Making Global Goals Local Business Africa
Last week, we attended the online Making Global Goals Local Business: Africa Conference, hosted by UN Global Compact.
There was a lot of rhetoric about our need to do business differently moving forward. This means taking a 'business as unusual' approach in order to ensure a commitment to economic, social and environmental sustainability within an organisation.
Many of the panelists brought up the fact that a majority of businesses are already working towards these goals in some way, shape or form; however, their actions are not being framed in terms of the Global Goals and therefore, these actions may not be getting the traction they deserve.
The Global Goals provide a unique opportunity for people to engage in the issues addressed in the 17 goals through colourful icons and simple language which doesn't overwhelm the everyday consumer. By using the goals to talk about what they've already been doing, businesses can communicate effectively their sustainability practices to stakeholders and consumers to streamline communication and showcase their dedication to the issues raised in the 2030 agenda.
Another impediment to the achievement of the Global Goals which was raised during the conference was the financing of the goals. Some panelists and attendees argued that banks should prioritise sustainable businesses when considering financing. At Global Goals Australia, we would like to see all banks require a Global Goals-aligned sustainability plan when applying for a business loan. This would encourage many organisations to stop and consider the impact of their business on the broader community and environment before commencing or expanding.
It was also stated that businesses can't just have a sustainability commitment as part of their business - companies need to live and breathe sustainability throughout all of their practices, especially when it comes to Goal 5: Gender Equality. It is all well and good to make commitments to empowering women and girls through donation programs or staff volunteering; however, the company needs to be practicing gender equality at a corporate level - how many women are in positions of power, what percentage of women constitute new hires, how many training programs are offered for young women?
People are becoming increasingly aware of green-washing in businesses. A number of large companies which make commitments to economic, social and environmental sustainability are coming increasingly under fire for their own failings in corporate practices. These include companies which donate a percentage of profits to environmental organisations but do not have sound environmental practices within their own operations.
The other point that was discussed was the way we are being trained to think. Previously, people had been educated to think within their particular discipline. The example used was engineers are trained to think like engineers. However, as we progress and diversify our knowledge base, it is becoming increasingly important to take a holistic approach to the way in which we conduct ourselves within our professions. Engineers now need to think like future-builders. It is no longer about just building a bridge - it's about connecting people, reducing traffic flow, allowing the natural flora and fauna to continue to flourish in the surrounding areas. We have moved away from building a bridge being just about Goal 9 and now moving towards seeing how that bridge impacts the other 16 goals too. This holistic approach will be the key to achieving the Global Goals.
I was delighted to connect with Hesborn Ongudi, Founder and CEO of Fairways Green Markets, a social enterprise start-up that seeks to give dignity to Africa’s smallholder farmers, restore the soil & environment and feed the nation, based in Nairobi, Kenya. I had the opportunity to discuss Fairways Green Markets and their associated project, Organic Farmers Integrated Agribusiness Hub for Africa.
C: Tell us a little about your work.
H: Organic Farmers Integrated Agribusiness Hub for Africa seeks to provide training and capacity-building opportunities to smallholder farmers so that they can embrace organic farming as their mainstay in economic empowerment. Fairways Green Markets Limited is providing opportunities for smallholder farmers to get direct market access and market logistics, access to finance and credit to farmers while providing household buyers with organic fresh and affordable farm produce in all seasons.
Through these two institutions, we seek to provide an integrated Farmers Hub providing solutions to agribusiness including creating ready and accessible direct market opportunities and financing solutions to promote organic farming and farm productivity with the aim of securing the confidence of our future generation in Agribusiness.
C: What inspired you to start this project?
H: I am inspired by several things and situations. Having grown up in the village, I saw my younger brother recover fully from stunted growth through the use of African indigenous vegetables after a failed attempt of modern medicine. The African farmer is one of the most exploited and underpaid workers with close to 80% of farmers living in or near poverty while they feed 70% of the population in our cities. This is because of the many challenges and barriers that they face in their daily lives from access to direct market, the timing of harvest and wastage of agricultural produce to the lack of credit facilities geared towards the farmer, many of whom could not afford collateral demanded by the financial institutions. The farmer is therefore at a disadvantage and, as a result, this has made farming undesirable to our generation as it is considered a punishment. There are therefore market inequalities that need to be addressed.
The use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides have increased exposure to terminal illnesses and no one is spared even those that were previously considered lifestyle diseases are now found among the very poor and this as well need to be addressed.
