Author Archives: Matt Lambert

Why GP Expanded to East Africa

By Aaron Nasurutia: Vice President, Lending & Portfolio Management – Africa, Global Partnerships


According to the GIIN 2015 report, The Landscape for Impact Investing in East Africa, East Africa is one of the centers of global impact investing. Activity has grown strongly throughout the region over the past five years during which $9.3 billion was disbursed by more than one thousand direct investments by development finance institutions (DFIs) and other impact investors active in the region. The report also stated that within East Africa, Kenya and its capital city Nairobi are the regional hub of impact investing in East Africa where at least 48 impact fund managers have staff placed.


Just over one year ago, Global Partnerships expanded into Africa with the opening of our office in Nairobi to initially invest in four East African countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. GP’s entry into Africa is at an opportune time with a rise of innovative solutions in the region – especially in clean energy, agriculture, and financial inclusion – which are aligned with GP’s mission. 


GP expanded to Africa not only because investment and innovation in the region are growing, but most importantly because poverty has persisted for generations here, and markets must be pushed to empower people in a sustainable way. GP chose to focus its entry in sub-Saharan Africa for a variety of reasons.


For example, according to the Africa Energy Outlook Report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 2014, sub-Saharan Africa had more people living without access to electricity than any other region in the world – more than 620 million people – which is more than the global total. In East Africa alone, more than 200 million people live without electricity – around 80% of its population.


Also, financial exclusion for the poor continues to be a major hindrance to poverty alleviation, as well as limited access to healthcare, clean water, proper sanitation, education and decent housing among others. Agriculture continues to be the main source of livelihood for the majority of rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa where smallholder farmers depend on crop farming and animal husbandry. GP’s mission to improve the lives of people living in poverty through our Investment Initiatives is well placed to impact millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, beginning with the four East African countries.


In the past year GP has made solid progress both in making our first investments as well as research aimed at expanding GP’s Investment Initiatives. We have made three investments, one to a women-centered MFI, the second to a distributor of solar lights and the third to a rural-centered MFI that focuses on financing smallholder farmers. Our primary research done during this first year also yielded three investment initiatives: Smallholder Finance Services (SHFS), Rural-Centered Finance with Education (RCFE), and Women-Centered Finance with Education (WCFE).


As the person leading GP’s social investment lending in Africa, I am greatly inspired by the opportunity we have to impact millions of people living in poverty. In my former career as a commercial banker, the objective was maximization of shareholder value. Now, as an impact-led investor, GP is 100% focused on the household impact and on empowering people in a sustainable way. For me, the satisfaction of participating in such transformation is incredibly rewarding. 


On a personal note, as someone who grew up in a family of farmers in rural Kitale in the North Rift region of Kenya, I am proud to be a part of a team enabling innovative change by providing much needed capital to social entrepreneurs in my home country and neighboring regions. This kind of impact changes lives and future generations. As an example, parents living in poverty can increase their income, giving them the opportunity to pay for their children’s education.


We look forward to sharing with you the impact our partners are having in Africa in the years to come.


To learn more about our entry into Africa read our Fall 2016 Impact Newsletter.

Aaron (left) with Charles, a Kenyan farmer
who is a client of Meru Greens Horticulture.
Aaron (left) with Charles, a Kenyan farmer who is a client of Meru Greens Horticulture.

Growth Opportunities in Kenya

Scott Knackstedt, Research Associate, Global Partnerships


I arrived in Kenya in late May, just as the rains were subsiding and the bright green stalks of young maize could just reach a zebra’s shoulder.  As a summer associate for Global Partnerships, my project was to research, assess and provide recommendations on a prospective new investment initiative in agriculture inputs.  Based out of Nairobi at GP’s Africa headquarters, I stayed in the Kilimani district, just north of the slums of Kibera, and a five-minute walk to the office each morning that involved passing informal fruit-sellers and thunderous diesel trucks as children in matching uniforms made their way to school.  On the weekends I traveled, with the goal to see as much of the country as I could.  I hiked in four national parks, ran with professional runners in Iten, went fishing off of Lamu Island, and ogled my fill of wild critters of all sizes while on safari.


