Beyond the Physical

An often overlooked aspect of maintaining a successful and efficient organization is work culture. Company culture goes beyond what can be perceived externally, such as: accolades, dress codes, and even PR; but rather it shows in the everyday routines and behaviors of individual employees in the workplace and in how they relate to their fellow peers, as well as management.

The Coamana Nigerian Team

Oftentimes company culture is boiled down to simply, “how things work around here”, but in order for an organization to pull together its core values and general mission statement, there must be room for an evolving company culture. For this to occur, management and leadership must take up the flag post by modelling new behaviors and maintaining new protocols to show employees that such changes will also be to their benefit. CoAmana often employs new procedures, particularly within our operations department; and the change very much starts from the top down.

As HR we serve as the go-between between employees and executives. We guide leadership with the understanding of how their decisions will affect staff engagement and satisfaction. In the reverse, HR can also influence leadership by pushing forth rules and protocols that encourage new behaviors among staff, which in turn influences the decisions of management and the executive level.

The Coamana Kenyan Team

To this effect, HR strives to ensure that we are consistently opening communication channels with employees as well as actively listening to their concerns, providing clear and actionable feedback, and maintaining consistency in protocol and internal management so that nobody ever feels dismissed or unengaged within the CoAmana Ecosystem.

A poor company culture shows when employees do not have a unified vision for the company, are not having their concerns and opinions heard by management and leadership, and there is a distinct focus on external factors and not the internal resources and amenities that are available to staff.

Rather we want an environment that’s inclusive, allows for career growth, and is flexible. We understand that everybody has a life and responsibilities outside of their job that also requires time and dedication. At Coamana we have dedicated ourselves to reducing staff turnover, as well as promoting in-house. It is imperative that our employees know that we have their best interests at heart.

Rome was not built in a day; and as such, we will continue to grow and evolve as an organization, both internally and externally. However, with open communication and trust in our peers and leadership, we trust that CoAmana will maintain the type of work environment to bring out the best in each other.

Financial Solutions to Social Problems

In my short time at CoAmana, I have come to realize that a common theme is unlearning and relearning. Anybody from a financial background reading this will understand how hard it is to let go of all the rules, expectations and viewpoints that have come to be a crucial part of us.

Nigerian Market

Before joining CoAmana I had never had the experience of working with farmers and at first it felt like I had been dropped in an ocean and my choices were sink or swim. We have had to constantly realign our processes in order to address the needs of the farmers and traders to ensure that our practices are more impact than profit driven.

It is common knowledge in the agriculture space that one of the major problems faced by farmers in sub Saharan Africa is having access to ready buyers for their produce and at reasonable prices. On the other hand, traders within the markets have ready buyers but oftentimes they do not have the required capital to source for products directly from farmers.

How did we address this problem? We stepped in and served as market links through Amana Market, for registered traders within our partner Market Clusters. We provide them with what we call “working capital” to enable them to get these products to trade with. The major condition for accessing “working capital” is that these traders have to source products directly from farmers.

Over time, this model has allowed traders and farmers to expand their businesses with confidence. We monitor each party’s performance over time and increase their working capital limits in order to encourage them. With this model, we have impacted thousands of businesses and built trust across different clusters in 2 countries. We have seen sales groups go from transacting in thousands to transacting in millions. Despite all the successes we have had with the current model, we have come to realize that it is not foolproof as we have had to put in place several mechanisms to ensure it works and till date, as we have continued to expand, we are constantly having to learn and adapt our processes. 

Most of the challenges we (CoAmana, farmers and traders) have faced so far, have stemmed from the political, social, environmental and economic factors; Inflation rates affecting prices and traders’ abilities to meet up, volume and quality of farmers’ produce threatened by drought/ climate change, just to mention a few.

Stay tuned as we will give more insight to these challenges and how we have been able to navigate these challenges in our next issue.

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