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7 social enterprises tackling large scale problems

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Where entrepreneurs take a risk with money to build a business and make profit, a social entrepreneur’s goal is to earn money to serve a social need. These days, the latter has garnered a lot of attention. It’s not surprising given the amount of natural disasters we have suffered. The world is made up of large scale problems; poverty, poor education, environmental damage, political suppression, disease and social inequality are some of them.

Here are seven social enterprises that have found solutions to improving global issues, no matter how small. We salute them.

1. Eco-care Trust

Location focus: Africa

“It’s all about the changing of habits and thought patterns on water, conservation, sanitation and health, through projects, capacity building, awareness, advocacy, information and programmes. Our Mobile Water Classroom, the first of its kind in South Africa, is using experiential learning as a base to promote these values. We hope to promote the quality of life for all through clean water.” – Chamara Pansegrouw, CEO of Eco-care Trust

Eco-care Trust is the answer to conserving the country’s water resources, such as wetlands, dams and rivers. Since its launch, it has developed into one of the most active non-governmental organisations for the conservation of South Africa’s natural water resources and ecosystems. By improving access to water and educating people in water hygiene, sanitation and purification they are creating cleaner water and healthier citizens.

2. Educate!

Location focus: Uganda

“No longer will students simply be encouraged to memorize facts for the national exam, but now they will go out of the classroom and start enterprises and initiatives to solve the toughest challenges facing communities. Reaching over 45,000 students, the national curriculum will create a significant shift in the potential of the next generation to solve problems at their roots: in the fragile communities and eco-systems across Uganda.” – Eric Glustrom, co-founder and president of Educate!

Educate is dedicated to transforming Uganda’s education system by equipping their youth with necessary leadership skills. By partnering with local schools, they have devised a two-year social entrepreneurship program for 16 to 18-year-olds. The curriculum – the first of its kind in the world –will set a new model of education for countries in Africa and beyond to follow.

3. Malô

Location focus: Mali

“In collaboration with local and international non-profits, we educate, support, and decrease the risk profile of smallholder farmers so that they can minimize harvest and post-harvest losses, grow superior quality rice and obtain more favorable credit terms from financial institutions.” – Mohamed Ali Niang, CEO of Malô

This enterprise seeks to alleviate poverty, combat food insecurity, and eradicate malnutrition in Mali. Malnutrition contributes to half of children’s deaths, and 81 per cent of children under five are anaemic. Malô aims to confront these problems through an innovative rice mill in Ségou that provides fortified rice at a cheaper price than non-fortified rice. They seek to increase profits of harvests by creating an efficient rice value chain and fortify rice with micronutrients – such as vitamin A, iron, zinc, and folic acid.

4. The Paradigm Project

Location focus: Global

“My goal was to create a business that would help the poor and make money, non-reliant on donor capital. We thought we’d be lucky to sell 20,000 stoves in our first year of operation. Today, we’re on track to deliver over 40,000 and our biggest problem is figuring out how to keep up with demand.” – Neil Bellefeuille, CEO of The Paradigm Project

The rural poor generate 25 per cent of CO2 emissions, which is often related to indoor cooking smoke. This leads to lower respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia – which is the number one killer of children under five on a global scale. The Paradigm Project was launched in order to buy clean-burning cooking stoves for people in developing countries.  

5. Re:char

Location focus: East Africa

“The farmer takes the kiln and uses the waste they are producing and converts the waste into biochar. Then, the farmer can apply the biochar directly to his field to make it more fertile, or take the biochar and turn it into charcoal briquettes which they can use as fuel to cook food. We find that it only takes the farmer about six months to reap the savings from the briquettes and the increased crop yield necessary to pay for the kiln.” – Jason Aramburu, CEO of Re:char 

Re:char sells kilns to farmers in Kenya. The purpose is to help local famers convert their farm waste into biochar. Biochar can be used for cooking, and the process helps to fight environmental damage. Re:char is currently working with a company building clean toilets to test converting the output of their toilets into biochar.

6. Tough Stuff

Location focus: Africa

“We make a variety of solar energy devices which are suitable for the poorest households. For example, we sell LED lamps and chargers for mobile telephones. By no means every household is connected to the electricity grid. Thanks to these lamps, local people can now carry on with their work in the evenings.” – Adriaan Mol, CTO of Tough Stuff

Tough Stuff provides people with emergency power that doesn’t pollute the local environment. To date, they have helped more than 1.4bn people without access to electricity by offering clean and safe solar alternatives. The solar lights supplied by Tough Stuff are less polluting than kerosene – which is still one of rural Africa’s main sources of power. This way they decrease fire hazards, such as fuel-burning lamps and fires, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

7. One Earth Designs

Location focus: Western China

“One Earth Designs serves as a catalyst for socially and environmentally minded innovation among Himalayan agricultural and nomadic communities. Acting as a conduit through which communities can access technical and business support, we unleash the potential of modern design thinking.” – Scot Frank, founder and CEO of One Earth Designs

One Earth Designs sells solar-powered cookers that can produce heat and electricity, as well as purify water, to NGOs and government agencies. The idea to produce clean energy stemmed from the need to reduce indoor air pollution, which kills approximately 500,000 people in China every year. They hope to eventually meet all the energy needs of customer households. 

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