Many of our customers have taken up the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic with a bold and innovative spirit. Through FMO's Capacity Development program we provided EUR 3.5 million in grants to support them in this response.
The pandemic has brought hardship to communities and businesses operating in emerging markets. Apart from the still growing number of infections and often strained medical facilities, national and regional lockdowns have caused severe economic stress, disrupting supply chains, and making end-customers harder to reach. Many of FMO’s customers have been taking on the responsibility to support—or supplement—government efforts while facing an uncertain future themselves. Back in July, we already shared some examples of these initiatives.
In total, 45 of our customers have been awarded with a COVID-19 grant, valued between EUR 30.000 and 100.000. Over 60 percent of these grants focus on safeguarding the health and safety of affected employees, workers, and communities through the provision of personal protective equipment. The remaining 40 percent focuses on business continuity by means of digitalization, last mile distribution of renewable energy to medical facilities, provision of water and sanitation to communities, and awareness raising and education around effective health and safety measures to combat transmission.
Here, we share just a few projects that illustrate the ways in which our customers responded to the unique challenges facing their sectors and regions.
It takes more than finance to build a profitable and sustainable business for the long-run. To support the growth of our customers in a financially, environmentally and socially sustainable way, we offer capacity development.
With our Capacity Development Program, we contribute to the cost of hiring external consultants, trainers and experts to facilitate the knowledge transfer and provision of technical expertise that our clients indicate a need for. It takes the form of grant-based co-financing of up to 50% of the project costs, with our client financing the balance.
Frontier Energy is a leading investor in the African renewable energy market with over 750MW of renewable energy development. FMO is senior lender to 7 of these projects in Uganda and Kenya. The needs of the sector and communities Frontier Energy operates in, greatly outweigh anything a private business can feasibly undertake. Lenders’ support via grants and margin reduction enabled Frontier to continue implementing community projects, and additional initiatives focused on food security and sanitation.
Through the Access to Energy Fund, which FMO manages on behalf of the Dutch government, we provided an emergency grant of EUR 73,000 to support Frontier in the production of 5,000 face masks by training 15 tailors from the community, the distribution of hygiene packs to 250 construction workers and neighbouring schools and, the drilling of 2 boreholes to provide access to clean water to a target population of 287 households. These projects were implemented within the communities neighbouring Eldosol Energy, a 40 MW Solar PV Power Plant in Kenya in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by promoting hygiene standards within the communities.
Lars Jensen Investment Director at Frontier Energy: "We greatly appreciate the funding from FMO. In combination with funding from the project we have been able to both accelerate and increase the benefits to the community from the project. This makes it clear to all that the project is an integrated part of the area.”
COVID-19 has disrupted global seafood supply chains and threatened the viability of SMEs in the sector, which provide the main source of livelihoods for many of the most vulnerable local community members in Indonesia and the Philippines. Small-scale fishers have lost their main source of income and struggle to purchase essential goods to sustain their families.
The Meloy Fund, a pioneering impact investment fund, has provided short-term relief to those fishers directly impacted by the crisis. Meloy’s emergency response also included a health and safety package, which allowed for a minimum level of fishing to continue. Through the MASSIF Fund, which FMO manages on behalf of the Dutch government, we provided a grant of EUR 72,500 which enables the Meloy Fund to provide assistance to up to 25,000 local fisher family members.
Dale Galvin, Founder of Meloy Fund: “As an impact fund, we have both the privilege and obligation to reach out to the thousands of small-scale fishers and farmers in our networks and impacted by the global pandemic. With FMO’s support, we are able to expand that reach and provide critical support to local fishers so that they can continue to safely provide for their families and keep food supplies flowing through local and international markets.”
India has experienced one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. These measures left little recourse for the country’s millions of farmers, particularly those in the poorest provinces, who were unable to get access to essentials and protective equipment.
Through the Building Prospects fund, which FMO manages on behalf of the Dutch government, we provided a grant of USD 114,000 to WayCool Foods, for the procurement and distribution of dual-purpose personal protective equipment (PPE)kits and onsite soil testing to farmers. 15,000 small holding farmers across 5 states in India will benefit from the initiative. The PPE kits help protect farmers during the pandemic and shield them during agricultural operations such as pesticide spraying. In-situ soil testing will enable farmers to get their soil health measured without having to travel, thus facilitating effective soil management while maintaining social distancing.
Sendhil Kumar Natarajan, Head-Agri initiatives, WayCool Foods: “Farmers are essential service providers as they feed the nation. They are also very vulnerable during disruptive events such as the ongoing pandemic. Our measures have focussed on enabling the farmers earn their livelihood while reducing the risks they face. The FMO grant will help us in protecting a significantly larger number of farmers and we thank FMO for their timely support.”
We are helping our clients ensure business continuity and increase their economic resilience. To this end, we provide a combination of financial and non-financial assistance. In terms of financial support we aim to provide liquidity support, capital and guarantees.
