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Entrepreneurs Call for Urgent Need to Rethink Asia's Agribusiness

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 28, 2018

BANGKOK, November 22, 2018 – What is the business case – the ideal eco-system – for sustainable agriculture and forestry?  Is certification worth the cost? How to feed a growing world as youths leave farming? From Thai social enterprises working with organic rice farmers to one of the world’s largest coffee producers, speakers at Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs’ (ANDE) inaugural lab on sustainable agriculture, held in Bangkok on November 22, brainstormed a new agricultural eco-system to feed a growing world with shrinking natural resources.

“There’s no getting around it: we need more active participants in this evolving ecosystem,” said Angela Hogg, the Environment Office Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) office in Asia. “Asia’s food security and environmental protection goals cannot be met without more smallholder producers and businesses adopting more sustainable practices.”

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates smallholder producers supply some 80 percent of the world’s food.

The challenge to transform agriculture is ambitious and the time short, added Hogg, referring to a recent UN report that called for “unprecedented” action to cut carbon emissions.

USAID Green Invest Asia, a facility brokering private sector investments in Asia’s mid-sized sustainable businesses launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development, led the event.  “Current investment is insufficient based on Asia’s projected food needs, alone,” said Christy Owen, the facility’s director. “We need to find a new way to do agribusiness. Urgently.”

DBS, a financial services firm, and the UN Environment Programme have estimated an additional $400 billion is needed between now and 2030 to adequately protect the people, environment and economies of ASEAN countries from the worst effects of climate change and land degradation.

Citibank Foundation, UN Capital Development Fund, the online lending platform Kiva and Asia Development Bank were among the more than 40 attendees.  Kiva’s largest lending sector is agriculture, said Mark McDonagh, its investment manager in the Asia-Pacific region.

While most of Kiva’s loans are micro-loans of $5,000 or less, there is a growing number of larger loans going to social enterprises, mostly in the field of agriculture, said McDonagh. “A flexible agriculture loan isn’t rocket science. The issue is whether an investor has the risk appetite.”

Barriers

Relatively few businesses participate in the sustainable marketplace, with most actors coming from multinational corporations.  In breakout sessions to suggest ways to build a new agricultural economy, access to flexible agriculture loans and breaking into the global green marketplace surfaced as common themes.

The U.S. Government identified this gap when founding the USAID Green Invest Asia facility, which helps sustainable businesses become investment ready and links them to investors interested in the triple bottom line, an accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental and financial.

McDonagh, who helps direct lenders to investments that match their interests, said lenders have always valued innovation in choosing projects to fund.

Solutions

“Farmers are, by nature, hackers,” said Bryan Hugill, co-owner of the Thailand-based social enterprise, Raitong Organics. His 11-year-old farm has 43 ongoing innovation experiments, some in coordination with research labs worldwide, including: biodynamic rice farming where chemical fertilizers are replaced with natural bacteria; microbial fuel cells, or the use of bacteria to drive electric currents; deep-litter pig farming; stingless beekeeping, and cataloguing effective microorganisms.

Additional labs on innovation in agriculture to be organized by ANDE include: lessons learned in agricultural technology with USAID Feed the Future Asia; the role of women as sustainable consumers and investors with ANDE, and agricultural service delivery to smallholder farmers with Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.

Read the original press release here. 

Tags:  Agribusiness  Agriculture  Asia  Learning Lab  USAID 

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USAID competition now rolling to support innovations any day of the year, any sector, any country.

Posted By Kristen Gendron, U.S. Agency for International Development, Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Development Innovation Ventures (DIV), USAID’s open innovation fund, now accepts applications for innovative development solutions on a rolling basis, any day of the year. We are currently entering our fall application cycle, and looking for your help directing the best innovators to our competition.

Help us spread the word and apply today! Winners receive $150,000 to $15M depending on stage, plus nonfinancial assistance through a swat team of DIV portfolio advisers to support their organization’s growth. Proposals can be in any sector and any country in which USAID can operate.

To learn more, share with your networks, or to apply, see fast facts and tweets below, and visit DIV's website for more information.

About DIV


Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) is an innovation fund within USAID that sources, tests, and supports the growth of proven, cost-effective interventions.  Using a venture-capital approach, DIV directly invests USAID dollars through its global platform in solutions that demonstrate impact and have the potential to achieve sustainable scale.  

 

Applying to DIV: 5 things you need to know


  1. DIV invests across 3 stages of growth with grant funding ranging from under 150K to 15 million. Applicants select a stage based on how much evidence, if any, they have previously gathered of their solution’s success.

  2. DIV looks for solutions based on three pillars: 1) cost-effectiveness relative to alternative solutions; 2) evidence or plans to gather evidence of the solution’s impacts; and 3) the applicant’s plans to sustainably scale the solution beyond DIV if it is proven successful.

  3. DIV is about open innovation. That means the competition accepts applications every day of the year. Solutions can be in any sector and any country in which USAID operates. And proposals can come from any type of organization anywhere in the world.

  4. DIV uses a two-step application process. The first step is a 5 page business plan, or letter of interest, that is intended to be a light lift for both the applicants and the reviewers to assess whether the organizations are a potential fit. If you are invited to the next stage, DIV asks applicants to submit a more in-depth proposal that is evaluated by a panel of experts for final selection.

  5. DIV’s guiding document provides more thorough information on how to apply, what we look for, and what applicants can expect in our process. Use the APS in assessing your fit with DIV and in filling out your application!


Spreading the word on social media:

  • Looking for seed financing or scaling support? @DIVatUSAID winners receive up to $15M. Apply today http://goo.gl/lv6WvV
  • Help spread the word about @DIVatUSAID to innovators in #GlobalDev around the world! Apply now! http://goo.gl/lv6WvV
  • #Innovation competition @USAID looks for bold #globaldev ideas from anyone, anywhere. Apply to @DIVatUSAID now. http://goo.gl/lv6WvV
  • Awesome competition to apply to: @DIVatUSAIDlooking for innovative development solutions. Apply today http://goo.gl/lv6WvV #SocEnt
  • .@DIVatUSAID is looking to fund the next big idea in #GlobalDev. Apply now! http://goo.gl/lv6WvV

Learn more:

Visit us online here.


Tags:  Access to Finance  Asia  Business  Business Models  early stage ecosystem  emerging markets  Entrepreneurship  finance  Grants  impact investing  impact investment  Latin America  Philanthropy; impact investing  Scale  social enterprise  Social Entrepreneurship 

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USAID's Open Innovation Competition: Upcoming Deadline 4/15/2014

Posted By Kristen Gendron, U.S. Agency for International Development, Tuesday, March 18, 2014
USAID's Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program seeks innovative development solutions in any sector and country, and from nearly any organization in the world. The next competition round closes April 15, 2014. Apply today!

More about DIV

DIV at USAID is an open competition supporting breakthrough solutions to the world's most intractable development challenges—interventions that could change millions of lives at a fraction of the usual cost. DIV is interested in innovations that are expected to lead to transformative (as opposed to incremental) improvements that could ultimately scale across multiple developing countries and, ideally, multiple sectors in these countries.

More about how to apply

Virtually any organization is eligible to apply with a solution for a development challenge in any sector or country in which USAID operates. Interested applicants must submit a five-page business plan, or Letter of Interest, to the DIV competition outlining their innovation and its potential to be more cost-effective, evidence-based, and scalable than traditional approaches. The DIV competition is open quarterly, with the next round closing December 16 at 11:59 EST.

More information on how to apply can be found online: www.usaid.gov/div/apply.

Tags:  Africa  Asia  Entrepreneurship  impact investing  Latin America  Social entrepreneurship 

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