Press Room

Building Blueprints for Resilience


Coffee Seedlings
May 2014   

Message from the CEO

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This African proverb reflects the spirit of deep collaboration that underpins virtually everything we do at Root Capital. It’s embedded in our culture and in our many cross-cutting partnerships with corporations, peer institutions and, most importantly, the clients we serve. Without such collaboration, we could never have helped build sustainable livelihoods for more than 750,000 farm families worldwide over the past 15 years.

Root Capital staff visits farmer members of Soppexcca, a coffee farmer cooperative based in Nicaragua.
Root Capital staff visits farmer members of Soppexcca,
a coffee farmer cooperative based in Nicaragua. Soppexcca was the first recipient of a loan under the Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative. 

We work through a rich ecosystem of actors — from global buyers to technical assistance providers, from consumer brands to sustainability certifiers — and the concept of “pathological collaboration” has been core to our collective success. However, in 2013 the near-perfect storm of collapsed coffee prices and the devastating outbreak of coffee leaf rust, or roya, laid bare serious deficiencies on the farm that we already knew about, but were, frankly, unsure how to solve. The weaknesses that were uncovered all stem from historic underinvestment in agriculture: aging coffee trees and distressed soil, aging farmer populations, poor farming techniques, boom-and-bust cash-flow cycles of farmers dependent on a single cash crop, pressures on food security, emigration off the farm and illegal drug production.

The crisis highlighted the mission-critical need for new, breakthrough models of partnership to tackle the increased magnitude of shocks from climate change. Holistic, interdisciplinary approaches are required. Yet industry leaders, policy makers and the international development community have precious few levers to pull to confront this kind of scenario. The lack of concrete response to the roya challenge suggests a severe lack of collaborative infrastructure needed to prevent economic, social or environmental crises from delivering a serious blow to the most vulnerable populations at the base of the supply chain — farmers, their families and their communities. 

Over the past 18 months, Root Capital, along with a number of important partners, moved swiftly to develop and implement what we consider to be a timely, coordinated and effective response to the crisis facing our clients and the farm families they represent. Working with Keurig Green Mountain, Sustainable Harvest, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Skoll Foundation and others, we crafted the Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative, a holistic approach to addressing the vulnerabilities of our coffee clients and better manage and respond to the roadblocks they face. You can learn more about our rally for collective action in a new post on our blog, Back Roads to Boardrooms.

Our hope is that the Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative will serve as a blueprint for future collaboration, advance planning and investment in the resilience of other sectors and geographies. As we create these plans, tools, programs and models for others to utilize, we will leverage the more than 15 years of experience and knowledge we have at Root Capital. Most importantly, we will join forces with others — in fields and factories, on back roads and in corporate boardrooms — in our pursuit of lasting change.

We can’t solve issues of this magnitude in a vacuum. To go far, we must go together.

With appreciation,

Willy Foote Signature
William Foote, Founder & CEO

Check out our blog series on social and environmental due diligence:

Mike McCreless, Director of Strategy & Impact, and Jesse Last, Value Chain Relations ManagerEarlier this year, we released our inaugural issue brief on the emerging business case for financial institutions to conduct due diligence on the social and environmental practices of their borrowers and investees.

In response to the issue brief, Mike McCreless, our Director of Strategy & Impact, and Jesse Last, our Value Chain Relations Manager, published a four-part blog series that explored our social and environmental due diligence process in greater depth, addressing questions such as: What do we look for in the businesses we lend to, and why? How do we go about it? And how do small-scale producers and agricultural businesses in Africa and Latin America benefit, as well as upstream exporters, processors, retailers and consumers worldwide?

Check out all four posts in the series.     

Congratulations, Sopacdi!

Sopacdi, a coffee cooperative in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Sopacdi, a coffee cooperative in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a Root Capital client since early 2013, was honored with the prestigious 2014 Specialty Coffee Association of America Sustainability Award. Read more about Sopacdi and its efforts to bring hope and sustainable livelihoods to the Democratic Republic of Congo.


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