On August 23th, in Santa Clara, California, I attended business plan presentations of 19 competitively selected social entrepreneurs, who delivered their pitches to a panel of experienced professionals plus a general audience. These presentations marked the culmination of the 10th annual Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI™) program organized by Santa Clara University. The Development Marketplace has been one of its partners since its beginning. The program includes intensive work by each entrepreneur with two to three designated mentors, and a series of on-campus classes. Its main objective is to strengthen material that each entrepreneur already has available, refine their business models and develop professional organizational documentation that can be presented to attract investors.
Development Marketplace winner Pachamama Coffee Cooperative (PCC) was featured in the New York Times not too long ago. Its newest initiative CoffeeCSA.org found its roots in humble beginnings. Springing from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement which began in the 1960’s in Switzerland, consumers receive their produce directly from the farmer through a household subscription paid for in advance. Then on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, the consumer cum subscriber receives a portion of the overall harvest.
CoffeeCSA.org is a platform that allows consumers to pay in advance for a coffee subscription ranging from one month to one year. There consumers have a direct link to farmers who grew their coffee in Ethiopia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru or Guatemala. And the advance subscription provides a more stable income to farmers. It’s a great adaptation of an old model for coffee farmers who often live on only $2 per day.
Climate change poses a serious threat to future food security. Increases in temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns are expected to increase food shortages, especially in Africa. In response, governments and scientists are looking for ways to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on food production.
Ethiopia, which has a strong history of conserving its food crops, has partnered with the CGIAR-supported Bioversity International to implement a World Bank Development Marketplace 2009 winning project called Innovative Pilot Scheme Would Match Seeds to the Needs of Women Farmers. The project works to ensure farmers, particularly women farmers, will have an assured supply of climate-tolerant seeds for food production as climatic conditions change in the future.
The future of Ethiopia’s drought-threatened agriculture is in the hands of the country’s resourceful women farmers, Development Marketplace 2009 winner Ehsan Dulloo says.
Dulloo calls the women Ethiopian agriculture's “primary seed custodians.” They’re the ones who “have to confront significant uncertainty in the climate every year and regularly face food shortages as crops fail,” he says. That’s why Dulloo and the Institute of Bioversity Conservation in Addis Ababa – where he is a scientist – developed the winning project Seeds for Needs. (Participating farmer Bertukan Kebede is shown with daughter in photo from project workshop.)
Seeds for Needs aims to benefit 200 woman farmers who are running out of options on their subsistence plots in the increasingly dry highlands of eastern Ethiopia. Through Seeds for Needs, the woman farmers will get access to new strains of seeds -- produced at gene banks -- that may prove more hardy than the traditional varieties of seeds the farmers have been using to overcome droughts that are more frequent and intense because of climate change.