Through a grant from the JSF Programme, Momar Taal realized his dream of creating a processing facility that sources produce from local farmers and packages it for regional distribution. The company is called Tropingo Foods, and it collects the best agricultural produce from the Gambia’s rich, fertile lands and sells it locally, regionally, and internationally.

Taal is a business maverick in the Gambia who is always on the lookout for expansion. Through the success of Tropingo, which produces, processes, and distributes fruit (mainly mangoes), vegetables (such as okra and pepper), nuts (peanuts and cashews), and spices, Taal was able to create a new company called M&I.

Realizing the importance of soil erosion and the repetitive nature of cultivating and harvesting produce on the same land, Taal and his partners devised an idea to create a company that would provide fertilizer to the same farms that provide his first company with the produce. This was mainly inspired by the abundance of groundnut shells from processing. Groundnut shells are nutritious fertilizers for several crops, including mint and lettuce.

Taal’s previous company employed hundreds of Gambian youth and women. Tropingo offers technical assistance to producers so they can improve the quality of their production and meet the quality standards of international markets. This, in turn, has improved the quality of produce from root to harvest.

M&I is a relatively new company that rides on the shoulders of Tropingo, which was supported by a grant through the JSF Programme. The company started by acquiring heaps of discarded groundnut shells from many farmers at a low price and turning them into sustainable and nutritious soil.

When picking the company's location, Taal opted for an area near a swamp formerly used to leave manure, which he calls “ancient manure” left to be baked by the sun for years and can be used as an excellent fertilizer when mixed and adequately processed.

The newly formulated soil is sold at affordable prices for the same farms that provide Tropingo with fruits and vegetables. This new idea has eradicated the need to source fertilizers from other countries and reduced conventional petrochemical use. The newly created fertilizer is called biohumus - a nutrient-rich organic substance that can be added to soil and is produced by worms breaking down an array of organic materials.

Amina Sonko, 32, was formerly an employee at Tropingo but had been promoted to work at M&I. She believes deeply in the company’s potential to provide a great product and help with employment in the area.

She is now the Field Manager at M&I and helps with accounting. She said: “Part of my job is going to the farmers and assessing the quality of the farms - the quality of the food for harvesting. I decide what comes into the factory.”

Sonko is very hands-on when it comes to her field visits to assess the quality of the produce grown on the fertilizer M&I provided. She noted: “I think the fertilizer [from M&I] is the best in the country; we did some tests on cabbage with the fertilizer. We grew the seeds in another fertilizer and our own. Our fertilizer made the cabbage grow faster in many instances.”

Sonko says the promotion has benefitted her greatly. She is now supporting her younger sister, who is 26 and attending Birkama College, studying accounting in order to start her career at one of the local banks. Furthermore, she opened a bank account to save some of her salary.

M&I is an example of how assisting a company through either grants or loans can allow entrepreneurs in LDCs to expand their business or subsidize other businesses. M&I benefitted from the success of Tropingo, being a complementary company and helping in achieving their primary goal of improving agricultural produce in the country, creating job opportunities for locals and diversifying their exports. Moreover, making abundant discarded materials, like groundnut shells and manure, a new commodity in the market.

“We have more than 100 farmers in our roster, covering all the provinces in the Gambia, and through word-of-mouth, we are expanding. Some farms want fertilizers and by association end up sending back their produce to Tropingo,” said Sanko.

She continued: “Hard work and experience have led me to a promotion from accounting at Tropingo to Field Manager at M&I. The company realized my expertise and took me to another place. I want to work with them for the next decade to save for my next venture, starting a fish farm of tilapia and catfish.”

Taal acknowledges the opportunities both companies made available to the local community. He said: “We appreciate everybody at UNCDF and their partners [through the JSF Progamme] with their commitment towards us. They supported from the get-go.”

“We started during the COVID pandemic, which derailed a lot of plans, but UNCDF was there and understood what we needed, and we hope to continue working on our partnership in the future,” he concluded.

With the important support of the European Union (EU), UNCDF is delighted to support small to medium enterprises (SMEs) like Tropingo. In the Gambia, over 80% of the SME sector is either at the start-up or survival stages. Tropingo was one of the first investments made by UNCDF to support some of the SME sector in elevating survival to the growth stage. Through this investment, Tropingo was able to create over 100 direct and indirect jobs and establish a new subsidiary company as part of its business expansion. This is a clear testament to our commitment to private sector development in the LDC.

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is the United Nations' flagship catalytic financing entity for the world’s 45 least developed countries (LDCs). With its unique capital mandate and focus on the LDCs, UNCDF works to invest and catalyse capital to support these countries in achieving the sustainable growth and inclusiveness envisioned by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Doha Programme of Action for the least developed countries, 2022–2031.

UNCDF builds partnerships with other UN organizations, as well as private and public sector actors, to achieve greater impact in development, specifically by unlocking additional resources and strengthening financing mechanisms and systems contributing to transformation pathways, focusing on such development themes as green economy, digitalization, urbanization, inclusive economies, gender equality, and women’s economic empowerment.

A hybrid development finance institution and development agency, UNCDF uses a combination of capital instruments (deployment, financial and business advisory and catalysation) and development instruments (technical assistance, capacity development, policy advice, advocacy, thought leadership, and market analysis and scoping), which are applied across five priority areas (inclusive digital economies, local transformative finance, women’s economic empowerment, climate, energy, and biodiversity finance, and sustainable food systems finance).

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).

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