Sahyadri Farms Post Harvest Care Limited raised Rs. 310Crs (almost EUR 40 million) growth capital from a group of impact-focused investors. Incofin, Korys, FMO and Proparco see Sahyadri Farms well-placed to help farmers run their businesses in a more profitable and sustainable way.

India is a country with an aspirational, young population (74% of the population is younger than 45 years) focused on enriching their lives through hard work and entrepreneurship. At the same time, the country faces challenges like inequality (gender, education, family wealth), outdated technology, inefficient supply chains, and a lack of access to capital. The country is witnessing a strong movement towards entrepreneurship to help solve these multidimensional problems the country faces.

Sahyadri Farms is a good example of rural entrepreneurship providing end to end solutions to small and marginal farmers.

In 2010 a group of 10 farmers took the initiative to collectively produce and export fresh grapes to Europe. That initiative has grown into the leading fruits and vegetable export and processing company that Sahyadri Farms is today, servicing over 18,000 farmers, covering more than 31,000 acres and 9 crops. The company walks with its farmers from their choice of crops to the farming practices they employ, from the inputs they use to how they harvest and sell their agricultural products. The company for example offers a digital platform that informs farmers on high yield crop varieties, farm inputs, real time climate information and access to the market place.

The economic and social impact of Sahyadri for these farmers is significant. Namdeo Pawar is one of them: “In 2012, I was on the verge of selling my land. Sahyadri supported me, helped me get back up, and I pushed myself to return to work. Trough Sahyadri, my income increased. In 2014, I even repaid my bank loan.” Also for farmer Anil Dawre working with Sahyadri Farms brought about a turnaround: “I farm on less than one acre, because a part of my land is taken up by my home and an animal shed. Group farming turned out to be a success. My parents never imagined their son’s produce would travel abroad. Their joy knows no bounds.”

The capital coming from Korys, FMO, Proparco and Incofin is intended to further grow the farmers company. Sahyadri Farms wants to expand its processing capacity for fruits and vegetables-based products, set up a biomass plant to generate electricity from process waste and enhance its infrastructure, like warehouses. These investments will in turn support rural entrepreneurs working in the Sahyadri network to help overcome local challenges and make agricultural farming a viable and sustainable business.

Vilas Shinde, founder of Sayhadri

“The idea of Sahyadri Farms is to unite farmers and make them think like professional entrepreneurs. We are building a sustainable, scalable, and profitable organization for all our stakeholders by making farming profitable and viable activity for each small and marginal farmer.”Vilas Shinde, founding farmer and Managing Director of Sahyadri Farms.

Alpen Capital acted as exclusive strategic advisor to Sahyadri Farms for this transaction.

Rahul Rai, Partner at Incofin India: “Incofin feels privileged to lead this investor consortium and for its partnership with Sahyadri Farms to support their spread as a global role model of a partnership-based approach to farming that results in sustainable financial impact, climate change adaptation and inclusive growth in rural communities while creating a technology-driven, globally competitive business.”

 

 

After 13 years, Incofin cvso is no longer shareholder of ACEP Burkina. Incofin finalized the sale of the equity stake of 20%, which has enabled the fund to achieve an attractive return on investment. The shares have been acquired by the French impact investor SIDI (Solidarité Internationale pour le Développement et l’Investissement).

Incofin CVSO, managed by Incofin Investment Management, sold its entire 20% participation in ACEP Burkina, which has enabled the fund to achieve an attractive return on investment. Incofin cvso has been ACEP’s investor from the very start of the company. Incofin played a key role by providing additionally senior debt and technical assistance. Furthermore, Incofin has led the efforts of professionalizing the corporate governance of the company and the rollout of ACEP Burkina’s successsful expansion.

Today, ACEP Burkina is the second-largest microfinance institution in Burkina Faso by portfolio size (Gross loan portfolio of EUR 41.7 million as of December 2021) and offers a broad range of financial solutions, including loans, deposit accounts, money transfer services to SMEs, institutions and net-worthy individuals. The company serves over 32,000 customers. ACEP’s main focus are micro, small and medium enterprises.

