African Social Enterprises
All over sub-Saharan Africa, many initiatives are seeking to address poverty and improve people’s lives amid fears of escalating hunger and extreme poverty. The World Bank reported that sub-Saharan Africa would note a decrease in economic growth from 4.1% in 2021 to 3.3% in 2022 due to sluggish global economic growth, the war in Ukraine and extreme weather conditions. Social enterprises keep hope alive by stepping up to address the effects of poverty on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. A social enterprise is a business with social objectives. While these businesses do seek to make profits, the enterprises maximize benefits to society and the environment by bringing relief to the most vulnerable sections of the communities. In particular, several African social enterprises look to address poverty in the region.

Pad-Up Creations

Olivia Onyemaobi founded Pad-Up Creations in May 2016 in Minna in Niger State of Nigeria. This Nigerian social enterprise aims to address period poverty in Nigeria. Period poverty refers to girls’ and women’s lack of access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities to properly manage menstruation. Onyemaobi launched a campaign in 2015 to provide female victims of sexual abuse with counseling and rehabilitation. Onyemaobi also noted a link between period poverty and sexual abuse.

Out of the 1,500 girls who received counseling, 68% had infections from using unsanitary alternatives to manage their menstruation and 79% typically did not attend school when menstruating due to a lack of access to menstrual supplies. Furthermore, 70% regret being female due to their menstruation and 95% reported engaging in sexual encounters to enable them to buy menstrual products.

Pad-Up Creations manufactures affordable washable and reusable sanitary pads that last up to a year, saving females from the monthly costs of menstrual supplies and ensuring girls stay in school. According to Onyemaobi, Pad-Up Creations reached more than 100,000 girls in Nigeria by 2017 but now has outlets in 18 African countries reaching millions of women and girls. Aside from reducing poverty, the social enterprise is also empowering other women economically. More than 300 females work in the factory in Minna while others are distributors of the products earning minimal profits.

Solar Sister

Solar Sister is another one of the African social enterprises empowering and helping women across sub-Saharan Africa. It invests in women and “clean energy businesses in off-grid Africa.” It is a movement of women, men, allies and partners with a mission to eradicate energy poverty by “empowering women with economic opportunity.”

Solar Sister initially came about in 2010 through the efforts of two women, a Ugandan banker, Katherine Lucey, and an Indian energy economist, Neha Misra, whose visits to remote areas in their different localities inspired them to build social enterprises around women, focusing on affordable clean energy. Three other women, Evelyn Namara of Uganda, Fatma Muzo of Tanzania and Olasimbo Sojinrin of Nigeria, boosted these efforts by launching operations in their respective countries.

According to the World Bank, just 48% of people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to electricity in 2020. Furthermore, just 18% of people in this region had “access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking” in the same year. The detrimental effects of household air pollution led to about 500,000 premature deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018.

Against this backdrop, Solar Sister produces and provides clean stoves for cooking and solar solutions for lighting and charging batteries. So far, across three African countries, Solar Sister has reached more than 3.5 million people and has sold more than 700,000 clean energy products. Furthermore, the enterprise has helped 8,500 people become entrepreneurs by selling its solar products, 87% of whom are women.

Farm On Wheels

Farm On Wheels is a Nigerian social enterprise whose vision is to help smallholder farmers in hard-to-reach locations in Niger State, Nigeria. Its mission is to take knowledge, skills, improved seeds and agrochemicals to farmers in remote locations in order to assist them in increasing their yields and accessing markets for their products, making them gainfully employed and financially empowered. Jocelyne Agbo founded the enterprise in 2017 as an alumnus of the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Because smallholder farmers in Nigeria live and work in remote locations with little knowledge of or access to advancements, they tend to stick to traditional agricultural practices at the subsistence level. Farm On Wheels brings advancements to rural farmers in leaps by helping to increase their yields and giving them access to bigger markets, making their farming endeavors more economically viable.

Between May 2021 to April 2022, Farm On Wheels partnered with the Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, a USAID-funded activity implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA). To improve yields and production, Farm on Wheels distributed “input loans” totaling 24 million nairas ($58,151 USD) to 500 farmers, including 100 youth farmers in Niger State.

These three African social enterprises fill the gap between government action and the hard-to-reach, vulnerable people living in sub-Saharan Africa, thereby, lifting many out of poverty.

