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Upaya Social Ventures Accelerates Agri-Businesses in India to Create Jobs for Ultra Poor

Posted By Devyani Singh, Aspen Institute, Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Upaya Social Ventures Announces Social Enterprises Selected for its Accelerator

11 innovative startups have been selected to join Upaya’s accelerator cohort focused on the agriculture industry in India.

Upaya Social Ventures today announced the 11 companies selected for its second accelerator program, which will target the agribusiness industry in India. The 11 participating companies were selected from a competitive pool of 281 applications by a committee of impact investing, agriculture, and social sector experts. The entrepreneurs represent cities across India and agriculture sub-sectors such as organics, processing and agri-waste.

About Upaya Social Ventures: Upaya creates dignified jobs for the poorest of the poor by building scalable businesses with investment and consulting support. Since 2011, Upaya has supported 14 small and growing businesses in India with investments and expertise. Upaya partners have created nearly 8,000 jobs. With offices in Seattle, Washington and Bangalore, India, Upaya has committed to a goal of helping partners create 15,000 jobs by the end of 2019. For more information about Upaya, visit www.upayasv.org.

Read the press release here (cohort overview attached)

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Tags:  agriculture  india  SGB  upaya 

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​Agora Partnerships Launches Application for 2017 Accelerator Cycle 2 Class

Posted By Elysa Neumann, Agora Partnerships, Thursday, March 9, 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKRdMGQbY_Q&feature=youtu.be

 
Agora Partnerships has launched applications for its 2017 Accelerator program.
 
Through its flagship Accelerator program, Agora Partnerships strives to accelerate the shift to a sustainable economy by providing entrepreneurs who are intentionally building businesses that solve social and environmental challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean with the resources they need to grow. Since 2011, 125 companies working in 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have participated in the Agora Accelerator, raising USD $52MM in capital and creating over 5,000 jobs. This year, in solidarity with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Agora Partnerships is aligning our Accelerator tracks to advance the SDGs.
 
The Accelerator is a 4-month program designed to provide high-potential entrepreneurs with the knowledge, network and access to capital necessary to create system change, through in-depth, personalized, 1:1 consulting; access to the Agora Partnerships’network of mentors, investors, and capital opportunities; and a global community of peers.
 
Agora’s Accelerator program is designed for companies who are solving social and environmental challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean, matching the following criteria: 
 
  • early or growth stage, past proof-of-concept; 
  • currently looking for investment to scale; 
  • legally incorporated as a for-profit structure with basic accounting systems in place; 
  • average annual income of USD $50K to $2MM; and, 
  • with a clear, measurable and sustainable impact.
 
Agora Partnerships looks to work with entrepreneurs who embody the leadership qualities of agency, empathy, curiosity and perseverance.
 
To apply to Agora Partnerships’ 2017 Accelerator click here.
 
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Agora Partnerships is a network committed to leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs by finding innovative ways to drive more human, social, and financial capital to the leaders and ideas that will make our world a better place. To learn morevisit: AgoraPartnerships.org

Tags:  Acceleration  accelerators  Agriculture  Business  Caribbean  central america  energy  Entrepreneurship  Environment  impact  impact investing  impact investment  innovation  Latin America  nicaragua  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  small and growing agrobusiness  social ent  social enterprise  social entrepreneurship  social impact  sustainability  talent  Women 

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Bringing Food Safe Technology in Guatemala: Fair-Fruit & InspiraFarms

Posted By Paula Rodriguez, InspiraFarms, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Guatemala is now positioned as the world’s third-largest exporter of peas, and indigenous farmers living in the highlands produce 99 percent of these peas.

Guatemala’s participation in the global fresh vegetables and fruits market has required a rapid technological adaptation to changes in food safety requirements. When implemented, these technological adaptations ensure access to high-value and regulated markets such as USA and the EU.

The lack of availability of this kind of technology, such as food-safe cold storage, bulking and processing spaces, has become one of the major limiting factors in the competitiveness of smallholder farmers in export supply chains.

Small and growing agri-food companies and exporters have played an important role in facilitating the compliance of food-safe and quality certification standards of the smallholder production base. This is true in the case of Fair-Fruit, a Guatemalan company, who specialize in fresh fruit and vegetables destined for European markets.