SIDI has a similar mission to that of Incofin cvso. The French impact investor, founded in 1983, also wants to improve living conditions in developing countries and, with this acquisition, particularly wants to further promote the development of financial inclusion in Africa. SIDI already works with nine other African partners from various sectors for this purpose.

To be ready for the future Incofin Investment Management has further strengthened its governing bodies. With effect from today, the company will be led by Co-CEOs Geert Peetermans and Paul Buysens. With Dina Pons joining the Management Board, Incofin also welcomes a new Managing Partner. Former CEO, Loïc De Cannière, has been appointed Chair of the Supervisory Board.

For more than a decade, the impact investment universe is experiencing tremendous growth thanks to investors’ increasing interest for transactions positively impacting our society and our planet.

Incofin Investment Management (Incofin) has been pioneering in impact investments and has been at the forefront of its development for more than 20 years. The company has built a proven track record in the financial inclusion and agri-food space across the globe.

In order to keep up with the growing sophistication and globalisation of the impact investment industry, Incofin has taken major steps to further strengthen its governing bodies and make them future proof:

  1. In March 2021, it converted its former limited partnership structure into a public limited company with a two-tiered governance model including a Supervisory Board and a Management Board. The new structure is up to the highest standards of good governance which can be expected of an AIFM licensed fund manager.
  2. A Supervisory Board with six members has been installed. Loïc De Cannière, who has been CEO of the company for the last 20 years, has been appointed Chair of the Supervisory Board.
  3. As from January 2022 onwards, Geert Peetermans and Paul Buysens have been promoted to Co-CEOs. A Management Board has been strengthened and has four members.

MANAGEMENT BOARD

The Management Board is the key engine, that drives the company’s operations and strategic transformation in a complex environment. Its composition reflects the company’s ambition to be led by a global, dynamic, diversified team, combining complementary skills and backgrounds. Each of the team members supervises specific operations:

Co-CEO Geert Peetermans has been Incofin IM’s Chief Investment Officer for 20 years. He has a thorough knowledge of the impact investing industry. He will supervise the company’s operations with respect to equity investments, communications and legal and compliance matters.

Co-CEO Geert Peetermans

Co-CEO Geert Peetermans

“Incofin is coming out of these pandemic years with both strong results and fresh entrepreneurial vigour, and I am excited to be part of it with new responsibilities. We have an ambitious target to double our assets under management within the coming five years. I am confident we will succeed in delivering on this ambition because of all the amazing staff throughout our firm, who are motivated by an intrinsic passion for working in genuine impact investing.”

 

Co-CEO Paul Buysens has served as Chief Operating Officer since 2018, after a career with GE Capital. He will coordinate Finance, Operational Excellence and Digital, and Investor Solutions.

“I am a strong believer in shared leadership and therefore thrilled to co-lead our company with Geert, who is a pioneer in impact investing and who played a pivotal role in Incofin IM’s strong track record. We can be very grateful to our Supervisory Board who opted for a modern leadership model based on trust and empowerment which will allow us to leverage our very strong talent pool. I am also very excited to work more closely with our investors and together generate solid impact.”

Co-CEO Paul Buysens

Co-CEO Paul Buysens

Managing Partner David Dewez, based in Colombia, has been with Incofin IM since 2007 developing investment portfolios (Debt & Equity) in Latin America and Africa. He joined the Management Board in 2020. He will be managing the company’s debt portfolio (both financial institutions as well as agri-debt). People & Organisation and Technical Assistance functions will also be reporting directly to David. David will also continue as a Regional Director LATAM and Africa.