– Friday Okai
Photo: Flickr

Zimbabwean Farmers
Zimbabwe has faced several economic issues during the past two decades. The country’s economy has gone through a series of reforms and crises. All this has had a major impact on the poverty situation in the country. Between 2019 and 2020, Zimbabwe’s macroeconomic challenges, a record drought, cyclone Idai and the COVID-19 pandemic affected the country. Today, the economic regressions that the country has faced are having negative impacts on the daily lives of Zimbabwean farmers.

Agricultural Zimbabwe

Agriculture is the pillar of Zimbabwean society. It provides income for around 70% of the population, supplies almost 60% of the raw materials that the industrial sector necessary and contributes 40% of total export earnings. While the agricultural sector of Zimbabwe remains the largest employer of labor in the country, the official wage of farm laborers is around 78,000 Zimbabwean dollars. With the inflation rate at around 180%, many farmers are struggling to stay afloat financially and have resorted to working at multiple jobs simultaneously. Other challenges that farm laborers and smallholder farmers faced are droughts, poor soil fertility, low investment, shortages of farm power, poor physical and institutional infrastructure and recurring food insecurity.

Struggles of Farmers

In addition to the financial crisis, farmers in Zimbabwe also suffer from bad treatment in their workplaces. Many farmers and farm laborers have to live in colonial-era shacks known as “makomboni.” According to Al-Jazeera, many have to contend with living in “renovated pigsties, tobacco barns, and horse stables on farms where they work.” Laborers are often unable to provide basic means for their families and get into debt with money lenders and their employers. The issues that the farmers of Zimbabwe faced are a testament to the economic predicament that the country is facing today.

Loss Of Profit

For cash crops such as cotton, which usually brings much financial success to farmers, rising inflation rates and poor currency means that they no longer get the desired profits of cotton farming. Besides inflation, two of the biggest issues that cotton farmers face are corruption and falling prices. Back in 2017, the price of a single kilogram of cotton was around $1.51. As cotton now is sold solely in Zimbabwean dollars, farmers gain little to no profit for their arduous labor. Nowadays the price of a single kilogram of cotton hovers between $0.53 and $0.68, almost a 66% decrease in less than six years. Corruption is also a huge issue. In 2022, the chair of the Zimbabwe parliament’s portfolio committee on land and agriculture was arrested for a case relating to the stockpiling of cotton farming inputs.

Another crop that is faltering is maize. As a result of changing weather patterns, droughts are becoming more frequent and harsher in Zimbabwe. Thereby, threatening the production of the maize crop which is a staple in the country. A government assessment estimated that Zimbabwe’s maize production fell by almost 43% in the 2021-2022 season due to the lack of rainfall. Many farmers have received orders to sell their stocks to the state in order to replenish low stocks. However, many are holding onto their stocks because the prices on offer are so miserly.

Hope For the Industry

Zimbabwean farmers are struggling to make ends meet. The economic crisis that the state faced is severely affecting the livelihood of farmers and farm laborers. Changing weather patterns are also having a severe impact on the production of import crops such as maize and cotton. However, hope still exists for the industry. Young farmers in Zimbabwe are leading the drive for the new generation. They are diversifying by growing fruits such as mangoes, rearing livestock such as Boer goats and cultivating tobacco. They are practicing sustainable methods that provide hope for farmers in Zimbabwe.

– Saad Haque
Photo: Flickr

Farmers in Africa
The One Acre Fund is a Kenya-based social enterprise that believes “farmers are the key to achieving food security and prosperity.” Yet, in sub-Saharan Africa, farmers account for most individuals surviving on just a dollar per day. The One Acre Fund supports farmers in the nine African countries that are responsible for the production of 80% of Africa’s food supply. The One Acre Fund website highlights that by 2030, about 90% of individuals surviving on a dollar a day will reside in sub-Saharan Africa. With statistics such as these, it is clear to see why One Acre Fund has a particular focus on farmers in sub-Saharan Africa specifically. The social enterprise works to reduce poverty by providing farmers with vital supplies and training to increase yields and bring in more income with a goal to benefit 10 million farmers by 2030.

The Importance of Supporting Smallholder Farmers

Smallholder farmers depend on the crops they cultivate not only to gain a stable income but also to feed themselves and their families. By helping farmers just as the One Acre Fund does, farming families are able to secure a more stable supply of food all year round and perhaps even a surplus yield, benefiting nutrition and overall food security. Global Citizen highlights that “financing for farmers pays for itself — every $1 invested in agricultural research by demand-driven research institutions such as the CGIAR generates $6 or more in benefits, such as increased farmer income and better health and educational outcomes for community members.”

