Reaping returns from social entrepreneurship in agribusiness
Agricultural sector is the backbone of the economy, contributing approximately 33 percent of Kenya's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The agriculture sector employs more than 40 percent of the total population and 70 percent of the rural population.
By Gerald Gacheru
Social entrepreneurship entails the development and funding of solutions that directly address social issues such as food scarcity, poverty, unemployment, unequal opportunity, arid and semi-arid lands, and effects of climate change e.g., water scarcity among others.
Social entrepreneurship is a profit-making endeavor whose emphasis is placed on creating social and/or environmental changes.
This brews a perfect balance between positively impacting the community and earning profits which provides longevity and impact.
Increasingly, the idea of carrying out ad hoc activities in the name of social responsibility has been replaced with established sustainability models that have become a must-do for businesses.
Research shows that all business stakeholders – government, consumers, employees and investors – are more and more demanding that organizations take responsibility of their environmental, social and governance (ESG) arms.
An example of successful social entrepreneurship is Quinam Investments Ltd. Quinam was birthed from Nancy Wambui’s and Susan Wairimu’s passion, to provide a market for the thousands of smallholder farmers spread across the country.
In a bid to expand their cereals shop in 2012, Nancy and Susan started directly sourcing maize from smallholder farmers and supplying the same to millers in Thika and Nairobi. It is in the course of dealing with maize farmers that they identified an opportunity and started dealing with other grains such as green grams, beans, and pigeon peas.
The business was officially registered in 2013 and consequently expanded with more formal trading modalities which enabled them to engage corporate institutions such as East Africa Breweries Plc (EABL).
Quinam investments has closed the gap between sorghum farmers in Tharaka Nithi and Meru counties and EABL which uses locally-sourced sorghum and barley for brewing. The company, through East Africa Maltings Limited (EAML), provides backward linkages in agronomy plus an assured market for sorghum production.
Quinam’s network of smallholder farmers has grown from 127 farmers supplying 80,000kgs of cereal in 2017 to over 7,000 registered farmers (male 37%, female 63%, and youth 40%), supplying more than 2 million kgs of white sorghum and millet pa annum to EAML.
In Kenya, social entrepreneurship has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. The immense success of organizations, such as Quinam investments, TruTrade Africa, Farmers Pride, and Access Afya among others is proof that the beautiful balance between profits and social good is not only possible but lucrative as well.
The writer is the Head of Agribusiness at East Africa Maltings Limited (EAML) – Gerald Gacheru
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