In Nigeria, where Whole Foods Market sources ginger, Whole Planet Foundation offers scale capital to the agriculture social enterprise Babban Gona. Babban Gona is working to make rural farming profitable for smallholder farmers in northern Nigeria. Their founder, Kola Masha, started the business to engage young Nigerians that have increasingly rejected farming as a sustainable livelihood (read more about this phenomenon in this recent interview with Kola or this TED talk). Today about half of Babban Gona’s 18,000 current farmer clients are young farmers growing opportunities for rural livelihoods in poor communities.
During my most recent visit to the program to discuss the evolution of Babban Gona’s outreach across communities I spent an afternoon learning about new technologies being integrated into Babban Gona’s businesses processes demonstrated by Assistant Member Services Supervisor Abbas who was excited to show off the new applications Babban Gona is testing to remotely measure clients’ fields after seed had been planted (this certifies that their clients are using their farm inputs appropriately).
Abbas, however, also explained that he is more than just a Babban Gona staff but is also a farmer himself with a loan from Babban Gona to finance 0.3 hectares of farmland (about ¾ of an acre) growing maize. Abbas took out a microloan of about $100 to finance maize seeds, fertilizers, training and harvest support for his plot of land. When the maize is harvested, this initial loan is extended with a larger post-harvest loan of $160, equivalent to the market price of harvested maize which is put into storage.
This post-harvest loan gives Abbas an additional $60 to finance living expenses until the maize is ultimately sold through lucrative marketing channels established by Babban Gona. Over the next year, he will receive profit payments on additional income earned by his maize above the local market price as it is sold through Babban Gona’s market channels. So far in the first half of 2018, he and his loan group earned $75 and Abbas reported that he used his harvest advance loan to purchase additional farmland that will help increase his yield in the future!
This is how Babban Gona turns a traditional farm loan for a very small farm into a highly profitable activity, allowing their borrowers to access better post-harvest prices by aggregating their produce together for onward sale to premium buyers. Babban Gona is a dynamic approach to sourcing quality agricultural produce from traditionally marginalized communities that is changing how a new generation approaches farming and the economic possibilities of their local economy.