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Impact investing plants seeds of growth for farmers

  • By Pamela Okutoyi
  • March 31, 2021

When nutritionist and entrepreneur, Elizabeth Mwenda, reflects on the growth of Botanic Treasures, a health and wellness company dealing with value addition of specialty foods, she gives her early investors credit for a critical quality: patience.

“In agriculture, we might wish to create an organisation that has legs, that has long-term impact for the industry and provides benefits for farmers,” she says. “So having walked this journey with KCIC and now KCV as our investors who are not trying to hunt out a fast exit has enabled us to create opportunities in farming Moringa.”

When Botanic Treasures first pitched their business to investors for farming Moringa, most investors were not enthusiastic. “We got plenty of worried looks and had to grow organically which made our entry into the market very slow,” says the social entrepreneur.

Since then, Botanic Treasures has been ready to receive seed funding from KCV to help accelerate its business. The fundraising success of the Kenyan-based company reflects a growing interest in agricultural innovation from impact investors who are looking to form an environmental impact.

“There is an emerging excitement, she says. “Small-scale agriculture is probably the foremost important industry on earth and it’s not really been tackled by investors. But people are getting increasingly conscious of it.”

Reflecting this, KCV, an investment management company, seeks to accelerate climate smart solutions by providing tailored and targeted financial and managerial assistance support to innovative early stage and growth stage businesses.

“The undeniable fact that this company exists shows that there are investors who care about our farmers’’, says Mwenda. The growing number of impact investors is filling a distinct segment left by traditional investors for whom its low margins and long-time horizons are unappealing.

Agriculture is not a risky bet, it is just a special sort of investment. For investors whose aim is to enhance people’s livelihoods and protect the earth, the food and agriculture sector is one where investing in sustainable and ethical practices can have a considerable impact.

Botanic Treasures exists to foster increased consumption of underutilized Moringa leaf powder as a low-cost, protein and nutrient dense ingredient for local food and beverages products in Kenya. It has developed Moringa fortified teas, porridge flour and super drinks.

The social enterprise has empowered over 300 smallholder farmers to grow Moringa oleifera, a highly nutritious vegetable plant. The enterprise produces nutritional supplements and fortified foods that combat malnutrition and degenerative diseases, and support food security.

Moringa has the very best affinity to purify the air of greenhouse gases. “If we will have more people growing Moringa, we’ll have a cleaner and healthier planet,” Mwenda states.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Agriculture is responsible for deforestation, groundwater depletion and loss of biodiversity. In addition, the world uses 70 percent of the world’s water and generates almost 20 percent of worldwide greenhouse emissions. For this reason, agriculture must be at the bull’s eye of climate innovation and investment.

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