–Awards over US$63K Grants to 10 SMEs
SPARK, a non-governmental entity supporting ambitious entrepreneurs and businesses in Liberia, has awarded over US$63,000 in grants to ten Liberian-owned businesses operating along the agricultural value chains to enable them scale up their operations. The support is part of the program, “Prosperous Agricultural Roadmap to Nutrition and Entrepreneurship, Reinforcing Sustainability” (PARTNERS), funded by the European Union.
The five-year, multi-sectoral programme seeks to improve the productivity and sustainability of nutrition-sensitive agriculture in seven (7) counties of Liberia, including Rivercess, Grand Kru, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, and Bomi. Three NGO partners, including Welthungerhilfe Concern Worldwide, ZOA and SPARK are implementing the Programme.
The grant recipients are typically 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. Grantees 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 companies participated in a week-long workshop held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, 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 the next 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 being recruited to benefit from the programme.