‘Agriculture inputs’ is a broad category – fertilizer, improved seeds, irrigation, pest controls, and veterinary services, among others – and is demonstrably integral in boosting farm productivity for the smallholder farmer, leading to higher incomes and food security. Despite this, and quite surprisingly, very few smallholder farmers in East Africa use these inputs.  Irrigation rates are less than a tenth of the global average, less than 5 percent apply fertilizer, and only 11 percent of farmers use improved seeds.  Animal husbandry is no better, where a fifth of livestock are lost to diseases with known vaccines and treatments and the average cow produces only 35 percent of what the same breed produces in Europe.  There is a dearth of access to technical assistance – including information on the most effective way to grow maize – further deepening the challenges faced by the vast majority of farmers living in poverty.


I connected with those farmers to understand their needs and challenges, and met with social enterprises that are creating market sustainable solutions for the rural poor of East Africa, witnessing first-hand the pigeon-peas growing on a single hectare with five other crops, learning about ‘dipping’ livestock to prevent parasites, and speaking with dairy farmers about the diet of cattle.  I had the pleasure of eating French beans in the company of the farmer who grew them, handled worms crawling through coffee husks used for vermiculture, and came to know the ins-and-outs of cultivating Kenya’s primary staple: maize. Throughout it all, the experiences I witnessed, the details I learned, and the people I befriended engendered an awareness and familiarity with the agriculture industry that I never could have anticipated.


Speaking of maize, when cultivating it there is a dependable process to best ensure a bountiful harvest: 


  • First, one should prepare the land, plowing early – perhaps two or three times – and remove grasses and weeds that have taken advantage of your soil. 

  • Next, time the sowing properly, where it is essential that you plant early and in advance of the rains as yields are significantly reduced with late planting. 

  • Choose the right seeds for your local conditions:  length of the rainy season, altitude, and amount of nitrogen in the soil.  Take time to space the seeds properly (30 cm apart, ideally) and occasionally deposit two seeds in the same hole to buffer against anticipated losses from pests. 

  • If you have access to fertilizer, apply it accordingly at planting and again when your stalks are knee-height. 

  • Tend to your maize as it grows, weeding and watering, and come harvest, you and your family will be rewarded with a strong yield.


Just as I have seen how growing maize can be a deliberate and thoughtful process, so too is GP’s approach to ensure that the impact they deliver to the rural poor is sustainable, meaningful, and robust. My initiative research was the first step of GP’s investment process, plowing this arable landscape for new opportunities and determining which kernels are right for sprouting under the local conditions.  Now, having presented my work and delivered my findings, it is time for it to grow.  GP will till and tend this project, applying capital to fertilize those social enterprises that, like properly cultivated maize, are most likely to provide income and security to the lives of those that need it most.  In helping to grow better livelihoods, I have seen how Global Partnerships itself becomes a productive input in this patient yet promising cycle in agriculture in East Africa – the soil for hope, the sunshine for a brighter future.


Scott and fellow GP research associate, Pragya Dewan in Kenya.

Scott and fellow GP research associate, Pragya Dewan in Kenya.

Scott is a native of the northwest, growing up in Olympia and studying the physical sciences and languages at the University of Portland. Having spent over four years abroad throughout Asia, Europe, and now Africa (for this project), Scott was drawn to Global Partnerships as he has seen that supporting market-sustainable solutions is an effective tool to alleviate poverty and GP’s mission-driven approach was compelling, thoughtful, and time-tested. Scott has graduate degrees from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna and the University of Cambridge, where his research focused on the scientific narrative in development of central Africa. Most recently, Scott graduated from the University of Washington’s MBA program with an emphasis on finance and entrepreneurship. 

Maize growing on a small farmer in Iten, Kenya.
Maize growing on a small farmer in Iten, Kenya.

