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Supporting Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Agriculture

In late September, Endeavor Insight released ‘Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Agriculture: The Impact of Successful Founders and How Decision Makers Can Support Them’. Co-funded by Small Foundation and The Lemelson Foundation, the research report seeks to understand how entrepreneurial agricultural companies maximise their impact in Africa and India.  

The research explores what enterprises and entrepreneurial ecosystems need, and offers agri-entrepreneurship case studies. Building on recent research segmenting the entrepreneurial landscape, the report identifies the various challenges and dynamics faced by founders and enterprises operating in the agricultural sector. The report highlights the different opportunities which software companies, invention-based enterprises and business process companies face and the means through which these enterprises can impact on poverty alleviation and SDG-attainment.  

By contrasting data from enterprises engaging in the maize value chain in Nigeria and enterprises engaging in the macadamia value chain in Kenya, the research identifies the differing evolution of entrepreneurship across value chains, noting particularly where greater opportunities for innovation exist. The maize value chain in Nigeria is centred on production for domestic consumption, where entrepreneurship opportunities exist in engaging with farmers – potentially impacting job creation and income generation – through extending access to finance, insurance or transportation. In contrast, the macadamia value chain in Kenya, which is export-focused, presents greater opportunities for entrepreneurship in upstream activities, such as input supply, or downstream processing, such as processing. Not only does this difference impact on the ability or necessity of entrepreneurs to engage directly with smallholders and other producers, but also impacts on their ability to access finance, mentorship and scale their business.  

Another key finding of the research is that local founders and management teams are at a significant disadvantage when accessing financial and operational support, but suggests that local founders are likely to form stronger linkages with smallholders. If investment in agri-entrepreneurship is to address poverty, this ability to reach and engage smallholders is of critical importance. Ensuring local entrepreneurs can access resources for growth is vital. Supporting local agri-entrepreneurs also has potential ecosystem benefits, as these individuals become the mentors and angel investors of the future.  

The report makes a number of recommendations for decision-makers and other key stakeholders who support entrepreneurs. Many of these recommendations speak loudly to Small Foundation’s work. As we continue to evolve our strategy, the insights around the value of tailored support to entrepreneurs and the value addition local entrepreneurs bring to local ecosystems are front of mind.  

Questions, queries and comments regarding the research are warmly welcomed. Please feel free to contact Thomas Caffrey Osvald: thomascaffreyosvald@smallfoundation.ie    

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