Students and graduates from Plymouth University have spent five weeks in rural Kenya as part of a Comic Relief project designed to bring up to 100,000 families out of poverty.
The group of four spent time volunteering in Kiambu County, working alongside the Farm Shop Trust to train and educate farmers in local communities.
They also carried out interviews with farmers and franchisees, with a view to aiding in the development of a shop assistant training programme, and promoting its success to others among the local communities.
Amber Strong, a BSc (Hons) International Relations graduate who now works as a Network Adviser in Entrepreneurship within the University’s Futures Entrepreneurship Centre, was one of those to take part in the trip. She said:
“Our aim was to support the Farm Shop Trust in creating the framework for a shop assistant training programme, and assisting in infrastructure development, as the Trust is expecting its rapid expansion to continue over the next year. But we were also very lucky to be able to spend time visiting a Maasai village, and to witness part of a warrior induction ceremony. This type of event only happens every seven to ten years, so it was a real privilege to get a feel for their way of life and how this project might have a positive impact on their futures.”
During her fellowship, Amber conducted a focus group involving female franchisees, assessed Farm Shop’s supply chain and developed a list of minimum requirements for a shop assistant training programme.
She also wrote weekly blog articles on the support and free training provided to farmers and franchisees, and taught staff how to write blog articles that continue to reflect and promote the Trust’s work.
The placements, supported by the Seale Hayne Educational Trust, are part of a two-year project – funded with £535,484 from Comic Relief – which sees the University working with the Farm Shop Trust, and one of Plymouth’s existing partner colleges, Duchy College in Cornwall.
Using their collective expertise in social enterprise and business growth, they have already analysed the current set-up as part of their mission to develop a sustainable and commercially viable supply chain for agricultural inputs across its network.
A number of new shops have opened in Kiambu County, and the team have educated the communities, with a view to creating jobs and opportunities in an area where youth unemployment is a major problem.
Amber was joined on the placement by BSc (Hons) Computer and Information Systems student Liam Moore, Claire Reigate from the Duchy College Rural Business School, and Duchy College Horticulture student Mo Roberts.
Dr Robert Newbery, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Development at Plymouth University, said:
“The Maasai living within the boundaries of the Olakirimatian group ranch in Kenya offer a unique natural experiment to explore the impact of culture on entrepreneurial behaviour. Here, half of the available land is used purely for the common grazing of cattle (the old system) and small parcels of land from the other half are granted to householders when they come of age to use as they will. A number of them use the land to grow commercial crops, others rent out the land to incomers, whilst a number do nothing at all with the land. This context has allowed our students to explore the entrepreneurial behaviour of these householders as they operate within both old and new socio-economic systems.”