Celebrating the Impact of Cooperatives

By Kusi Hornberger, VP of Investment Research
& Sixta García, Portfolio Director for Nicaragua


These farmers are members of the Nicaraguan cooperative, COPROEXNIC. Orlando Quiros [back row, second from left] is the manager of this grower group called APRENIC. Photo credit: Lisa Nicholson


July 2, the 2016 International Day of Cooperatives, is a day to celebrate the thousands of member-owned and member-run cooperative enterprises which collectively help realize the economic aspirations of more than 250 million people worldwide. At Global Partnerships we are firm believers in the cooperative movement, particularly how they are able to help the lives of smallholder farmers like Orlando Quiros in Nicaragua. Many smallholder farmers are isolated by geography and disadvantaged by the small scale of their yields. By uniting hundreds or thousands of fellow farmers, cooperatives not only provide farmers with economies of scale to get better pricing for their crops such as coffee, cocoa or sesame but also help strength the social and human capital of their member communities.


Over the last three years through our Smallholder Farmer Services investment initiative we have invested in ten trade cooperatives in Central and South America. These cooperatives have provided roughly 70,000 farmers and their family members with increased economic opportunities due to access to markets and higher prices via purchase contracts with price premiums as well as crop-focused technical assistance to boost yields. These investments have also led to 33,000 hectares of sustainably managed land. Meaning our investments have both led to social and environmental impacts on the communities we are investing.


While most of our cooperative partners have focused on the coffee trade, some have not. One such cooperative is the Cooperative of Organic and Traditional Farmers and Exporters of Nicaragua (COPROEXNIC) where Orlando is a member. COPROEXNIC is the largest exporter of processed sesame in Nicaragua – both organic and conventional. It is also a large producer of organic peanuts for export. COPROEXNIC serves more than 3,000 growers in 13 different communities throughout western Nicaragua. (COPROEXNIC was created by the Center for Development in Central America.)


COPROEXNIC provide Orlando and other members with access to better prices for their crops via contracts with organizations like Once Again Nut Butter, a premium organic manufacturer of peanut and other butters based in the United States. They also provide their farmers with a guaranteed ~30% of final sales contract price which means more of that premium is going to the farmers and their family’s pocket. In addition, they provide their farmers with access to needed mechanization inputs for peanut farming (tractors, etc.) and provide agronomic technical assistance.


We are proud to be supporting cooperatives like COPROEXNIC which are helping to improve the lives of Orlando and his family. We look forward to continued growth and impact through our work with cooperatives moving forward.


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Co-operatives day 2

Five Lessons on Investing for Impact

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Tara Murphy Forde, Vice President of Impact and Strategic Initiatives at Global Partnerships, shares her view on the importance of industry engagement and highlights some of her high level takeaways from the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) Metrics from the Ground Up conference.


By Tara Murphy Forde, Vice President for Impact and Strategic Initiatives


“As we approach nearly a decade of using the term ‘impact investing,’ what can the industry learn from microfinance, particularly when it comes to impact measurement, evidence, and expectations?” For those of you who are familiar with Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), it won’t surprise you to know that this was one of the questions posed during last week’s Metrics from the Ground Up Conference in Washington, D.C. It is this type of honest, critical, and forward-looking dialogue that motivates Global Partnerships’ (GP) participation in the network.


As a nonprofit impact investor, GP has been providing working capital loans to social enterprises for over 20 years. We got our start in microfinance, which taught us a thing or two about what it means to pivot and refine an investment strategy based on emerging results, evidence, and insights. We have called on that experience, and the experience of others, as we’ve refined our impact methodology and expanded into new sectors and geographies. In turn, it was a pleasure to sit on a panel at last week’s event with Kelly McCarthy from the Global Impact Investing Network and Laura Foose from the Social Performance Task Force to share learnings and discuss implications.


Two issues we discussed on the panel were alignment and transparency. Given the varied and complex nature of the problems we look to address, and the often nascent stage of the solutions we support, it is understandable that impact investors and practitioners alike will rely on “theories of change” versus clear and decisive evidence. That being said, we need to be honest about what we know and don’t know, and find strategic partners who share our desire to learn and improve over time. We also shared some concrete lessons about what impact investors can do better moving forward. We can:


  1. Get clearer on what we can measure (often outputs), but not stop there. We need to define the outcomes and impacts we look to deliver and strive to measure them, even if only via directional data at first.

