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Sub-Saharan Africa

Supporting Senegal’s smallholder farmers: Aventura Investment Partners

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Country: Senegal
Sector: Agriculture

Challenge: Much of the food in Senegal is produced by small scale farmers who have limited resources, often lack basic equipment like tractors, and have no real value chain for consistently delivering a quality product to market. Farmers often live in poverty and food production is limited.

Solution: Aventura was formed to provide farmers with a full range of value chain services to help them improve yields and expand production. In 2014, OPIC committed a $3 million loan to Aventura to help it purchase more tractors, combine harvesters, cold storage facilities and advanced systems like satellite surveillance.

Impact: In one example of the benefits of a strong value chain, mango farmers worked with Aventura to process their harvests in packing and cold storage facilities, which helped them dramatically increase sale prices from three cents per kilo to between 15 and 20 cents. Aventura expects the farmers it supports will be able to grow more food and triple or quadruple their prices by accessing a better supply chain.

Imagine being a farmer without a tractor
Agriculture is central to the economy of Senegal and is the country’s main source of employment. But most of the farmers who produce crops like rice, onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mangos, and cashews are poor, living on less than $2000 per year.  Working on small parcels of land that are often less than four acres, they have little modern equipment, sometimes even lacking a basic tractor, and no structured system for storing and transporting food.

Aventura Investment Partners was formed in 2010 by Dawn Hines, a former investment banker and venture capitalist, who while visiting a former business school classmate in Senegal, saw “a gap in financing and management expertise.” Aventura was conceived as a business that would improve the agricultural value chain so farmers could produce larger quantities of food and earn more income.

“In the U.S. and Europe, there are a lot of small farmers but they have better value chains,” explains Hines. “They have access to packing houses and wholesale buyers and have other structures in place to support them. This value chain doesn’t exist in most of West Africa. We believe this is why so many smallholder farmers are remaining in poverty.”

Hines said that some seasons, farmers decline to even put seed in the ground because they know they will not be able to prepare the soil and harvest on time without modern equipment.

To date, Aventura has worked with over 5000 farmers, many of whom were able to increase production by as much as 100%.  The annual incomes of these farmers have increased by as much as 200%.

Aventura, which was initially funded with grant money and funds from private investors, plans to use the funding OPIC provided to expand its services with additional staff and equipment like tractors, combines and harvesters.

“For early stage companies in Africa, it’s very difficult to attract private sector money,” said Hines. “With the loan from OPIC, we should be able to triple our machine capacity and triple or quadruple the number of customers or smallholder farmers we will be able to serve.”

Aventura expects to be able to support between 10,000 and 15,000 small holder farmers by 2017 with production and post-harvest services that will help them triple or quadruple their annual incomes.

“The exciting thing is that when we come in with our services, there is an immediate impact and the impact is growing,” said Hines.

This project was profiled in 2014