over-utilized), I trust that we can work for native species.
  15. The Fishery

    A fully developed fishery seems to have great potential and we have to find the species,

    work the boats and guides, and market the superior catches that are experienced. This is sales work to make Senegal one of the great places to go fishing (fly fishing off the broad sandy beaches;

    snorkeling for tropical native fish; scuba diving with Manatees; boating with the fishermen in their massive boats.)

  16. The Lions of Senegal Group - We have to explain them, or try to protect them. Are they gone? They have to be related to the excessive herds of buffalo and their effects on the vegetation, watershedd, and water for hoppos and other animals. The pattern for the bobcat and bear groups may work.

  17. Official Avi - This may be a winner with the first international bird watching course in the world...
    (a golf-like game) , maybe the second if we do one here first. I think this is a real winner for Senegal and Rural System.
  18. The Wildland Crew Possible - a working adventure - really getting away from things and getting diversity while working with a male or female group.
  19. The Wildland Walkers discussed as hikers. Money comes from guides, equipment, meals, lodging, photography, trail maintenance.
  20. The River Runners - possible; I'm unsure of the potentials. These can be recreational and bird watching and fishery related but this group is interested in the maps, precipitation, patterns, riparian areas, flood plains, etc. Maybe they can be combined.
  21. Novosports Possible. We can introduce Great World Ball from Senegal. The colorful goat hides may make it photographically a winner for national TV and CNN.
  22. Wilderness Group - participants in ranging, tours, etc. can make this group financially realistic locally as well as internationally. Consider adopting Nikolokoba and write a book about it like no one has ever seen with computer maps, animal and plant pictures and excellent science. Have chapters funded by and made memorials to president, cabinet members, honorees, etc. (see above in memorials). We can probably get support for such expeditions and extended work. Employ the people nearby to help out. Develop computer models - find out the removal rates needed to bring this system back into balance without the lions.
  23. Pasture and Range Group - A world class expert needs to be hired for 6 months to direct this work, maybe 6 years. This is the greatest need that I saw on my visit. We have to get the livestock in balance with the vegetation, fencing, rest rotation, new practices, etc.We have to plow millet back into the soil with cooperatively managed equipment. We have to find alternatives to burros. We need to contour fields and get catchments and get covers for watering areas. Needs are great : wind fences, human and animal waste recycling, composting, solar energy to reduce wood use for energy, etc. GIS can separate the precipitation zones, soil zones, topographic zones, etc. Much work but it is fundamental and we can show real local payoffs in demonstration plots. Combine this, perhaps, with A Goat System.
  24. Bushmeat - see Rabbits and consider a system of intensively managed local semi-domestic mammals.
  25. Pet Birds - Un-managed, the pet bird trade is causing mortality and a bad reputation for the country. We can set up aviaries, raise birds, have them exported under superior conditions with low mortality, and at the same time reduce the robbery of nests by youth. A new variety of cages and woven birdhouses can be created and publications on the birds, their care, and the conservation movement that has been started can create a leadership climate -- with abundant employment for youth and others.
  26. Gardens Group - combine this with fence group

At least half of the enterprises being considered for development in Virginia, USA, seem relevant to this person only slightly familiar with Senegal. I hope we can discuss potentials, make changes, and stimulate new thoughts. We can build a resource-based company. We do not have to harvest, kill, or consume much. We can work with the lands of willing participants. We can provide valuable services that are likely to last for many years, at least the planning and economic discounting is done for 150 years,,,then sliding forward a year, each year.

I cannot prove it will work. A poor manager can assure that it will fail. Several bad years in the early years can have the same effect. It can succeed with care, attention to details, hard work, intensive use of knowledge bases and using experts. Some will work for the good of the country and its people. We have to concentrate on putting into operation lasting systems, all subject to monitoring and corrective feedback. We have to keep looking at the future so that we do not design systems responsive to yesterday's conditions. We can design and produce a profitable system. I want to help. I'll do it all for free, but some people cannot believe that and think that I am unwilling to take the risk of my conviction. At age 70, I face unusual, atypical situations for taking business risks. I intend to buy stock when it becomes available at high risk. As originator of these ideas, I want my family to start receiving at the end of 3 years 0.1% of the profits. I'll continue to work actively toward that end without salary.

Test the site for Africa information

Senegal's WildHarvest01.html

See a digital library of scholarly resources from and about Africa.

Perhaps you will share ideas with me
about some of the topic(s) above at

Maybe we can work together
... for the good of us all
... for a long time.

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