It’s been less than six months since five entrepreneurs won business growth grants of up to US$40,000. On a monitoring mission in May this year, UNDP found that the winning enterprises are putting the co—financing grants to good use as they begin implementing their business plans.
The entrepreneurs have used first tranche of their grants to acquire new equipment and business facilities, as well as to renovate and expand existing production facilities.
Jared K Lankah, 30, founded Nimba Venture in 2019 to address the perennial scarcity of snails during the dry season. The business has used the first payment to purchase a vehicle to help him transport his farming supplies, and equipment including an irrigation machine. He also bought an extra piece of land in Saclepea to expand operations and construct additional snail production structures.
Nimba Venture wants to expand its snail production facility more than 10-fold, from a 27-breeding compartment facility, each of which accommodates 45 snails, to a more than 300 compartment snail breeding enterprise.
The firm will also transition its production system to the green house plant breeding model, which is envisioned to intensify production. In the expanded facility, less than 45 snails will be held in each compartment giving them more space to reproduce faster compared to the intensive clustered method that has been characterized by overcrowding of snails in few compartments limiting their reproduction potential.
“We want to build more than 300 compartments that will enable us to breed and supply over 100,000 snails all year round and move into packaging for supermarkets and possibly for exports,” says Lankah.
As a result of the Growth Accelerator grant, Nimba Venture now operates from two locations – Monrovia and Saclepea, and mentors and trains aspiring snail farmers, including the youth, to set up their own snail farms.
In 2016, Paul Wungko, 34, decided to start poultry and piggery farming. He also produces animal feeds and plantain chips. With the Growth Accelerator grant, he plans to diversify production to include vegetables and goats as part of efforts to expand.
“We have hired agronomists to test run the cultivation of vegetable seedlings and will use the by-product from kernel cake to produce washing soap,” Paul noted.
He has already cleared over 25 acres of land to plant additional corn for production of chicken feed. He will also plant 10,000 plantain heads to produce more plantain chips.
He is also acquiring several pieces of equipment including a turbine mixed agricultural water pump, gun irrigation system, palm kernel cracker, palm kernel expeller, power tiller, wooden packaging etc. He has also started the construction of additional housing structures for his animals.
Before the Growth Accelerator, Paul was already a beneficiary of the UNDP Liberia’s Livelihood and Employment Creation program, having received a tractor procured through the Ministry of Agriculture.
Joshua Zemah, 27, established Redimere Inc. in 2018 to produce Liberia’s first brand of chocolate. He is currently producing chocolate products including chocolate bars in different flavors – honey, coconut, pepper, and plain dark chocolate, as well as cocoa powder, chocolate chips, brownie mix, chocolate liquor, nibs, and cocoa butter. Some of the products can be found in few of the supermarkets in the country.
“My dream is to build a Liberian owned chocolate factory that allows Liberians to purchase and enjoy locally made, high quality chocolate products that are affordable,” says Joshua.
He has used the first portion of his grant to order several equipment including a cocoa press, a melanger machine, a tempering machine, and to purchase larger quantities of cocoa beans to expand his chocolatier business. The grant is also being used to locally assemble a cocoa roaster because ordering one is very expensive. The roaster is used to help separate the outer coverings of the cocoa bean from the inner part, which makes cracking and removing the chaff much easier. It also virtually sterilizes the cocoa bean.
Christollie Ade Suah, 30, established The Lunchbox in 2019 to prepare, package, sell and/or deliver meals to Monrovia’s working class, and caters for weddings and other events.
Before the Growth Accelerator grant, Christollie was operating the Lunch Box from her home. Now she has secured a bigger facility where she can expand her home-based business to a fully-fledged restaurant.
She has also used the first tranche of her grant to procure machines and supplies including a spice grinder, spice filling machines and pouches. Christollie Ade Suah’s vision is to also produce locally made Liberian spice that add value to cooking.
She has further renovated the kitchen space and the juice station. She has also since increased her staff from two to ten people and trained them on food safety, standards of performance, and customer service.
“Our dream is to remain on the path of becoming a household name,” says Christollie.
Libra Sanitation, Inc. is a Liberia’s first privately owned waste management and sanitation company that was established in March 2004. It provides full-service, solid waste management including collection and disposal of non-hazardous solid waste, low-scale recycling, water delivery, land scaling and landfill disposal services to commercial, industrial, municipal and residential customers throughout Liberia.
With the Growth Accelerator grant, the business plans to scale-up compost making using biodegradable wastes. The company is using the first tranche of their grant to construct two compost workstations, compost pits, storage facilities and an office on two lots of land in the Fendal Community in Monrovia. The proprietor Roland Dakagboi displayed two locally built compost bins and assorted materials such as shovels, water pump, helmets, gloves, rain gear, tarpaulin and other supplies purchased to facilitate the expansion of the business.
“Our goal is to produce non-toxic Liberian-made fertilizers,” says Roland Dakagboi.
The company will place waste bins at designated areas around Monrovia, including the busy Omega market where a dedicated staff/agent will be situated to encourage and provide guidance to marketeers and those using the bins on how to separate and dispose organic wastes.
Dakagboi informed the monitoring team that the company will soon launch a market assessment survey to attract interested clients.
“We have started engaging bigger companies like Wealla and Mano as well as local farm cooperatives and small-holder farmers who could be interested in our products which will pose no threat of pollution for the environment,” Dakagboi noted.
The UNDP Growth Accelerator Liberia grant competition is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Icampus Liberia.
The second round of the competition is underway. UNDP plans to invest USD 860,000 in seven successful businesses and five agricultural cooperatives in 2022.