TDi in the Pacific: Q&A with our Head of Pacific Programs Anna

Q: You currently work at TDi, can you please tell me more about what TDi does and why you get out of bed and go to work every day?

Q: Working at TDi I’m sure takes you on some interesting adventures in the Pacific. Are you able to share with us some of the projects you have been working on in the Pacific Islands region?

Q: The ‘hallmark’ of impact investing is the ‘social impact’. Can you please explain to us how TDi measures ‘social impact’?

Q: After an organisation has undertaken its ‘social impact’ assessment, are there on-going monitoring and reporting requirements?

Q: Do you have any tips you are able to offer Pacific businesses about how to get ‘impact investment ready’?

Q: It would be remiss of me to not ask you this as part of our Pacific Personalities interview segment – what is your favourite restaurant in the Pacific?


Announcing our Second leveraged Investment into the Pacific with Tanna Coffee

TDi are proud and excited to announce the second investment that we enabled into the Pacific. Following months of working closely with various partners across the region including DFAT and Pacific Trade & Invest, we are pleased to announce that we have leveraged $656,000 in investment capital,  for a business making a real difference to peoples’ lives in the South Pacific.


In 2015, Cyclone Pam devastated many of Vanuatu’s 84 islands. One island, called Tanna, suffered the full force of the storm, and the coffee-growing hub, comprised of 750,000 plants, was almost completely flattened. This left nearly 500 of Tanna’s local farmers and their families without any source of income.

The collective of coffee farmers work with the enterprise Tanna Coffee to produce some of the rarest single-origin blend on the planet. The coffee plants on Tanna grow in volcanic soil, 400 metres above sea level, giving the coffee a unique flavour. Coffee also makes up majority of the profitable agriculture on the island and is the primary source of livelihood for a large portion of the population. It was vital that this industry survive the storm and be rejuvenated.

“In the long term, a sustainable economy in Vanuatu will reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign aid, including the $62.5 million [1]  in aid that the country is estimated to receive from DFAT this financial year”.

— Anthea Smits, Deputy CEO at TDi

When DFAT approached TDi about working in the Pacific to discover what doing good and making money looked like in a developing context, we took up the opportunity and the challenge willingly. Our Pacific team, comprised of Anthea Smits and Anna Moegerlein, have been working with Tanna Coffee over the last year to help regenerate the business, set them up for long-term sustainability and to help them have a greater impact on Vanuatu’s local economy. We also helped to leverage their investment.

 

The majority of the investment will be utilised to rehabilitate the crops that were damaged by Cyclone Pam, and redeveloping 200 hectares of land. This will help to increase Tanna Coffee’s annual production from 100 tonne to 250 tonne and the land will be equally distributed among 200 local farmers. Ultimately, when you consider the income that will be directed back into the community, this investment will help to improve the lives of more than 5,000 people, 16% of Tanna’s population.

"We have trained and empowered all the farmers to become self-sufficient individuals and we now pay them up to 270vatu (AUD 3.20) per kg for their sun-dried coffee parchment (up from AUD 25c), providing an enormous back-flow direct into the community”

- Terry Adlington, Managing Director at Tanna Coffee

Managing Director Terry Adlington adds, “We have worked with TDi on an overall plan for sustainable growth to increase coffee production… and anticipate farmers’ incomes to increase by 20% as a result of the investment, which will increase peoples’ livelihoods and improve their ability to afford consistent education for their children.”
We are immensely proud of the growth and development that the team at Tanna Coffee has achieved over the past year. It is incredible to see local farmers being empowered through industry and sustainable business. We are so excited by this model of business and its capacity to both do good and make money for communities in developing regions.

“This is groundbreaking for the Pacific Islands, and has the potential to help Tanna Island achieve long-term trade independence and a sustainable economy".

— Caleb Jarvis, Australian Trade Commissioner for the Pacific

Tanna Coffee is currently stocked in most of Vanuatu’s premium resorts, restaurants and cafés, along with Air Vanuatu and Au Bon Marche Supermarkets, as well as providing strong regional sales to Fiji, Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.


What do TDi & the Oscars have in common?