In addition, global warming is attributed to the increased use of chemicals in our farming practices which instead of enriching the soil only makes the soil less and less productive hence there is a chance that we will not be able to produce sufficient food for the growing population.
C: Which of the Global Goals do you think poses the biggest challenge to your vision?
H: We do not see any of the SDG goals being a hindrance but our vision to see farmers increase their earnings from their labour, see a healthy community through consumption of organically grown fruits and vegetables, bridge the market gap through mitigating measures and a sustainable environment revolves around five SDGs namely:
SDG 1: Ending poverty in all its forms Everywhere
Starting with food poverty among the smallholder farming community then increasing smallholder earnings beyond US$2 per day
SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
Through food supply to the rest of the population with a focus on nutritional values of African traditional vegetables
SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Focusing on organically grown farm produce to promote the health and well-being of the global population.
SDG10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
Ensuring that smallholder farmers receive their good share of the labour input through direct market access
SDG12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Ensuring that there is no wastage of farm produce through alternative preservation of fruits and vegetables between farm to market
C: How are you working with other small businesses and community organisations to further your work around the Global Goals?
H: We are working in collaboration with the local community through the local government, local religious and Community Based Organizations (CBOs), youth and women groups to identify and reach out to the smallholder farmer communities everywhere we go. We are also working with individual agricultural professionals including agronomists, extension officers and agrovet shops to promote the idea of organic farming to the communities they are working with on a day to day basis. So far we have identified a total of 18,960 acres of land that we are looking to put under organic farming from 2021 through our potential agronomist partners. We are also working on a local partnership with small groceries to create a distribution network for our farmers' produce to ensure that they are available in every home and house especially in the towns and cities.
C: What are the benefits of traditional African medicine?
H: It is important that as we aim to end hunger, we also do so in a way that will promote healthy consumption so the two SDGs come together in our vision in this way. Inspired by the miraculous healing of my own brother through the consumption of the traditional African indigenous vegetables, I discovered that these vegetables have tremendous medicinal values that should be tapped through constant consumption in order to strengthen body’s immunity. Covid-19 for example has exposed how frail and fragile our human bodies can be if exposed to harmful substances some of which are unfortunately the food we eat. That is why we seek to help our farmers focus on these traditional vegetables so that we can promote healthy eating in our green markets. The following are a few examples of some vegetables and their medicinal and nutritional values:
Managu (Black nightshade)
Managu or Black nightshade is a plant that is mostly consumed as an indigenous vegetable here in Kenya. Managu leaves are eaten as a cooked vegetable, often mixed with other vegetables and the fresh fruit is also consumed. Despite its higher rate of consumption, many people still have not realized the hidden treasures of this leafy indigenous vegetable called the African Nightshade. If you have this vegetable in your yard, then you have just hit the perfect spot. This sweet delicacy can be used cure ailments such as earaches, toothaches, asthma, ringworms, flatulence, freckles, gonorrhea, dysentery, bad breath, gum diseases and many others.
Saget/Sageti/Dek (Spider flower - Cleome gynandra)
Saget is a common name for a vegetable known as Spider flower (Cleome gynandra). Other common names for the vegetable are; cat’s whiskers, spider flower, spider wisp (English). It is a species of the cleome family that has sharp, mustard-flavored tender leaves and shoots that are eaten when boiled or in a mixture with stews. The leaves and shoots form an important part of diets in Kenya and it can be found in most open-air markets and supermarkets. Saget is quite nutritious and is recommended for everyone. It is rich in beta-carotene, folic acid, ascorbic acid and calcium. It also contains vitamin E, iron, and oxalic acid. In general, its leaves contain about 4.0% protein. Moreover, its leaves have antioxidative properties that can help with inflammatory diseases. Owing to these properties, saget has been used in many African communities particularly by pregnant and breastfeeding women. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it is sometimes used as a medicinal herb. It is advisable to consume saget seeds together with the leaves. This is because the seeds are rich in proteins and fats. It is rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) with oleic and linoleic acid forming 81% of the total fats, hence saget seed oil is a healthy oil.