The One Acre Fund Training Programs

When it comes to boosting the success of smallholder farmers, receiving quality agricultural training is just as important as having quality supplies. One Acre Fund provides direct and personalized training to farmers to improve productivity and yields. For instance, farmers learn beneficial planting techniques, how to prepare the land for planting, how to prevent infestations of diseases and pests and battle unexpected barriers in growing crops, among other topics.

The One Acre Fund aims to provide farmers with the knowledge and skills to improve climate resiliency, considering that Africa often faces extreme weather conditions, such as floods and drought. The training of smallholder farmers not only enhances their knowledge and skills but also advances their independence and allows farmers to pass down the knowledge to more people in their communities to multiply the impact of the training.

Last Mile Delivery

In 2021, 58% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lived in rural areas with many of these areas being remote and lacking infrastructure and road networks. This lack of connectedness introduces a new obstacle when it comes to delivering smallholder farmers the necessary resources to thrive agriculturally, like seeds and other essential farming supplies.

The One Acre Fund introduced the Last Mile Delivery strategy to ensure farmers in the most remote places can access essential resources that will help break the cycle of poverty. In order to do this, the social enterprise delivers through three pathways: retail shops, field officers and trials of online apps. One Acre Fund utilizes “geotagging software to pinpoint and monitor activity at each delivery site” to make sure farmers receive the supplies. Even if there are no proper roads because of a lack of infrastructure in under-developed areas, alternative modes of transport are utilized for deliveries, such as tractors and motorcycles.

The One Acre Fund’s Impacts

In 2021, the efforts of One Acre Fund benefited the lives and livelihoods of 3.2 million farmers. The social enterprise has expanded the income of farmers by about 40% annually, resulting in “$210 million in new farm profits,” its website says. One Acre Fund has provided job opportunities to about 9,500 individuals, mainly from rural locations. The social enterprise highlights a successful return on investment: “$2.70 new farm profits created for every $1 of donor investment.” Overall, the work of social enterprises such as the One Acre Fund betters the lives of disadvantaged smallholder farmers in Africa by increasing agricultural yields and reducing poverty.

– Ruby Wallace
Photo: Flickr

 Farming Poverty in the Philippines
More than one-third of the Philippines’ 50 million citizens living in rural areas are considered poor. Most rural citizens depend on agriculture as the primary or only source of income for their families. These families end up further in poverty as agricultural productivity declines, unsustainable practices continue and economic growth lags. Here is some information about poverty among farmers in the Philippines including what some are doing to eliminate it.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Farmers in the Philippines

COVID-19 exacerbated poverty in the farming community by devastating the Philippean economy. Intense quarantine restrictions and natural disasters in 2020 led to an increase in poverty. The inability to transport goods and items has disrupted the farming sector. It continues to stall the stabilization of the economy. Farmers in rural areas have remained among the poorest group in the Philippines since 2006.


The ACDI has attempted to combat the poverty that farmers in the Philippines feel through its Cooperative Development Program. The ADCI/VOCA is a Washington, D.C.-based organization focusing on economic development and growth to raise living standards in poverty-stricken countries. Founded in 1993, the global organization has developed multiple programs in the Philippines to aid the farming community.

Philippine Coffee Advancement and Farm Enterprise

Some of ACDI/VOCA’s past initiatives include the Philippine Coffee Advancement and Farm Enterprise (PhilCAFE), which emphasized supporting farmers in the coffee sector. PhilCAFE aimed to increase the production and exports of coffee by promoting the coffee industry, facilitating the establishment of good agricultural practices, improving technologies and supporting lending.

The initiative has helped 349 individuals access agricultural financing and has also formed partnerships with 50 public-private partnerships as of November 2020.

The MinPact Project

The organization also implemented the Mindanao Productivity in Agricultural Commerce and Trade (MinPACT) Project. The project helped increase the incomes of small farmers in the cocoa, coconut and coffee farming industries of Southern and Western Mindanao, an area with extreme poverty rates in the Philippines.

The project worked to reduce poverty and food insecurity in Mindanao by supporting smaller farmers. The approach included plans to increase production, improve productivity, support improved agricultural practices, provide training to reduce harvest loss, provide grants to improve systems and equipment and promote sustainability in the farming industry.