Over the past year, we’ve been working closely with coffee-growing and producing enterprise Tanna Coffee on the island of Tanna in the south of Vanuatu. But Tanna Coffee isn’t the only entity drawing attention to the island- last night saw Australian filmmakers Bentley Dean and Martin Butler head to the Oscars with the stars of their nominated film Tanna. The feature film, shot entirely on the island of Tanna, powered by solar batteries, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. We caught up with Bentley before the ceremony to discover how they found filming a movie on Tanna and how industry can help the people there.
Bentley and Martin headed to Tanna island with one purpose, “to make a film in collaboration with the local community, we had no script ideas, nothing like that”. After being introduced to the Yakel tribe, who live half an hour from Tanna’s main town, the directors made their pitch, “we rocked up there, and they said that they’d never seen a feature film before, so we took with us the Australian film ‘Ten Canoes’ which is similarly developed in close collaboration with an indigenous community. We showed them the film and you could tell that they loved it, we got to the end and they said “can we start tomorrow?””.

“The best thing about the Oscars is experiencing it with everyone that you’ve been with the whole time, particularly the folks from Yakel"

— Bentley Dean (Right), Director of Tanna

Bentley, Martin, their families and the crew lived with the Yakel tribe for seven months, with the first three months devoted entirely to talking, and learning about the local culture, stories and customs. Bentley says, “what makes them [the Yakel tribe] really interesting is that they’ve made a very deliberate decision to not take up aspects of Western culture, they’ve chosen to dress the way in which their ancestors did… they stick true to custom, observe all the traditional ceremonies, have kept their own legal system- its a very unique situation”. Tanna ended up being a film completely improvised and created in close collaboration with the community. The film tells a story of forbidden love which occurred in the tribe in the 1980s.
Being produced in a village with no electricity, Tanna was powered completely by solar panels and solar batteries that were purchased in the island’s main village. Bentley says of the experience that, “as a filmmaker, its what you dream of”. “Its stimulating, and because we built in so much time, we had the time to learn and build friendships, life long friendships. When you’re embedded into a place, your mind does actually start to shift and you start to think of the world in a different way, and I think thats probably been the most lovely thing that come out of it”.

“One of the main reasons that they wanted the film to be made is because they feel that they’ve got a message, something to say to the rest of the world. They’re completely proud of their culture and at any opportunity they love to get in their dress, show it off, and have no problem going into spontaneous dance, say, in the middle of St Marks square”

- Bentley Dean, Director of Tanna

TDi have been working with Tanna Coffee for the last year, working closely with coffee farmers and the management team to create a commercially and financially sustainable enterprise that benefits the community on Tanna. “I think Tanna Coffee is a really great business, everyone says its really great for the island…It’s very important, because its the only cash crop that provides some income for the community” Bentley says. The team at Tanna also say that their film was fuelled by Tanna Coffee! “We drank Tanna Coffee every single morning. Its been grown and processed on the island, so you get to see the very beginnings and then right up to drinking it- its just great coffee”.

TDi's Anthea inspecting coffee plants with Tanna Coffee Director, Terry Adlington on Tanna Island.

Bentley and Martin headed to the Oscars on Sunday with three of the Tanna cast members, adorned in their traditional dress. While the film eventually lost out to Iranian film The Salesman, the achievement of being nominated for an Academy Award is huge for the island. Bentley said before the awards, “I think its a little bit of magic. From never seeing a feature film to being nominated for an Academy Award is quite a journey. Its going to be funny because of course the Yakel tribe won’t know anyone, we’ll all be star struck, but they wouldn’t know Brad Pitt from anyone else. It’ll be a fun time”.
We look forward to continuing our work with the people of Tanna.


Bessi's Reflections on Samoa

It was such a privilege to be in Samoa recently and not only have the chance to meet some incredibly inspirational local entrepreneurs but also to meet young people who will be the future of the country. TDi’s reputation in the Pacific is growing and we were encouraged to have entrepreneurs seeking us out to pitch their businesses. We can’t wait to find ways to support these wonderful organisations.

Spending a few days on the island of Savaii was the highlight for me. We had the chance to spend time in farmers’ homes talking about how the work of one of our investees, Samoa Coconut Cluster, is impacting their lives. With a massive focus on providing funds for schooling for their children and contributing to their communities through tithing to the Church, people were finding that the increased income they were receiving was providing much needed relief from the strains of financial burden.