Dina Pons has been newly appointed as Managing Partner and invited to join the Management Board (subject to non-objection from the Belgian Financial services and markets authority). She joined Incofin in 2010. Based out of Cambodia, she has been developing Incofin IM’s Southeast Asian debt and equity portfolio and leading Incofin’s impact management strategy globally. Dina has been entrusted with the coordination of Incofin IM’s Risk, ESG and Impact management.

Next to the four Management Board members, the Partners’ team of Incofin Investment Management also includes Rita Van den Abbeel, Chief Risk Officer and Founding Partner, and Aditya Bhandari, Regional Co-Director Asia. Two new Partners have been appointed; Noémie Renier, Head of Debt for Financial Institutions and Serkan Alhan, General Counsel.

SUPERVISORY BOARD

The Supervisory Board challenges the company’s strategic business and risk choices against the background of a fast-changing environment.

Incofin IM’s General Assembly has appointed an international Supervisory Board with a broad sectoral and regional experience:

  • Loïc De Cannière has been appointed Chair of the Supervisory Board. As a former CEO of Incofin, he developed a deep knowledge of the impact investment industry and has broad network among the impact investing community. He will continue to support the company’s fund development activities.
  • Leen Van den Neste is CEO of vdk bank, a financial institution which promotes ethical and sustainable investments, focusing on personal advice and fair return. vdk bank is one of the founders of Incofin cvso (Belgian cooperative microfinance fund).
  • Josien Sluijs is CEO of Aqua for All, an international not-for-profit organisation with head office in the Netherlands and working towards facilitating access to clean water and good sanitation for all.
  • Robert Binyon, based in Bangkok, was Managing Director at CDC in charge of the Asian portfolio. He is a Board member of several Asian impact funds.
  • Chris Lebeer has a strong international executive and entrepreneurial background in the manufacturing industry and professional services (including Banksys). He led several turnarounds and holds senior executive positions in various companies.
  • Michiel Geers is Executive Director of Volksvermogen, an investment company with a strong foothold in financial services, venture capital and impact investments. He is Chair of Incofin cvso’s Board of Directors.

 

QUOTES

 Geert Peetermans, Co-CEO: “Incofin is coming out of these pandemic years with both strong results and fresh entrepreneurial vigour, and I am excited to be part of it with new responsibilities. We have an ambitious target to double our assets under management within the coming five years. I am confident we will succeed in delivering on this ambition because of all the amazing staff throughout our firm, who are motivated by an intrinsic passion for working in genuine impact investing.”

Paul Buysens, Co-CEO: “I am a strong believer in shared leadership and therefore thrilled to co-lead our company with Geert, who is a pioneer in impact investing and who played a pivotal role in Incofin IM’s strong track record. We can be very grateful to our Supervisory Board who opted for a modern leadership model based on trust and empowerment which will allow us to leverage our very strong talent pool. I am also very excited to work more closely with our investors and together generate solid impact.”

Loïc De Cannière, Chair of the Supervisory Board: “I am extremely proud with the new and robust governance structure, the appointment of the Management Board members, the Co-CEOs and our committed Supervisory Board. I wish Geert and Paul good luck with their important mission. I am convinced they have the right profile to lead Incofin IM through the next cycle. The company is well equipped to be innovative and relevant in the impact industry. This is how we will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. We also welcome further gender balance in the new governance structure, reaffirming our commitment to bring gender equality forward at all levels of our activities and our actions.” 

Dina Pons, new Managing Partner: “I joined Incofin 11 years ago, attracted by its founders’ vision to use investments to promote global inclusive progress. Today, I am thrilled and honoured to be joining the Managing Board, surrounded by so many talented and likeminded colleagues. Incofin is known for its transparency,  genuine care for its investees, uncompromised risk assessment, and pioneer impact assessment in each investment decision we make. I am determined to continue protecting this approach and making our brand even stronger.”

Noémie Renier, Partner and Head of Debt for Financial Institutions: “I am very honoured to be invited to become a Partner. I am determined to expand further our financial inclusion franchise as a key pillar of Incofin’s strategy contributing to sustainable development.”

