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Making Big Bucks From Bat Droppings In Madagascar
By Dana Sanchez Published: October 18, 2013, 12:05pm
Choosing the right words to describe guano – bat droppings – turned out to be one of the biggest challenges for a Madagascar accountant-turned entrepreneur.
Erick Rajaonary’s company, Guanomad, produces natural fertilizer and organic manure created from bat guano found in Madagascar’s caves.
Guanomad employs almost 100 full-time workers, exporting to European, Asian and African markets. The company was recently named Outstanding Small and Growing Business at the African Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
Rajaonary spoke to HowWeMadeItInAfrica about his business, challenges and some of the opportunities the French-speaking African island holds for investors.
One of Guanomad’s challenges was to penetrate a market dominated by chemical fertilizers with an organic product. “The idea of sustainability was not yet well known by farmers,” Rajaonary said.
Guanomad’s main competitors are chemical fertilizers. They have been in the market for a long time, Rajaonary said, “but now, farmers are conscientious about the harmful effects of the chemical fertilizers, and they are tending to use more organic manure.”
Agriculture in Madagascar employs 85 percent of the active population but generates 26 percent of the gross domestic product. Poverty and the lack of purchasing power have affected Guanomad.
Entrepreneurs and businesses in Madagascar need to override the lack of purchasing power, Rajaonary said. “It is not impossible to do. You need to adapt all your strategies (around that).”
The best business and investment opportunities in Madagascar lie in agriculture and agribusiness, Rajaonary said. “I would give priority to products or services that have a direct impact on the lives and the well being of the population. Within the predictable increase of the global food demand, Madagascar, with its arable land, can position itself on the world stage.”
His advice to young, aspiring entrepreneurs in Madagascar: Think big and be a visionary, not an opportunist.