Innovating Agribusiness for Smallholder Farmers in Kenya

By Olivia Allen

Mike Behan, a 2013 grad­u­ate of the D’Amore McKim School of Busi­ness  is cur­rently par­tic­i­pat­ing in a  fel­low­ship with Root Cap­i­tal  to work with small­holder farm­ers in Kenya. 

Root Cap­i­tal is a non­profit invest­ing firm that pro­vides financ­ing to small and medium enter­prises (SMEs). Since its incep­tion, it has dis­bursed over $500 mil­lion to 759,000 agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers in Africa and Latin Amer­ica. The social enter­prise was ranked #12 on the list of the “100 Best NGO’s in the World.”

Behan is work­ing within Root Capital’s inno­va­tion port­fo­lio, which is focuses on lend­ing in domes­tic value chains in local cur­ren­cies, rather than export value chains in for­eign cur­ren­cies. Behan is con­duct­ing research on new viable crops includ­ing pota­toes, dairy, aqua­cul­ture, and agri­cul­tural inputs in addi­tion to the coop­er­a­tives in the inno­va­tion port­fo­lio pro­duc­ing seeds, sorghum, honey, and seeds. He also works to gauge the prof­itabil­ity of of hybrid seeds for three coop­er­a­tives that pro­duce high yield­ing maize varieties.

Prior to his fel­low­ship at Root Cap­i­tal, Behan com­pleted two co-ops with Njabini Inc, a social enter­prise he founded to pro­vide employ­ment to dis­abled Kenyan women. Njabini Inc, now a agribusi­ness posi­tioned Behan to bet­ter under­stand his work with Root Cap­i­tal part­ners. ”Liv­ing in Njabini for a num­ber of years exposed me to the chal­lenges small­holder farm­ers face and the oppor­tu­ni­ties availed to them through inputs, aggre­ga­tion points, or agribusi­nesses much like many of the ones Root Cap­i­tal finances,” said Behan.

Behan hopes to con­tinue his work with Root Cap­i­tal and the agri­cul­tural lend­ing space in the future. “It has been an incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence work­ing with a bril­liant and com­mit­ted team and it’s cer­tainly taught me quite a lot about how social enter­prises should operate.”

Hav­ing stud­ied Root Capital’s model with the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute, work­ing in the filed with Root Cap­i­tal has reaf­firmed Behan’s belief that Root Cap­i­tal is truly  a trail­blazer in the social enter­prise space and has paved the way for agri­cul­tural lending.