  2. Be careful not to get too narrow, too fast. While definition is important, we need to remain open to, and employ methods for, capturing unintended and longer term outcomes.

  3. Develop a deeper understanding of context, so when we analyze data, and evidence begins to emerge, we can interpret relevance and better understand outcomes.

  4. Invest in the talent, systems, and practices that will increase our capacity to deliver the desired impact.

  5. Remember to always keep the client at the center. If we use data to better understand client needs, behaviors, and motivations, we can protect against certain risks while gaining valuable insight into key impact and business drivers.


At Global Partnerships these lessons have manifested themselves in several concrete ways. We’ve developed an Impact and Research Team that is responsible for identifying high impact investment opportunities and evaluating the impact of existing ones. While monitoring and evaluation is an important part of our role, we do not operate in a silo. Our function is strategic. We are responsible for defining the impact we look to deliver, interpreting the emerging evidence base, identifying appropriate measures, screening investees, interpreting results, and informing portfolio strategy. In short, we are tasked with providing critical feedback loops to ensure that impact-related results and insights inform the allocation of capital.


While this may sound easy enough, putting the right tools, talent, and processes in place to execute on this vision remains a work in progress. It has meant investing resources, challenging previously held assumptions, and adopting an iterative approach to portfolio strategy. And we have not embarked on this endeavor alone. As a fund manager, we have invited our investors and investees alike to join us in putting impact at the center of impact investing.


Special thanks to Markets For Good for posting this original blog post which can be found here. To stay up to date with the latest Markets For Good articles and news, sign up for their newsletter and follow them on Twitter.


Investing in Women

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This is the first of a two-part blog series from Global Partnerships about women and impact investing.

By KJ Zunigha, Impact Evaluation Officer, Global Partnerships


Women all over the developing world play vital roles in cash management, making daily decisions on how to spend their limited resources on food, healthcare, and other necessities. Studies continue to highlight that investing in women not only positively impacts the individual, but her family and community as well.


The unfortunate irony is that women are disproportionately excluded from access to vital opportunities, such as financial inclusion.


Global Partnerships is committed to expanding opportunities for people living in poverty and is particularly focused on investing in women.


Below are a few ways GP thoughtfully invests in women: ensuring partners are tailoring products and services for women, delivering products in an effective way, and making a tangible impact. 


Tailored Products and Services 


Global Partnerships seeks out investable partners that are not just reaching women, but that are also designing products and services specifically for women. These organizations work to understand the needs, habits, obstacles, and daily decisions faced by women living in poverty, and design their loan products and services to better reach and provide opportunities for women.


A critical product currently providing opportunities for women living in poverty is microcredit, allowing women to start or grow their own microenterprises. Microcredit on its own, however, is not always enough to help people overcome poverty – we believe that credit bundled with additional, value-added services is more impactful in the long-run.


Value-added services include access to health services, a savings account, as well as business and financial education. When evaluating education programs, GP looks at how topics will take into account the potential knowledge gaps, sensitivities, and information needs of women.


Additionally, GP’s investments aim to resolve issues of stigma, finances, or distance that might exclude women from health services. Some of our partners provide preventive health education as well as access to cervical cancer screenings, low-cost family health insurance products, and mobile medical and dental brigades for the whole family.


Tailored Delivery Method


GP seeks out social enterprises who understand how to deliver tailored products and services to women in effective ways. Many women in poverty are often outright excluded from access to key opportunities, but sometimes it is also a matter of poorly designed delivery methods.


For example, one way to reach women living in poverty is through a group lending platform. Village banks and solidarity groups are two such mechanisms to reach women previously excluded from traditional financial services. Village banks allow members to share risk with a group of 15-30 women from the same community and do not require collateral on the loan. Women who may not have control of household assets are thus able to enter into a village bank without collateral. Sharing risks with known community members and neighbors builds trust and accountability within the group. This is one reason why village banks have such high repayment rates.


