Impact Istanbul (7): Inviting Smallholder Farmers Into Global Markets

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Mini-Series: Impact Istanbul features conference highlights, round-ups, interviews, Q&A’s, and speaker profiles. It is part of our International Business Forum 2013 live coverage. This time, a look at smallholder farmers: Over 2 billion people in the world depend on small-scale agriculture for their livelihood. How can inclusive business help smallholder farmers?

Small farmer in Tanzania holding a sweet potatoes.

Photo courtesy of Gates Foundation

Small farmer in Tanzania holding a sweet potatoes.

After visiting Ethiopia, where coffee originates, Martin Elwert and Robert Rudnick became fascinated with the complexity and diversity of coffee aromas. They also understood that, despite high global demand and prices for such specialty coffees, often small farmers were still facing unfair conditions.

There, their idea for Coffee Circle was born. Three years later, the young coffee company has found a place in high-quality coffee markets around the globe, while working to improve the life and working conditions of many farmers across Ethiopia—one of the poorest countries in the world. For every kilogram of coffee sold,  a euro is invested in local community projects, which can be chosen and tracked by the company’s costumers. Transparency plays a crucial role  in Coffee Circle’s culture.

Inalproces, an Ecuador-based startup run by Martín Acosta, was one of the finalists of the Changing Markets Awards at IBF 2013. This social enterprise offers KIWA, 100  percent natural, exotic chips which are revolutionizing the global snacks market.

“We are creating a secondary market,” says Acosta, while listing some countries where his products are sold: Singapore, Japan, Chile, Canada, the United States and Germany.

Foodstuffs such as lentil, plantain, soybean, parsnip, beetroot, sweet potato, and chickpea  are bought directly from small farmers in the Ecuadorian Andes and surrounding tropical regions at fair and stable prices. In addition to its environmental and social practices, KIWA is also meeting a demand for products free of genetic modification, pesticides, or chemicals. This innovative idea has converted snacks from junk to healthy food all while  giving small farmers the opportunity to build a sustainable life.

Mshinwa Mtange Banzi, Tanzanian Energy entrepreneur, takes a photo of a KIWA product at IBF 2013.

Student Reporter / Andrea Perez

Mshinwa Mtange Banzi, Tanzanian Energy entrepreneur, takes a photo of a KIWA product at IBF 2013.

“[KIWA] brings small farmers to world markets, we have grown together with our farmers,” says the Ecuadorian CEO. “We define the needs with [sic] the community and work with them.”

Running a social enterprise can be a demanding job. Inalproces and Coffee Circle have faced different difficulties along the process but have sought to learn from them. They understand that a more inclusive global business is at stake. One that provides a grand opportunity to get smallholder farmers involved in a way that benefits everyone.

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