Serkan Alhan, Partner and General Counsel: “Giving Noémie and myself this opportunity is a testimony to Incofin’s desire to promote inclusive progress and shared leadership. I am very excited and look forward to contributing to our mission in making positive impact.” 

 

Vanilla is one of the most popular spices in the world, but vanilla farmers usually don’t benefit much from the high prices end customers are willing to pay. This concern led Incofin investing in vanilla via the Fairtrade Access Fund.

Chances are high that the vanilla flavor of your ice cream comes from the Sava region in northeastern Madagascar. Responsible for 80% of the global production of Bourbon vanilla, Sava is by far the main supplier. 70,000 smallholder farmers produce on around 25,000 hectares of  land. This is also the region where Lafaza sources its vanilla beans. Incofin’s Fairtrade Access Fund (FAF) recently approved a loan of USD 1.5 million to vanilla processor and exporter Lafaza Trading SARL (Incorporated in Madagascar). Lafaza buys premium vanilla from smallholder farming communities at fair trade prices and then sells it for retail, wholesale and through export channels. But the company has more to offer than just an interesting price to the 1,000 vanilla farmers they are working with.

Those farmers live in small, isolated villages, often requiring several days of travelling by canoe, hiking or overcoming difficult roads to reach them. That is how Lafaza makes the difference; the company does not just buy the vanilla, but also provides capacity building on proper cultivation and curing techniques to enhance the quality of the vanilla and which enables the farmers to acquire organic certification.

The production process of vanilla is very labor-intensive and delicate. It takes up to four years for a new vanilla orchid vine to begin producing flowers. They are in bloom for less than 24 hours and pollination must occur at that moment when the flower bud opens.

Incofin’s investment in Lafaza reduces further the concentration risk in the FAF portfolio, both in terms of product (first investment in vanilla) as of country diversification (first deal in Madagascar).

Children at the local library that was sponsored by Lafaza

 

 

More and more people are using hot peppers. Thanks to a quick turnaround of Incofin’s agri-finance liquidity fund, the Peruvian hot peppers trader Exportables, was able to offset rising operating costs and to meet an increasing demand.

Rising popularity for hot peppers despite, or even thanks to Covid-19

Covid-19 disrupted global food systems and some industries had to hold on by the skin of their teeth to weather the pandemicAt the same time, however, a gradually rising popularity of the Latin American and Asian cuisine in the western world swelled the demand for hot pepper saucesMore time at home during the lockdowns has inclined people to experiment in the kitchen stirring up the appetite for exotic meals. The global hot sauce market attained a value of USD 4.3 billion in 2020. The market is further expected to grow to reach USD 5.8 billion by 2026.

 Exportables is a 100% women-owned company, which is remarkable since the export of Peruvian hot pepper mash (tabasco, habanero, cayenne and jalapeño) is dominated by men. Another element that makes the company stand out from the crowd is that they work with contract farming. Exportables sets up a year-to-year schedule with its supplying farmers to secure the crop production, which means the farmer gets the guarantee that Exportables purchases 100% of the production at a fixed price.

While this innovative approach benefits hundreds of farmers to secure a steady income stream for at least 18 months, it deters traditional banks from financing Exportables. Without financing, the pepper trading company  managed to sustain its growth thanks to a sound financial management and commercial strategy that anchors its supplier base.  

Nevertheless, Covid-19 brought shipping delays, which led to a spike in operating and logistics costs. Increased costs threatened, in turn, to contract Exportable’s liquidity. Thanks to a loan facility of ALF, Incofin’s agri-finance liquidity fund, Exportables gets some breathing space to offset the costs and is able to meet the increased demand. ALF is the first and only international lender of the Peruvian hot pepper exporter.  

