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Earlham awards seed capital for agricultural initiative serving Kenyan farmers

April 09, 2018

Mashinani -farmers -initiativeAs winner of the Earlham Prize for Creative Capitalism, Mashinani Farmers Initiative will partner with small-scale farmers in Kenya to address poor farm yields and a shortage of food.

“My vision is to provide farm support from several different initiatives as our project grows,” says MFI founder and chief financial officer Daniel Kibet ’19, who along with Information Technology Manager Eliza Vardanyan ’21, Marketing Manager Olivia Tienin ’20 and Operations Manager Summia Tora ’20 won first place and $20,000 in the competition. “Bee farming is the first initiative, and once we have generated sufficient revenue with bees, we’ll venture into other new farming initiatives like greenhouses.”

Increased demand for honey in Kenya has increased the cost of a liter of honey to five times that of a liter of gas. A decline in sugar cane cultivation caused by climate change, an increased awareness of the health benefits of honey, and the additional pollination benefits associated with bees contribute to the increased demand. Beehives are also less labor intensive than other food products.

“In our first year we want to place 100 beehives with 10 farmers that we have already identified,” Kibet says. “We’re banking on producing honey in voluminous quantities because the demand for honey is so high.”

MFI also plans to help with sales and distribution of the honey to food manufacturers, distributors and retailers in urban areas. Two honey harvests per year will nearly double the farmer’s incomes.

This is the second year for the Earlham Prize for Creative Capitalism competition, which is supported by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The annual competition encourages students to look through a lens of social entrepreneurship to transform their ideas and passions into real world business plans. Ten teams entered the competition this year.

“We added a lot more training and workshops this year, and there was more support for the teams,” says Rohma Zubair, the project manager for the CoLab, a place on campus to highlight collaborative inquiry on significant national and global challenges in the 21st century.

This also marked the second year that Kibet competed in the competition. While he was not a finalist last year, he won $1,200 and used the money to pilot the current project with 10 beehives. The first harvest is scheduled in late April or early May.

“It was a learning experience because the beehives were not secure at first,” he says. “Now we dig a trench two and a half feet deep, build a table and surround the hives with a chain link fence to keep animals and people away.”

MFI’s initial phase relies heavily on Kibet’s experience growing up in a farming family in Kenya. His grandfather is diabetic and uses honey as a sugar substitute. When Kibet was 10 he was climbing a tree that his grandfather gathered honey from and was stung.

“My interest and passion for bee farming came after the stinging incident,” he says. “My experience in purchasing honey that had been adulterated by adding a bit of sugar syrup sparked the idea for this initiative. The honey was to have been a gift for my grandfather, and as a diabetic, he would have been adversely affected.”

The second place team of Ali Shahram ’19 and LeAundre Knight ’19 received the $5,000 Blue Buffalo Award for their project Easy Connect, which integrates technology to existing and inefficient transportation resources in Richmond to create a more reliable, sustainable and effective transportation system for the city.

Shahram spent a summer in Richmond and talked with several business owners who said they were adversely affected by a lack of a reliable transportation system. Shahram found it necessary to use a bike as his main mode of transportation.

“That wasn’t always optimal, especially at night and in poor weather,” he says. “We want to incorporate new technology by implementing an online payment system through a website and creating a mobile application to find bus stops, routes and times. We also want to extend the hours. Now there is no service after 5 p.m., we want to extend it to midnight. And we want it be available on Sundays. We want to continue to use some of the existing resources and incorporate small shuttles to fill in the gaps.”

Third place and $2,000 was awarded to Breakfast Club, fourth place and $1,000 was awarded to Resource Fuel, and fifth place and $500 was awarded to Richmond Reliable.

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success.

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.


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