Corporate social responsibility is Dr Bea Andersen’s life’s work. She and her husband Bob have been running the family business Mount Elgon Orchards Ltd. for 20 years. This flower exporting business grows roses on a farm in western Kenya for customers around the world. The company employs around 1400 people, making it the largest employer in the Chepchoina region close to the Ugandan border. Many employees live in the surrounding villages.
When Andersen moved to Kenya in 1995, living conditions in the villages were tough: many families lived in simple huts without sanitary facilities, and the lack of basic hygiene meant that infections were common. Local healthcare was inadequate, too. To provide its employees with a functioning healthcare structure, the company had to act on a number of fronts at the same time. Inspired by the United Nations’ Millennium Villages Project, it focused on health, education and accommodation.
Andersen soon realised that to achieve progress in these areas required not only perseverance and passion but also partners who would provide technical and financial support for the project.
The German Investment and Development Corporation DEG was a key partner from the outset. It provides financing for development and has been supporting the company for more than 10 years in creating prospects for growth and improving living conditions for local people. Mount Elgon Orchards embarked on a development partnership with DEG financed by the develoPPP.de-programme, which is promoted by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Andersen, who is a trained doctor, initially concentrated on healthcare for her workforce. The nearest hospital was 30 kilometres away, and very few employees could afford to travel to it, so she set up a local health centre. ‘The centre is open to everyone,’ explains Julius Sakong, one of the managers: ‘Patients get good treatment and the right medication.’
The Andersen Medical Centre is now well established in the region and beyond, and the staff of around 35 treat nearly 40,000 patients a year. As well as facilities for outpatients and inpatients, the Centre has a laboratory, a treatment room for minor surgery, a maternity ward, and facilities for dental and orthopaedic treatment. It also runs a special programme for Home based Care and HIV/Aids.
HIV/Aids was a particular challenge: a lack of education and restricted access to drugs
made it harder to treat the virus, so in addition to the health centre, Andersen set up a mobile advice centre with support from the develoPPP.de programme. It offers free testing and advice in surrounding villages, and community helpers provide information and education about HIV.
Clinic worker Hellen Wanyonyi says ‘There used to be a lot of prejudice. Now, the education campaigns we run mean that people are more understanding and supportive of our clients.’ The clinic supports around 700 clients and offers women infected with HIV prophylaxis during their pregnancy. To promote preventive health care among her workforce, Andersen set up the Habitat for Humanity project. Families can apply for an affordable loan to purchase a plot of land and build a low-cost, high-quality and sustainable house.
These homes are designed according to their needs and provide access to clean water and a garden, where families can grow vegetables for their own use. Jessinda Mutimba lives in one of these houses with her husband and five children. ‘We are very proud of where we live’, she says. ‘It feels good to be able to provide my family with a clean and safe place to live.’