If you recently enjoyed a juicy mango – and live in the Netherlands – there’s a fair chance it came from Mali. The piece of fruit made it from a Malian mango farmer to the shelves of a Dutch supermarket, with support from Cordaid Investments.
When Mali is in the news, it is, unfortunately, mostly related to militant Islamist groups. Or to the aftermath of the 2012 coup. This crisis resulted in more insecurity, poverty, and corruption and pushed the country even higher up the fragile states index (21st of 178) and lower down in the Human Development Index (182 out of 189).
That is what makes the story of SCS International so special. This mango exporter is one of the few Malian companies succeeding in penetrating the demanding European market – more specifically, the Dutch market. In doing so, it improves the lives of hundreds of Malian families.
Moussa Diakité is the founder and motor of SCS International. He grew up among the fruit trees of his grandfather. Later, when he made the switch from a fruit farmer to a real mango entrepreneur, he had one goal in mind: employing young people and helping farmers access markets, even international ones. He wanted to boost the long-suffering Malian economy. And in particular, he wanted to improve the lives of the small-scale farmers from the community in which he grew up.
Image 1: Moussa Diaktité, CEO of SCS International
Image 2: Brenda Pennell (2nd from the left), during a visit to one of the mango orchards. © CordaidImage
Image 3: Washing and packaging the handpicked mangoes. © SCS International
Moussa Diakité made his vision come to life. SCS currently buys mangoes from some 850 mango growers, all breadwinners of large families, providing them with a fair income. SCS trains the mango farmers in modern and sustainable crop-growing, irrigation and fertilization techniques. And because the sun is ever-present in Mali, Diakité uses solar panels to power his facilities, and the surrounding neighbours.
Diakité also has a chicken farm. Why? Because he can use cardboard waste from the mango boxes for egg cartons, because chicken manure is a great fertilizer for mangoes and because he can sell eggs when the mango season (from March to June) is over.
When SCS’s growth stagnated, this was not because there weren’t enough mangoes, or because the quality was inferior. SCS had limited packing and cold storage capacity. Growth capital was needed to expand, but local banks were not able or willing to offer the flexibility that Diakité needed to grow. This is where Cordaid Investment Management stepped in.
“Since we are not a bank, but an impact investor, we are able to provide the flexibility needed”, says Cordaid Investment Manager Brenda Pennell. “In the case of SCS International, we approved a four-year loan with yearly repayments that are aligned with the mango season. This gives them the time to realize a benefit out of our investment, making it easier for them to repay.”
“With our loans, we want to ensure that local companies can help break the spiral of poverty in which communities are trapped. We wanted to work with SCS International because it’s a sustainable company with a convincing track record and an international customer base. Our loan enabled them to increase their cold storage capacity. They also invested it in an automated grading machine. This resulted in better and more efficient inspection, weighing, selection and packing processes. And, ultimately, in better export and sales.”
The loan gave a real boost to SCS. In 2019, its mango export to the Netherlands grew from 1540 to 1940 tons. The number of farmers from which SCS is buying its mangoes has increased from 850 to 1,000 in 2020 and is estimated to grow to 1,100 in the coming years. They also employ hundreds of seasonal workers who help to harvest, select and package the fruit. Considering that one farmer or worker provides for 10 people on average, you could say the social impact of such a company, and indirectly of the loan, is considerable.