As part of a group, women also have the opportunity to learn from their peers and support one another. The value of being part of a group also provides a sense of belonging, and an additional setting where their voice can be heard and valued, particularly in many cultures where discrimination against women occurs. Having a safe, welcoming place to talk about domestic abuse, gender-based prejudice, as well as dreams and successes can have a powerful, positive impact for these women.


Defining and Measuring Our Impact


The products and delivery methods described above result from thoughtful work behind the scenes to understand what impact GP is having on the lives of women. GP has invested in a commitment to women, with a mandate to ensure all work operates with a gender lens.


As part of this commitment, GP has a dedicated Impact & Research Team which ensures that investments are maximized, by determining what works, why, for whom, and under what circumstances. GP looks at the existing evidence base, industry and sector experts, and learns alongside its partners to inform and evolve strategy. This allows GP to better target investments and maximize impact. In addition to evolving current investments, GP also researches new products, services, delivery channels, and populations to expand impact in more inclusive and effective methods. From researching new initiatives to measuring existing initiatives, GP is constantly refining and expanding work based on this analysis.


Combined, these three strategies allow GP to reach more women, have a deeper impact, and continue to improve results. To see the social impact of GP investment initiatives, please view our Annual Impact Update.

Investing in Women

Q&A: Impact on Women

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This is the first of a two-part blog series from Global Partnerships about women and impact investing.

Interview with Tara Murphy Forde, Vice President of Impact and Research, Global Partnerships


What challenges do women face in the developing world?

Let me start by saying that poverty and the way that it is experienced by women is highly contextual. The challenges faced by a woman in rural Bolivia are quite different than those faced by a woman living in a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi. That being said, millions of women across the globe lack access to the products, services, and information they need to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. In other words, gender inequality is both a root cause and a consequence of poverty. Ironically, studies have shown time and again that when you put resources in the hands of women, not only do those women benefit, they invest those resources in the wellbeing of their families and communities.

How can impact investing be part of the solution?

Impact investing seeks to harness the positive power of markets to generate social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. In the case of Global Partnerships, we invest in enterprises that are overcoming critical obstacles like lack of infrastructure or financial incentive, in order to deliver high-impact products and services to people historically excluded. To do so successfully and sustainably, our partners need to develop a deep understanding of their clients and tailor their offerings to better meet their needs. This focus on inclusion and client-centric design lends itself to a gender sensitive approach. For example, our partners looking to deliver health services to rural women need to understand the current options, why they are failing women, and what it would take to improve not only access, but use of health services. You can’t answer these questions without applying what many call a “gender lens.”

How does Global Partnerships apply a “gender lens” in its investment strategy?

First, we conduct in-depth research to better understand not only whether a certain product or service works, but why that intervention works, for whom it works and under what circumstances. Through this rigorous research, which defines our investment initiatives, we gain a better understanding of whether a given intervention is targeting women living in poverty and, if so, how. We analyze how various aspects of a potential investment, such as payment terms, education curriculums, delivery mechanisms, and the quality of the product or service help women overcome gender barriers that have traditionally kept them excluded. We then look for partners that not only deliver the intervention outlined in the investment initiative, but do so in a way that we believe can reach more women living in poverty.

What do we measure and how do we know whether or not women are benefiting?

We, of course, ask our partners to report on how many clients they serve and what percent of those clients are women, but we also work alongside a select set of partners to better understand whether those clients experience the desired results. For example, in our Women-Centered Finance and Education Initiative, we work with partners like Friendship Bridge and CRECER, who use frequent feedback surveys and targeted studies to better understand their impact on women. By doing so, we can gain a better understanding of whether or not the women they serve are in fact feeling truly empowered, changing their income and consumption patterns and demonstrating stronger resilience in the face of economic shocks. Applying a gender lens in impact investing is about more than just a screening checklist or a set of quantitative data points. It is about using a variety of methods and frequent feedback to gain deeper insights into what women want and need in order to change their lives.

How has GP’s work evolved to better serve women?

