Social enterprises are organizations that create positive social impact through commercial strategies. They can be non-profit organizations who direct profits towards the cause, or for-profit organizations that sell specific products in urban environments or developing countries. Social enterprises are typically motivated by major socioeconomic issues to leave a positive impact on society.
We at The Harvest Fund, a non-profit social enterprise, work to lift low-income communities out of poverty by supporting women farmers in rural areas of Zambia. Motivated by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), we aim to empower Zambian women farmers using sustainable agriculture training, efficient technology and microfinance.
The technology we use:
- Promotes sustainable agriculture
- Provides women farmers with the tools to successfully rise out of poverty
- Exceeds the standards imposed on them by gender inequality
Traditional nonprofits in the agricultural development sector do promote agricultural technology and/or training. However, our model leverages commercial strategies so that our farmers AND The Harvest Fund can generate revenue. This allows us to loosen our dependence on charitable contributions and maximize our earned income. Charitable grants and debt financing spur major growth. Our goal is to create a financially self-sustainable business model that also works to end poverty, create gender equality, and end hunger.
The Harvest Fund Social Enterprise Model
Our model combines the best practices from agronomy, international development, and business to alleviate poverty while generating revenue. For example, we utilize the best scientific agronomic approaches that allow farmers to increase yields, whether it be through healthier soil or by choosing seeds that are better suited for their environment. We generate revenue by buying our farmers' produce, storing it, and reselling when prices are at their peak. We specifically sell to medium-sized and big buyers that the farmers could not otherwise access.
We provide essential farming products like PICS bags, tractor services, and loans for agricultural inputs, like fertilizer and crop seed, to farmers. This supports their rise out of poverty by increasing crop yields through The Harvest Fund’s agronomic approach. In turn, this allows farmers to grow and sell more high-quality produce, thereby increasing revenue without increasing labor. Our efforts have paid off, as our cohorts' household income, crop yields, and food security have increased by 1.9, 225, and 100 percent, respectively.
Typical commercial services do not reach smallscale Zambian women farmers because of their limited access to commercial centers, cash funds, and modern internet services. Culturally, they are raised to not have decisive voices within their households, which means that they do not get to influence household spend on agricultural investments, such as inputs or technologies. Additionally, given their traditional family role, they have less ability to venture to towns where microfinance institutions and agrodealers are located. Thus, they cannot easily access microfinance to invest in their farms or purchase modern inputs and technologies from agrodealers. As a result, many rural Zambian women are unable to drastically increase their crop yields which is, unfortunate, as they are the ones responsible for producing food to feed their families.
This is where we at The Harvest Fund step in to bridge the gap. We provide our cohorts with the proper agricultural tools and training so that they can produce to their full potential. In turn, this allows them to be able to sell to buyers they otherwise could not access, as well as, have excess crops that they can keep for household consumption. The work we do directly fights the poverty and gender inequality that these rural Zambian women face in mainstream society and typical commercial markets. We work hard to reverse these effects of exclusion and elevate our cohorts, leaving them empowered and confident in their farming practices.
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