The initiative assisted 6,360 farmers and trained them in farming planning, improved infrastructure for production in 26 enterprises and gave access to traditional cash loans to 1,248 farmers.

CDP in the Philippines

ACDI’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP) works in multiple countries to support cooperatives and their members by promoting economic growth and bolstering civil society. The CDP launched in the Philippines in September of 2022. Agreements with more than 40 local cooperatives made this possible.

These cooperatives are members of the agricultural sector in areas such as rice, coconut, coffee, cacao and dairy production. The CDP in the Philippines will implement a five-year plan to provide the assistance the agriculture industry needs. The multimillion-dollar effort will “foster broad-based economic growth, raise living standards, and help build dynamic agricultural value chains.”

CDP Philippines hopes to see the positive effects of investing in the next five years through its efforts to “promote inclusion, integration, and innovation to create a more vibrant and sustainable farming community.”

– Brooklynn Rich
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Food Production in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe, a landlocked country in south-eastern Africa, frequently suffers from the effects of seasonal droughts. For example, during the 2019 agricultural season, Zimbabwe endured a particularly devastating drought resulting in more than 5 million rural Zimbabweans experiencing food insecurity and nearly 4 million requiring food assistance. On top of issues of food insecurity that lower yields caused, Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate rose to rates above 190% in June 2021, resulting in a higher overall cost of living throughout the country. Additionally, the price of maize has risen by more than 50% since the beginning of 2021. Luckily, drought-resistant grains are boosting food production in Zimbabwe.

How the Zimbabwean Government is Assisting Farmers

To solve the problem of lower yield due to maize not being able to withstand drought conditions, the Zimbabwean government has begun assisting farmers in the transition to farming smaller drought-resistant grains like sorghum and millet. This transition has resulted in food production increases in Zimbabwe, though it has not been easy for many farmers, as these smaller grains require more work to keep up. The small-grain crops attract birds, making a protection system essential to guard their crops. Moreover, when harvested, small-grain crops require more labor-intensive processing. Additionally, because the farmers have stopped farming as much maize, they have subsequently become unable to produce the corn necessary to make many staple Zimbabwean foods.

Responsive Drip Irrigation

Responsive Drip Irrigation is aiding farmers with an innovative irrigation system that helps crop production in drought conditions. It developed an irrigation system that reacts to the crops’ chemicals to determine when the plants need water. Of course, innovative technology such as Responsive Drip Irrigation is expensive and therefore difficult to make available to many Zimbabwean farmers. Nevertheless, in August 2021, Responsive Drip Irrigation began working with smallholder farms to help encourage food production increases in Zimbabwe.

The CAWEP Program

Additionally, in December 2022, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced the implementation of a new three-year initiative to make water more accessible throughout rural Zimbabwe. The CAWEP program allocated $14.8 million to increase access to water for various household uses, improve access to clean and affordable energy, and refurbish current irrigation systems. CAWEP should eventually connect as many as 12,500 people to electricity, assist 150,000 people with accessing water and establish more than 100 hectares of land as workable agricultural property. By making water more accessible to these rural Zimbabwean farmers, the UNDP hopes to increase food production in Zimbabwe.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

Finally, the World Food Programme (WFP) has also worked to provide support for rural Zimbabwean farmers in the face of probable climate shocks such as prevalent droughts. as of November 2022, the WFP has provided nearly 10,000 metric tons of food, more than $420,000 worth of cash-based transfers and has reached close to 500,000 people with these cash transfers. As of December 2022, the WFP provided more than 550,000 people with emergency food assistance.

The Road Ahead

Though frequently facing the brunt of powerful droughts and an ever-growing inflation rate, food production is slowly increasing in Zimbabwe as farmers shift to more sustainable crops and receive help from humanitarian organizations such as the WFP and the UNDP.

– Chris Dickinson
Photo: Flickr

Nigerian Startup Fights High Food Costs
Pricepally is a food co-op that connects Nigeria’s urban consumers directly with farmers and wholesalers, thus bolstering Nigeria’s urban centers against the impending global food crisis. Luther Lawoyin originally developed Pricepally in 2019 to make food more affordable and accessible for Nigerians. The digital startup uses modern technology to connect urban consumers directly with wholesalers and farmers, bypassing the country’s inefficient food supply infrastructure, which contributes to high food costs. Additionally, the Nigerian startup fights high food costs by enabling customers to pool their resources with other Pricepally users to invest in bulk purchases, providing further savings.

