ADE's Zero Down Development and Economic Sustainability Projects

When ADE shares its Zero Down Model for development, the question that people inevitably ask is, "so, what is that exactly?" Zero-down is a practice generally used in banking that allows people to initiate projects without any money down, without any financial deposit. ADE created the term Zero Down Development to emphasize that it can also start from nothing, without being dependent on standard grants, monthly support, or corporatracy, using creative ideas and joint efforts.

Extracting sugar cane
juice manually
This means that ADE simply relies on the resources that are already available within the community to facilitate sustainable projects. ADE sees the people as the richest resource and recognizes what assets are already in place (services, resources) in order to work together from the onset to sustain not only ourselves but also to do sustainable development. Our community actions here serve a globalized community.

One major reason ADE strives for a Zero Down model is to be reproducible. We believe that Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples should be accessible to anyone who is called to go (Matthew 10), not just those who have the resources and connections to raise salary support or to obtain grant support for projects. Our goal is that, as the members of our staff live within the community, create jobs to support themselves, and carry out educational development, others will be encouraged to respond to the call to go to marginalized or disaster-stricken communities and share the love of Christ. ADE hopes to raise local leaders who will take over the projects and learn to replicate and contextualize the ADE model.

A Local Case Study in rural Costa Rica

ADE is involved in educational initiatives, primarily in the start up of a local high school as volunteers. The high school began in an abandoned house in San Rafael and, a year later, moved to the community center in Vara Blanca, a neighboring town. Both of these buildings were offered free of charge and the students and their parents helped to repair both buildings. Existing, but dormant, resources in two communities were restored by people in those communities and, at the same time, the youth of both towns are receiving education.
ADE charges students a small tuition fee so that the education will be valued and so that students will be more committed. These funds are used to hire local teachers. Students also do projects to benefit their communities and they are becoming involved in helping to educate at the local elementary school. A local school board has been created to oversee the school and set the direction for the future. ADE is also working to collaborate with national universities to bring academic programs to the community.
This is a small example of what can be done with the zero down model - students are receiving an education, participating in the development of their own community, and developing as leaders; local resources are being used; local leaders are taking control of the project; the project did not cost ADE a single dollar.

ADE's sustainable Projects:
ADE is involved in a blackberry co-op. Most of the farms in the region produce strawberry and dairy. (Unfortunately the strawberries are with heavy pesticides.) We as a family have been making blackberry pie and syrup and wanted to plant more blackberries. This is one of the advantages of living in the same community in which we work. We know everyone loves blackberries not only for their great taste but also for their phenomenal nutritional content. What we did not know was that it was also very easy to grow, naturally warding off many pests on its own. We noticed that blackberries grow wild here in the Vara Blanca region but they were not yet cultivated. Tomas invited several community members including two students to a blackberry growing area in Costa Rica located south of Cartago that cultivate wild organic blackberries. They grew them with success, without greenhouses, without chemicals, and in which almost all the proceeds were benefits. Using the zero down model of development, ADE received donations from the experimental blackberry farm of University of Costa Rica and the co-op comprised of 4 members of the community went to excavate the plants. Some in the co-op have already started planting blackberries on their lands and the co-op is looking into making jams- organic goodness with all the nutrition.

Regional coffee plantation
  • ADE is starting a small community newspaper. Tomas and Chelsea with 2 community members and several students are in the beginning stages of designing layout and involving the local businesses to collaborate together to create a community voice. Chelsea is also working to publish stories with high school students. Contact Chelsea at for more information or if you can help in editing and publishing works of fiction and nonfiction.
  • ADE offers English classes to local communities. Ben teaches beginning and intermediate levels at the community center for a small fee. He enjoys the small class environment that allows him to get to know the community deeply. ADE is planning to offer computer classes soon at the community center. Contact Ben at for more information about schedules and English classes for your business and organization.
Tropical agricultre presentations by locals and visitors
  • ADE coordinates events and trips for a cultural and academic experience outside the classroom in many subjects - Spanish Immersion, Community Development, Tropical Agriculture, Leadership, Ecology, Biology, etc. We hope to receive more groups from Costa Rica and offer a platform of other interests of the group. For more information please contact any staff member or our international coordinator Lindsey at
Earthquake damage
 Local ecology
Making fresh corn tortillas-
Local cooking
Local culture

These updates were shared at the first national board meeting.
Written by Chelsea Dozier


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