Comic Relief extends funding for entrepreneurial project in rural Kenya

Comic Relief
Some of the stars who have supported Comic Relief.

The University of Plymouth is seeking to expand its work supporting farmers and families in rural Kenya after receiving a second grant from UK based charity Comic Relief.

The University became the first higher education institution to gain funding from the organisation two years ago, when it received more than £535,000 to work with the Farm Shop Trust to fund the development of a sustainable and commercially viable supply chain for agricultural inputs across its network.

Now this second award, which takes the funding total to more than £1.2million, will enable the project to continue, enabling it to increase the number of shops up and running across Kenya.

A pilot project consisting of 10 farm shops in the Central, Rift Valley and Eastern provinces, was already up and running when the partnership was launched.

Just over two years later, 67 more shops have been opened towards the target of 150 being operational by the end of 2018 which will benefit 56,000 farmers and the wider community.

“What has particularly impressed me during the first phase of the project has been the commitment of the Farm Shop support team and the quality of support and advice they offer the shop franchisees and their farmer customers.

“I am very much looking forward to helping the team continue this excellent service as the number of shops increases, as well as playing a role in monitoring the impact this is having on the rural communities they serve.”

– Dr Stephen Roderick, agricultural scientist at Duchy College’s Rural Business School

The project is led by the Futures Entrepreneurship Centre, part of the Plymouth Business School, in collaboration with Newcastle University, Duchy College’s Rural Business School and the Farm Shop Trust.

“It is a credit to all those involved in this project that the funds have been extended for a further two years.

“With the support of the research team and students, it has already seen the number of franchises extended, positively benefitting tens of thousands of the world’s poorest people.

“We are now looking at ways to optimise the systems for evaluation and examine the entrepreneurial leadership orientations of the franchisees, as well as exploring the impact of gender on their experiences.”

– Dr Hilary Duckett, Director of the Plymouth Business School

The Farm Shop trust is an innovative rural distribution network, revolutionising smallholder farming with the basic inputs these households need to escape poverty.

Established by accomplished social entrepreneurs Farouk Jiwa and Madison Ayer, its shops provide a blend of high-quality agricultural inputs, qualified advisory and information services, and structured opportunities for farmers to learn about cutting-edge technologies.

The pair’s previous venture, Honey Care Africa, earned global praise from the Prince of Wales Business Trust, the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others.

“Since we started work in Kenya, the opening of new shops has had a noticeable impact on areas including education, health and wellbeing, youth unemployment and poverty levels.

“Overall the project has been really interesting and as a social innovation it is taking off. We are starting to see some competing business models, which is a welcome sign that this approach is being incorporated into the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

– Dr Robert Newbery, Senior Lecturer in Enterprise and Innovation at Newcastle University

Since it began working with the University of Plymouth, franchisees have seen average sales increase from around $600 a month to more than $3,000 a month.