In the past Fair-Fruit had been collecting all their produce from Salamá and transporting it to its main plant in Ciudad Vieja (Sacatepeqez) for processing, a six-hour trip which often resulted in produce spoiling and a loss of revenue.

In 2015 Fair-Fruit decided to place an InspiraFarms satellite Cold Storage and Food Processing Facility (an FP180) at their production site in Salamá. Fair-Fruit hoped to reduce produce spoilage and dehydration due to long distance transportation, as well as save money on their overall processing and transportation costs as their motivation for installing the FP180 at their production site.

According to Miguel Basterrechea at Fair-Fruit, “For many years we’ve budgeted 30% in quality and dehydration carrying the product for such long distances. Cooling down the product and working on quality close to harvest fields can reduce these losses in between 10% and 15%. With around 2,000,000 pounds harvested in a year we are talking of 240,000 more pounds per year, and at a US$0.73 per pound, this generates a net total of US$175,000 per year”.

 

To know more about InspiraFarms visit us at www.inspirafarms.com

You can know more about Fair-Fruit here

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Tags:  Agriculture  central america  Guatemala  inclusive innovation  postharvest technology  small and growing agrobusiness 

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Kigali Farms & !nspiraFarms partnered to bring the first solar powered cold storage plant to Rwanda

Posted By Paula Rodriguez, InspiraFarms, Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Worldwide the mushroom industry is valued at US$20 billion, and in Rwanda the national government has been promoting the cultivation of mushrooms both for their economic potential and nutritional value.

Laurent Demuynck, CEO and Founder of Kigali Farms in Rwanda, started the social enterprise in 2010 with the twin goals of massively improving nutrition in rural areas and supplying high value produce to urban markets, domestically and as exports to the East African Community and beyond.

Says Demuynck,“our new button mushroom facility positions us to be the leading mushroom supplier in East Africa, with quite possibly the best button mushrooms produced anywhere in Africa. At the same time, our Kigali Farms team is driven to make oyster mushrooms the cheapest and easiest to grow source of protein for thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of smallholder farmers. Africa produces three times less commercial mushrooms than Australia, and we want to change that”.

The company started by producing and selling oyster mushroom growing kits for farmers and more recently using locally sourced wheat straw to grow fresh button mushrooms, which provide attractive margins in international markets. Kigali Farms has also begun to move further up the value chain, producing mushroom powder, which is used to fortify food products, and developing various packaged products, such as soups and sauces.

In 2015, Kigali Farms partnered with !nspiraFarms® and PSDAg* to bring the first solar powered cold storage plant to Rwanda as a cost-effective, reliable and low-carbon method to reduce post-harvest losses, maintain high quality and increase shelf-life of the mushrooms.

As Kigali Farms grows, it is engaging an increasingly large community of smallholder farmers. It provides its farmers with a combination of education and capacity development in conjunction with supplier contracts. With the capacity to process in excess of 250 metric tons of mushrooms per year and annually produce upwards of 300 ton of oyster mushroom growing kits, Kigali Farms continues to extend its outreach to local farmers across Rwanda.

To know more about Kigali Farms: http://www.kigalifarms.com/

To know more about !nspiraFarms: http://www.inspirafarms.com/

 

*The Rwanda Private Sector Driven Agriculture Growth (PSDAG) is a 5-Year project funded by USAID

 

Tags:  Agriculture  small and growing agrobusiness  smallholder farmers 

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Presenting the report Moving the Needle: Critical Success Factors for Scaling Asset Finance

Posted By Paula Rodriguez, InspiraFarms, Monday, October 17, 2016

A new report by Epven, with support from the Shell Foundation and the Small Foundation, explores the challenges and emerging solutions to scaling asset finance options for small and growing agribusinesses (SGBs) in developing countries.

 The investment opportunity in agribusiness assets in emerging economies runs into the billions of dollars. The social and environmental benefits that can be gained by reducing food losses, increasing employment and enterprise sustainability, as well as empowering women and rural communities, are equally significant.

