It was yet another challenging year for our smallholders, SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and the community we serve. It was indeed a year unlike any. Please take time to read our piece on this at page 17 on ‘ 2022: A year like no other ’.
Amidst the undeniable trials of 2022, backed up with the resolve and resilience of our team CFC, we had numerous inspiring accomplishments to highlight. The Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, the appreciation of the currency of the United States posed significant difficulties for numerous businesses we support. But it also paved the way for novel ideas and opportunities to initiate transformative changes.
We are immensely proud of our accomplishments this year. 2022 has been the year with the highest number of projects seeking CFC financial support ever, with well over 500 applications received. Although a record 13 new investments were approved by the CFC's Executive Board, this is still only a fraction of what our valued applicants wish us to invest in.
These approvals accounted for a total value of nearly USD 60 million, with USD 13.4 million coming directly from CFC. These investments are aligned with the core Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), targeting areas such as poverty alleviation (SDG 1), hunger eradication (SDG 2), gender equality (SDG 5), economic growth (SDG 8), innovation (SDG 9), reducing inequalities (SDG 10), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), and climate action (SDG 13).
These partnerships reach over 95,000 farmers, a net additional income of up to USD 2,750 per annum. An additional 1,860 hectares of land are expected to be cultivated for food crops, and thereby enabling CFC to contribute towards enhancing food security of the poor and underprivileged.
The demand for CFC financing is growing because we serve the ‘ missing middle ’ providing resources directly to SMEs and smallholders.
Doing our part to strengthen the capacity of the CFC, we have initiated the process of launching our Agricultural Commodities Transformation Fund (ACT), a new fund aimed at magnifying our positive global impact. We remain grateful to the members of our Governing Council for their foresight as this initiative came at a time when the demand for our investments peaked at a new high.
Each year, our commitment to do more remains as crucial as it was when CFC was first established. At UNCTAD’s inaugural session in 1964, commodity price volatility was a key topic, leading to discussions about the creation of a common fund. Fast forward to 59 years later, the economies of many developing nations are primarily reliant on commodities, making them vulnerable to economic shocks. UNCTAD rightly cautions these nations that this dependency is a trap they will not escape from in the foreseeable future unless they undergo ‘a process of technology-enabled structural transformation’. With ACT Fund the CFC will mobilize the resources of private investors towards this transformation. You can read more about this initiative on page 19 (Section II.2 ACT Fund).
We act as a bridge between the developed and developing world, transferring technology and innovations from our base in the innovation rich European mainland. We rely on the innovation around us, with several of our projects enriched by Dutch entrepreneurs and businesses, benefiting both them and agripreneurs in the developing world.
Despite developing nations facing substantial technological challenges, their access to scientific and technical knowledge has increased. At the CFC, we strive to merge innovation with local knowledge to devise solutions that make a significant difference on the ground. In our quest to localise the development we work to implement a working model where local knowledge are called to action with the admixture of science and technology, where possible. The nexus between smallholders and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are bonded with strategic interventions and inputs so that we can bring more income for smallholders and outsize impacts along the sustainability roadmap.
To gain more insight into how we support smallholders through value chain innovation, read about the impact of our investments in: Enimiro (page 89), NEI (page 87), Meridia (page 91). This is only a snapshot of what we have been doing.
You will be pleased to see how Enimiro brought outsize benefits for smallholders simply by shortening the value chain and thereby freeing it up from parasitic middlemen. In the process it establishes traceability that we aspire to see as a new standard in the world of commodities. NEI helped increase the incomes of farmers at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. All that is needed is innovative crop ecology with an admixture of banana, coffee, and vanilla.
In Meridia we took upon us undue burden of an investment of very limited size simply to make it possible for them to implement highly innovative land mapping project using remote sensing and satellite technologies in Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Indonesia and thereby benefitting farmers, mostly women farmers, getting their land right secured and resultant income from their cocoa plantations.
Demand is higher than ever; supply needs to rise to the challenge. As the world grapples with climate change and destabilizing impact of conflict, it is unsurprising that demand for CFC’s services has escalated worldwide. Given the magnitude of the challenges confronting us, we need to venture out of our comfort zones to discover innovative solutions. We are aware of our limited size.
We are small, effective, and impactful. But to do more, we need larger partners such as the FMO, KfW, World Bank, IMF, IFC, GCF, EU and the broader UN ecosystem, to de-risk our investments.
We chose Millets as our cover given the United Nations General Assembly’s decision at its 75th session in March 2021 declaring 2023 the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023). While this may be news for much of the world, millets have been staple food in India and parts of Africa for several centuries, having come from China at least 5,000 years ago. At this pandemic wrecked world, millets are no longer our ‘coarse grains’. Rather they are our ‘nutricereals" which can provide us with nutritious and healthy alternatives to the usual re-fined grains in the global market. Millets are gluten-free with a low-glycaemic index making them a great food option for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, high-blood sugar, or diabetes. They can also be a cost-effective source of iron.
