Why Sealand Americas and Humanity And Hope United
are growing a business in rural Honduras
Case study in Transformative Community Involvement™
Authors: John McCormick, The Collaboration Vector Inc.; Riley Fuller, President & Co-Founder, Humanity and Hope Foundation; Sabrina El-Chibini, President, The Collaboration Vector Inc.
First published: June 2, 2018; updated July 6, 2018.
In 2016, Sealand Americas, a people-centric ocean carrier in the Americas (1), and non-profit partner Humanity and Hope United (2), set out to generate employment for women in La Coroza, Honduras. This case study presents the successes and challenges of their journey in implementing a pig farm operation in this small rural village and explores the business and social impact of the project. It provides a detailed account of how transforming corporate involvement with communities leads to transforming lives inside and outside the office.
Using a Transformative Community Involvement™ (TCI™) approach (3), Sealand Americas and Humanity and Hope engaged in a deeper longer-term relationship centered on solving problems. In TCI™, partners transform the way in which they engage with each other as well as the way in which employees engage with communities (3). People inside the office and in communities are supported in realizing their potential. Partners commit to understanding and measuring impact both on the community and on the business.
Culturally aligned in their desire for transforming lives and for sustainable change, Humanity and Hope and Sealand Americas' intention is to support the pig business in thriving and becoming self sustainable. From a business sense, Sealand Americas was attracted to the idea of engaging Sealanders (employees) in supporting the growth of the business in the community, much as employees are helping Sealand Americas grow its own business. The company invested in the set up and operations of the pig farm.
Honduras, with a population of approximately nine million, is one of the poorest countries in Central America; in rural areas of the country about one in five Hondurans live on less than $1.90 a day (4). Hunger and malnutrition are one of the consequences of this level of poverty, particularly in rural areas where about 49% of the population experience malnutrition (4). Lack of viable employment opportunities make rural women particularly vulnerable to poverty and its associated societal challenges (5).
Transformative partnerships and deeper engagement
Humanity and Hope United is a non-profit organization working to assist under served villages in remote parts of Honduras. The organization partners with the people of each village to achieve sustainable change, focusing on the needs of individuals rather than a single issue or approach. The driving principle of Humanity and Hope is that when people invest their talents in making others’ lives better, hope spreads (2). Humanity and Hope relies solely on corporate contributions to maintain its operations in Honduras.
In late 2015, Sealand Americas set out to implement a meaningful and impactful community program in the communities within which it operates (6). With the support of their partner in this initiative, The Collaboration Vector Inc (TCV) (7), the company adopted a TCI™ approach and aligned programs with three of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Climate Action, Decent Work and Economic Growth and Quality Education (6),(8). Developed by TCV, TCI™ involves engaging with stakeholders to generate evidence-based innovative solutions to societal challenges, solutions that benefit both society and business (3). Using the TCI™ approach, and working with several non-profit organizations, Sealand Americas has now secured 12 successful partnerships in eleven countries across the Americas. This article reports on the evolution of one of these projects in La Coroza; the set up, management and running of a pig farm with Humanity and Hope (8).
Results to date
Impact assessment is integral to a successful TCI™ approach, since it forms the basis of evidence based program decision making, change and evolution (3). In this case-study, the impact of Sealand Americas' investment in the pig farm operation is assessed through ongoing:
• Surveys of the women employees;
• Surveys of Sealand Americas' volunteers who visited the pig farm in La Coroza;
• Tracking of the financial state of the operation.
To date, two surveys of the women employees at the pig farm have been carried out. The first survey occurred approximately six months after the pig farm was started (June 2017) and was administered by Humanity and Hope personnel in La Coroza. The objective of the first survey was to profile the women and the operation. A second survey was administered to the women employees approximately six months later by Sealand Americas volunteers (Sealanders) who visited the farm, talked to the women employees and inspected the operation (January 2018). The objective of the second survey was to give Sealanders a first-hand account of the impact of their investment as described by the women in the community.
The surveys requested demographic information from the women and five-point Likert scale responses were used to assess the women’s perception of the impact of work at the farm on their lives, the lives of their children and the local community. Data was collected on paper copies of the surveys in the local language by Humanity and Hope or Sealand Americas personnel and completed surveys were then returned to TCV for translation and analysis.
After the Sealanders’ visit to La Coroza, employees were offered the opportunity to complete an online survey asking about their impression of the pig farm operation and how they thought the Sealand Americas' investment was impacting the community. Again, quantitative data was assessed using five-point Likert scale responses.
