What is the problem we are trying to solve?
The centre of activity for Solfa is Kisantu RD Congo, a community of around 75000 inhabitants. The level of employment is very low: the hospital, a considerable number of schools, the covents, a few governmental offices and temporary humanitarian missions are by far the only employers. The trading system runs mainly informally and does not provide added value: small businesses are selling the same products. Men occasionally find a job as a day labourer, women sell their unprocessed farming produce. Working in cooperatives is in the past: a sign that teamwork, leadership and entrepreneurship are lost. Initiatve is being discouraged since authorities come and pick seeds arbitrarily where seeds are being harvested. Entrepreneurial individuals choose to leave. Life is harsh. One cannot afford to pay the health insurance membership fee of 1$ per person per month although medical care is unaffordable for many people. It is difficult to obtain healthy food and only eating manioc makes you gain weight but does not provide sufficient nutrients
Our program: a social entreprise of transforming soja
Why do we run our enterprise?
- 2007-2009: our initiative to improve the economic situation of the women was possibly quite ambitious: we gave a number of women a small loan to buy seeds or seedlings, and bought farming groun. The proceeds were too limited to pay back the loan, even without having to pay interest. It is rather unfair to put the responsablity with them: ' they haven't work hard enough, they don't organise their work properly, the agronomist does not support/train the women well enough, suspicions of dishonesty, since the land is surely fertile ? However, do they have quality tools and sufficient knowledge? Do they understand the concept of borrowing money and are they sufficiently familiar with thinking into the future? It is clear that our ' remote' guidance was inadequate. It seems that, at the end of the day, peopel prefer to earn a salary for the hours they have worked.
- 2010-2015 : a new dynamic dimension of the Solfa model: our new focus will be to take responsablity to enterprise ourselves and create jobs in the food sector.
Why do we run an enterprise of transforming soja?
- The staple food of the people of Kisantu is the starch rich manioc bread, the 'chekwange'. Animal proteins are expensive and not affordable for the majority of the population.The transitions from breastmilk to the 'chekwange' is for young children too big. They soon face the risk of malnutrition due to the lack of a varied diet of proteins, vitamins and healthy fats.
- What are the nutritional benefits of soja: it is generally known that soja is the world food of the future. Unfortunately today soja is mainly being transformed into animal food. The environmental footprint is higher than in the case where soja is being used for human nutrition. In countries where animal protein based food is too expensive, soja is the most proferred alternative
Why do we run a social enterprise of transforming soja?
- 2016: Solfa introduces a model of profit sharing with its customers: customers can collect points on a loyalty card when they buy soja-based products. They can use them as health points for medical care.
- through tis enterprise, Solfa can finance its local genital fistula program.
- through its enterprise in transforming soja, Solfa meets the urgent nutricional needs of the local population.
- through its enterprise Solfa creates new jobs and a market for soja producers.
- through its profit sharing, Solfa makes healthcare more economically accessible to the local population.
With our special thanks to the Province West-Vlaanderen, Frisomat, the Gerteler Foundation, Rotary club Izegem, Family Robijns for their confidence, encouragements and financial support. Without them Solfa had not been able to grow in its ' social enterprise'