Social enterprises can help improve food security in developing and crisis-affected regions

Published on
July 5, 2019

Using a business model aimed to achieve a positive societal or environmental impact, social enterprises can contribute to the building of a solidary-based food system in developing and crisis-affected regions. This has been examined in a joint study of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). The study advises Dutch embassies on how to better integrate support to social entrepreneurship within their food security programmes.

The study shows how social entrepreneurs, either with their product, service or production techniques, already contribute or can contribute to food security – an essential component of Sustainable Development Goal 2. For example by using climate smart and climate friendly techniques for food production. The impact of social entrepreneurship can be significantly positive by lifting people out of undernourishment, doubling the productivity and/or income of family farms and increasing the number of hectares of farmland converted to sustainable use. These conclusions are drawn from interviews with social entrepreneurs from Benin, Ghana and Ethiopia, and with managers of food security programmes in governmental and non-governmental organisations.

As relatively small enterprises, social enterprises tend to be more adaptable. This enables them to faster react to emerging trends and technological opportunities that can be used to improve the quality of food and nutrition in hard-to-reach areas. Projects with a bottom-up and ecosystem approach are proven to be an important leverage mechanism. One of such projects is SES4Food, which builds better connections and improves coordination between organisations that support and connect social entrepreneurs who are not yet on the radar.


SES4Food ensures close cooperation of governments and NGOs and provides a network of consultants and online tools. It identifies and monitors the development of social enterprises and measures their impact in the long term. For social entrepreneurs, it is valuable to be provided with the relevant support that can help them to get a better access to funding. The report strongly recommends implementing SES4Food in alignment with what is already in place and tailored to local situations.

Disproportionately affected by food insecurity

These insights are relevant for governments and NGOs that work on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa. Many developing and crisis-affected regions suffer disproportionately from food insecurity, even though the sufficient amount of food is being produced globally. The largest losses occur directly after harvest, due to various practical constraints. The researchers found that provided with enough support, social entrepreneurs have high potential to contribute to improved food security.

Read the report: