Rotary Scholar aims to link small farmers to international food markets
Alex Dalley, a Rotary Foundation Global Grant Scholar, visits a small vegetable farm in East Timor. Dalley created business relationships between farmers in East Timor and a large supermarket chain. Photo courtesy of Toby Gibson
Alex Dalley believes that impoverished communities in developing countries can sustain economic and social growth if small farmers are connected to global agricultural supply chains.
Dalley, a Rotary Scholar from Australia, is earning his master's degree in business administration at the Erasmus University Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands. His scholarship, funded by a Rotary Foundation Global Grant , supports Rotary's economic and community development area of focus .
"My studies have formalized my business skills, which will enable me to build better businesses that link small farmers to local and global food supply chains," says Dalley, whose scholarship is sponsored by districts 9600 (part of Queensland, Australia; Papua New Guinea; and Solomon Islands) and 1600 (The Netherlands). "The program has given me a fantastic opportunity to practice leadership skills, further preparing me for my professional role."
Dalley says the resurgence of private-sector interest in small-farm agriculture will help lower poverty levels in emerging markets.
"The function of economic and community development has always been a public-sector issue. [But] the private sector and big businesses are beginning to take over," he says. "If you can establish a modern, sustainable distribution and supply chain between small farmers and various food markets, governments will be more inclined to improve roads, power, and infrastructure."
Before his scholarship, Dalley worked as an agribusiness adviser on private-sector development programs in East Timor funded by USAID and AusAID, identifying and developing market opportunities for small farmers.
His most rewarding project, he says, was creating a small vegetable distribution business within a Singaporean supermarket chain called Kmanek, which has a large presence in East Timor’s capital, Dili. By replacing expensive imported vegetables, the supermarket was able to buy cheaper and better-quality produce locally, he says.
"The East Timor experience opened my eyes to the power supermarkets have in our food supply chains," says Dalley. "In a small country like East Timor, you really get a sense of how a supermarket, which controls access to the consumer, can be a positive force for change."
Student of the year
After he graduates, Dalley, who won the 2011 Student of the Year Award from the Association of MBAs, hopes to work with large global agricultural retailers to help build relationships with small farmers in developing countries.
Dalley had originally applied for an Ambassadorial Scholarship, before District 9600 began participating in the pilot of the Future Vision Plan , a new grant-funding structure for the Foundation. Shaughn Forbes, chair of the district’s Rotary Foundation Scholars subcommittee, says Dalley was very patient throughout the process. "It was clear from the beginning that Alex was an outstanding candidate, regardless of the program he was applying for."
Forbes says that with the cost of tuition increasing at many universities, ensuring the success of the Foundation’s new global grant funding model is essential.
"One of the benefits of the [grant] is that the scholar can receive more funds than the minimum amount of US$30,000," she says, referring to the fact that the scholarship amount is based on the district's financial resources and the student’s needs. "Additionally, I'm very supportive of having the scholars' education be aligned with the Foundation’s six areas of focus."
For more information:
- Find out more about the Foundation’s new grant model in Future Vision News.
- Read more about Rotary Foundation alumni by subscribing to receive Reconnections.