An Instant Hit

Lawoyin came up with the idea for Pricepally after monitoring his new family’s collective grocery expenses. After doing some research, he realized that Nigeria’s outdated supply chain infrastructure resulted in “a lack of integration” between consumers and producers. Intermediaries meant to connect rural producers with urban consumers lacked a sound data structure, meaning that farmers had no way of knowing current market demands. The Nigerian startup fights high food costs caused by an inefficient and inequitable market structure by providing a community-based platform that benefits both consumers and producers.

Following its launch in November 2019, Nigerians quickly recognized Pricepally as a valuable consumer platform amid high inflation. The digital startup’s popularity skyrocketed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, providing consumers with a safe method of obtaining essential resources. The Lagos-based startup met the needs of quarantined populations, quickly obtaining a government license to travel despite pandemic restrictions.

Pricepally began as a modest operation with only seven employees operating solely within the city of Lagos. Within months of its debut, Principally received funding from multiple investors, allowing it to rapidly expand operations to include the Nigerian capital of Abuja, serving more than 5,000 consumers per month.

Benefits Farmers and Consumers Alike

While Pricepally’s creator initially developed the platform with urban customers in mind, its operation has become an incredibly beneficial mechanism by which smallholder farmers can expand their market access. Chronic underinvestment and an outdated supply chain infrastructure have caused Nigeria’s smallholder farmers to become embroiled in poverty. A lack of basic facilities such as transportation routes, energy and water irrigation systems deter investors and leads to inefficiency and significant agricultural losses. In fact, Nigeria’s agricultural industry loses anywhere from 55% to 72% of Nigeria’s fresh produce before it even enters the domestic market.

Pricepally works to overcome these structural pitfalls by acting as a fair and reliable middleman, using its mobile and web-based services to connect farmers with consumers. This reduces the various intermediaries that once clogged the value chain, providing an equitable and transparent procurement process that empowers small-scale farmers to attain fair prices. In the spirit of transparency, Pricepally has begun featuring farmer’s profiles on its website, ensuring people can trust that they are buying high-quality produce. The Nigerian startup fights high food costs by streamlining the supply chain process in a manner that optimizes both transparency and equitability.

Future Goals

Pricepally recently started working with Prosper Africa, a U.S. government operation aimed at expanding bilateral trade and investment between African nations and the United States. This partnership works to secure U.S. investment and further expand Pricepally’s operational capacity.

In early 2022, Pricepally expanded its operations to the Nigerian coastal city of Port Harcourt, meaning the startup now serves consumers in Nigeria’s three largest urban centers. The most recent operational expansion increases Pricepally’s customer base while also connecting more markets and expanding overall supplies.

As investments continue to pour in, Pricepally is focused on improving its warehouse and processing facilities and investing in tech support so that the digital platform can serve more consumers each month. In the long-term, Lawoyin hopes to continue expanding operations to encompass other African nations struggling with similar supply chain and infrastructure issues.

As Pricepally continues to grow, it hopes to expand support for smallholder farmers within Nigeria as well as throughout the rest of Africa. Many of Nigeria’s farmers are simply trying to make ends meet, but Lawoyin hopes to transform farming to make it a viable career choice. He plans to do so by investing in programs aimed at addressing the issues that smallholder farmers face, including a lack of proper education, infrastructure and financing.

Within only three years, Pricepally has transformed the agricultural sector of Nigeria for the better. The Nigerian startup fights high food costs by leveraging shared economy principles that benefit consumers and producers alike, streamlining the procurement process and cutting out unnecessary intermediaries. As the startup continues to expand its operational capacity, it has the potential to transform the food supply chain of countless African nations, thus bolstering the world’s most vulnerable populations against the threat of food insecurity.

– Mollie Lund
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Agriculture in Niger
More than two decades ago, Tony Rinaudo started his journey in transforming the field of agriculture in Niger. Rinaudo is originally from Australia and has worked for the Australian branch of World Vision, a humanitarian organization that strives to reduce poverty. While his official title is natural resources management specialist, his work in the region of Niger earned him the nickname of “The Forest Maker.”