Crop diversification brings extra income and strengthens the farmers’ resilience

Exportables sources the hot peppers from smallholder producers located in the regions of San Martin and Amazonas. In this area, most farmers produce rice, coffee or cocoa; crops that make them vulnerable to climate change effects and volatile local prices. Diversifying their crop with hot pepper makes them more resilient to those external risks. A hot pepper cycle lasts for 18 months where from month 4 until month 18 the plant is producing fruits daily. Coffee for example, needs up to 3 years after a first harvest before it reaches its productive stage. 

Exportables motivates the first-time farmers not to substitute their main crop, but to choose hot peppers as a complementary source of income. The farmers get their first set of seeds from Exportables for free. 

Exportables accompanies and supports the farmers

From the signature of the contract until the culmination of the agreement, Exportables works closely with the farmers to ensure high crop yields, all while ensuring they are produced in the most environmental and social friendly way.

To preserve the soil, Exportables deploys with its farmers:

  • Drip irrigation reduces the use of water and fertilisers. It helps to control the weeds and avoids loss of nutrients. It also avoids erosion and soil degradation.
  • Crop rotation keeps the soil more fertile and protects it better.
  • Exportables only works with producers in areas that were already cultivated, thus avoiding producers to destroy rainforest or to open new areas for agriculture purposes.

Path to a more efficient supply chain

The fruits are delivered to milling stations, where they grind and ferment them with salt. The milling process must be made the same day of harvest to preserve the fruits’ qualities in colour and flavour. That is why Exportables set up ten milling stations throughout its suppliers’ regions.

To make this process more efficient, Exportables introduced the idea of in-farm processing: it is the farmers themselves who make a mash out of the peppers. They receive an extra USD 0.2 per kilo and on top of that, get rid of daily transportation costs. Today 80% of Exportables’ farmers take charge of the milling process.

The mash gets collected weekly and transported to San Martin. There, shipments are sent to the Paita central plant, where they sample, test, filter and store the mash. Now the product is ready for export.

Invest in Visions and Incofin Investment Management look back on 1 Billion euro deployed for micro-enterprise financing, and more to come.

The partnership of Invest in Visions and Incofin Investment Management, which goes back to the beginning of 2015, has passed a milestone: the collaboration between Germany’s top microfinance asset owner and Belgium’s specialist financial inclusion investor has led to more than 1 billion euro of disbursements through over 300 transactions with financial institutions in 38 emerging markets.

Edda Schröder, the Managing Partner of Invest in Visions (IIV), and Geert Peetermans, Managing Partner of Incofin, report that – globally – approximately 87 million micro-entrepreneurs are clients of the financial institutions supported by their efforts, and 47 million women borrowed small amounts from them. At least 16 million clients are estimated to come from rural areas. The financial institutions provide for 233,000 direct employment of which 44% is female staff.

 

While the microfinance fund of Invest of Visions started in 2011, the formal beginning of the partnership of Incofin and IIV brings us back to 2015. Can you explain us how the idea for partnering started floating?

Edda Schröder, Managing Partner Invest in Visions

Edda Schröder, Managing Partner Invest in Visions

Edda Schröder: Well, in 2015 IIV took over the portfolio management of the IIV Mikrofinanzfonds. At that time, we had a small team without presence in the emerging markets. Therefore, we started looking for a partner who could do sourcing and due diligence of microfinance institutions on the ground. I had been aware of Incofin as a specialist in microfinance for a while. Before launching the fund, I had to do a lot of advocacy work to convince German regulators to introduce public microfinance funds for private clients. To that end, I worked closely together with some sector associations and that is how I met Loïc De Cannière, the CEO of Incofin at that time.  

Incofin was already considered a specialized asset manager and advisor for microfinance. The microfinance sector associates Incofin with high-quality work, so it was a natural choice. We were all very thrilled when Incofin decided to accept our offer. 

 

Also for Incofin it was a new setup. So, I can imagine that in the beginning things were not always that easy.

