Social enterprises are organizations that create positive social impact through commercial strategies. They can be non-profit organizations who redirect profits towards the cause, or for-profit organizations that sell specific products for social good. 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 climate-smart agriculture training and tools.
We focus on tools that:
- Promote sustainable agriculture
- Provide women farmers with the tools to successfully rise out of poverty
- Exceed 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 cover our costs because our farmers repay us either in cash or their crops. If they repay with their crops, we specifically sell to medium-sized and big buyers that offer higher prices. Over time, we help our farmers get into more high-margin crops and agricultural products which generates higher earnings for them and us.
We provide essential farming products such as solar-powered water pumps, fencing for their irrigated plot of land, seeds, seedlings, fertilizer and much more. 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.
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.
Interested in learning more? Be sure to check out these blog posts:
Our Thoughts on Agriculture as the Key to Ending Poverty and Gender Inequality