About Niger

Niger is a country just above Nigeria located in West Africa. Land surrounds it on all sides. The location of the country lends itself to low rainfall and drought as well as land degradation and desertification. The agricultural sector sustains the livelihoods of many Nigeriens, however, the unpredictable climate often leads to food insecurity and malnutrition. Niger accepts the assistance of organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the implementation of the Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE II) program to improve agriculture in the nation.

This program builds off of the first phase of RISE, which began in 2012. While traditional assistance programs typically address specific humanitarian crises in the short term, RISE hopes to engage with local and national communities to a greater extent to encourage long-term resilience.

Recurring Problems

Agriculture in Niger faces several current problems. In less than four decades, the use of land for agriculture increased by 94.2% by 2013. This expansion is the result of population growth and affects areas such as the Tillaberi, Zinder-Maradi and Manga regions as well as along the Niger River. As farmland spreads across Niger, the natural flora of the landscapes disappears, enlarging the sandy areas, which leads to desertification.

The effects of desertification are important to monitor for a nation that relies on agriculture, such as Niger. Desertification makes farming more difficult, which leads to increases in food insecurity and poverty.

These effects create a broader impact than the immediate problem of a decreased ability to farm. In a somewhat cyclic impact, nearby Nigeria faces difficulties preserving the land of the Akure-Ofosu Forest Reserve due to problems associated with poverty. Because people cannot find jobs in the major cities of Nigeria, people turn to the reserve for hunting, logging and creating land for agricultural use through the use of fires and deforestation. In a period of 18 years, the main forest on the reserve experienced a decline of 44% by 2020 and continues to decline.

The Work of Tony Rinaudo

Rinaudo foresaw the beginnings of the problems of agriculture in Niger more than two decades ago and pursued a change in the landscape. After previously attempting to plant new trees in the region, Rinaudo realized that an easier method to enact change is to utilize the existing landscape. He used a process called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). The first part of the process involves the use of existing tree stumps and roots.  The second step involves pruning stems to allow the chosen plants to regrow with adequate resources. Regenerating the natural landscape brings food for animals, fuel and nutrients to the soil. The practice of FMNR expanded across Africa and Asia to 25 countries.

Rinaudo’s work through FMNR led to the restoration of 200 million trees in Niger across 5 million hectares of degraded agricultural land. Rinaudo advises that change occurs by listening to the region’s citizens, enhancing their pre-existing skills and understanding the hesitations toward change.

Rinaudo said that FMNR can see long-term success if a local government guarantees ownership of trees to the communities caring for them and enacts local enforcement laws in cases of breaches while establishing “legal, transparent and fair markets for timber and non-timber forest products.”

In many ways, World Vision Australia and Rinaudo’s efforts parallel the endeavors of USAID as these efforts emphasize the long-term solutions to food insecurity and poverty with a community-led approach. With these continued efforts, farmers obtain the ability to sustainably continue the practice of agriculture in Niger for many generations.

– Kaylee Messick
Photo: Flickr

Mouzawak Empowers Lebanese Communities
Native Lebanese food and social entrepreneur Kamal Mouzawak has been using his country’s traditions to promote activism within his community using food as the basis. Mouzawak believes that despite the various cultures and backgrounds of the people that inhabit Lebanon, those differences do not matter when it comes to providing food. This idea has led to several projects and initiatives that show how Mouzawak empowers Lebanese communities.

Souk El Tayeb

The initial effort created to ensure Mouzawak empowers Lebanese communities was the creation of the Souk El Tayeb farmers market, the first established farmer’s market in Lebanon. Mouzawak opened it back in 2004. Later in 2009, Mouzawak opened a series of restaurants called Tawlet which features women from various regions of Lebanon coming together to cook dishes that are representative of their homes.

“Mr. Mouzawak estimates that more than 500 women, including refugees, have been trained and employed across his organization’s projects and programs,” according to The New York Times.

Everything Changed

Mouzwak and his communities enjoyed much success from the market and restaurant that provided relief for hundreds. However, everything for Mouzawak and his efforts changed after the Beirut port explosion in August 2020. Mouzawak’s homes, along with many others, experienced devastation. In response, Mouzawak and “his team created an emergency community kitchen, in partnership with the Spanish-American chef José André’s nonprofit World Central Kitchen, to feed the residents who lost everything.”

