Burundian coffee exporter COCOCA borrowed 100,000 USD from Truvalu in 2016 to acquire a coffee dry mill hulling plant. This investment concerned a co-investment with Kampani, a Brussels-based social impact investment fund. Five years down the road the loan has entirely been repaid and Truvalu is proud to exit this investment with the organization healthier and more sustainable than when we entered the investment.
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For the coffee cooperative movement in Burundi, Truvalu made the acquisition of an existing coffee dry mill possible via an asset deal. The new company was named Horamama Coffee Dry Mill and is located in Ntarambo, in the Northern part of Burundi (area of Kayanza/Ngozi). The owner of Horamama is the Fairtrade certified Burundian coffee exporter COCOCA, a union of smallholder cooperatives. Horamama hulls and stores the cooperative’s coffee beans – an activity which up to that point was outsourced to third parties. Hulling is the last link in the value chain before export and transforms parchment coffee into green coffee. All earlier steps in the process i.e. the production itself and the transformation from cherries into parchment coffee are carried out by the base cooperatives in their own washing stations. The umbrella organization, COCOCA, is responsible for the coordination and commercialization.
- To acquire the coffee dry mill, COCOCA needed financing of 501,000 USD. Kampani provided 324,000 USD while Truvalu provided 100,000 USD. The investment took the form of a subordinated debt agreement over five years with a two-year grace period.
- Truvalu and Kampani each had a representative on the Board of Horamama, providing invaluable support and assistance to the leadership of COCOCA and Horamama. This support has helped the board to be more effective in its governance, to raise additional capital for this and other investments, to manage difficult transitions, and face internal and external challenges.
Truvalu intends to partner with Kampani again in the future as both funds are closely aligned in terms of the risk appetite and putting the social impact front and central. The fact that the investment in COCOCA was a co-investment reduced the overall risk significantly, as intended and expected, by complementing and dividing the needed follow-up and support.
The impact of this investment is much more than adding buildings and equipment to the balance sheet. It is seeing the lives of individual coffee farmers improved economically, their children able to go to school, and healthier families. Anesie is a Burundi coffee farmer and a widow with 11 children. Using the income from the 600 coffee trees on her coffee farm, she has been able to keep her children in school and to help them achieve a better life than she has lived. It is this hope for a better future for her children that encourages and sustains Anesie on her coffee farm.
Truvalu and Kampani are proud to have contributed to the growth of COCOCA and to the improvement in the lives of thousands of smallholder coffee farmers. In the words of the representative of Truvalu on the Board of Horamama, Dan Brose: “Thanks to this investment, COCOCA has greatly strengthened its position in the market, hereby reducing the vulnerability of its 30.000 members. They can take control of their own lives in ways they did not dream possible only a few years ago.”
- COCOCA has increased their membership from 32 to 40 cooperatives with more than 27,000 coffee farming members and 34 coffee washing stations.
- Coffee, which is the number one export product from Burundi, is the major source of cash revenue for most of Burundi’s rural farmers. The loan allowed COCOCA and its members to increase their control over the quality of their coffee product, resulting in greater premiums for their coffee and increased profitability.
- Due to the vertical integration, the coffee flows are better rationalized and the removal of the previous bottlenecks has enabled the cooperatives to sell more coffee.
- The investment has also allowed COCOCA to improve the traceability and quality control to better meet the requirements of specialty coffee markets. In 2019, roughly half of the processed volume was Fairtrade or Utz certified.
- The added value of the hulling service itself remains within the group.
- To date (2021), COCOCA remains the only co-operative player on the Burundi market to own its own dry mill.
- Horamama, in terms of volumes processed, over the past few years grew to be the largest huller in all of Burundi.