How one small investment firm is using a systemic approach to massively impact agribusiness finance
Getting access to finance is a huge barrier for growth for agribusinesses. Each year, we have a $65 billion financing gap for agribusinesses in sub-Saharan Africa. In other emerging economies, agribusinesses also cannot get loans. Finance is fundamental for agribusinesses to be more productive, more sustainable, and more resilient, and for them to produce the food we need to feed our growing population. In a recent article, Lucas Simons argued for a systemic approach to solving the access to finance issue and for interoperability of actors in the ecosystem. In this article, you will read how three actors in the ecosystem worked together, leveraging each other’s strengths, to fund mid-sized agribusinesses. You will also read about one of these agribusinesses and how this funding has helped them grow and become an important source of employment in their community.
Kampani arose to solve a pervasive problem in agricultural finance
The Belgian investment fund, Kampani, is financing the agricultural “missing middle” by offering mid-sized loans to growing agribusinesses. Over the years, they have been working with various stakeholders, including Rikolto and SCOPEinsight, to help them strengthen their loan portfolio. As a result, they have made nine successful deals with various cooperatives in six years, including a recent investment that promises to transform the Nicaraguan cooperative COOSEMPODA (Cooperativa de Servicios Múltiples Padre Odorico D´Andrea R.L.).
When it comes to providing finance to agribusinesses, a “missing middle” is often underfinanced. These agribusinesses require too big loans for microfinance loans but too small for traditional investors. Many mid-sized agribusinesses find themselves stuck in this gap and unable to access the finance they need to grow.
Kampani arose to close the gap between finance and agribusiness. Kampani invests between $100,000 and $500,000 to agribusinesses that have outgrown smaller financial services. It provides patient growth capital, using exclusively equity or quasi-equity, for investments heavy in capital expenditure. Their work to finance the missing middle means that Kampani fills an otherwise unfilled niche.
How Kampani leverages other actors to augment its unique service offering
Kampani has a unique way of working that puts them in a close partnership with the agribusinesses they fund. This procedure works, as all their deals have been successful in the six years they have been active. The process begins when a Kampani shareholder, who is often an NGO, sources a deal. This pipeline creates additional confidence on both ends, as both the cooperative and Kampani know and trust the organization linking them.
Once a deal has been sourced, Kampani must decide if they wish to fund the agribusiness. Therein begins their thorough due diligence process. As a recognized leader in assessment tools to measure the level of professionalism of agribusiness, one of Kampani’s initial steps is the use of SCOPEinsight’s professionalism scores. A high SCOPE score indicates a more promising and professional cooperative with high potential for a successful investment. In contrast, a low score immediately shows that the cooperative is not yet ready to work with Kampani. The Executive Director of Kampani, Wouter Vandersypen, indicated that he thought they could work with a score around 3.5 or higher.
If Kampani chooses to go through with the investment, they have specific stipulations that they require of the cooperatives with whom they work. One of these stipulations is that Kampani must have a representative on the cooperative board. This way, they can see what the cooperative is doing, have a say in the cooperative’s decisions, and add value beyond the injection of cash. In particular, Kampani makes sure that their representative has veto power. This makes Kampani and the cooperative a partnership, rather than Kampani just being an outsider. Given Kampani’s track record, it is evident that it works well.
How working with NGO Rikolto helped this Nicaraguan Cooperative
Last year, Kampani invested in COOSEMPODA, a Nicaraguan cooperative. Rikolto, an international NGO and Kampani shareholder, facilitated this connection because they have been working with COOSEMPODA for many years and believed that COOSEMPODA was ready to grow. Wouter Vandersypen describes COOSEMPODA as a cooperative that fits Kampani’s investment strategy, as the cooperative’s further growth was blocked by a lack of access to patient capital. One way that Rikolto showed COOSEMPODA’s readiness for finance was with the results of SCOPE assessments.
In the years Rikolto worked with COOSEMPODA, they made great strides towards professionalizing the cooperative as evidenced by the increase in professionalism scores on SCOPE assessments. Their use of SCOPE assessments allowed them to create targeted assistance based on COOSEMPODA’s strengths and weaknesses. Now that COOSEMPODA is financed by Kampani, its growth will continue. Besides financial targets, Kampani has also stipulated social targets for the cooperative, which includes an increase in female and youth participation and a continuation of current efforts to promote environmental health.
How COOSEMPODA will use the funding to grow
COOSEMPODA currently produces about 80% of the cabbage sold in Nicaraguan markets. Their goal is to increase their crop diversity. However, before their partnership with Kampani, they could not afford the washing facilities needed to clean other produce. They had to sell it to intermediaries instead of offering the produce directly to markets. Thanks to the investment from Kampani, COOSEMPODA now has the funding to improve their processing plant in a way that will allow them to process other types of produce. They also intend to use their funding to purchase a refrigerated truck to transport produce directly to supermarkets and expand their production capacity with some new crops like tomatoes and peppers. The funding from Kampani has made this growth possible.
Kampani has ambitious plans for the coming years. They hope to increase their current efforts, and work with SCOPEinsight and others, so they can reach more agribusinesses and make more investments. Their vision is one of economic growth and development in the global South, a goal towards which they have already made massive strides. As Kampani continues to grow, they will continue to reach more farmers, and hopefully, they will see their vision of a developed global South become a reality.
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