By Lana Hall
A project aiming to improve the economy in Dago, Kenya, has won a team of Ryerson students the regional championship in the Scotiabank EcoLiving Green Challenge.
The contest is hosted by Enactus Canada, an organization that connects students interested in sustainability and entrepreneurship with advisors and business experts in the field.
Project Dago began four years ago when Alternative Spring Break – a program which promotes trips to developing countries to do non-profit work – approached the Enactus Ryerson team about doing some work in the region. “They knew our reputation for sustainable programs,” says Stefany Nieto, president of Enactus Ryerson, who worked on the project. The team – who made their first trip to the region in 2011 and go back once or twice a year – began by offering financial literacy training to the community. Then, says Nieto, inspired by a team member who had worked in the bee keeping industry here in Canada, they introduced the bee keeping business to Dago. Not only does the community profit from sales of honey and wax candles, she says, but the bees pollinate farmland, which helps increase agricultural production.
“It’s such a unique, comprehensive solution to the problems of that region,” says Nicole Almond, President of Enactus Canada.
For Nieto and her team members – who are currently planning a trip to Nunavut this summer to launch a project building a greenhouse to combat food insecurity – the win brings their effort into sharper focus.
“I think I speak on behalf of the whole Enactus Ryerson team when I say we were amazed,” she says. “There can be a high turnover rate in student groups but almost all 86 of us have been involved since first or second year. And even though not everybody had the necessary skills, they jumped right in and learned on the go. I think this just really confirms all the hard work we’ve put in.”
Now with a regional championship to their name, the team will present their business model at the national competition which takes place here in Toronto from May 11-13.