The toolkit aims to make small and medium-sized entrepreneurs thrive

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has released the latest update of a toolkit that supports rural-based small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and especially those in farming.

Known as RuralInvest, the kit offers its user a path from theory to practice to assist entrepreneurs in creating sustainable and bankable business plans.

According to FAO, over 80 per cent of the world's food is produced by family farming and yet less than 10 per cent of smallholders have access to finance.

Without clear and effective business models, farmers and rural entrepreneurs find it challenging to convince financial institutions and banks to invest. Agriculture is considered by many financial institutions a risky investment and its profitability are difficult to gauge.

The toolkit aims to make small and medium-sized entrepreneurs thrive by empowering them, through trained intermediaries - to translate their business ideas and vision into concrete plans that can attract investors.

Over the past five years, RuralInvest has supported the growth of more than 1,000 agribusinesses in more than 15 countries, catalysing an estimated Sh 4.4 billion in investment to date and supporting a new generation of rural enterprises worldwide.

The latest version of the software offers a user-friendly, multilingual interface, combined with hands-on support, opening it to a wider range of users.

The free toolkit is supported by a brand new software called RIV20, accessed via the RuralInvest website recently updated through close collaboration with the FAO digitisation and information technology division, which enables users to develop professional and quality business plans.

The field technician understands what the farmer's vision is, learns how and which data need to be collected and inputs it into the software, which automatically systematises the information and brings to life clear and visually effective business plans. The approach is bottom-up, with ongoing communication between the RuralInvest user and the farmer, who interact and exchange ideas in group sessions using the RuralInvest business plan, with the objective of adding value and substance to the entrepreneur's vision.