In the first half of 2017, we are looking at BAM companies in different industries. We continue with business as mission in the agriculture industry, sharing insights and stories from experienced company owners.
We asked BAMers involved in agriculture:
What are the advantages of being in the agriculture industry when it comes to doing BAM?
I see three advantages of being in the agricultural industry when it comes to doing BAM. First of all, everybody in the world needs food to eat. Food comes from agriculture. So if somebody has know-how in food production and food preservation it is the best industry for business. Second, it is easy to start in the agricultural industry. In every location there is already existing agricultural activity. No or only few imports are needed. Finally, it is easy to connect to people on the level of food because everybody relates to it. – Decent, Malawi
I think there is a big advantage in that with agriculture most of the grassroots people in your area can relate to you. They can see what you are doing and how it can have direct benefits to them. They can also get involved by utilizing your products on their farm, or learning and implementing what you are introducing, if it is new technology or improved methods. This can impact a huge number of people right there where you are. The people receiving those benefits are those who are working hard to legitimately provide a life and future for their families. If you impact them, and help them, you provide hope. Just like the hope and dignity you give to your employees, this can be multiplied out to the recipients of your product or technology, allowing them to better provide for their families. – Ben, Central Asia
One of the biggest advantages is that agriculture is what many of the world’s poorest know and do to survive, especially in rural areas. It provides not only an opportunity for relationship, but also for the greatest amount of social impact. In our region, almost everyone owns a cow and an acre, which gives them an asset to build upon. There can be some great opportunities if you can facilitate the production of the masses to gain an edge in the market. It’s not easy, but through training, micro-finance, quality standardization, market connection, etc. we are able to generate more wealth together than individually. Additionally, due to the patience, nurturing, and organic nature of agriculture, there is something that connects on a deeper level with the Gospel than “transaction” or “short-term” oriented businesses. Agriculture is a journey, similar to our walk with God. – Brian, Kenya
We live in a closed country and I can only speak to the setting that I am currently living in. Doing agriculture here gives us the ability to work with the least reached of the unreached people group that we work among. These farmers have very little contact to the outside world and in our region probably only get to the city a few times each month. Because we do agricultural business in this part of the world the government here doesn’t question who we are and sees us as business professionals. This dynamic then opens doors to see transformation in business practices, agricultural practices and creates a place where we can share the Gospel. The farmers would most likely not be reached through English learning centers or coffee shops being opened up in our city. Those BAM efforts are great, but you would be hard pressed to find a farmer in one! – Marcus, East Asia
I believe that a very large number of unreached people groups are in rural communities. These rural communities remain some of the hardest areas to engage. Most missionaries are based in large cities, capitals, commercial hubs and therefore less focused on the unreached in rural communities. Engaging in agriculture allows us to work among the unreached in some of the most isolated places. When farmers encounter the Gospel in tangible ways, their hearts become fertile soil for a message of love, peace, grace, forgiveness, and hope. We have seen the tremendous need for the Good News to address the issues of suspicion, jealousy, and greed that often is on full display in rural communities. – Brad, Southeast Asia
The biggest advantage to agricultural business opportunity is that, if you already have land, even a small amount, it is very inexpensive to begin. Almost everything using natural farming methods can be done by hand with easy to get hand tools and a few packs of seeds. Depending on how large a project one envisions, it still all needs to start small and scale up, as expertise and market are activated. This allows just about anyone with a desire and a clear vision to begin and build as rapidly as time and understanding allow. Many have started with only a few square meters of land and scaled up to fully supporting themselves and their community. – Carl, Caribbean & Asia
BAM is aimed at meeting basic spiritual and human needs through economic empowerment. Agriculture is one of the universal professions that has been solving basic human needs from generation to generation. As the Great Commission is about getting the gospel to the ends of the earth to solve human’s spiritual self-sufficiency, so is agriculture about solving man’s food self-sufficiency. No generation can say they have fully attained everything in the agricultural industry, there is always room for more growth in the agricultural value chain, there remains much untapped potential in agriculture. In Nigeria, and most unreached places in Africa and elsewhere in the 10/40 window, there are natural resources waiting for BAMers to tap into to increase global food self-sufficiency. I think this guarantees a return on investment faster than any other investment on the the earth! We may not all get involved in cultivation, others can develop agro equipment or soil and crop improvement or marketing and sales. Each and every part of these agricultural businesses are relatively easy to start and practice in any society, especially unreached communities. Every family is a potential business relationship. – Ibiam, Nigeria
Compiled by Jo Plummer, with thanks to the BAM practitioners who shared their experiences.
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.