 Despite this opportunity, most small-scale agribusinesses in developing countries lack access to reasonable financing options for acquiring such assets, falling into the “missing middle” and facing a combination of unrealistically high collateral requirements and unaffordable interest rates. It s estimated that formal financial institutions meet less than a sixth of the $200 billion in demand for financing from smallholder agribusiness globally.

 Asset financing is one form of finance that is quickly emerging as a promising new model with a growing number of providers diversifying into the sector. The report Moving the Needle: Critical Success Factors for Scaling Asset Finance examines the potential of asset finance to reverse this financing gap. Reflecting the first-hand experiences, innovations and perspectives of over 70 asset finance experts in Kenya, Guatemala, and India—the “coal-face” of the industry—the report highlights four critical success factors that drive scale in asset finance:  

1.     The asset must be liquid to act as its own collateral. There must be a market for the asset, and resale value must be measureable.

2.     SGBs must demonstrate their capability to effectively utilize the asset. The use of cash flows is recommended for the calculation of financial viability and creditworthiness.

3.     SGBs must have a stable and secure market for the expected outputs of the asset. Having secure contracts from buyers in the agricultural sector is a positive incentive for financial institutions and for securing a stable stream of revenues for SGB’s.

4.     Network organizations like ANDE, the GIIN and the Sustainable Food Lab support more and better ecosystem collaboration between technology companies, financial service providers and producers and buyers along the agricultural value chain.

The report summarizes key roles for the main actors of the asset finance ecosystem, followed by detailed recommendations for capacity developers, 2nd tier investors, donors, DFIs and foundations, technology companies, and the financial service providers at the coal face.

 

To read and download this report by Epven, with support from the Shell Foundation and the Small Foundation, please visit http://www.inspirafarms.com/articles-publications/

TITLE: Moving the Needle: Critical Success Factors for Scaling Asset Finance

Authors: Tim Chambers and Jack Luft

Contact Person: Tim Chambers (tchambers@epven.com)

 

 

 

Tags:  Access to Finance  Agriculture  ANDE Members  asset finance  farming  impact investing  impact investment  inclusive business  innovation  Investors  microfinance  post-harvest  small and growing agrobusiness  value addition 

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Partnerships to impact low-income markets in Kenya and East Africa

Posted By Chandrakant Komaragiri, Ennovent, Friday, June 3, 2016
Updated: Friday, June 3, 2016

Ennovent is seeking partners who work in sectors including Education, Healthcare, Agri-business, Finance, WASH,  Energy and others, who are interested in collaborating on business opportunities in Kenya. Partners can be individuals and organisations including consultants, development agencies, foundations, investors and corporations.


Benefits for partners will include the opportunity to collaborate with a diversified network, develop and implement innovation projects to address business opportunities, and build on knowledge and expertise on pertinent issues.


If you are interested in partnering with Ennovent, please fill out this short form, and we will be in touch with you.


We would also like to request you to share this exciting partnership opportunity widely in your network and help in making a sustainable impact in Kenya together.

Tags:  Africa  Agriculture  Base of the Pyramid  Creating Shared Value  East Africa  entrepreneurship ecosystems  inclusive innovation  Kenya  Private sector development  social innovation  sustainability  sustainable development 

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Running Without Shoes: Plight of the Smallholder Farmer

Posted By Simone Fugar, Esoko, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A blog by Hillary Miller-Wise, CEO of Esoko 

Imagine you had to run a 10 km race without running shoes. Certainly you would make do with what you had, but you probably would end up blistered and near the back of the pack. In a simplistic way, this is what smallholder farmers in Africa experience every day. But in their case, their lives depend on it.

Most smallholder farmers in Africa are farming without the tools and knowledge they need. They don’t have access to inputs like quality seed and fertilizer that would allow them to produce more. Some countries have tried to solve this problem by subsidizing inputs with the intention of making them more affordable. In the end, though, the result is like giving the runner one shoe to run the race.

Subsidies are fraught with problems. Often the administration is so poor that the inputs don’t arrive in time for the season. Those who benefit most tend to be less-poor, more highly educated, well-connected and men. Subsidies tend to “crowd out” private sector supply, and they often drive farmers to over-produce the subsidized crop, such as maize, which can lead to negative changes in diet and nutrition as production of other crops like legumes is reduced.