As an impact-led investor, we have been focused on what products and services to invest in and why they are impactful. Over the years, we have learned that in order to answer these questions we need to also understand who is being served. By reframing the question, we have gained deeper insight into how women transform resources into economic opportunity. For example, we now understand that in order to capture the impact of financial services and education, we need to go beyond simply measuring changes in income and evaluate things that demonstrate economic resilience, like changes in how women decide to spend their income and how households deal with crises such as illness.

What about GP’s efforts to impact women most inspires you?

Throughout my career, I have been inspired by the women I have met and believe that their fortitude and ingenuity can move mountains. That being said, the systemic barriers women face remain real and will not be overcome until we tackle the link between poverty and inequality. But let me be clear, focusing on gender in impact investing isn’t just about making sure women benefit. The Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article entitled, “The Rise of Gender Capitalism.” The authors assert that by using a gender lens, investors can “gain new perspectives, highlight inequalities, uncover new opportunities, and find value where none was found before.” I am encouraged by the ways in which GP is applying a gender lens to challenge previously held assumptions, push for more client-centric solutions, and ultimately put resources in the hands of those who need them most.

Tara with Crecer Clients in Bolivia
Tara Murphy Forde with clients from GP partner CRECER in Bolivia.

Honoring Four Women on International Women’s Day

Every day, Global Partnerships strives to expand opportunity for women. International Women’s Day is an occasion to recognize that our world needs to do more to break down barriers that inhibit women from equal opportunity. Today, we honor women who are investing in their families, their businesses, their communities, and most importantly, themselves.

These four women are just a few of the millions of women who, through our partners, are turning opportunity into impact and lifting themselves out of poverty.

 Ana IWD

Ana Victoria Dubon is the president of her village bank in Panajachel, a rural town in Guatemala. A village bank is a group of women who not only receive business loans, but also receive financial education and technical training to help them make the most of their loan. Ana uses her loan to run a food stall business to provide for herself and her son and daughter. She is saving to one day fulfill her dream of going to school to become a registered nurse. Global Partnerships invests in partners like Friendship Bridge who support women entrepreneurs like Ana. In this 2-minute video, listen to Abner, Ana’s son, share her story of independence and success.


Maritza IWD

Maritza Jarquin, lives in a remote Nicaraguan town called El Aguacate, where there is no electricity, water or access to sanitation. She is married, and has 13 children, 27 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. GP partners like MiCrédito and Greenlight Planet provide Maritza with access to clean, renewable and affordable solar lights to replace toxic and expensive kerosene lamps. Watch this video to hear from Maritza how solar lights have brightened her family’s and her community’s future.

 Nerida family IWD

Nerida Gutierrez Velasquez is a coffee farmer in Peru. In 2005, she joined our partner Crediflorida, which provides loans, access to markets and technical assistance for small farmers. Nerida used her loan to buy a plot of land to grow coffee. Today, she and her husband have grown their coffee business enough to expand to a larger plot of land. Nerida is so successful that other farmers in the area hire her to teach them how to plant and cultivate coffee. Learn more about our partners serving smallholder farmers.

 Donna IWD

Gilda Maribel Say Nimatuj runs a pharmacy in her community of Quetzaltenango in rural Guatemala. Most of her clients are women and children. Within her community there is a critical shortage of access to affordable medicine. Not only does Gilda sell affordable medicine at her pharmacy, she also provides health consultations for free. "It’s what I like to do more than anything else: to support the people in my community." Gilda is a client of Friendship Bridge in Guatemala, one of Global Partnerships’ 19 health partners who have delivered a combination of health education, basic screenings, essential medicines and affordable care to 1.1 million people living in poverty. Gilda’s story will be featured in next month’s newsletter. Sign up if you would like to subscribe to Global Partnerships’ newsletter.

We are inspired by what one woman can do with opportunity. Yet women continue to be the majority of the world’s poor. Global Partnerships will continue to seek out social enterprises who are dedicated to impacting the lives of women living in poverty around the world. 

Ana, Gilda, Maritza, and Nerida are just a few of the millions of women who inspire us every day.  We hope they inspire you as well.

Blog Tags: international women's day   

Feature IWD