SEKEMs partner, the Dutch financing organisation Oikocredit, has just published an Impact Evaluation Study on SEKEMs work with contract farmers, which does not only show the benefits of SEKEMs approach, but will also help the initiative to improve its activities.
Precisely what impact does SEKEMs unique development approach have on the small-holding farmers supplying it? The Impact Evaluation Study that was recently published by SEKEMs partner Oikocredit discusses this question in great detail. In September 2014, Oikocredit initiated the study that was coordinated by Oikocredit International in close cooperation with SEKEM and carried out by a team from the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) of Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) in The Netherlands. The team was supported by staff and students of the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development.
Previous Oikocredit studies have mainly focussed on microfinance institutions (MFIs). A new study was then supposed to focus on a production and service partner of Oikocredit. SEKEM was not chosen as a representative of Oikocredit’s agricultural portfolio, but rather for its holistic business model which fits Oikocredit’s triple bottom line approach and also allows for a more qualitative evaluation method.
Through the Egyptian Bio-Dynamic Association (EBDA) that was established in 1994 under the leadership of SEKEM, the initiative helped more than 700 farmers in Egypt to shift from conventional to biodynamic agriculture. SEKEM sources its raw produce from five individual farms of its own and a pool of 90 suppliers that subcontract approximately 400 small-holding farmers. All of them are Demeter-certified by the EBDA.
The Oikocredit-study is providing insights about SEKEM suppliers in turn allowing them to track their efficiency over time and identify areas where adjustments are needed to improve their sustainability. SEKEMs interest in the study was to enhance its understanding of the cultural, societal, and economic sustainability of its work.
On the basis of farm visits, exchanges with SEKEM suppliers and other farmers as well as analyses of farm operations for crops grown using biodynamic versus conventional methods, Oikocredit was able to provide SEKEM farmers with detailed research regarding their work. The study takes into account the different types of impact on income, health, education, young people, women and poverty.
The Impact Study concludes, among other results, that SEKEM farmers receive higher incomes and benefit from guaranteed markets as well as better work opportunities in adjacent villages and towns. The research team also makes some recommendations including, for instance, the suggestion to identify relevant interventions in health and education, especially for women and young people.