Even when smallholder farmers are able to procure subsidized inputs, the product is often still too expensive for them. In Ghana, for example, a bag of fertilizer on the open market costs Ghs 120, or about $30. The government subsidy reduces the price to Ghs 90, or about $23. While the lower price certainly helps, it is still out of reach for many smallholder farmers, who have little cash at the time that they need to purchase the inputs. This is the main problem: it’s often not a question of overall income for farmers, but rather of cash flow. Farmers may well be able to afford inputs right after harvest, but they are often out of cash just prior to the planting season. And most of these farmers can’t borrow money to bridge the gap because, as we know, most banks won’t lend to them. One of the few options left is to borrow informally at very high interest rates, which eats into their profits at harvest time.

In order to break this cycle, farmers need to accumulate financial assets from production surpluses. In other words, they need to put some of the money they earn during harvest time into savings in order to purchase quality inputs for the next season.

Savings practices are already very widespread among more commercially-oriented smallholder farmers, as documented by CGAP in its recently published Smallholder Diaries report. Many smallholders keep their savings in-kind or under the mattress, presenting a clear opportunity to offer them more avenues to store money.

For less commercially-oriented smallholders, improved agronomic practices and better agricultural risk management would also be important, according to CGAP. Off-takers interested in reaching smallholders, for example, would need to bundle agronomic support and financial tools, the report says.

While subsidized inputs have proven to increase production for smallholder farmers who are able to access them, they tend to treat the symptom rather than the underlying disease, which is, at least in part, a combination of the high cost of inputs, farmers’ inability to store money safely when they can, and poor knowledge of improved agricultural practices to increase the return on investment when they are able to procure the inputs.

To tackle these problems in a sustainable way, we need to improve the way that input and financial markets function for poor smallholders. One way to do this is by creating incentives for smallholders to save and invest in their farm. These incentives should include access to discounted inputs based on market principles such as bulk purchases, access to vital market and agronomic information, guaranteed yield increases and protection against crop failure, and access to markets.

An input subsidy is like giving a runner one running shoe. Creating market incentives for smallholders to save and invest in their farms is like giving the runner the complete pair and the motivation to cross the finish line.

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Tags:  access to finance  Africa  agriculture  fintech  ICT4D  inputs  smallholder farmers  social entrepreneurship 

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Mobile World Congress 2016 Jumpstart pitchers: Esoko

Posted By Simone Fugar, Esoko, Friday, February 26, 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf8ZvU7lS4o

 

Author: Hillary Miller-Wise (Esoko CEO) for Mobile World Congress 2016 

 

Like many technology start-ups that have managed to survive beyond a year or two, Esoko is continually evolving. We believe that when you are finished changing, you are finished in this industry.

One of our biggest challenges for us has been to evolve quickly and in a smart way. We haven’t always succeeded at that but we’ve learned a few things along the way.

Before I go there, let me first talk about the problem we are trying to solve and how we are solving it. Smallholder farmers across Africa struggle to access the information they need to increase productivity and sell their crops at a good price. Esoko believes that by putting simple but powerful communication tools in the hands of agribusinesses and farmers, we can make markets work better for the poor.

We use mobile and web technology to provide farmers with vital information on how to grow their crops better, what inputs to use, where to sell and at what price. We also enable businesses like buyers, input suppliers, financial institutions and mobile operators to gain better visibility into what’s happening on the farm and to know their customer. We currently work in 10 countries and reach more than 300,000 farmers.

 

 

During our seven years, we have made several strategic pivots. One of the first was a market segment problem pivot. We started by targeting farmers directly but, given their low willingness to pay, we pivoted to serve businesses and other entities that work with farmers. Another was a sales channel pivot. We launched in Ghana and served customers directly, but now we also work through resellers in different markets, who we’ve trained and certified to sell our services. This year, we are planning perhaps our biggest pivot to date. We will carry out a customer problem pivot by integrating digital financial services as part of our suite of service offerings.