Geert Peetermans: This partnership was indeed unexplored territory to us. Previously we had set up a few own initiatives such as RIF I and II for example. But teaming up with IIV brought some interesting benefits to the table. Although this was new to us, we realized a collaboration like this would make a lot of sense because of growth perspectives. IIV had launched the first public microfinance fund in Germany, which we saw as a market with a lot of potential.  So, we were both pioneers in a sense.

Edda Schröder: It was a bit of an adventure. The fund was launched in 2011, it took until 2015 to collect 80 million euro. It is important to remember that this was a new asset class, people didn’t know about microfinance and were not easily convinced to invest in the fund. Giving loans to MFIs in Kyrgyzstan for instance, a country that is far away, sounded too exotic. Therefore, it was hard work to gain people’s trust that we would get back the money. The operational side was also challenging at the beginning, including all parties that were involved, such as finding efficient fund services. Now we have everything in place.

 

How did the partnership manage Covid-19?

Edda Schröder: The risk team of Incofin proved its tremendous added value. Incofin’s risk managers responded quickly, they were really hands-on. All the necessary information was provided to us quickly. It showed us the great advantage of having Incofin on the ground in the emerging markets. The teams in Colombia and Cambodia, for example, knew immediately what was going on. In the midst of uncertain global developments, it is really helpful and reassuring to have a trustful partnership, like the one we have with Incofin.

We also made a joint decision to be cautious about new loans. I must say, that IIV experiences fewer problems with the consequences of Covid-19 than I initially expected. One reason is because we have become part of a collaboration of microfinance investors working together to support the liquidity of the entire sector.

 

Geert Peetermans, Managing Partner Incofin IM

Geert Peetermans, Managing Partner Incofin IM

Which other changes or developments do you see happening?

Geert Peetermans: The scope of the theory of change has evolved: today the object of financial inclusion is no longer only about income generation, but also about education, affordable housing, etc. This opens up the impact spectrum towards different SDGs.

Edda Schröder: I fully agree. We are also looking at SME financing. As a German microfinance fund, we are quite strictly regulated: we are only allowed to invest in microfinance. That means microfinance institutions that pay out microcredits of a maximum of EUR 10,000. But what about the missing middle? It also needs more capital; there is a shortfall of USD 4.5 billion for one million SMEs in emerging markets.

Geert Peetermans: Together we have been working, within the regulatory framework of course, to find possibilities to include also what goes beyond traditional microfinance: microleasing, affordable housing, or for example a partner institution like Bayport in Colombia which recently was added to the portfolio. Bayport services mainly people working in the public sector who have a business on the side. So, they reach people who are not the typical microfinance clients.  

Edda Schröder: Another challenge is the hype around sustainable finance in Europe: the EU taxonomy, which entails many additional documentation requirements for an impact investor. Our investors are also asking for more impact data. You have to prove that you really are an impact investor, and that it is not just green washing. At the same time, it could be a great opportunity for us to set up even more new products to attract more investors and help the microfinance sector grow.

It is an opportunity to tell what microfinance is all about. For my experience it is that the majority in Germany, even in the financial sector, still doesn’t really know what microfinance means. So, there is still a huge potential. And it needs transparency and more education.

 

When we are talking about the future of the microfinance sector, sooner or later the term digitalization falls.

Geert Peetermans: With good reason. We see different kinds of players coming up, like for example fintechs. And in countries like Colombia and Kazakhstan, we see new promising developments in this field. These are often still young and small in size, therefore we have to assess carefully when they will become investment ready. Nonetheless they represent  definitely a new channel to keep in sight as it is expanding at high pace. Microfinance clients look and will increasingly look in their direction to find an answer for their credit needs.

 

Clearly, still a lot is to accomplish, and maybe best together? How do you see the partnership between IIV and Incofin evolving?

Edda Schröder: I hope we can build on our cooperation and partnership in the future and can grow jointly. One of the challenges we see in the future and where we can use the support of our partner is the higher degree of regulation coming from Europe: we will need more data, for example. Thus, we are striving for a long-term relationship.

Geert Peetermans: I can fully echo that.