Two women planting trees in Madagascar.

Arnold Suhr and Qimpexx: working towards sustainable quinine production in Madagascar


Start-ups & SMEs





Arnold Suhr, Dutch commodity trader in raw materials for the food industry and pharmaceuticals, started a factory for quinine production with a cinchona tree plantation in Madagascar. Financing from Invest International helped make it happen. The goal: a sustainable value chain, fair work and income for local farmers and contributions to food security and fire prevention to halt deforestation.

Climate change and Madagascar

Madagascar is one of the African countries hardest hit by climate change. It is an example of the first ‘climate change famine’. Floods, tropical currents, cyclones and drought have left a devastating mark on the once lush green island. In addition to deforestation from burning and cutting down trees for charcoal and agriculture. With major consequences for the inhabitants, food production and nature, famous for its biodiversity and native plant and animal species.

Sustainable quinine production

The cinchona tree occurs naturally on the island. The tree bark contains quinine, one of the raw materials that Arnold Suhr trades in, in addition to iodine and lactose, among other materials. Quinine is an organic substance that imparts a bitter taste to soft drinks and is used to treat malaria. To shorten the quinine supply chain, the Hilversum company started a factory for the production of quinine in Madagascar under the name Qimpexx.

Kasper Bouwman, Managing Director of Arnold Suhr explains: “Something we are extremely proud of. The idea of starting our own quinine plantation and factory was born 12 years ago. Not only due to the increasing questions of sustainability from our customers, but internally we felt the need to better control the development of our products. As a trading company we had limited ability to achieve this, so decided to explore the possibilities of becoming a producer ourselves.”

Read more on the website of Arnold Suhr
Man watering plants and small trees on Madagscar.

The raw material, kina bark, is sourced from Congo, but the group is locally investing in a large scale outgrowers network to grow huge areas of kina trees with up to 8,000 outgrowers. Photo: © Daniel Rabemazava, Arnold Suhr.

“By planting cinchona trees, farmers earn approximately 300 euros in extra income per year, an increase of 50 percent of the average annual income.”

Freddy Albert

Excecutive Director Qimpexx Madagascar

Financing from Invest International

Co-financing via the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF), together with Arnold Suhr’s house bank, ensured that the factory was built. Investment Manager Miriam Valstar from Invest International: “DGGF is the fund Invest International manages on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The DGGF loan ensured that commercial financiers dared to step in and invest. With a beautiful result. Recently I visited Qimpexx on the island and was truly impressed by their operations and targets to achieve the SDGs. They take serious measures to prevent deforestation in the country, while creating a substantial amount of decent jobs.”

Read more on DGGF
View of agricultural land on Madagascar.

Due to increasing questions on sustainability from their customers and as a company Arnold Suhr felt the need for better controlling the development of their products, the Qimpexx factory was developed. Photo: © Daniel Rabemazava, Arnold Suhr.

Income small holder farmers

The raw material, kina bark, is sourced from Congo, but the group is locally investing in a large scale outgrowers network to grow huge areas of kina trees with up to 8,000 outgrowers (currently 600). Also intercropping – multiple cropping practice that involves growing two or more crops in proximity – to outgrowers is promoted to make the most of available soils, diversify income and improve resilience against extreme weather events. This alleviates pressure on the tropical forest because alternative economic activities prevent illegal forest activities. Moreover, the trees sequesters carbon.

“We plant hundreds and eventually thousands of hectares. The trees grow for seven years before they contain enough quinine. Then we cut down the trees just above the roots to grow a new tree on the roots. It is also possible to remove the bark and let the bark grow back. In addition, the outgrowers in particular are also going to work with intercropping. An average grower owns 0.5 hectares of land, enough for approximately 1,000 trees. By planting cinchona trees, farmers earn approximately 300 euros in extra income per year, an increase of 50 percent of the average annual income,” says Freddy Albert, Executive Director for Qimpexx.

Read more on Agri-food

Fire prevention and deforestation

Another important part of the project is training local communities in fire prevention – there are many forest fires on the island – and creating natural firebreaks. Since 2018, 130 additional farmers have participated in small, interactive group sessions, learning how to plant and cultivate their cinchona trees plus prevent and protect the trees against fire.

The Qimpexx project wants to make an impact by:

  • building a transparent and sustainable value chain. In time, it will be possible to see which bark comes from which farmer, in order to guide the farmers in improving production and their income.
  • contributing to the climate, CO2 absorption and countering erosion by planting trees.
  • better life, income and social empowerment. With the outgrowers model, Arnold Suhr combats malnutrition because farmers can grow their own food through intercropping.
  • local employment and land reclaim.
  • fewer forest fires. Through fire prevention and training, farmers learn about wildfires and how to prevent them. Action required due to the impact of deforestation in Madagascar.
  • contributions to SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 15 (Life on land) and SDG 17 (Partnership for the goals).
Read more on our view on impact

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Miriam Valstar Investment Manager
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