Why the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs supported SEED since its inception in 2002
The UK has been a strong supporter of SEED since it was established in 2002. It has been a real pleasure to see SEED grow from a small biennial awards scheme, with a modest research programme, to a much broader global initiative promoting social and environmental entrepreneurship.
Given SEED’s important agenda, of fostering start-up social and environmental enterprises so as to learn how these might become effective deliverers of sustainable development, the UK (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Defra) was keen to facilitate the growth of SEED. It enabled one of its senior managers, Helen Marquard, to become the first Executive Director of SEED in 2007; and Jonathan Tillson, Head of Sustainable Development, and I, both at the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), chaired the SEED Board from 2009 – 2014.
The UK also contributed to SEED at the operational level in supporting 7 SEED Winners in South Africa in the 2010 and 2011 cycles. These included the ‘Imai Farming Cooperative’, a women’s cooperative that processes surplus fresh vegetable produce into pickles and promotes organic farming, and ‘Reclaiming Livelihoods – Mooi River Waste Reclaiming’ which has formalised arrangements with local waste pickers and created job opportunities for them, as well as providing shelter, protective clothes and technical equipment. These two fledgeling enterprises were subsequently selected by SEED for additional financial and capacity building support and they are now scaling up, making a considerable impact on their local communities and the environment.
SEED’s research reports into the barriers and enablers for start-up social and environmental enterprises were the first of their kind, and the SEED Symposia are now fixtures in the African eco-entrepreneurship space, stimulating exchanges between practitioners and policymakers.
It is precisely activities such as these which secured the UK’s support for SEED for more than 7 years, and we are pleased to see that SEED now:
- runs an annual awards scheme for up to 50 enterprises in developing countries
- tailors support to award winners and provide them with access to an extensive network of support organisations
- funds start-ups and more established social and environmental enterprises
- provides sustainability training for businesses and business development service providers in Africa
- undertakes extensive research on environmental enterprises
- connects entrepreneurs to policymakers, including through symposia and other events.
I am delighted that SEED’s substantial contribution to sustainable development is well recognised and reflected in new sources of funding. SEED brings grassroots experience to national and international policy making, and it has a particularly important role to play in supporting the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will be agreed in September this year. Looking ahead to the major efforts that will be needed for the implementation of the SDGs, and recognising the position of SEED in now being well-placed as regards its own sustainability, the UK has decided to step back from its role as a major Partner in SEED. Defra will nonetheless retain an interest in SEED’s further expansion.
I look forward to SEED’s continued good health and success and wish the Board, Helen and her team the very best for the future.