Many experts contend that a key method for eliminating global poverty involves the transfer of technologies allowing individuals in the developing world to create and manage their own businesses. By giving people the ability to sustain themselves and their families, economic and community development will be much more successful and long lasting.
This concept, known as social entrepreneurship, is being combined with sustainable economic development practices to create new business opportunities in some of the world’s poorest countries.
“By developing small businesses through the sale and use of sustainable technologies such as irrigation equipment, people in the developing world will have greater access to income and consequently a better standard of living,” notes Adam Walker, a graduate student in RIT’s science, technology and public policy program.
Walker is combining his interest in public policy and global development through a project with the international nonprofit KickStart International. KickStart develops sustainable technologies and then works with local entrepreneurs in developing nations to set up small-scale businesses to sell the products to local consumers at a low cost.
Walker heads to Kenya in December to research the potential for a new product line to assist Kenyan farmers and families in transporting water from its source to their homes and fields. He will analyze different technologies, survey local farmers and engage with nonprofit agencies and government officials to learn best practices. Eventually, he will publish a paper concerning the policies governments in developing countries can implement to support the transfer and uptake of technologies.
“Kenya does not have a strong irrigation infrastructure and close to 60 percent of farmers do not have easy access to fresh water, which hampers agricultural development and increases risk of drought and famine,” Walker says.
He notes that the nation has little small business development or local private investment, which increases poverty and reliance on government and international support.
The project is part of a broader effort by KickStart to promote small business creation in Kenya at the grass-roots level, and Walker hopes to work with the organization to expand social entrepreneurship opportunities in Kenya and surrounding nations.
“KickStart is dedicated to solving significant social problems by giving local entrepreneurs the tools to develop appropriate solutions that can also become profitable businesses,” adds Ken Weimer, director of development for KickStart and a 1990 alumnus of RIT’s professional and technical communication program. “It is our hope that our efforts in Kenya will serve as a model for social entrepreneurship initiatives throughout the developing world.”