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How Agriculture Ends Poverty: 
3 Discoveries About What Works

by Roxanne Addink DeGraaf

Growing up in Iowa, the agricultural heartland of the United States, I was surrounded by farms. I remember childhood summers milking cows and “walking beans” (walking between rows of soybeans to pick weeds) on my grandparent’s farm. I saw how the farm put food on the table, as I always enjoyed a cold glass of milk from the dairy after chores.

After college, I began to understand agriculture from the perspective of small-scale farmers in Kenya. I worked for two years alongside women who spent long days in their fields to not only put food on the table, but also to earn an income for their families. Everything from buying school uniforms to medical services relied on their farm’s output.

And this is not unique to Kenya. Traveling the globe with Partners Worldwide, I’ve continued to witness the centrality of agriculture in many countries and communities where we work, from subsistence farmers to thriving cooperatives.

Agriculture: A Primary Occupation of the Poor

While employment in agriculture is declining overall, agriculture is still the primary occupation for one in three people in the world (FAO). For people living in poverty, 70% live in rural areas and the majority are involved in agriculture (World Bank/Gates Foundation).

At Partners Worldwide, these facts are shaping how we work towards our vision to end poverty through business so that all may have abundant life.

We recently launched a pilot initiative focused on supporting and leveraging the resources of our partners in Africa who were already serving the agricultural sector. This pilot has been our learning lab. We’ve had some failed experiments, while other interventions have led to powerfully positive outcomes. Overall, the results affirm the vital role that agriculture plays in ending poverty.  Read more

Six BAM Views from the Continent of Africa

We asked people working on the front-lines of BAM in different parts of Africa to share some of their experiences and perspectives. They see business as a powerful means to share the message of the Gospel in the marketplace, deepen the impact of Jesus’ teachings on society, tackle evils such as poverty and corruption and mobilise the next generation of African Christians to transform their own nations. Here are six BAM views from Africa:

 

BAM is crucial in South Africa as a key to two major challenges: discipleship and economic empowerment. South Africa is said to have a high percentage of Christians, however, like many other parts of the world, sin is a key challenge. Corruption, sexual immorality, crime and other evils are on the rise, indicating that Christianity has not been making the kind of impact on society as it should. Business as mission could therefore provide an avenue for regular discipleship in the marketplace, as believers model Godly character and leadership.

South Africa also has a high percentage of poor people, although it is Africa’s most advanced economy. BAM – especially ‘BAM at the base of the pyramid’ – may be the key to large scale sustainable economic empowerment, particularly through the establishment of SME sized companies in rural areas.

Henry Gwani is originally from Nigeria, now working in BAM in South Africa Read more

Kingdom Impact in Kenya: How Sinapis Equips African Entrepreneurs

Sinapis was founded in Kenya in 2010 with a mission to empower aspiring entrepreneurs in the developing world with innovative, scalable business ideas by providing them with a rigorous, Christ-centered business education, world-class consulting and mentoring services and access to seed capital. Through these means, they strive to create Christ-seeking business leaders, sustainable employment and an improved quality of life for many that they may glorify God in service of His people.

Sinapis runs an Entrepreneurship Training Program that includes 16 weeks of curriculum that covers customers, financials, human resources, operations and Kingdom Business. Upon completing the program, members of each graduating class are invited to submit their business plans to Sinapis. After a thorough selection process, entrepreneurs with the highest potential proceed to Sinapis’ annual Business Plan Competition, a live pitch event that brings together business owners, investors and other individuals in the entrepreneurship ecosystem and culminates with one entrepreneur winning a $10,000 grant. Outstanding finalists in the Business Plan Competition advance into an intensive 6-month accelerator program known as the Fast Track Fellows Program. Entrepreneurs in this program benefit from key resources such as customized mentorship from successful business owners, professional advising from experts in law, branding, accounting, etc., and one-on-one support from world-class management consultants. For those ready to raise investment capital, Sinapis matches them with early and growth stage investors. Read more

Business as Mission: A Perspective from Africa [Video]

Dennis Tongoi speaks about the opportunities for Business as Mission in the continent of Africa.

This video was recorded at the BAM Global Congress in April 2013. Read more

Day to Day Life in Hostile Places: Doing Business in North Africa

How do you do business in a country that your home country says it is illegal to do business in? Forget about export markets. Forget about connections to the international banking system for personal or business funds. Forget about visiting the ATM. You need to carry as much cash in with you every time you come and then stick in a safe in the corner of your bedroom because you cannot have a bank account in the country.

The bureaucracy and corruption were just the tip of the iceberg of doing business where we lived in North Africa. War and instability, currency fluctuations, international sanctions and constant anti-Western sentiment from the country’s government were just some of the things we contended with day to day. Even the weather could be hostile, with highs of 45°c (113°f), along with sandstorms and power cuts!

Although war was almost constant in different areas of the country, it rarely impacted daily life in the capital. We often told our family that even though the country had been through decades of civil war, the rebels had only attacked the capital once and that was 30 years ago. That was until they attacked it while we were there! The situation returned to normal after a week, but it was hectic. The city shut down for that week while battles went street to street.

On another occasion, we had an outreach team ambushed with grenades and AK-47’s while doing ministry in a remote district that we thought was safe. A number of team were killed and wounded. We still don’t know who was behind the attack. Read more

BAM Journeys: Three Practitioners Share How Their Thinking has Changed

We asked three BAM practitioner at different stages of their BAM journey to share how their thinking has changed enroute.

Carlos in West Africa

My wife and I initially came to West Africa as ‘traditional missionaries’. After 3 years of pastoring a church we came across some real challenges. The country where we live is 95% Muslim. Since we’ve been here, we have witnessed a number of evangelical churches being torched and ransacked. Muslim background believers (MBBs) have lost their jobs, their families and have even been physically abused because of their faith. That is not the only challenge, anyone that has spent any time in Africa will inevitably be confronted with the harsh realities of poverty. Jobs are already scarce for any African, let alone an MBB. Unfortunately, most churches are not setup to meet this need.

We started praying for another way to serve Jesus here. That is when the Lord put in our hearts to start a business. With a business we could provide jobs to MBBs and pre-believers, having contact with them eight to ten hours a day in a non-threatening environment. Read more

Financier to the Poor: A Ugandan Entrepreneur

by Doug Seebeck and Timothy Stoner

Timothy Timothy grew up in a small village in the province of Gulu, which is near Uganda’s border with Sudan. His father was a polygamist with three wives. In 1979 Timothy was preparing to go to university when Idi Amin’s removal thrust the country into bloody political and social upheaval. Timothy was not able to pursue his education. At the age of 20 he found work at a Shell gas station in Gulu. He rented a room in a garage and worked at the station for the next six years.

When the rebel coalition that regrouped under the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) became a growing threat, the new government of President Museveni made a natural assumption. Given the country’s history of civil strife between north and south, they assumed that the rebels were receiving sympathy and support from the communities in the north – especially from the people of means and influence. During this period of suspicion and confusion, the army arrested 5,000 people in towns across the north, from Timothy’s tribe – the Acholis – and the neighboring Langi tribe to the east. Many were killed, including one of Timothy’s brothers who was murdered in front of him. In 1988 Timothy was put in a maximum-security prison. Read more

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