Millets have a short cycle and can be grown between major crop seasons, and they also enrich the soil with their own set of micronutrients. Millets can grow on arid lands with minimal inputs and are resilient to changes in climate. They are therefore an ideal solution for countries to increase self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on imported cereal grains. We urge all to be a part of #IYM2023 and make time to peruse our exclusive feature article titled ‘All-in on millet?’ (page 41).
Photo: Shalem warehouse. Shalem
In 2022, we also completed a study on ‘Finding Opportunities for Niche Commodities from Selected Landlocked Developing Countries in Health Food Markets’ with UNCTAD. The findings of this study – Harnessing the potential of nutraceutical products in landlocked developing countries – underscores the important point of the need for identifying products that will enable LLDCs to diversify their exports and foster the process of structural transformation.
As an impact investor, CFC takes the issue of technical assistance with utmost importance. As it houses a talented team of TA experts capable of working as consultants for other impact investment fund, we are proud to see their diversified portfolio across the world. The activities of our TA team in the Africa Agriculture and Trade Investment Fund (AATIF) only helped rolling out 108 projects in 17 (Benin, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe) African countries. We remain eager to significantly scale up our TA activities as we believe technology enabled transformation of the commodity world demands steady flow of updated information and knowledge sharing.
At the end of the day, we want to work for a world where we will have a battalion of Ruth Kinoti’s, Charity Ndegwa’s, Loise Maina’s, Jane Maigua’s etc. No matter wherever you are born, what race or religion or orientation you are from, irrespective of your zip code either in the developing South or the developed North, the only mantra we preach, as much as we practice, is each and every human being deserves to be treated with the dignity they truly deserve.
We invite you to read this report and get inspired by our work. Let's come together and strive for a world where everyone has a fair opportunity for a decent life. Let's walk this path together, transforming our world, with one smallholder at a time.
Here's to more progress and success in the year ahead!
Sheikh Mohammed Belal
The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the Common Fund for Commodities and/or on the part of the countries mentioned on it, concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The information shown is this map is for information purposes only and should not be considered as any form of endorsement by the Common Fund for Commodities and does not create any legal rights or obligations for any Member State.
Driving sustainable development through commodities
From the bread on your table and the cotton in your shirt to the copper and lithium in your smartphone, commodities are part of the fabric of our daily lives1. But for centuries the rewards that come from producing and trading commodities have not been shared equally. The CFC was founded to change this.
Our work is driven by the principle that commodity production, processing and trade should benefit producers across the world. In practice this means it should deliver positive economic, social and environmental outcomes to everyone, particularly vulnerable communities in commodity-dependent developing countries (CDDCs).
Addressing commodity dependence
According to UNCTAD, a country is commodity-export dependent when more than 60% of its total merchandise exports are commodities. The organisation’s State of Commodity Dependence 2021 report2 noted that the number of commodity-dependent countries has increased during the past decade from 93 in 2008–2009 to 101 in 2018–2019. As a result, much of their populations are left poor and vulnerable.
Commodity dependence is an issue that impacts many least developed countries (LDCs) with around 80% of LDCs classed as commodity dependent between 2018 and 20203. This issue is often perpetuated by the fact that commodity dependence is caused by economic vulnerability and is hard to overcome due to a lack of competitiveness in other sectors. During the same period, LDCs accounted for 2.4% of the global trade in primary commodities, but only 0.6% of the global trade in manufactured goods, highlighting the persistent challenge of export diversification.
Through the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA) for 2022-31, we and our partners will strive to tackle this challenge. DPoA sets out different action points to support LDCs in production and export diversification, which requires more sustainable forms of financing.
By providing access to affordable financing, we can help address the issue of poverty in commodity value chains. As stated in the DPoA: ‘Of greatest concern is that one in three people in least developed countries still live in extreme poverty, and the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has caused this figure to rise further. We are determined to foster peaceful, just, and inclusive societies that are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.’
At the CFC, we were already committed to the Vienna Programme of Action 2010-2024 (VPoA) and the alleviation of poverty in landlocked least developed countries (LLDCs). We also made specific investment commitments supporting the implementation of the VPoA. We are also working with other partners in the UN ecosystem, such as the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA), ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development (FfD), the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and others. By providing access to affordable finance and supporting private enterprise we aim to develop a rural agri-commodity-based value chain that unleashes entrepreneurship at the farm level. We agree with OHRLLS that: ‘Without a structural transformation that prioritises economic diversification and addresses institutional and capacity constraints, the least developed countries will remain vulnerable to various socioeconomic, health and environmental shocks.’4
We are committed to reducing the vulnerability of CDDCs, LDCs and LLDCs. We invest in businesses that support smallholders to add value and boost productivity while promoting climate resilience and gender equality. In turn, this will reduce the poverty many of them experience.
