International food learning exchange serves up opportunities for co-operative growth
Carol Adams of Food Adventure tells us how one chance encounter turned a series of small field to fork workshops into an international network between Wales and Cameroon to share meaningful experiences with sustainable food practices.
See this page in: Cymraeg
Where did the business idea originate?
We started Food Adventure to connect people to food producers and farmers, chefs through outings, classes and special events for people to have meaningful experiences to learn all about sustainable food and gain new skills.
This included workshops with artisan makers of preserves, butchers, charcuterie, fermented foods, wine, beer and more.
A co-operative of women in Cameroon saw what we were doing and asked if we would consider travelling to Cameroon to give workshops so women could improve their skills and make a better living from what they grow and produce.
Can you give us a summary of what has been achieved?
My husband and I went on an initial fact-finding trip to Cameroon about five years ago and saw the opportunities for a learning exchange between Wales and Cameroon so we organised a trip with a team of six people and had learning exchanges in everything from smallholding practices, butchery and charcuterie to renewable energy and preservation methods for fruit and vegetables.
That trip gave us the evidence needed to bring in more partners which include Welsh universities – Cardiff Metropolitan University and Cardiff University as well as universities in Cameroon and the Cameroon Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicrafts.
Last year, our trip included a team of academics from Cardiff Met and we were hosted by the Ministry of SMEs. The focus was on working together to find a model that could be rolled out in all of Cameroon to help support and develop Cameroonian agri-food businesses.
Food Adventure and its partner Cardiff Metropolitan University are now official advisors and partners to the Cameroon Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicrafts to assist in the development of the agri-food value chain.
Did you have to overcome any major obstacles / challenges, particularly during lockdown?
The main obstacle is we cannot travel freely and internet connectivity in Cameroon is sporadic. We found from our trip last year was that a digital support system is needed. The other challenge of course is funding. We have however received a grant from the Welsh Government so we are able to continue our work.
Develop the digital model and implement a pilot. When it’s safe to do so, we’ll travel back to Cameroon and write papers for academic journals to share learning/research from the trips. What we are learning in Cameroon could help in other Sub Saharan countries and in Wales.
Can you describe the importance of social businesses collaborating in a mutual support setting?
I think it’s important to learn from other projects. In addition, if you look at an issue in its entirety, it is doubtful that one organisation can do everything well. It is important to find partners to collaborate with, particularly in the food industry. When looking at it from field to fork, a food project will need a variety of partners along the supply chain.
If you had one message for the social business sector right now, what would it be?
Follow your dream, think outside the box and don’t be afraid to collaborate with others.
If, like Carol, you work with local food producers and are interested in collaborating with social businesses in the sector, join the conversation on our Food Network for Social Businesses session next Wednesday. We’ll look at building local supply networks and will hear how others have overcome supply chain challenges to cope with increased demand.
Swper.Box has received business consultancy support and advice from Social Business Wales New Start, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre.
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