A research project that is helping smallholder farmers in Kenya overcome challenges associated with food insecurity in that region has recently been awarded $1.5 million from the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), a joint initiative of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Global Affairs Canada.
Farm Shop is a Kenyan social franchise that has established a network of 25 agricultural input shops in the past three years and is the basis of the study. Led by Dr. Kevin McKague, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Cape Breton University, in partnership with the Kenyan social enterprise Farm Shop, and the University of Nairobi, the funding will help grow the Farm Shop model to 150 shops within Kenya by 2017, among other benefits.
“With this research, we’re interested in how social enterprise business models can achieve social goals, like improved food security and incomes for smallholder farmers in Africa. We’re interested in how the social impacts can be achieved in a financially self-reliant way that is scalable,” says McKague.
With an established Canadian/Kenyan partnership, the investment from CIFSRF will also allow the research team to engage in practical research-for-development to understand the barriers and enabling factors to scale; widely disseminate and effectively communicate findings and lessons learned with decision makers in government, business, NGO, donors and research communities; and build capacity of farmers, shop owners and African Canadian researchers. The goal is to have 500 shops in East Africa by 2020, benefiting 250,000 households, and by 2025, the plan is for Farm Shops to serve 5 million farming families through a network of 10,000 shops in sub-Saharan Africa. Women would make up at least 50 per cent of farmer-customers, increasing food security for themselves and their families.
CIFSRF is funding the best of the private, public and not-for-profit sectors in Canada and developing countries to test, refine and scale up the most promising innovations for greater impact in food security and nutrition globally. “As one of eight funded CIFSRF projects out of 182 applications, our research on scaling social enterprise business models to improve food security is relevant throughout Africa and South Asia,” he says.
McKague notes that in addition to an in-depth case study of Farm Shop, the work will also include research of 20 of the world’s leading examples of social franchising from various countries and sectors around the world.
“This research builds on our long history of committed relationships with local partners in Kenya and throughout Africa. Of note, a recent CBU gradate, Jill McPherson, is also playing an important role as the research project manager. It is great to see CBU alumni making positive impacts in communities around the world,” says McKague.