Change is hard. One of the ways that we try to mitigate the risks involved in these pivots is to learn as much as we can from others who have tried and succeeded or failed. This is one of the key benefits of Mobile World Congress for us. It provides us with an opportunity to see how other companies are solving for similar challenges. It also affords us an opportunity to explore strategic partnerships to grow the business and continue to innovate.

By the end of 2020, Esoko will have grown its revenue 10 times over 2015 levels and be the leading solution for businesses to communicate and transact with last-mile markets in Africa. We will only get there by continuing to learn and by being willing to change.

 

Tags:  Agriculture  capacity development  social entrepreneurship  social impact 

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Food for Thought - Made in Africa for Africa

Posted By Irmgard Jansen, BoP Innovation Center, Tuesday, September 22, 2015

On the 27th of October 2SCALE organizes the ‘Food for Thought: Made in Africa, for Africa!’ conference in the New World Campus in The Hague, to get a better understanding of what makes African agri-business tick and what makes partnerships succeed. We invited CEOs of seven African companies to share their experience with us; from the start of their business venture
to their growth and success of today, and the challenges they faced along the way. What does it take for an African farmer or entrepreneur to contribute to food security and better livelihoods? And how can African and Dutch entrepreneurs build strong partnerships to develop the agricultural sector in Africa? We have also invited agri and food experts who will comment on why some businesses succeed while others fail.

African economies are rising, and so are their agri-food industries. Still, access to food remains a challenge for most consumer segments. Greater market participation by small-scale local entrepreneurs will boost food security and agriculture-based trade in Africa. Market expansion will also give farmers the incentive to invest in productivity enhancing technologies. 2SCALE builds
partnerships for agri-business and helps to create new businesses and expand existing ones. From the smallholder farmer producing tomatoes for the local market to the young ambitious entrepreneur or the Dutch company looking for local partners to strengthen their position. Generally, farming is not being perceived of as professional business, whereas programs like 2SCALE reveal that farming can be (and should be seen as) serious business that contributes to food security.

2SCALE covers 9 countries (Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Sudan and Uganda) and a number of product groups that can make a difference – bringing prosperity to small-scale farmers, emerging enterprises and Base of the Pyramid consumers. This implies for example the inclusion of women and the younger generations, and the empowerment of
smallholder farmers. Furthermore, 2SCALE creates networks that provide market opportunities, technologies, training, business support, credit and insurance - all the elements needed for profitable, sustainable business. Halfway through the five-year project the impact is clearly visible:

  • 50 well-established public-private partnerships are active and created new businesses and business activities
  • More than 1,600 companies are buying produce from, selling agricultural inputs to, or providing services to small scale farmers;
  • More than 265,000 smallholder farmers have improved crop yields, income and family nutrition. Over 30% of these farmers are women;
  • 24 pilot programs are now operational, increasing access to low cost nutritious food for BoP consumers; and
  • 20 learning and coaching programs for local-level networking and capacity strengthening are being implemented.  

Contact: To learn more about the conference, please check the 2SCALE website (http://2scale.org/event/2scale-business-event) or contact Irmgard Jansen (jansen@bopinc.org or +31 (0) 30 2305 915).


2SCALE was launched in 2012 and is an initiative of the International Fertilizer Development Center, the International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture and BoP Innovation Center. The project is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Tags:  Access to Finance  africa  Agriculture  Business  East Africa  Entrepreneurship  entrepreneurship ecosystems  gender  impact investment  Scale  West Africa  Women  Youth 

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CSR and Shared Value: What's the Difference?

Posted By Carol Moore, Heifer International, Thursday, May 29, 2014

"What is the proper role of business in society? The question isn’t new. Debates about the private sector’s responsibility for its economic, social and environmental impacts have been raging since the dawn of capitalism. What is new is the emerging global consensus that business is the engine of economic growth and international development, and that business can and must play an indispensable role alongside government, civil society and communities to solve complex, global challenges like hunger, poverty, inequality, unemployment and climate change.

At Heifer International, we know the role of business in society is highly contested ground...."

I invite you to read the rest of the white paper attached to this post, and welcome your comments!

Carol Moore

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Tags:  agriculture  Corporate Responsibility  CSR  Philanthropy 

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