What does winning Canada’s 2014 Social Finance Awards alongside  MEDA mean to Mountain Lion Agriculture? We feel deeply honoured by this recognition of our work – the field of nominees was excellent, a testament to the strength of Canada’s growing impact investment and business sector. The award greatly bolstered the morale of our staff but is also a deeper recognition of the rising, demonstrable efficacy of impact investment and business in tackling the toughest problems with resilient, sustainable solutions.

The 2014 Social Finance Award recognizes Mountain Lion Agriculture during a critical time for our business, and for the farmers and consumers we serve in Sierra Leone. The Ebola outbreak which has made international headlines continues to wreak havoc upon Sierra Leone’s health system, economy and people. In this context, the fact our company and business model is defined by a social purpose has been instrumental in enabling us to continue our work. In fact, during the Ebola outbreak we are having a record year in terms of production and the number of smallholder farmers we have assisted. With the strength of business thinking on the one hand, and the centrality of purpose usually associated with a non-profit/charity on the other, we have persevered despite the immense challenges facing our staff and company during the crisis.

This synthesis of business and purpose also enables us to provide a unique solution to the acute food security crisis caused by the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. The problem is clear: Agriculture Minister Joseph Sam Sesay reported in late 2014 that the Ag economy “has been deflated by 30% because of Ebola” while closing borders and reduced shipping are making it difficult for food imports to reach Sierra Leone. Yet if relief aid agencies and donors invest resources in food security by indiscriminately importing grains, they will stem short-term supply shortages but may damage long term efforts by Sierra Leonean farmers, traders, and domestic businesses to service the country’s demand for rice. In contrast, Mountain Lion Agriculture is working with local producers, paying market prices for their raw rice, processing it locally and finally selling competitively priced, finished rice locally. We are enhancing livelihoods in communities hit hard by the Ebola crisis, strengthening the country’s agricultural sector, and delivering food rapidly while creating local employment – all on a sustainable, profitable basis.

In addition to this, Mountain Lion Agriculture has been providing families suffering from Ebola with our rice as food aid, at no cost, as a new CSR program complementing our existing impact business model. These efforts have been widely recognized by local Sierra Leonean media outlets, including newspapers such as Awoko. This CSR was initially made possible through the ongoing support of our farmer friends in Greenfield IL – an outstanding, hard-working community which has been highly supportive because of our business-based approach and problem solving. See pictures of this CSR below.

Impact businesses – which MaRS, The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund and other forward-thinking institutions are working hard to facilitate – have unique strengths that make them a powerful vehicle for solving long term, complex problems. The 2014 Social Finance Award is an important recognition of this, and the fact that as an impact-business we are helping to lead the fight against the long-term damage caused by the Ebola crisis with the support of our partners. We therefore invite Foundations, Donors and Investors to consider Impact investment and business as a step towards a future where the power of our economy is harnessed to solve problems rather than create them – by uniting purpose with profit.

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MLAg CEO Ola Smart personally delivering our nutritious rice as food aid to Ebola Victims and Quarantined famillies

MLAg CEO and Co-Founder Ola Smart personally delivering our nutritious rice as food aid to Ebola victims and quarantined famillies