Women employed at the pig farm
At the initial baseline survey, eight women were employed at the pig farm. Demographics of the women are summarized in Table 1. The women had a mean age of 32.6 and the majority were married (75%) and all had children (3.9 children per employee), 45.1% of whom were attending school. Their mean weekly income from the pig farm was $7.51US but because of expanded development in La Coroza, mainly due to other businesses created in conjunction with Humanity and Hope, most of the women (75%) had a second job, boosting their mean weekly income to $13.23. In most families both husband and wife worked and total mean household income was $47.03 (or $6.72 per day); women’s pig farm income alone, attributable to Sealand Americas' investment, contributed 16% of the total weekly household income (Table 1).
Table 1: Demographics of women employed at the pig farm (n=8) and income generated†
†Based on survey data gathered approximately six months after the pig farm operation started (January 2017) *Income in US dollars calculated using an exchange rate of 0.042014 $US per Lempira (May 18, 2018)
The high level of employment in La Coroza results from a number of farming projects initiated in the village by Humanity and Hope, financed through the collective contributions of Sealand Americas and additional corporate sponsors.
Impact of employment at the pig farm on women’s lives
At the baseline survey all the women reported that the work at the pig farm had a positive impact on their lives and that of their families and local community. This level of impact was maintained in the follow-up survey when all the women reported a major positive impact of employment at the farm on their lives, the lives of their children and on their community. In particular, they all reported a major positive impact of pig farm employment on their children, noting that the additional income allowed opportunities for education and food and clothing.
Some of the comments from the women regarding the impact of the pig farm on the local community are shown in Fig 1. Of the women interviewed at follow-up (n=7), the vast majority reported that working at the farm changed the way they see their future and that of their families and all were very optimistic about their future, particularly that of their children (Fig 2).
Fig 1: Comments from women employees on the impact of work at the pig farm on the local community
“More support to all the economy in the community”
“Brought new opportunites to grow"
“It has brought a lot of happiness to all of us”
Fig 2: Comments from women employees on the impact of work at the pig farm on how they see their future and that of their families
“I am positive and happy about my family"
“Because I believe that with the work they do and their efforts, they will be growing up securing their food for their households as well as for the community"
“Now I see a future ahead”
“We have more chances to get new opportunities such as financial and educational”
Sealand Americas volunteers: impressions of the pig farm operation
Ten Sealanders spent a day at the pig farm in January 2018 as follow-up to previous visits to La Coroza and a series of planning activities, discussions and presentations. Seven responded to an online survey asking questions about their impressions of the pig farm operation and the impact on the women employees and the local community. All Sealanders agreed or strongly agreed that:
The Sealand Americas' investment in La Coroza is having a substantial positive community impact;
Talking to the women employees at the pig farm taught them new and important things about the impact of Sealand Americas' investment.
Upon review of the targets in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth, all Sealanders agreed that the project was aligned on a microscale and granular level with this goal. Sealanders were also asked how the trip to La Coroza impacted their willingness to volunteer in the village. Of the seven Sealanders, six intended to be more active volunteers or were thinking seriously about future volunteering, indicating the positive impact of their visit to the farm where they experienced first-hand the favourable consequences of Sealand Americas' investments. This reflects data from prior studies of Sealand Americas' community involvement programs which have shown high levels of employee willingness to volunteer with non-profit partners in TCI™ (8).
In addition to a strong social impact, Sealand Americas found that community involvement of employees had a substantial business impact as participating employees developed professionally through community programs; notably they acquired strong teamwork skills, improved problem-solving abilities, and enhanced their creative abilities (8). Nevertheless, as La Coroza is located approximately 2.5 hours drive from the Sealand Americas office, some Sealanders identified time for these activities as a possible barrier and one respondent mentioned security in the country as a concern. The partners and Sealanders are currently exploring alternative models for involvement to address the time barrier.
Impact of visit to La Coroza on Sealander peer relationships
Employee engagement at work is a strong positive indicator of business performance, while peer relationships between colleagues contribute to better overall employee engagement and cohesion at the workplace (9), (10). Following the farm visit, all Sealander volunteers agreed that the trip to La Coroza contributed significantly to strengthening the bond between them and their colleagues. They all agreed/strongly agreed that the visit taught them positive things about their colleagues that they would not have discovered in the work context. Although only an initial assessment, this suggests a potential added benefit of community volunteering on “humanizing” the workplace.
