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, for the first time, investing in vanilla, through 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 offers the more than 1,000 vanilla farmers they are working with more than an interesting price.

The vanilla 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

 

 

This is the story of Ana Mamani Quispe, the story of one woman who inspired a whole community to rally around to overcome the sudden challenges. The story of many families who managed with the support of microfinance institution, to maintain their income in difficult circumstances.

Ana Mamani Quispe, 38 years old, is a client of the Bolivian microfinance institution Crecer since 2007. She lives together with her husband and son in Bravo, a village just under km from the city of El Alto. The village is located in the Interandino valley, an area that lends itself well to the cultivation of grains and fruit. Ana also earns her income from growing maize, among other crops.

When the pandemic broke out, Ana was in danger of getting into trouble. She could no longer reach her customers and she started suddenly to doubt whether she would find a market for her products. She brought herself in contact with as many people as possible via WhatsApp: friends, relatives, landlords, transporters, other farmers and middlemen. She succeeded to convince many to unite. The farmers would buy their seeds together (with the support of a credit from Crecer), and they would help each other with the shipping and selling the products. In this way she and many other farmers assured themselves of sufficient buyers. Sales mainly happened through online channels. Ana’s creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, together with the help of Crecer’s credit, helped many families to maintain their income in difficult circumstances.