A Program That’s a Win-Win for Rural Businesses and Young Talent

This post originally appeared on the blog of the Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab. Each year, more than 10 million young people across Africa enter the job market, competing for just three million formal jobs. As the continent’s youth population swells steadily towards a projected total of 800 million by 2050, this demographic crisis will intensify even further.

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Topics: Advisory Services | Partnerships | West Africa | Youth |

Human-Centered Design: From California to Côte d’Ivoire

Last year, we asked young leaders in rural Ghana what it takes to be an effective agricultural business leader in their communities. Our next step was to translate what we learned into prototypes designed to strengthen the agricultural leaders of today and tomorrow.

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Topics: Advisory Services | West Africa | Youth |

Reclaiming Home-Grown Grains in Senegal

After years of watching working mothers switch from feeding their children Senegalese grains to imported rice, Bineta Coulibaly decided to take action.

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Topics: Food Security | Stories of Impact | West Africa | Women in Agriculture |

Launching Youth Leadership Development Advisory Services in Rural Ghana

Other than the fact that dresses and headscarves made of brightly patterned kente cloth dotted the room, the scene could have been from a young professionals’ networking event in San Francisco or Boston: 11 millennials, gathered into small focus groups in a hotel conference room, discussing what leadership meant to them.

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Topics: Advisory Services | West Africa |

What do Silicon Valley and Africa’s Sahel Have In Common?

Overlooking a village in southeastern Senegal.    What do Silicon Valley and Africa’s Sahel have in common? At first blush, not too much. One is apps, algorithms, and acquisitions, and the other? Well, you might be thinking more of a woman in a field, tilling soil with a hand hoe, a vast horizon behind her. Over the last month, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to both places – first to eastern Senegal to meet with Root Capital clients (agricultural businesses organizing hundreds of cashew growers and millet farmers across the remote region), and later to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University in Palo Alto, convened by President Obama. And I can tell you one thing: the very same entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that fuels Silicon Valley is alive and well on the last mile of dirt roads in the Sahel. The problem is, the world hasn’t supported agricultural entrepreneurs in the same way that Silicon Valley supports tech entrepreneurs. But what if it did?

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Topics: Partnerships | Stories of Impact | West Africa |

How Extension Services Drive Business Success

In December, we published an issue brief focused on the potential of small-and-growing businesses to create shared value for entire supply chains through their agricultural extension services. When delivered effectively, extension services can serve public objectives related to improved farmer livelihoods and environmental conservation, as well as commercial objectives related to procurement and supply chain risk mitigation. In this post, we discuss one example of successful shared value extension from our portfolio. Agriaccess General Manager Tony Poore speaking to one of the Agriaccess farmer groups about an upcoming input delivery

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Topics: Advisory Services | Food Security | Partnerships | West Africa |

The Mango Farmer Who Changed Everything

Mango farmer, Burkina Faso. A few years ago, a mango farmer in Burkina Faso told us something that forever changed the way we interact with our clients and the farmers they serve. “I don’t want to answer any questions,” the farmer said as one of our impact surveyors approached him. “Here you come to ask us the same silly questions that you go sell to aid sponsors…. You’ll ask me my name, my family size, the kinds of goods I have, and so on, and so on.… Go take the answers from the [other organizations’ surveys] we provided last year.”

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Topics: Advisory Services | West Africa |

In the West African Sahel, Women Stand Like Giants

The baobab trees of West Africa, gigantic in size and majestic in stature, are providers: They store water and food for animals in times of drought; they provide homes for birds (owls, parakeets and hawks) throughout the year; and, for many local families, the mighty baobab produces fruit, seeds and leaves that provide a critical source of income. Just starting a Root Capital due diligence trip in northern Senegal, beside the mighty baobab tree.

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Topics: Food Security | West Africa | Women in Agriculture |

Asuom, Ghana: Where Sustainable Palm Oil is Not an Oxymoron

Serendipalm employees in Asuom, Ghana. Photo credit: Dr. Bronner's. One hundred miles northwest of Accra, Ghana, sits Asuom, a village of surprising and beautiful contrasts and contradictions. The vermilion clay earth and rust-tin roofs in Asuom pop in contrast to the verdant greens of forests nearby. But it’s within these forests that an even more unexpected paradox exists: large, splayed trees producing sustainable palm oil. Four thousand acres of trees are cultivated by the 670 farmer members of Root Capital client Serendipalm – the world’s first, and largest, fair trade and organic certified palm oil company.

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Topics: Environment | Livelihoods | Stories of Impact | West Africa | Women in Agriculture |

Four Observations from Ghana’s Back Roads

As a board director and a donor, I’m in a good spot to closely track Root Capital’s progress, which also gives me regular opportunities to reevaluate the wisdom of my own investments of time and money.  While most of my work with Root Capital is done an arm’s length from the impact, I recently had my third opportunity to visit Root Capital clients, this time in Ghana with fellow board members, Root Capital staff, and my 17-year-old daughter. Here’s some of what I observed:

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Topics: Livelihoods | Our Community | West Africa |