Press Room

Where's the Feast? Cracking Food Insecurity



Maize farmers in Burkina Faso

November 2013

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Message from the CEO

Willy Foote thanking two Root Capital employees, Richard Tugume (left) and Brandon Boyle (right), for their five years of service.

Every Thanksgiving, as we gather with family and friends to share an autumn feast, my mind is drawn to the countries in which Root Capital works where food insecurity is a reality for 20, 30, sometimes even 50 percent of the population. For me, this stark contrast between abundance and scarcity makes the celebration of Thanksgiving especially meaningful, and our food security work ever more urgent.

Since 2010, Root Capital has been working to alleviate hunger in rural communities in Africa and Latin America by investing in domestic and regional value chains. This work transcends our typical impact focus on producer livelihoods to also include local consumers who benefit from access to more abundant, domestically produced food—often at lower cost. Over the past three years Root has provided loans, and in many cases financial training, to enterprises like Nyirefami, a Tanzanian agro-processing business that provides more than 75,000 Tanzanian consumers with low-cost, nutritious flours sought after by mothers with young children, and Royal Golden Egg, a poultry and livestock business in Ghana that supplies more than 250,000 Ghanaians with eggs as a readily available source of protein.

Earlier this year, to hone this work, we launched our Food Security & Nutrition portfolio, focused exclusively on domestic value chain lending. La Vivrière, an enterprise based in Senegal that processes, packages, and sells grain-based products primarily for domestic consumption, was the first business to receive such a loan. Dismayed by the trend toward increased consumption of imported rice in Senegal, which typically imports as much as 70 percent of the rice its population consumes annually, La Vivrière founder Bineta Coulibaly sought to increase demand for high-quality local grains.

Bineta Coulibaly, Founder and CEO of La Vivrière.Today, Bineta’s company uses locally grown, vitamin- and mineral-rich grains like millet to create nutritious and affordable flour products for time-constrained working mothers, as well as other products sold to local consumers throughout Dakar. La Vivrière, which means “food-producing” in French, reaches 180,000 consumers.

With global population surging to nine billion by 2050 and erratic weather threatening the future of agriculture, investing in food security in the developing world is more important than ever. Rising temperatures may reduce food production by as much as 2 percent every decade for the rest of the century, while demand simultaneously rises by up to 14 percent, according to a recently leaked report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Tackling the agricultural implications of climate change while simultaneously increasing food security will require pathological collaboration between all links of the value chain. As my friend Jeff Dykstra, CEO of Partners in Food Solutions, a technical assistance provider and Root Capital collaborator, put it recently, "organizations that bring different pieces of the puzzle must work closely together."

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for businesses like Nyirefami, Royal Golden Egg and La Vivrière that are helping to feed thousands in countries where people routinely do not have enough to eat. As we prepare for the holidays, and the hunger season persists in many places, we know that your support helps us build a more prosperous, food-secure future for rural families in Africa and Latin America.


Willy Foote Signature

Willy Foote, Founder and CEO

P.S. Our hearts go out to the millions of Filipinos whose lives were shattered by Super Typhoon Haiyan. For those who wish to contribute to the relief efforts, please consider supporting Gawad Kalinga, a fellow Skoll entrepreneur organization working tirelessly to respond to the tragedy.


Featured Media: Investing in Resilience Video

Investing in ResilienceCoffee leaf rust, called La Roya in Spanish, is a fungal disease that weakens and eventually kills coffee trees. According to the International Coffee Organization, the current epidemic of coffee rust is the highest incidence in 40 years, with more than half of Central America’s coffee farms infected and losses reaching $1 billion in the 2012-2013 harvest.

In this video, we outline our plan to build resilience in coffee-farming communities currently battling the rust epidemic. In addition to long-term lending for coffee renovation and rehabilitation, short-term lending, financial management training and climate-smart agronomic training coordination, we will also support the development and launch of small side businesses for farm families, as well as the planting of short-cycle crops for cash and household consumption. These investments are critical for strengthening food security for farm families, particularly in the short term, as households absorb the shock of lost income tied to coffee leaf rust.


Interview: Jeff Dykstra, CEO, Partners in Food Solutions

Jeff Dykstra, CEO, Partners in Food SolutionsPartners in Food Solutions is one of Root Capital’s allies within the food security space. Earlier this month, we spoke with CEO Jeff Dykstra about his organization and the challenges and opportunities associated with improving food security and nutrition around the world.

Q: What approach does Partners in Food Solutions take to improving food security?

Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) is an organization that aggregates the experience and know-how of employee volunteers from four leading global food companies, General Mills, Cargill, Royal DSM and Bühler, to share with small and growing food companies in Africa. PFS is pioneering a volunteer movement that brings together corporate knowledge, expertise and resources to improve food security and nutrition and to enrich lives around the world. Right now, we work in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia and Malawi.

To date, we’ve worked with about 70 Africa-based companies directly on a couple hundred different projects. We’ve worked with another 330 companies or so in those countries with more of a sectorwide training approach. When we see issues that are common across the industry, we’ll put together a training package that can deliver expertise to a group of companies at once.
Read the full interview with Jeff on our new blog, Back Roads to Boardrooms.


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