IDH launches world's biggest impact fund for smallholder farmers
US$110-million fund intended to make investing in smallholder farmers in developing countries attractive
IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, in coalition with Unilever, Jacobs DE, Mondelez and Rabobank, has launched the world’s biggest-ever impact fund for smallholder farmers finance. Starting with 100 million euros (US$110.82 million), the IDH Farmfit Fund is expected to catalyze up to a billion euros of commercial investments into smallholder farmers in developing countries.
The IDH Farmfit Fund is facilitated by IDH and is backed by significant funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a guarantee from the US Agency for International Development.
“The lack of capital for smallholders to invest in sustainable practices leads to rural poverty and environmental damage. While climate change originates from emissions, the battle is on the ground. The catastrophes we have seen lately are heavily amplified by land management issues. The fund will dramatically improve their ability to cope with the impacts of climate change and their possibility to earn a decent income,” says Joost Oorthuizen, executive director and Chairman of the Board at IDH.
A fuller picture of the IDH Farmfit Fund was revealed at Davos during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, in the SDG tent. Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands in her role as “United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) opened the event.
She emphasized the need to go beyond business-as-usual to support smallholder farmers in improving their lives. Customer centricity and cross-sector partnerships are key for financial institutions to offer meaningful solutions while making a good business. It is also important to identify critical market linkages in supply chains to improve efficiency and productivity. Farmfit is going beyond business as usual, and is a great example of how businesses can help bring financial services to farmers.
The IDH Farmfit Fund will be guided by enabling resilient smallholder farming; having a positive impact on the environment, social and gender issues; supporting food security and climate protection; while supporting growth and financial innovation.
The 100-million-euro Farmfit Fund will catalyze investments into ESG impact by taking the highest risk positions in deals that improve smallholders’ livelihoods in Africa, Asia or Latin America. By doing so, the Farmfit Fund will pave the way for (commercial) investors, including banks, companies and institutional asset managers, to invest in a space that up until now was perceived as too risky or lacking the required scale.
The Farmfit Fund is the third element of the IDH Farmfit offering. Farmfit Business Support helps companies make their smallholder engagement models more effective and through Farmfit Intelligence, best practices are shared.
Farmfit Business Support is a US$30 million investment from DFID (the Department for International Development in the UK) and others, which provides Technical Assistance support to Agri SMEs in order to develop and implement sustainable business models and increase their engagement with smallholder farmers. Farmfit Intelligence creates and shares data-driven and systematic insights into efficiency and sustainability of service delivery models leading to better-informed investment strategies.
Oorthuizen adds, “We expect the Farmfit Fund to represent a new generation of financing in the same way that microfinancing did 20 years ago. Farmfit’s innovative funding model coupled with a US$250 million guarantee from USAID, covering senior loans to investment projects from the fund, will make investments in smallholder value chains very attractive. The fund will ensure significant financing at a significant reduced risk level. Thus the fund will enable banks and financial institutions to make sound impact investments now – and help support sustainable smallholder farming while mitigating the impact of climate change.”
Marc Engel, chief supply chain officer, Unilever comments, “Smallholders are stewards of the land, soil and forests. Integrating smallholders into the value chain is critical to sustainable land use and in protecting forests and biodiversity. Smallholders often face financial barriers which is why public-private partnerships such as the IDH Farmfit are essential. There is a clear business case to enable farmers to invest in their farms, thereby increasing their yields and profitability.”
Berry Marttin, member of the Executive Board, Rabobank says, “The focus on smallholder farmers and the use of blended finance in the Farmfit Fund is a strong and necessary combination. If we want to achieve our shared ambition of sustainably feeding a growing world population then it is essential that we improve access to capital for smallholder farmers. The IDH Farmfit Fund is perfectly aligned with our ‘Growing a better world together’ mission and that is why we are one of the senior partners in this fund. It is my dream that in 2030, smallholder finance will be the best yielding bonds on the NYSE.”
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