Impact assessment of other Sealand Americas' community programs has shown similar results, where the company’s social and environmental initiatives have yielded high levels of employee interest in community work, boosted their loyalty to the company, and provided opportunities for growth and development of highly engaged employees (10), (11).
impact measuring and reporting
Challenges of growing the pig farm and developing solutions
In terms of project objectives, the main goals of the Sealand Americas/Humanity and Hope TCI™ partnership are being met; a group of women previously excluded from the labour market are now working and lives and communities are changing in a positive way.
However, as in any community project in developing countries, there have been many challenges in establishing and growing the business, requiring innovative and evolving solutions. From an economic perspective, the farm operates in a commoditized market with competitors who have much larger economies of scale. This means that even when the farm is running efficiently with no major issues, margins are razor thin.
Efficient farm operations were compromised by absence of electricity (electrical power finally arrived in February 2018), poor road access to La Coroza and unpredictable pig breeding outcomes. Although La Coroza is only about 25 miles from the economic capital of the country (San Pedro Sula), the road link is very poor and during the rainy season the village can be cut-off entirely, shutting down the pig selling function of the business.
To address the overarching issue facing the business of a lack of scale, the farm is being integrated with another Humanity and Hope sponsored pig business run by women in the neighbouring village of Remolino. La Coroza is going to be the birthing center while the pigs will be raised and ultimately sold in Remolino which is a much more accessible location for year round sales. Humanity and Hope are also initiating steps to improve year-round road access to La Coroza which will further improve operational efficiency. Technical training of the women by veterinarians has largely overcome the breeding problems and the pigs are now healthy and thriving and getting pregnant in a safer and more predictable way.
Beyond integrating the supply chain with two villages, Humanity and Hope are working on a branding strategy for the final product called Generous Pigs that promotes the founding principles of the La Coroza farm and the significant role of rural women in its operation. The hope is that this will build brand equity and that the pigs can be sold at a marginally higher price than that of their competitors.
There were also challenges related to the education level of the women employees. The average education level of the workforce was around the fourth grade and significant training was required to get someone ready to be a productive worker, particularly when that training involved technical aspects of animal breeding. To address this issue, Humanity and Hope have started a program called EducaTodos that brings adult education from a distance for those who didn’t finish elementary or high school when they were children. This program has been a great success and has the added benefit of emphasizing the importance and impact of education to the women.
Of course, farm operations have also been severely compromised by political unrest in the country. In December 2017 the country essentially shut down for about three weeks because of unrest resulting from the election in late November. Travel was impossible, and because La Coroza is so remote the people were hungry and concerned about their safety and they had to eat some of the inventory in order to survive.
The pig business was originally anticipated to turn a profit by mid-2017, 12 months into its operation. However, with the initial challenges and the new model of enabling each village to become a center of excellence in a unique segment of a bigger supply chain, the estimated date to turn a profit was extended to January 2019. Happily, with continued investment and innovative solutions by the partners and the community, the business actually generated a marginal profit for the first time in February 2018, ahead of the revised schedule.
Nevertheless, Humanity and Hope is working with the women in La Coroza to stabilize and grow profitability over the remainder of 2018 in order to enter 2019 in a solid position of self-sufficiency. Sealand Americas and Humanity and Hope expect brand equity to continue growing and for this model to be scalable to use in other communities. However, beyond the economics of the program, the partners believe that the model of creating jobs for women works in magical ways, empowering women and making their future dreams and those of their families a reality.
The Sealand Americas' investment in the Humanity and Hope pig farm in La Coroza is having a transformative impact on the lives of the women employees and their families and a wider positive impact on the local community. One important conclusion is the apparent intergenerational effect, with the majority of the women emphasizing the impact of their employment on their children and their enhanced ability to ensure their education.
The positive responses from Sealand Americas volunteers regarding their involvement in the project also demonstrates that the community program participation has a direct impact on employee development, workplace cohesion and workforce engagement, hence business performance (9).
This case study highlights how a TCI™ approach is fostering a productive private/non-profit collaboration with tangible societal and business benefits that will continue to pay-off for generations.
A special thank you to Sealanders Ricardo Bogran and Jennifer Hernandez for leading the community effort in Honduras, and Sara Prudot for introducing Sealand Americas and The Collaboration Vector Inc. to Humanity & Hope United.
Thank you Ricardo for your time and energy in providing awesome photos and videos!!
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