Further efforts emerged to ensure Mouzawak empowers Lebanese communities in response to the August 2020 explosion. According to the Los Angeles Times, Mouzawak had his restaurant, Tawlet, make meals that went to hospitals, elderly, and rescue workers that handled the response to the destruction.

Mouzawak said to the U.K. news outlet inews that he and his team were providing 800 meals daily to the people in need. Mouzawak added in an interview with inews that “we have no state to help us… It’s down to the people, and organizations, and charities.”

The explosion destroyed the farmers market, Souk El Tayeb, after serving its community for more than a decade. However, Mouzawak now desires to turn the market, along with the Tawlet restaurant, into a kitchen for the community that provides free food to its residents. “This will help secure jobs for hundreds of women, farmers, and producers,” Mouzawak told inews.

Poverty in Lebanon

According to the latest update by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), “the multidimensional poverty rate in Lebanon has nearly doubled from 42% in 2019 to 82% in 2021.” The study also reveals that the number of households that lack health care rose to 33% in 2021 “and the share of those unable to obtain medicines, has also increased to more than half,” according to U.N. News.

As of June 2022, “Lebanon remains the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita,” according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR.) The Lebanese government estimates that 1.5 million Syrian refugees and 13,617 refugees from other nations reside in Lebanon.

Mouzawak grew up in the rural part of Lebanon. Both his grandfather and his uncle were farmers and his family would only eat produce that they grew themselves. In Mouzawak’s mind, the market “Souk El Tayeb served as a platform to share not only food but also traditions and conversations, giving people something to unite over and thus playing a part in healing the societal fractures that plagued the country after the Lebanese Civil War,” according to The World’s 50 Best.

Henry Hyman
Photo: Flickr

 India’s Detrimental Farming LawsIn September 2020, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi implemented a series of farming laws aimed at loosening the government’s protective role in selling agricultural products. Instead of assisting the farms and their workers, who make up at least 58% of the workforce, the laws left farms with fewer profits. After months of protests, in the final days of November 2021, the Indian government made the decision to repeal India’s detrimental farming laws, causing farmers across India to rejoice.

Farming in India

India’s farming industry employs one of the largest agricultural workforces in the world and stands as one of India’s greatest providers of economic income. Rice alone earns the nation $8.82 billion, as reported at the end of the fiscal year 2020. According to World Bank data, “agriculture, forestry and fishing” contribute 18.3% to India’s overall GDP.

Small-scale farmers are vulnerable to “many production risks like drought, floods [and crop failure].” In addition, these small-scale farmers’ incomes are also vulnerable to market risks, such as “poor price realization” and an “absence of market.”

From July 2018 to July 2019, Indian farmers’ average income per month was ₹10,218 or approximately $135. This amount monthly means farmers can earn around $1,600 annually, with a margin for error to account for the received income in trades. This figure is the total of all earnings plus expenses.

India’s extreme poverty rate stands at about 7%, however, certain states, usually rural areas, face disproportionately high rates of poverty. For example, in Bihar, one of the most agriculture-dense states, poverty rates are the highest. Estimates indicate that 770 million Indian citizens are impoverished and live in rural areas where the farming laws had the most impact.

Impacts of India’s Detrimental Farming Laws

Modi’s intention was for the laws to allow farmers, specifically those working the smaller farms, to increase earnings by taking away government regulations and allowing easier access to business dealings with private businesses. The government wanted farms to increase dealings with private companies because most private businesses can pay higher rates and the government was willing to guarantee minimum prices. It may not have been the government’s intention, but the Indian government’s three new laws minimized profits for India’s farms in significant ways.

The three bills seem relatively straightforward but do not promise any immediate assistance or an apparent increase in income for farmers. One of the major changes promised was the ability for farmers to sell their products to any private organization. However, the laws did not enforce or extend the Minimum Sales Price (MSP) to those industries.

Before the changes, the MSP was guaranteed for many products from which the farmers often made their highest income. The MSP was the assured price for farmers when selling specific types of products directly to the government. Without the extension of the MSP, the power went to the private businesses. Still, the privatized businesses could buy the products for less than the products’ worth, dramatically undercutting the farmers’ income.

The major secondary change put more power into the hands of the consumers and buyers than into the hands of the farmers. This change left the farmers unable to alter contracts or expand on their average income from the private companies. The government did not repeal the MSP but limited how much it would buy from the small farms to encourage outside sales. At the very least, the farmers demanded a promise of the MSP. Without the MSP, the farmers knew they would lose significant income.