To ensure the longevity and impact of FMO’s financial support, we have a strategic response package with non-financial support. The package, which encompasses three pillars, has been designed to ensure our clients can continue serving vulnerable client segments and vital economic sectors. The three pillars include:
Miro Forestry Ltd, is a sustainable forestry and timber products business with plantations in Ghana and Sierra Leone. Miro offers employment, economic and social development opportunities in remote, vulnerable environments with poor social and health care infrastructure. Miro developed close relationships with the communities around its operations. It is therefore in the company’s interest to reduce the risk and prevalence of the virus, improve the resilience of communities and protect the existing limited healthcare services.
These aims are significantly more challenging because access to water, hygiene and sanitation facilities outside of the work environment is very limited, impacting on the communities’ ability to control the spread of COVID-19. In addition, the COVID-19 national lockdown response strategy has increased the vulnerability of many communities in both countries due to their inability to manage further economic or health related shocks. Sierra Leone faced a major Ebola crisis in 2014-2016, which has given Miro’s management and staff at the plantations good experience for the current pandemic, providing a solid basis for policy and program development.
Through its Building Prospects fund, FMO provided a grant of EUR 100,000 to Miro to support workers and communities to reduce the risks of the spread of the virus, and to improve the ability of the healthcare service providers to respond to, treat, and contain infection rates. Next to that, the funding allowed the company to provide access to hygiene and sanitation facilities at community level and to build the capacity of health clinics in rural Ghana and Sierra Leone and address food security with some of the most vulnerable households through fast-growing kitchen garden baskets. Miro has produced posters, digital messages and media campaigns and has also launched a simple initiative to try to understand the concerns of the workers around the virus so that they can target their messaging and responses where possible.
Nepal has seen economic activity heavily hampered due to the several lockdowns following the outbreak of COVID-19, causing 2 out of 5 people in Nepal to lose their jobs. In addition, the influx of remittances has largely dried up while Nepalis working abroad have returned to their home country. Due to the rural nature of most of the country and previous struggles Nepal has had with endemic diseases, including 2019’s outbreak of dengue, awareness raising is vital to educate and prevent diseases spreading.
Through its MASSIF Fund, FMO provided a grant of EUR 100,000 to Dolma Impact Fund I (Dolma), to raise awareness and educate people on the prevention of COVID-19 through its portfolio companies and communities, that are located across Nepal. With the grant, Dolma will onboard a consultant to develop a guidebook and policy to prepare and teach the portfolio companies and their communities on preventing these kinds of diseases. Dolma is a diversified fund but with a large portfolio in the energy sector, as well as a medical facility. Apart from awareness raising and guidance, part of the grant will be used for PPE to provide protection to the Fund’s and Portfolio’s staff, as well as surrounding communities.
In Lebanon, the economic and political crises have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the more recent destruction of Beirut. In this highly challenging context, our microfinance institutions customer Al Majmoua (AM) struggles to run its operations and to serve its 72,500 clients. Al Majmoua provides loans and free business development services and socially oriented activities, with a focus on empowerment of marginalized communities.
FMO supports Al Majmoua in ensuring the continuity of services through a EUR 65,000 grant provided by its MASSIF Fund. It does so by renewing the subscriptions of key IT and software licenses Al Majmoua uses to conduct their daily business as currently, Al Majmoua is not able to renew these licenses because of capital controls that prevent international payments. The operating systems could not be sustained without the availability of this grant and it allows Al Majmoua to keep serving its customers.
Dr. Youssef Fawaz, Al Majmoua Exective Director: “With capital controls severely limiting our ability to transfer money outside the country, the FMO grant has been literally a life saver during this crisis time. It allowed us to maintain key IT systems operational, thus allowing AM to focus on crisis management without worrying about interrupted software services.”
If digital transformation was a high-priority topic for financial institutions before 2020, the global health crisis and social distancing have only made it more critical. Whether financial institutions can continue connecting with clients, provide loans and collect payments, and stay in business will depend mainly on the level of digitalisation of their operations and their rapid response to changes in the sector and society. Therefore, FMO is supporting BRAC Tanzania with a EUR 99,190 grant and BRAC Uganda with a EUR 99,745 grant (both provided by the MASSIF Fund) to adapt business models, become more digitally inclusive to continue offering services to their clients, who are principally female entrepreneurs in rural areas. Additionally, the funding is supporting BRAC to provide vital protective equipment and hygiene materials to employees and communities to confront the health crisis and engage in community awareness-raising initiatives.
In Nicaragua the socio-economic effects of the COVID pandemic have come on top of three years of social-political crisis, severely affecting the country and its financial sector. Through its MASSIF Fund, FMO provided an emergency grant of EUR 71,000 to microfinance customer Financiera FAMA, which provides credit and training to MSMEs in Nicaragua.
The grant helps Financiera FAMA in the development of a mobile application, which will establish contactless distribution channels to all FAMA’s customers, the development of financial awareness campaigns, and acquiring PPE for its employees and clientele Business continuity enabled by technology, coupled with a safer way to interact with colleagues and clients where necessary enables FAMA to ensure Nicaraguan MSMEs are financially included.