We met one extraordinary young woman who was doing remarkably well at school and had a hope of going to university to study maths and science. When we asked her how she planned to pay for university she said she would keep collecting coconuts with her family! She was an enthusiastic, driven, intelligent young woman and I have no doubt that she, and hundreds of other girls and boys like her, will do incredible things for themselves, their families and their communities over the coming years. It’s an absolute privilege to play a small part in creating positive change and transformation in these peoples’ lives.

TDi has had an intense focus in the Pacific over a number of years but it has been in the last 18 months that we have been able to actively be on the ground working with local businesses, to find the business models and methods that will allow them to take their businesses to the next level.

Our focus in the Pacific is to work on projects impacting three key areas:

  • Improvements in peoples’ livelihoods
  • Increased value add in country
  • Responsible environmental management

Having worked with over 100 businesses in the Pacific and now working across Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji we have no doubt that there are exciting things ahead in these countries and that there will be wonderful exemplar projects that emerge with many lessons for all of us on how we transition from aid reliance to sustainable and commercially viable trade.

If we can be part of helping shift to a more sustainable model that takes government and other grant based funding and uses it in a targeted and catalytic way to address the gaps in businesses; then build them up to a point where they are then able to attract private capital, to grow and strengthen their impact in the world I will be a very happy woman!

Leveraging private capital for public good has been one of my driving themes for many years now and nowhere is this getting more traction than in the work we’re doing in the Pacific. Watch this space!


SBS Reports: Samoa's Economy Riding the Wave of Coconut Trend


More Insights


Bessi meets BRAC

BRAC – the world’s largest development organisation and NGO, dedicated to empowering people living in poverty, has cracked what most of us only dream of. They have taken an iterative, design approach to building social enterprises that not only address major social need but drive much needed revenue for their development work, and they’ve done it at scale!

(L-R) Asif Kashem, Partnerships and Donor Liaison Office, BRAC. Dr. Muhammad Musa, Executive Director, BRAC. Bessi Graham, CEO, TDi. Tom Nettleton, First Secretary, Australian High Commission in Dhaka. Chung-Ling Chau, DFAT Liaison.

Last week at TDi we had the incredible honour of hosting senior BRAC officials at our Melbourne Headquarters. TDi work in parternship with DFAT in the Pacific where we are taking an Aid to Trade approach, successfully using small amounts of catalytic aid funding and then leveraging that with private, impact investment dollars. It was this work that formed the basis of our exploration with BRAC and DFAT on Friday. We have been working to build up the capacity of local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the Pacific, to help them become ready to take on private investment. With our key partner, Benefit Capital, we have now established the Genesis Impact Fund where we are putting Impact Investment dollars to work in the Pacific projects that we have worked on.

“TDi is the best donor-funded private sector development initiative I have witnessed in the Pacific over the last 20 years, and it’s sustainable”

- Caleb Jarvis, Pacific Islands Trade Commissioner, Pacific Islands Trade & Invest

With TDi’s commercial approach focused on proving you can do good and make money, we are drawn to the approach and incredible track record that BRAC have built up over many decades. We were encouraged to discuss the similarities in our work, and reminded once again that in amongst our drive and focus we also need to be patient, as work of this nature and scope really does take time to deliver results. Luckily, at TDi we are committed for the long haul and know that to transform the world we have to follow the mantra of our founding partners at donkey wheel Foundation: “think different, act different, make a different difference!”

“[BRAC is], by most measures the largest, fastest growing non-governmental organisation in the world – and one of the most business-like”

— The Economist

BRAC are described by the New York Times as the “..best aid group you’ve never heard of” and by author Paul Collier as the “…most astounding social enterprise in the world”. So we were thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from BRAC and explore ways to refine our approach. Our executive team will be travelling to Bangladesh early next year to see first hand the impact that BRAC are having and how they are creating the multifaceted work they do.

We look forward to finding ways to share and partner further with BRAC over the coming years as we too want to change the world and prove our models at scale. Our models that put capital to work in addressing entrenched social and environmental problems