May 21, 2020
As part of our NextGen project, it’s great to bring you stories of those with the passion, energy and nouse to work in agricultural development. Most of our blogs have been from those with an incentive to make a difference, but usually in the research and development space. But here we read about working within a social enterprise that is creating a virtuous food supply chain that connects local farmers to local buyers in Fiji. It was set up by twin sisters Zoe and Lisa Paisley, after completing their agriculture degrees and getting some overseas experience. They decided they wanted to “travel, work and create positive social change all at once.” Here’s their blog on how they hope to do that.
As millennials we thrive on the idea of creating social impact through our work.
Back when we had to choose a uni degree, my twin sister (Zoe) and I were tossing up between Zoology and Ag. Science. In the end, we decided on Agriculture, based on the fact that everyone around the world needs food to eat. Agriculture is one of many industries that is always needed and has to keep innovating to solve challenges it faces now and in the future.
During university we took subjects around agtech, data management, Integrated Pest Management and any other subjects that gave a multidisciplinary approach to the complex issues farmers face when growing food. Having a holistic viewpoint our goal was to find a way to address climate change and food insecurity.
But the thing that blew agriculture out of the water for us, was the idea that we could travel, work and create positive social change all at once. We took up the opportunity to study ‘agro-ecosystems in developing countries’, which meant we spend 3 weeks in Laos. That’s when we got hooked!
From one month in Laos, we quickly did an internship with a startup business aiming to build social businesses in developing countries. Over 2 years, we jumped up the ranks from intern, to team leader, to second in charge, to agricultural consultant and CEO and COO of one of their projects. We learnt the fundamentals of business and social enterprises, whilst building a strong network of partners and farmers in Fiji.
We also learnt how to stand up for what we believed in and some very hard lessons about business that ultimately led us to starting up Aggie Global, as our own business, which we continue to work on today.
Now, we help smallholder farmers living in poverty, access new markets and increase their income to support their families. We have increased farmer income by 3x the national average in Fiji and helped hotels support local farmers, rather than relying on imported produce, which totals $30m p/a in Fiji alone.
And the business is still growing. We just launched our Australian branch and are coming up with new, innovative ways to truly help farmers around the world.
Working in agricultural development has been a whirlwind of understanding an entirely different culture, politics, social structure, traditions, barriers and opportunities. It’s an intricate balance to find a solution that helps, rather than hurts, the people we aim to benefit most.
For us, we come back to the World Bank’s quote from their ‘Agriculture and Food-At-A-Glance Report (2019)’: “agricultural development is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty, boost shared prosperity and feed a projected 9.7billion people by 2050”.
For us, our journey into agricultural development was lucky. It wasn’t necessarily the idea we had when our journey into agriculture started but it has been a huge source of personal development for both of us. We wouldn’t be in agricultural development if we didn’t do what we were passionate about or shied away from opportunities as they came up. For anyone starting the journey, find those opportunities and give it a shot because maybe you’ll end up living across the world improving livelihoods for those who need it.
If anyone wants to know more about what we do, send us an email at [email protected]