Building a Business That Tackles Climate Change

By Till Wahnbaeck
May 10, 2023

Take Marbi Agric, for example: Founder Bernadette Mwanza started out providing credit-financed seeds for smallholder farmers. But recently, she has invested heavily in the chicken-brooding part of her business. You can see why: it makes great business sense for her and her >4,500 customers, and it’s a good way to adapt to climate change as well: I know chicken can’t save the world. But for smallholders in East Africa it does make a difference if they focus on crops that no longer grow reliably or shift to raising chicken that lay eggs every day no matter what. And I am grateful to our venture Marbi Agric for having the business acumen to shift their model and adapt to new realities. Well, maybe we can actually change the world, one chuck at a time.

Me meeting the chicken of Marbi Agrics Partners.

Or take M-Shamba, the simple digital platform that creates markets for smallholders across East Africa. Smallholder farmers produce the vast majority of the food across Africa, but they are often the poorest and, tragically and ironically, go hungry. That’s why people like Calvince Okello, founder of M-Shamba, have such a powerful impact.

I saw him in action in central Kenya some time ago, signing up another 100 farmers to his platform that provides market access. Their problem: everyone produces at the same time, harvest prices are low and middlemen cut out any remaining margin. His solution: line up and secure demand beyond the region, make it easy for farmers to sell via an automated sms-based order system, offer them a guaranteed price range and train them (again via sms or interactive voice) to improve quality.

50,000 farmers have already signed up, 23 of 47 Kenyan counties are customers. I have seldom seen such a powerful business: great entrepreneur, smart and simple business model, real traction, and HUGE impact: one farmer told me he almost tripled revenue on his potatoes since working with M-Shamba. I am eager to see which business in the North we can line up to get inspired by his use of low-tech to capture previously unserved markets.


Calvince onboarding new partnering farmers.

About Till Wahnbaeck

Till Wahnbaeck
Ex-CEO of Welthungerhilfe and private sector General Manager, champion of innovation. Till ran both for profit companies and a global NGO and has always strived to bridge the gap between the social and the private sector. As global CEO of Welthungerhilfe (a German food- and nutrition-security NGO with 2,500 staff in 40 countries and a budget of 250mio$), he championed innovation and impact. Previously, as Marketing, Sales and Innovation Director for consumer goods company, Procter & Gamble, he built innovation methods and processes to rejuvenate P&G’s global salon portfolio.

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