SPARK awards US$63K grant to 10 Liberian agribusinesses
SPARK, a non-governmental organization supporting entrepreneurs and businesses in Liberia, has awarded over US$63,000 in grants to ten Liberian-owned businesses operating along the agricultural value chain. The grant is to enable these SMEs to scale up their operations. The support is part of the program, “Prosperous Agricultural Roadmap to Nutrition and Entrepreneurship, Reinforcing Sustainability” (PARTNERS), and it is funded by the European Union.
According to SPARK, “PARTNERS” is a five-year multi-sectoral programme that seeks to improve the productivity and sustainability of nutrition-sensitive agriculture in Rivercess, Grand Kru, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, and Bomi counties. SPARK along with Welthungerlife Concern Worldwide, and ZOA will implement the programme.
The grant recipients are SMEs involved in the processing of value-added food products predominantly from cassava and plantain. The PARTNERS Programme seeks to develop value chains and markets for five crops: cassava, plantain, moringa, pineapple, and legumes. On average, each beneficiary company received US$6,372. Recipients are expected to use the grant proceeds to increase production, as well as to improve in other areas of capacity gaps identified.
According to a Business Capacity Audit (BCA) conducted in November 2020 by the Firm Making Enterprises hired by SPARK, the companies have varying capacity challenges ranging from financial to human resource, external relations and strategic management, which have potentially affected their growth. Put directly, most of the companies have no or poor record-keeping systems, lack clear strategic goals and visions, and standard human resource policy.
A release from SPARK indicates that in early December 2020, the agribusinesses participated in a week-long workshop held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. The workshop was designed to provide them with the tools and skills needed to address these challenges.
The workshop covered topics in the areas of business record keeping, production and sales forecasting, designing marketing strategies, developing human resource policy and procedures, and developing strategic goals amongst others. At the end of the workshop, each company came up with a capacity improvement plan, which it committed to implement within one year.
Also under the PARTNERS Programme, SPARK is providing access to finance and technical support to start-up entrepreneurs along the strategic value chains.
In late November 2020, about ten aspiring entrepreneurs from Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, and Rivercess counties received over US$50,000 ($5,000 on average) to engage in the production of value-added products such as super gari, cassava flour, plantain chips, pineapple juice, and animal feeds. Some of those grantees have started production, while a few others are setting up their production facilities and have planned to begin full operation in 2021. An additional 10 young entrepreneurs have been recruited to benefit from the programme.