Mercy Corps started a Social Venture Fund (SVF). It aims to accelerate the growth of innovative, financially sustainable companies that are socially responsible and positively impact people in developing countries. SVF hopes to de-risk the companies it takes on and make them more attractive to later-stage investors. Since we started supporting the SVF they have made three impact investments Arifu, Pula and Vega Coffee.
Arifu was founded in 2013 and is a Nairobi Kenyan based company created around a mobile based learning platform that can be accessed on any mobile device without the need of internet or airtime. This means a large amount of previously unreachable unserved people can now be reached, such as the youth and women. The mobile platform offers agricultural and last-mile distribution training, access to services, loans and farming resources. By 2019 Arifu aims to have trained over 1M youth and women. It has already reached close to half a million smallholder farmers.
Pula is a company that offers smallholder farmers insurance who otherwise would have not able to get insurance due to not having a bank account or other reasons. Pula has re-thought agricultural insurance by using different metrics and technology to allow previously unbanked smallholder to obtain insurance.
Vega Coffee focuses on increasing the income of small-scale farmers, the majority of which are women. Vega Coffee provides small-scale farmers with the training and equipment to roast and package their coffee beans. This cuts out the middle man and allows the farms to earn up to four times more per pound of coffee beans sold. This model is direct selling from farmers to customer. The extra income the farmer earns goes back into their communities, their children’s education and access to healthcare.
By 2020 SVF aims to improve the lives of 4M people who will benefit from the products, services and employment opportunities generated by SVF portfolio companies. Over the next 18 months Mercy Corps plans to make 10-14 impact investments in social companies they have identified as industry changers.