The Road Ahead

Now that the Indian government has chosen to repeal India’s detrimental farming laws, farmers are jubilant. The laws’ repeal passed through both Upper and Lower Parliament, and in doing so, has guaranteed the farmers the freedom to, at the very least, earn the MSPs.

Repealing the laws will have future implications for farmers and their demands of the government. During the year of protests, the farmers learned the extent of their political powers. The farmers account for more than 50% of the workforce and are one of the largest voting blocs in India. After their victory through protest, India’s farmers have become aware of their power and admit their plans to continue protests to place MSPs on other farming products.

India’s farming laws, including those repealed, do not include MSPs for products such as rice or wheat, which are the small farms’ most common and significant creators of income. MSPs on rice and wheat, and hopefully all produce, can significantly increase the average farm income, potentially lifting many farmers and farming communities out of poverty. The power is now back in the hands of Indian farmers and farmers are determined to make the most of it.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: PixaHive

Olive Trees
Olive trees hold symbolic, agricultural and economic meanings for Palestinian farmers. In a nation where almost one-third or 1.6 million people face food insecurity and do not have access to “nutritious food,” essential crops, like olives, are vital for many communities’ survival. Here is some information about the importance of olive trees in Palestine.

Harvesting Crops Despite Denial of Access

The rise of Israeli forces and conflict on Palestinian lands in May 2021 forced Palestinian farmers from their olive tree harvesting grounds. However, after the olive harvest season started earlier in 2021, a cohort of Palestinian olive farmers decided to take the risk of returning to their farmlands despite the armed Israeli guards in their path.

Residents and landowners from the small Palestinian town in the Northern West Bank of Palestine returned to Jabal Sabih, Mount Sabih, to handpick olives from their trees. Israeli guards are still present at the site. However, the Palestinian farmers successfully harvested their trees despite the Israeli presence.

Impact of Growing Tensions

Tensions between Israeli and Palestinian communities have remained high throughout history, but escalated tensions between the two occurred in May 2021. Israeli settlers attempted to take over Palestinian lands, and 50 Israeli families set up camp on the Palestinian olive farming grounds in May. Israeli families then evacuated in July. Palestinian farmers said these farming lands have passed through generations of family members and the trees are “part of their souls and more.”

The farmers emphasized that olive trees are one of only a few arbors that can grow in their mountainous farming areas. The trees do not need water, which means they can grow in drought conditions. Farmers said that transporting water into the region would be extremely difficult due to the terrain.

The Many Uses of Olives

The production of olives is a main source of income for more than 80,000 families in Palestine, showing the importance of olive trees to the country. More than 90% of the oil that farmers harvest from olive trees goes toward making olive oil, with them allocating the remainder to making olive soap, table olives and pickles. In the West Bank, farmers have planted more than 12 million olive trees. The nation exports some of the olives to Jordan but the rest are for local consumption.

Following the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, the Israeli army began destroying or uprooting olive trees in farmlands. The army stated that it needed to use the grounds for military operations and to provide pathways between villages. However, later reports suggested that the military specifically targeted the farmers to make it difficult for them to earn a living.

Foundations Wanting to Help

Some local organizations are helping olive tree farmers. The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature started a campaign after the severe removal of the olive trees. In 2011, AP Nature replaced 1 million olive and fruit trees. To date, the campaign has planted more than 2.5 million trees.

The Near East Foundation, an organization with a focus on building more sustainable communities in the Middle East and Africa through education, community organizing and economic development, directly supports Palestinian communities through three programs. These include early childhood education and school feeding, support for the olive oil groups and support for women’s economics.

The Near East Foundation renovated and upgraded 18 olive oil mills in Palestine and Israel due to the importance of olive trees and olive oil production to the Palestinian economy. The organization also facilitated training for oil producers to increase their production and quality of olive oils.

The ongoing tension between Israel and Palestine has extreme effects on Palestinians’ ability to access their crops to provide food for themselves and earn a living. Though permits for Palestinian farmers are available to access the lands that the Israeli army now dominates, these permits are hard to obtain and there is still no guarantee Palestinian farmers can access their land even with a permit. A group of Palestinian olive farmers had the bravery to enter into Israeli military grounds to harvest their olives, but tensions between the two nations must subside before Palestinian farmers can have full access to their own lands once again.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Flickr