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Food entrepreneurship is a growing area of livelihood creation that has gained traction as countries search for ways to address the refugee crisis. We provide recommendations for how the business community can provide support to refugee food entrepreneurs.
The global refugee population is at the highest level on record and there is no sign of the crisis abating. The most common private sector response is donations to address immediate humanitarian needs. But, with the average displacement ranging from 10 to 26 years, support is also needed to build sustainable livelihoods for refugees, especially as they experience cultural and legal barriers to securing a job in a safe environment in their host countries.
While the Sustainable Development Goals drive some private sector interest in contributing to the refugee crisis response, companies do not always know what concrete steps to take. As members of the United States government funded “Livelihoods Innovation through Food Entrepreneurship (LIFE)” consortium, we have seen firsthand how supporting refugee food entrepreneurship is “one entrée” into promoting livelihoods for refugees. The food sector is attractive for refugee entrepreneurs because of its lower barrier to entry, its accessibility for women, and its opportunities for impact. We call on the private sector to join efforts to make these new businesses successful.
How the business community can provide support to refugee food entrepreneurs
General recommendations for how the private sector can assist refugees have been provided by the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees, and in a report by the International Finance Corporation and The Bridgespan Group. Yet, guidance to the business community specifically on supporting refugee food entrepreneurship is lacking. What can the private sector do to engage?
With the support of the private sector, food entrepreneurship as a source of livelihoods will grow. By starting food businesses, refugees can better integrate into a new society and be viewed in a more positive way. The growing field of gastrodiplomacy has emerged as a powerful tool for social integration. Food becomes not only a source of income for refugees, but also a way to promote the tastes and flavors of their culture into a new homeland. Their successful social and economic integration leads to richer, more stable communities – and that benefits us all.
Do you have other ideas on how the private sector can engage refugee food entrepreneurs? Post a comment below!
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