Transforming lives in Africa

Plymouth University has been awarded more than half a million pounds of Comic Relief funding to help transform thousands of lives in rural Africa.

Academics and students from the Futures Entrepreneurship Centre will work in partnership with the Farm Shop Trust, to help the organisation develop a sustainable and commercially viable supply chain for agricultural inputs across its network.

Using their expertise in social enterprise and business growth, the Futures team will analyse the current set-up and aim to expand the number of franchisees, with the ultimate goal of helping around 100,000 farming households out of poverty in Kenya’s Kiambu County and adjacent areas.

Plymouth University is the first higher education institution to receive funding from Comic Relief, and has been awarded £535,484 for the two-year project. The work will also involve liaison with one of its existing partner colleges, Duchy College in Cornwall, whose rural business network has been identified as an exemplar model for supporting rural entrepreneurship.

Dr Robert Newbery, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Development at Plymouth University, said:

“It's fantastic for us to get involved in a project that reinforces our enterprise agenda and supports our mission to transform lives across the world. By working with farmers and communities in Kenya, and providing them with training and education, we can help create the right climate for their businesses to thrive. We can also generate amazing opportunities for our students to engage with a project that is having genuine impact in one of the poorest areas of the world.”

Dr Stephen Roderick from Duchy College’s Rural Business School added:

We are delighted to be part of this exciting project in Kenya and we are very much looking forward to contributing with our expertise in sustainable farming and our significant experience of rural development programmes supporting farming businesses through training and knowledge transfer. It's also fabulous for our young students, who enthusiastically raise funds every year, that their College is directly involved in a Comic Relief project in Africa.”

Dr Robert Newbery, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Development at Plymouth University, said:

By working with farmers and communities in Kenya, and providing them with training and education, we can help create the right climate for their businesses to thrive

The Farm Shop Trust was established by accomplished social entrepreneurs, Farouk Jiwa and Madison Ayer, whose previous venture – Honey Care Africa – has earned global praise from the Prince of Wales Business Trust, the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others.

Jiwa and Ayer, both of whom are Ashoka Fellows, said:

“We are very excited to be partnering with Plymouth University and Duchy College on this critical expansion phase of our network of rural agri-input shops in Kenya. We look forward to leveraging the skills and capabilities across both institutions, providing opportunities for engaging a wide range of students as well as co-generating new learning and innovations. We are immensely grateful to Comic Relief for their generous support and for helping to make this possible.”

The Comic Relief project builds on Plymouth University’s long-held commitment to promoting social enterprise and entrepreneurship education across the world.

In 2013, the Plymouth Business School produced a report for the Government’s Department for International Development – titled Supporting Entrepreneurship Education in East Africa – which highlighted the importance of self-employment as a means for social change.

The University is a key partner in YouWin, an innovative competition aimed at encouraging and supporting aspiring entrepreneurs in Nigeria to develop and execute business ideas.

In May 2014, academics from Plymouth led a three-day conference at Stellenbosch University in South Africa exploring how universities globally can contribute to continued growth and economic prosperity.

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