This is a unique moment for us. Root Capital just hit a major milestone—topping $500 million in cumulative lending since our founding 14 years ago. Yet it still feels like only yesterday when I first witnessed the “missing middle” of rural finance on a visit to a fledgling vanilla farmer cooperative deep in the cloud forests of Oaxaca in Southern Mexico. What a terrific ride it’s been.
Today, across the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa, $500 million in lending is empowering more than 425 small and growing agricultural businesses to become engines for economic growth in the countryside. It’s providing a solid path to prosperity for the more than 750,000 small-scale farmers who supply them, while bringing greater dignity and hope to the 3 million household members these farmers support.
For me, one of the most exciting things about reaching this landmark moment is that we’ve accomplished more than 80 percent of the lending in the last four years alone—and are on a trajectory to lend another $1 billion over the next five years.
By 2017, we plan to reach more than 10 million individuals with our lending.
While we’re encouraged by our progress, globally, some 450 million smallholder farmers live on less than $2 a day and, without access to reliable finance, are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Our challenge is to catalyze a larger market to serve these, the world’s poorest, farmers.
Looking forward, we aim not only to expand our own operations, but to grow this larger market in a healthy, sustainable manner. One of the ways we hope to achieve this is by demonstrating the effectiveness of our model in a replicable way. We are looking beyond the numbers to show precisely how our clients are building sustainable livelihoods, and we intend to share our tools for measuring impact so that others can follow our lead.
We’re kicking off this effort with the release of our Roadmap to Impact, in-depth client case studies, and visual “Impact Snapshots” that convey core themes about our impact on agricultural businesses and on farmer livelihoods. Expect more from us over the coming months.
Though we have much hard work ahead of us, I’d like to take this moment to thank you, our supporters, for joining us on our journey, and for helping to build Root Capital into the vibrant organization that it is today.
Thanks to you, $500 million in lending has enabled small and growing businesses—from the Peruvian rainforest to the African Sahel—to grow rural prosperity for millions of farmers living on less than $2 a day.
And with your continued support, we can dream even bigger. Working together, we can tip the market to lift the world’s poorest farmers out of poverty.
With deep appreciation,
William Foote, Founder and CEO
Featured Media: Impact Snapshots
These snapshots illustrate several core Root Capital impacts: the impact of our finance on our clients’ ability to grow, reach more farm families and pay higher prices. They are based on both portfolio-wide and individual client data and are indicative of the type of impact we see across our portfolio.
Root Capital credit and financial management training enable our clients to grow rapidly. Two-thirds are growing at an annual rate of 20% per year or more, which makes them gazelles. As our clients grow and their revenues increase, they pay more to small-scale farmers, allowing these farmers to improve their livelihoods and invest in their communities.
Burkina Faso-based Fruiteq sources fair trade and organic certified mangoes from small-scale farmers in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ivory Coast. Prior to Root Capital financing, the enterprise was unable to purchase mangoes from farmers to fulfill international buyer contracts. Root Capital finance enabled the enterprise to buy high quality mangoes from 830 farmers, and pay them premium prices (3X higher than the local price). As a result, farmers’ income from mangoes increased by 43%.
COOPCAB is a Haitian coffee cooperative that had difficulty accessing affordable credit, and was unable to grow. With $200,000 in financing from Root Capital in 2011, COOPCAB was able to purchase beans from 1,000 more farmers and increase its exports from 80,000 to 200,000 pounds. Farmers received on average $125 in additional annual income in a country where per capita income is $660.
Client Profile: CODECH
We reached $500 million in lending with a disbursement to CODECH, a Guatemalan coffee cooperative, located in the lowlands of the Mexico-Guatemala border zone. With a producer base of over 1,000 small-scale farmers, CODECH provides stable incomes from the sale of fair trade and organic certified coffee to its members, the majority of whom belong to one of four close-knit indigenous communities: the Popti, Mam, Acateco or Canjobal. CODECH offers a viable economic opportunity to small-scale farmers living in the perilous border region, which has recently been plagued with drug-related violence from narco-trafficking.
A Root Capital client since 2010, CODECH has received extensive financial training from our Financial Advisory Services (FAS) team in Guatemala. Our training led the cooperative to incorporate new accounting tools, improve its financial management and develop a long-term strategic plan to manage its growth. As a result, the organization was able to nearly double its financing from Root Capital to expand its operations. Its member base subsequently grew by15 percent and its revenues increased 22 percent. About the training, CODECH’s manager Gregorio Alva, says, “It gives us peace of mind to have our financial statements audited, our strategy defined and our management structure in place. We realize how much we have improved and we are grateful for Root Capital’s support in doing so.”
To help Root Capital meet its aggressive goals for growth, we’re hiring a Senior Vice President of Finance. As a key member of the Executive Team, the Senior Vice President of Finance will report to the CEO and play a strategic role in the overall management of Root Capital. S/he will have primary day-to-day responsibility for accounting, financial planning and analysis and treasury activities. The position’s initial focus is to bring significant commercial bank operational expertise into an “impact first” agricultural lending institution to strengthen the development of back-office infrastructure to support our increasingly decentralized operations in Cambridge and five field offices in Latin America and Africa.
The position will be responsible for building the business processes to support a growing social enterprise that is both a non-profit organization and a non-bank financial institution. This position will supervise a staff of ten and provide indirect oversight of three field accountants.
We just met a big goal by reaching cumulative lending of $500 million. We want to triple that amount by 2017, but we can't do it without the support of friends like you. Donations support our lending operations, provide much-needed training to small and growing businesses in Africa and Latin America, and support the R&D that enables us to reach new markets and diversify into new crops, enabling even more farmers and their families to prosper. Please consider making a donation today.
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