I’ve been thinking about the Haitian proverb, "Piti piti zwazo fè nich,” a lot lately. It means “little by little the bird makes his nest,” which is a rather apt way to describe the work we began in that small, culturally rich, yet deeply troubled nation two years ago today.
Haiti is the most challenging environment we face in our entire global portfolio. In the wake of the country’s terrible earthquake of 2010, the Haitian people—resilient as any on earth—continue to suffer as a result of increasingly erratic weather, a massive depletion of natural resources, weak value chains, frail infrastructure, and under-developed government and financial institutions.
Despite these obstacles, we’re also seeing huge forward motion in Haiti, especially in the long-neglected countryside, where two-thirds of the population continues to reside. That’s why we at Root Capital continue to seed our long-term, sustainable strategy on Haitian soil. Since 2011 we’ve disbursed $1.5 million to eight enterprises working in coffee, cocoa, mangoes, handcrafts and essential oils. Our current clients source from smallholder farmers representing roughly 14,450 farm households. Celex Oil in southern Haiti, for example, produces oil for perfumes for a French buyer from vetiver, a perennial grass.It provides employment for 52 workers in its processing plant as well as for 4,000 producers, all while promoting the sustainable cultivation of a native grass also used for erosion control.
We’re proud of our work in Haiti, but we want to do more—and to do so, we’re adapting our strategy to focus first on client capacity building, rather than lending. We have learned that only by investing more deeply in the financial management capacity of Haiti’s small and growing agricultural businesses can we help those businesses begin to grow, ultimately enabling them to reach more farmers and premium markets.
In short, lending in Haiti is difficult. Why, you might ask, do we stay?
As our lead financial trainer in Haiti, Patrick Dessources, puts it, “The opportunities are tremendous--even though Haiti is a very complicated country. With our financial training-led strategy, we are building a foundation for smallholder agricultural finance, and slowly but surely Root Capital will help bring the prosperity that many rural farmers have been dreaming about.”
The opportunity to help fulfill that dream, in a place where prosperity has proven more elusive than perhaps anywhere else in the world, is what keeps us in Haiti. Little by little, we are building a nest there. One day, in collaboration with value chain partners, donors, impact investors, industry alliances (like our partners at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs), and most importantly, Haitian agricultural businesses and small-scale farmers, prosperity will indeed grow for the marginalized people on that small island.
Yours in that journey,
William Foote, Founder and CEO
Video: COOPCAB - Rebuilding a Coffee Business in Haiti
COOPCAB operates in one of Haiti's few remaining tracts of rainforest in a country where less than 1.5 percent of the land is forested.
Through its reforestation program and purchase of premium-priced specialty coffee, COOPCAB provides a powerful link between environmental conservation and economic benefit for its 5,000 producer members. View this video
Interview with Freddie Joseph, Financial Advisory Services Coordinator, Caribbean
Q: What is Root Capital’s Strategy for Haiti for 2013?
A: We’re implementing a Financial Advisory Services (FAS)-led strategy because we’ve found that most groups, regardless of their business experience, need some kind of a financial management training intervention to succeed. We think the strategy will not only strengthen businesses, but will also help build trust among buyers and financial service providers.
Q: What are Root Capital’s specific goals for 2013 for Haiti?
A: 2013 will be a very demanding year. We’re planning to provide 200 days of training to 20 different enterprises. Our goal is to slowly add new clients to our lending portfolio, bringing our portfolio to a total of six to eight clients by year-end. This will play an important role in helping develop a viable portfolio of approximately 25 clients over the next five years.
Q: How is Root Capital working with other partners to leverage its impact?
A: Last year we started an initiative to improve coordination with our partners supporting agricultural initiatives in Haiti, including: Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Lutheran World Relief, Pan American Development Fund (PADF), AVSF (Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières or Agronomists and Veterinarians without Borders), TechnoServe, and the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). We hold quarterly roundtables to avoid program duplication, identify program synergy, and increase buyer involvement.
Talks about forming a Haiti Cocoa Alliance between Root Capital, the IDB, and CRS have been on the table since one of our cocoa clients, SOGEPA, submitted a sizable proposal to the MIF to increase and improve cocoa production in the Grande Anse department. The cocoa initiative is aligned with our vision and will have four components: (1) Integrating small producers into premium value chains; (2) Facilitating access to finance; (3) Building capacity; and (4) Increasing cocoa production nationally. Root Capital will lead the second component and will contribute significantly to the third.
New and Noteworthy
Root Capital moved from 36th to 12th place on the Global Journal’s second annual list of the Top 100 NGOs worldwide. The Global Journal recognizes the significant role of NGOs as influential agents of change on a global scale, increasingly at the forefront of developments shaping the lives of millions of people around the world.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program's Private Sector Window will each invest $5 million in Root Capital to help expand access to working capital and markets for 300,000 more farmers over the next four years.
Root Capital is pleased to welcome Funke Oyewole to its Board of Directors. Funke currently serves as the Deputy Program Manager of the World Bank’s Climate Investment Fund Administrative Unit. We are honored to have Funke’s expertise as we expand our efforts to promote climate-smart agricultural practices among smallholder farmers around the world. Welcome, Funke!
Root Capital Investor Relations Officer Rachel Serotta will be a featured panelist at the upcoming IMN Impact Investing Summit on March 14-15 in Huntington Beach, CA. For more information or to receive a complimentary pass, contact Tim Bailey, firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 392-8022.
Varieties of coffee produced by two of Root Capital’s clients in Peru were named among the world’s best by Rainforest Alliance’s annual Cupping for Quality event.
'‘Complete Capital," in which Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, stresses the need for adopting integrated solutions, not just investment capital, to address social problems.
Newly published research indicates that feeding the nine billion people who will inhabit the planet by 2050 is only possible by adopting a more sustainable approach to food production.
Join the Team: International Human Resources Manager
Root Capital seeks an International Human Resources Manager help to make Root Capital (RC) a great place to work and to support its growth and development. The International HR Manager will be responsible for effective oversight of international HR functions and maintaining continuity of organizational HR practices in Root Capital associated locations currently in Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica and Kenya. Working closely with the Regional Vice Presidents, he or she will support and develop field-based HR staff, enabling their growth, autonomy and increased capacity, and providing training and on-going support for international HR functions. This position will work closely with other members of the HR team in Cambridge and will be the primary liaison to the field offices.