Featured case: Resourcing Rural Livelihoods in Kenya:
Intersections Between Mining, Agriculture and Development

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The case

Who – the protagonist

The protagonist, simply known as John, is a Director of the non-government organisation, Business for Development (B4D), who work closely with Base Titanium, an Australian and UK venture, owners of Kenya’s largest mine. 


The case opens with John presenting at an international mining conference on how extractive companies can aid the development of poor, rural communities adjacent to mining operations. He discusses B4D’s commitment to making community development a central part of Base Titanium’s core business from the outset.

During his presentation, John faces questions about why individual farmers and local organisations would work with a mining company with its own corporate agenda and a history of exploitation in the sector. John goes on to highlight the progress of B4D’s community development project that focuses on rural livelihoods, called the Kwale Cotton Project. He introduces an inclusive business model ‘the LINC’ creating opportunities for local farmers to meet the needs of the international market.


We follow John as he visits various stakeholders and hears what they’ve got to say about the project. He meets with the farmers who have been directly affected by the mining activities in their community and the newly formed farmers’ co-operative (PAVI). Through meeting various stakeholders, John comes to realise there are diverse and, at times, competing interests and interplay between those involved in the project.


The Kwale Mine is located in Kwale County on the southeast tip of Kenya. It is primarily an agricultural region with many families living below the poverty line.  


Construction of the Kwale Mine started in 2013 and the case looks at B4D’s business partnership and community development project from then until 2019.

Key quote

“For extractives companies to seriously address sustainable development outcomes in Africa, the sector must first address smallholder farmer poverty. Community development programmes can create sustainable income opportunities beyond that of the mine through agriculture and this is perhaps the most meaningful way for extractives companies to reduce poverty, improve women’s empowerment and enhance food security in Africa.” – John, the case protagonist.

What next?

Throughout the case John hears of many issues from stakeholders, in particularly, farmers who benefit from the programme. He faces criticism of B4D, PAVI and Base Titanium not working for the needs of individual farmers. He now looks to ensure that these issues are dealt with as ‘the LINC’ develops, before the new farming season is underway and before farmers lose confidence in the programme.

The author


Rochelle Spencer

Rochelle talks about the inspiration behind her first case and how being awarded a Case Writing Scholarship from The Case Centre helped it take form.

Choosing a topic

Rochelle explains: “The topic of my case sparked my interest because it involved a mining company (the private sector) taking on the role of development agent (traditionally the public sector and civil society) to implement a rural livelihoods programme for very poor farmers living adjacent to the mine site.

“Increasingly we see the private sector playing a role in development, even being enshrined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For me, the context provided lots of material to challenge students to think about the multiple perspectives coalescing to inform the design and implementation of a rural livelihoods development intervention. The multitude of stakeholders – a mining company, an NGO, farming communities, government actors, a farmers’ cooperative – present their own needs and distinct perspectives on circumstances (sometimes conflicting); all of which affords students an insight into ethical decision making.”

Ethics in the classroom

Rochelle continues: “Ethics cases bring complex and emotive issues into the classroom allowing students to explore real world issues, and how their own values and politics shape how they respond to ethical dilemmas. The joy of ethics cases is they provide opportunities for students to develop their ethical cognisance, moral consciousness, and capacity for reasoning.

Ethics in the classroom“Students come from all walks of life and bring their experiences and world views into the classroom. Their diverse backgrounds inform their responses to the cases and they learn from one another, providing a rich classroom experience that allow students to grapple with complex and emotive subjects like poverty and inequality where there is no one right or wrong answer. Students do inevitably find the content challenging, and sometimes even confronting, but the structured learning activities and reflection ensure that case learning enables students to work collectively to understand different considerations and how others experience the world.”

Value of field research

Rochelle adds: “As an anthropologist, all of my work is based on empirical research. I think this is of great value to students and to case learning because experiences from the field bring topics alive. Students are introduced to real world issues whereby they can gain insight into the decisions that have actually been made, how decisions have impacted people, and how different people have responded. They can consider what they might have done differently to the actors portrayed in the case and why.”

Help from The Case CentreHelp from The Case Centre

Rochelle was awarded a scholarship to help facilitate the writing of this case. She says: “The scholarship allowed me to attend a workshop where I learned how to write a case study, what needed to be in the case or in the appendices, and how to design informative teaching notes. In particular, being able to spend time exploring the structure of the case with other case writers was extremely beneficial. The scholarship also enabled me to seek follow-up feedback and reviews.”

About the author

Rochelle Spencer is a Senior Lecturer and founding co-director of the Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability at Murdoch University.
e rochelle.spencer@murdoch.edu.au

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Resourcing Rural Livelihoods in Kenya: Intersections Between Mining, Agriculture and Development
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Teaching note
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This case was written with the support of a Case Writing Scholarship awarded by The Case Centre.


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