Jew's Mallow Jew's Mallow For Skin, Hair And Health Also known as Egyptian spinach, bush okra, West African sorrech and jute mallow, Jew's mallow is a powerhouse of nutrients that can benefit your body, hair and skin. Did you know that this edible leafy vegetable is also known as Cleopatra's Secret? There are claims that Cleopatra drank Jew's mallow soup every day to maintain her beauty and youthful looks. If you suffer from dry scaly skin, it is time to make Jew's mallow a part of your regular diet to help keep the skin soft, supple and smooth. This would explain why Jew's mallow is recommended for people suffering from psoriasis. The Vitamin A in Jew's mallow plant helps to fight acne and also works to rebuild damaged tissue, thereby minimizing the scars left behind by acne. Vitamins A and E in Jew's mallow are known for their anti-aging properties. It can help to reduce the visibility of fine lines, age spots and wrinkles. It also can help combat dull skin, which tends to be one of the first signs of aging. The Vitamin C in the vegetable helps to promote the production of collagen that keeps your skin supple and youthful. It also is a potent antioxidant that destroys free radicals that can cause premature aging of the skin. Vitamin B1 in Jew's mallow helps to boost blood circulation to the skin. As a result, your skin gets a healthy glow. Vitamin E boosts blood circulation to your scalp, ensuring hair follicles get ample nutrients. As a result, you can boast of soft hair with no split ends
C: How do you think the Global Goals are helping people around the world? How do you think the Global Goals are helping people in Kenya?
H: The Global Goals (SDGs) are more specific and practical and as such easy to target, achieve
and measure locally and globally.
The SDGs have made it for organizations to rally behind thematic areas and make the
world a better place to live in one day at a time, and it is making it possible to have humans
face to global challenges and incorporate the private sector to play a role in achieving these goals which were previously a preserve of civil society.
In specific, environmental sustainability and the activities around restoration of our forests are starting to bear fruit going by the testimony I got from one of our farmers' group in Kenya, that efforts to restore one of the water towers has seen them receive constant rainfall over the last two years in a way they had never seen for a very long time. With adequate rainfall, they can now confidently do farming which had been abandoned due to hostile climate.
C: How can people support your organization (both financially and in-kind)?
H: As a social enterprise, we have taken this route as opposed to a not-for-profit establishment because we want to help our people shift from aid to trade. To this end, we are seeking to partner with individuals and institutions that are pro-trade and believe in our vision to empower smallholder farmers for better earnings and sustainability.
The life of a business start-up is very challenging yet exciting. At the beginning, the founders have to put in all their savings and it is even more challenging when the start-up is a social enterprise founded on the premise of supporting the smallholder farmer whose first harvest is likely to come several months later.
The task ahead of us is bigger than ourselves, we are looking for different partners who share our vision to collaborate with to make it happen, to create millionaire farmers in Africa, restore the health of the people and the planet even as we end poverty and hunger in providing the necessary tools and training support that we need to move forward. For example, we are at the early stages where investor funding is not easy to get yet the amount of work needed in training farmers requires a lot of funds for logistics and we have to reach where the farmer is. Sometimes we have our car getting stuck in mud and rocks as we go for training; sometimes we had to slow down because of budget issues yet the need is out there. We have already more than 500 farmers willing and ready for the training and because of the effects of COVID-19 on household income, they cannot afford even the money required to pay for training.
So far we have conducted training for 126 farmers over the last three months of September to November 2020 and we are heading to the stage of providing them with an ongoing extension service.
We are looking to create a farmers hub so as to expose the produce to a larger transit market along a busy highway and we will need a lot of in-kind and financial support to put this up. The local authorities are already committed to help us identify appropriate sites and even help in the negotiation with the owners to land a good lease but immediately after that process is done we will need funding to develop this hub which is bound to give our farmers a huge market exposure.
In summary, we need support in:
i. Funding institutional capacity-building to enable us to conduct farmers training to more than 1000 smallholder farmers over the next six months before the first harvests are available in the market.
ii. Funding the farmers' hub where collection, preservation and selling of produce from our farmers will be happening even as we link them to local and international markets.
iii. Partnership and collaboration to develop tools i.e mobile app to connect farmers to the market and eliminate the middle man hence increase the farmer’s total earnings.
iv. We are seeking individuals and market partners globally who believe in our vision to make orders for our fruits and vegetables that are coming straight from smallholder farmers and reduce farmer poverty and remove income inequalities that have affected close to 80% of farmers in Africa. We believe in trade based as opposed to aid inclined support.
v. Certified Carbon traders to buy carbon credits as a result of our organic farming activities that have a great impact on CO2 emissions.
Organic Farmers Integrated Agribusiness Hub for Africa and Fairways Green Markets Limited can be contacted through:
Phone:+254 735 402744/735 777402744
*Global Goals Australia recommends you speak to your physician before making any changes to your diet.