Strengthening food security
The world’s population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100. It is estimated that global food production in 2050 will need to increase by 70% from 2009 levels5 to meet demand. This will place an even greater strain on global food systems.
Addressing the issue of food security is one of our priorities. This shapes how we contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through our investments. We aim to support all the SDGs, but have a core focus on: SDG 1 (No poverty), SDG 2 (Zero hunger), SDG 5 (Gender equality), SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries) and SDG 13 (Climate action).
1World Economic Forum. We must help developing countries escape commodity dependence (accessed on May 18, 2023)
2UNCTAD. More than 100 countries depend on commodity exports (accessed on May 18, 2023)
3UNCTAD. Least developed countries report 2022 (accessed on May 18, 2023)
We are keenly aware of the relationship between commodities and climate change, and the pressing need for countries to reduce their dependence on the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels. We are working hard to facilitate the transition to renewable energy in developing countries by increasing our investments in businesses that are tackling climate change in line with the UN’s SDG 13 (Climate action).
For many countries, commodities are the main source of income. Understandably producers are keen to earn more by producing more. But this frequently reduces selling prices and puts pressure on natural resources, which compromises sustainability and development in the medium to long term. In addition, concentrating heavily on a few commodities has profound social consequences.
Take the case of commodities that require long-term investment, such as coffee. While a small number of plantation owners may benefit from a growth in trade, many workers toil in tough conditions for very little reward. In countries dominated by this model, it can lead to underperforming economies, which is known as the ‘resource curse’. The CFC was founded to rebalance this model so that the production, processing and trade of commodities benefit all actors across the value chain, from producers and their communities to the consumers.
Our work with the commodity sector contributes to sustainable development that benefits the social, economic, and environmental fabric of a country. Of course, sustainable development is a broad term. There is no one-size-fits-all formula, which is why we make sure our investments align with the strategies and development needs of each country and area we operate in.
The key starting point for all our investments is how it will increase food security, financial security and market access for the smallholder farmers who account for up to 80% of food production in Africa and Asia, but whose livelihoods are on a knife edge.
To address the issues they face, we provide financial support to innovative projects that will positively impact smallholder farmers, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) engaged in commodity production, processing, and trading in developing countries. By providing impact financing at the grassroots level, we enable smallholders and SMEs to raise production, connect to markets and improve their incomes.
Advocating for guardrails as the world rushes for African minerals
Innovation across a number of sectors is accelerating as the demand for smaller and more powerful devices grows and governments embrace the green economy. It has led to the rapid evolution of products and tools such as electric vehicles, renewable power, energy storage, 5G mobile technology and artificial intelligence (AI). The building blocks of these are mined materials including copper, silver, zinc, nickel, tin, lithium and palladium.
Many of these are found in Africa. Without proper guardrails in place this may prompt a damaging new rush for African minerals which does not benefit the local communities in which they are mined.
We are committed to increasing awareness of this issue, while working closely with governments and investing in viable local businesses, to ensure African artisanal miners are not left behind and are rewarded fairly for their part in making tech innovation possible.
Our core activities
As an impact investor, we support communities that rely on the commodities sector and are most exposed to its risks. We are based in the Netherlands where we can harness innovation to help agri-SMEs and smallholder farmers in CDDCs, LDCs and LLDCs to thrive.
We offer financing up to USD 2 million6 to qualifying investment proposals from SMEs. This bottom-up strategy ensures our investments are targeted to their needs and those of their local communities, while preserving the environment and creating stronger value chains.
We also manage technical assistance facilities for other impact investors operating in areas connected to our mission. This collaborative and knowledge sharing approach enables us to extend our support to more SMEs and smallholder farmers in more countries.
Financing that makes a difference
The CFC supports and invests in commodity value chains, in partnership with the public and private sectors, development institutions, and civil society. We leverage the potential of commodity production, processing, manufacturing, and trade, for the benefit of the poor.
Photo: CFC Consultative Committee
We invest in organisations and activities that:
are innovative and target new opportunities in commodity markets that lead to commodity-based growth, create employment, increase household incomes, reduce poverty and enhance food security;
are scalable, replicable and financially sustainable;
have the potential to positively and measurably impact the socio-economic and environmental situation of the people and places involved in commodity value chains;
develop stronger connections with existing markets or create new markets along the value chain;
increase the financial, and other, services available to commodity producers and commodity-based businesses;
enhance knowledge generation and information sharing;
build effective and cost-efficient collaboration between producers, industry, governments, civil society organisations and other stakeholders for commodity-based development.
connect the modern, digitally aware consumer with hardworking smallholders using technology. We call this ‘walking back along the value chain’ to directly benefit the smallholders who put food on our tables.
