As a Development and International Relations student I was very excited when I was given an internship placement at Momentum Agribusiness and Development (MAD). In class I have been presented to various theoretical arguments for and against traditional development aid, I have read thousands of pages on the subject and written many assignments. All which unmistakably have made me wiser. The knowledge I obtained lead me to be critical towards traditional development aid and its ability to bring sustainable change. However, all I had to substantiate my thoughts and my criticism was, well honestly, a lot of books. Something was missing: experiences from real life. MAD is a social business. They do not do traditional development aid. They do not do hand-outs. They do business. Social business. This was what attracted me the most. I wanted to learn firsthand what it means to run a business in a developing country, with the aim of making a profit, together with creating sustainable development.
When I was packing my bags in January 2014, for my 4 months internship, my head was spinning. I had no idea what to expect. I was hoping that MAD would show me that social business is indeed the way forward when creating sustainable development. Also, I was over-the-top exited about living in such a different culture. My first couple of weeks was ‘introduction weeks’. I visited many Momentum Farmers and they gave me such a warm welcome. When I watched the local Momentum Staff train the Momentum Farmers it was obvious that they were doing an amazing job. The farmers were listening to every word, laughing and asking questions.
My position was as a Business Development Intern and one of my major tasks was planning and executing expansions to five new areas in Siaya. This meant that I helped introduce the work of MAD in different villages and mobilize new Momentum Farmers. We would walk around the different villages, from one boma (homestead) to the other, talking with the farmers and inviting them to meet us at their local meeting place. Many farmers were interested, and from the areas I worked with we were able to sign more than 400 new Momentum Farmers.
I am very proud to have been a part of this achievement because it means that hundreds of people will be given business and farming training as well as quality inputs on loan. This will have a very direct effect on their food security. They will be able to harvest more bags of maize and sorghum, which will feed their families throughout the year. It is crucial for these small-scale farmers to harvest enough bags for both own consumption and selling so they can make enough money for school fees, medicine and keeping their families feed and happy.
One of my other tasks was interviewing the farmers on their experiences with being Momentum Farmers. This was such a rewarding experience. The farmers were explaining how they were getting much more out of their land by using the farming techniques MAD was providing and how they saw themselves practicing better business in the future. Celine Odhiambo, one of our oldest farmers, told me that she had been doing farming her whole life and seen her harvest fail so many times. She had decided to join MAD because, in her own words, “you are never too old to learn”. And what Momentum taught her she will pass on to her grandchildren – I would definitely call that sustainability.
This internship experience has definitely provided me with what I was missing: experiences from real life. MAD has convinced me that social business IS a great way of creating sustainable development. I am thankful for this experience and know I will take everything I learned with me. I was in Siaya for a short period of only 4 months in which I saw MAD empower so many farmers. I cannot wait to see how many farmers they will have empowered in 4 years! I am now in Denmark writing my thesis based on my experiences and doing some volunteer work for MAD as well. I am already missing the great people I got to work with and the Momentum farmers and I am sure that I will be going to Siaya again one day!
Lea Langeland Jensen