Root Capital Partners with the Australian Government to Invest in Women-Led Enterprises in South East Asia
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, USA, 14 June 2018 – Root Capital and Investing in Women, an initiative of the Australian Government, are partnering to promote women’s economic empowerment in South East Asia by financing agricultural enterprises owned or led by women. Investing in Women has committed AUD 2 million to Root Capital for the initial, year-long phase of a planned ten-year program. The project focuses on lending to women-led small- and medium-sized agricultural businesses in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. As a partner of Investing in Women, Root Capital expects to leverage private sector co-investments for women’s SMEs.
“This is a major step forward for the impact investing and agricultural finance sectors,” says Root Capital’s Founder and CEO, Willy Foote. “Together with Investing in Women, we will catalyze the growth of women-led businesses throughout South East Asia—and in so doing, will significantly improve the livelihoods of both women and men in rural communities.”
Investing in Women’s initial investment will support Root Capital’s market research and exploration in three countries: Indonesia, The Philippines, and Vietnam. It will also fund lending to a small number of women-led agricultural enterprises in Indonesia, where Root Capital has built a lending presence over the last three years. Since 2014, the organization has disbursed more than $23 million in credit to 10 Indonesian agricultural businesses and raised incomes for 10,000-plus producers.
Root Capital is a pioneer in the gender lens investing movement. The organization launched its Women in Agriculture Initiative in 2012 and is committed to working with other capital providers to drive a greater focus on gender equity within the impact investing and agricultural finance sectors. Reaching more than 270,000 women producers annually, Root Capital finances agricultural businesses that actively create jobs and opportunities for women.
This partnership aims to unlock the significant potential to drive growth in agriculture via gender inclusion in South East Asia, where women make up roughly half of the agricultural workforce. Globally, women in agriculture are less likely to hold leadership positions and have less access to training and productive resources, such as fertilizer and farm equipment. If this access were equalized, farm yields would increase by up to 30 percent—growth which could significantly increase rural incomes and reduce global hunger.
“This partnership aligns with one of our objectives of increasing the presence and operations of a major global impact investment player to help address the financing gap experienced by business women in South East Asia,” said Julia Newton-Howes, CEO of Investing in Women. “Root Capital also brings ingrained gender lens knowledge operations that we look to learn from to benefit all of our impact investing partners,” she concludes.
Investing in Women is an Australian Government initiative to catalyse inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction in South East Asia. The program’s goals are to improve women’s participation in the workforce and as business leaders; enhance women’s voice in decision making and leadership; and influence the private and public sectors to recognise and promote the value of gender equality. Investing in Women partners with impact investors to strengthen access to finance for women-owned and led SMEs particularly in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and to build a business case for a more inclusive investing environment globally.
Root Capital invests in the growth of agricultural enterprises so they can transform rural communities. These businesses purchase crops such as coffee, cocoa, or grains from smallholder farmers. With growth, they become engines of impact that can raise incomes, create jobs, empower women and young people, sustain peace and preserve vulnerable ecosystems. We supply these businesses with vital resources: access to capital, trade and technical partners, financial training and conservation practices. We work in hard-to-serve geographies where others don’t. To date, we’ve provided over $1.2 billion in loans to improve the lives of six million people in farming communities. For more information, visit rootcapital.org.