Key areas we support
We provide technical and financial support from field to fork. That means we operate all along the value chain from production to consumption and reach across local, national, regional and international markets. Here are some examples of specific areas we target:
• Production, productivity and quality improvements
• Processing and value addition
• Product differentiation
• Technology transfers, upgrades and innovation
• Measures to minimise physical marketing and trading risks
• Facilitation of trade finance
• Risk management, such as price and weather volatility
• Awareness on how to address commodity dependence
• Technical assistance
Investment with impact
We fund projects that are sustainable and deliver measurable development impact within the framework of the SDGs. Our support is usually in the form of loans, including working capital, trade finance or similar financial instruments. In rare cases we will consider providing equity, quasi equity, lines of credit and guarantees. We also offer limited grants to qualifying organisations, for example, to enable specific new activities in areas of strategic interest or to support loan-based projects through activities such as capacity building and technical assistance.
Our activities are financed through voluntary contributions and capital subscriptions by member countries, as well as interest earned from our investments. The more generous member states are, the more we can invest in overcoming the commodity dependence that exacerbates poverty, creating a fairer and healthier world.
Partnering up to grow our impact
We can achieve more working together. We seek to build partnerships with public and private institutions, bilateral and multi-lateral development organisations, cooperatives, producer organisations, SMEs, processing and trading companies, and local financial institutions. We look for several elements when selecting a partner, including that they:
• operate in commodity value chains or provide financial and other services to small business operators, SMEs, cooperatives or producer organisations;
• have a proven track record in commodity development;
• can invest in the value chain to reduce transaction costs or increase revenues of producers, processors, storage or marketing;
• have a clear plan focusing on developing and/or diversifying their production or services;
• have a clear plan to expand their markets at local, national, regional and international level;
• have the technical, managerial and financial capacity to effectively and efficiently implement their activities;
• include social, economic and environmental aspects in their scope of work;
• share the CFC’s values, including internationally recognised principles concerning human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption;
• will collaborate with the CFC to extend their core activities and create additional opportunities for everyone in the commodity value chain.
Connecting consumers with producers in the digital era
Enabling sustained growth in agricultural productivity has a key role to play in fighting poverty and is central to our mission. But this is one part of a complex puzzle – smallholders still need help to profit from their work.
Value chains are influenced by a range of forces on a national, regional and global level. Many of which are beyond our reach. We’re seeking support from member states and the UN ecosystem to tackle the non-competitive behaviour of multinationals and brands in dominant positions in local markets.
Inevitably smallholders suffer in this context, struggling to attract a fair price for their produce. It also leaves them exposed to price shocks from events outside their control, such as Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine. Where there is a dominant player, they are forced to take the price on offer, no matter how low it is. And these prices tend to fall faster in tough times than they rise in better times.
To redress this power imbalance, the bargaining capabilities of smallholders need to be enhanced. This will take collective political will and the adoption of digital technologies, including AI, blockchain and the internet of things, that directly connect producers and consumers. This kind of connectivity could open the door to a more sustainable system, in which smallholders earn a fairer income and we all appreciate where our food has come from.
The CFC will continue to search for innovative ways to deliver on its promise to make commodities work for everyone in the coming years.
Photo by Tony Molenaar, CFC
Overwhelming rise in the demand for CFC investments
The combined impact of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the rapid appreciation of the United States dollar, has increased the number of agricultural SMEs in developing countries that struggle to access financing.
They often fall into the ‘missing middle’ investment gap – too small for large international investors but seen as too risky by local banks. This limits their ability to invest in improving productivity and expanding their businesses in a way that drives rising incomes and job creation, which are both critical to overcoming issues such as youth unemployment in rural areas. This year alone, we received more than 500 investment applications through our biannual calls for proposals. We, therefore, have hundreds of shovel-ready investment applications in the pipeline.
To help provide them with the investments they need, we are working to establish the Agricultural Commodity Transformation (ACT) Fund which is designed to attract private sector investors. ACT will support SMEs to create sustainable, low-carbon supply chains that promote income growth and climate resilience on a large scale. To find out more, go to page 19.
With 1.3 billion young people worldwide, including up to 12 million new job seekers per year in Africa, SMEs have an essential role to play in creating economic opportunities and reducing migration. By enabling SMEs and smallholders to grow their businesses and drive up prosperity, we aim to strengthen local communities and generate employment that will encourage local people to stay.
6Exception is possible based on impact outcome of the investment.