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

 

 

Today is the day humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. More sustainable agriculture can be a powerful lever to push the date of Earth Overshoot Day.

Agriculture takes a big bite out of earth’s natural resources.  It is the leading source of pollution in several countries, with pesticides and fertilizers that are released into water and soil. Agriculture also accounts for a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. 17% through direct agricultural activities and an additional 7-14% through land use changes. Finally, it consumes about 70% of the planet’s fresh water and approximately 80% of all threatened terrestiral bird and mammal species are imperiled by agriculturally driven habitat loss.[1]

However, sustainable agricultural practices can contribute to a more efficient use of resources and reduce the environmental impact of agricultural activities on the planet, while increasing productivity to meet an increasing food demand of humanity.

At Incofin, we partner with producer organisations and small and medium agricultural enterprises that implement social and environmental good practices to support sustainable agriculture in developing countries. We aim to contribute to the development of a fair and sustainable agricultural sector, but also to address the financial needs of smallholder farmers by providing better access to capital and to sustainable markets, while providing a fair return to investors.

In addition to our investments, Incofin also develops and manages, in partnership with the client, projects to strengthen sustainability practices. These technical assistance (TA) projects enable to explore innovative agricultural practices, to expand organic production and to develop circular economy models within organisations to make a more efficient use of resources when producing food.

Cooperativa Cafetalera ”Capucas” Limitada (COCAFCAL), Honduras

Coffee production

907 smallholder producers

Period TA-project: 2016-2018

Removing the coffee bean from the cherry through the process of wet milling generates a significant amount of wastewater and coffee pulp. Typically, these byproducts go unused. Under the worst circumstances, wastewater is discharged into nearby rivers and coffee pulp is left in fields to rot. Incofin’s TA helped Capucas design a system whereby 100% of the water and pulp generated by the wet mill is used to create organic fertilizers for members, creating a closed-loop production system that reduces impact on the local environment.

Impact achieved:

  • 22,000 liters of water reused in 2018
  • 200,000 kilos of coffee pulp reused
  • 5,300 smallholder farmers using organic fertilizers.

 

COOPFAM, Brazil

Organic coffee production

TA-project: ongoing since 2019

To improve the performance of organic plantations and maintain the minimum quality required by the buyers, it is key to ensure the good quality of seedlings. The production of healthy and well-developed seedlings is an extremely important factor for any crop and especially for those of perennial character, such as coffee. COOPFAM members used to buy seedlings from external suppliers which was costly and not entirely suitable for organic agriculture since the trees were mixed with conventional types. Through a TA project, COOPFAM has been establishing nurseries where the farmers produce seedlings and which, through economies of scale, will generate the best socio-economic benefits for them and for the cooperative.  

Impact achieved so far:

  • Increase of certified organic members from 120 to 167 in 2020
  • 7 technical facilitators trained to provide high quality advice on the cultivation of organic coffee trees, incl. production of organic compost
  • 176 producers trained in the production of organic coffee seedlings
  • 23 nurseries for organic seedlings established with more than 150.000 organic seedlings produced and planted in the farmers’ plots 

 

[1] https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/c49f1a94-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/c49f1a94-en