Gaining knowledge to generate impact in agriculture
Sustainable World Academy / 29 January, 2020
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Certified Expert in Agricultural Finance Class of 2019
Som Toohey is a Global Equity Officer at Oikocredit - active across all of Oikocredit's regions (Africa, Latin America and India) in financial inclusion and agricultural investments. He is responsible for investments all along the investment cycle including the origination and evaluation of new equity investment opportunities, supporting existing partners and exiting investments. Before joining Oikocredit, he worked for funds investing in African small and medium enterprises. Som started his career in investment banking at HSBC in various countries before joining ABN AMRO Rothschild in Amsterdam. Som has a master’s degree in optics and photonics and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Imperial College London. He is also a CFA Charterholder and a CISI Diploma holder.

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The Certified Expert in Agricultural Finance online course offered by Frankfurt School’s e-Campus has provided me with practical knowledge that I was able to apply to my work immediately. The course is flexible enough to fit in well with my busy schedule. I’ll share my experience with the course in this blog post and hope it helps others to decide whether to take the plunge or not.

Motivation – to gain practical knowledge

In 2018, I joined the social impact investor Oikocredit as part of the equity team after several years of African private equity and more traditional investment banking. One of Oikocredit’s focus areas is agriculture across 33 emerging market economies where it has been committed to supporting smallholder finance – recognizing the transformative effect that finance can have on farmer incomes, employment generation, and food security.

Investing in smallholder agriculture can be a tough business to deliver sustainable social impact, which is environmentally responsible and generates a return. To stand a chance of being successful, you need many things – knowledge of the sector, knowledge of traditional finance and knowledge of non-traditional finance.

I wanted to contribute to Oikocredit’s efforts in the agricultural impact investing space as quickly as possible. So, I needed a refresh of the sector, especially applied to the environment that I work in. I felt that I needed a course, which could help fill in my knowledge gaps within this sector to accelerate the value I could bring to the team in this field. The FS Certified Expert in Agricultural Finance was a logical place to start as I had also previously completed a good course with them in digital finance.

Comprehensive overview to those new to the sector (or rusty)

The course provided me with a good, broad overview of the historical context of agricultural finance; basic agricultural knowledge; characteristics of the agricultural finance system; risk management at loan and portfolio levels; credit management in this space; marketing and sales, and finally; innovations in agricultural finance.

So, quite a list.

I also completed 3 electives, which explored elements of agricultural finance that have been rapidly developing over recent years – digital financial services applied to the agricultural sector, value chain finance and weather index based insurance. I thought these were especially interesting, as I am increasingly seeing propositions on the cutting edge of agricultural finance.

Flexibility helps you successfully complete the course

My completion of the course was significantly aided by its high degree of flexibility. I have a busy schedule but I could fit in the course well due to this. There were two deadlines for assignments that had to be completed by a specific time during the six month course period as well as a date for the final exam. Everything else was flexible so I only had to plan for these three milestones.

By the end of the course, I had achieved what I had set out to – gain knowledge that I could immediately apply in practice when assessing, investing in and monitoring agricultural investments. If you are reasonably new to this specialist area of development finance or need to refresh your knowledge, then I encourage you to seriously consider participating in the course.