The husband of my friend, Ghanaian by birth, had recently started an oil palm tree plantation. On about 100 hectares of land he had planted 16,000 palm trees, complemented by a pig barn, a duck pond, and goats and chickens. Of course he could not do all this work by himself, but he needed lots of help. To take care of his farm, he initially hired about 50 workers. The most labor-intensive part was tending to the palm trees. He had recruited a group of about 25 workers from nearby villages to take care of the trees. Their task was to remove the weed around the trees, bring out fertilizer, and chase away pests such as tree-eating insects and rodents. At the last workday of the first month, he paid each worker his agreed on monthly salary, cash in the hand, as is the custom in Ghana. On the next working day, he was in for a really bad surprise. Out of his 25 workers, only 4 showed up. They reported that the others would not want to come. They had currently enough money to get by for another month; some of them might come perhaps in a month or two, when they would need money again.
To overcome this problem, my friend came up with a brilliant idea. Instead of workers, he now hires communities. He does not pay them per day, but for tasks. When I was visiting, he had hired one village to weed 600 palm trees. He had negotiated a price with the elders of the village for this task, now it was up to the villagers to make sure that the work was done. The community needed the money to pay for poles to get electricity to the village. If a lazy villager would not show up for work, the community would force him to pay a fine. During my entire visit at the farm, the community of villagers was hard at work weeding the 600 palm trees, cutting down the weeds with their cutlasses. As my friend told me, he had made similar agreements with other communities to get all of his 16,000 trees weeded.
Relying on self-organizing communities, my friend had overcome the mentality of the peasants, solving his problem of tending to his oil palms not by hiring workers, but by unleashing the power of swarms