For Antonio And Roberto, A Small Grant Made A Big Difference


Over the past 20 years, we’ve offered hundreds of coffee businesses the capital and training they need to succeed. But to truly maximize their impact, these businesses sometimes require additional support. That’s why, in partnership with USAID Feed the Future, we launched a Resilience Fund that provides $20,000 grants to some of our highest-performing client businesses in Colombia and Peru.

Through our Gender Equity Grants program, we’ve seen how businesses can leverage small grants to implement projects that generate positive results for women farmers and employees. The Resilience Fund empowers the leaders of coffee enterprises to make similar investments in projects that promote the long-term viability of agriculture. In the face of myriad challenges, from volatile coffee prices to a changing climate, these small grants allow managers, employees, and farmers to collaborate on identifying solutions that will work in their unique contexts. With advisory support from Root Capital, these businesses are designing projects to help farmers achieve higher incomes or adapt to climate change, or that build professional opportunities for women and youth.

One of the 10 resilience grant recipients is Ubiriki, a 385-member coffee cooperative in central Peru that has been a Root Capital client since 2008. During the diagnostic exercise that we conducted last year, Ubiriki’s leaders identified ongoing problems with coffee quality; none of their staff had been trained in quality control or coffee cupping, so they weren’t able to accurately grade their farmers’ coffee. With their grant, Ubiriki trained local youth in the skills they need to help farmers grow better coffee—and get better prices. With just a small amount of funding, the cooperative generated employment opportunities and invested in business capacity that will benefit them for years to come.

Hear from these two new employees about how the doors this program has opened, and how they plan to use their new skills to give back to their community.


My name is José Antonio Zevallos Aparco, and I live with my parents…helping them with the coffee harvest. My life changed when, one day, [an employee of Ubiriki] came to my father’s farm to teach us about soil conservation, and he told us about the training in quality control.

When I joined the training, I realized that I didn’t know much about quality control—I didn’t know anything, even though I’ve been in agriculture my whole life. I ended up enjoying the training a lot. When Ingeniera Lourdes [the trainer] gave us a test where we had to remember nine coffee aromas…I was able to get nine out of nine. She told me that she couldn’t even do this in her graduation exam! That’s when I realized that I was on the right path—that I had to move forward with the training and pursue it to the end.

When I was living in San Alejandro, all I did was play soccer and drink beer. That was my routine every weekend. Now, my life is more disciplined; I take care of my health, I’ve stopped drinking beer, and I’ve stopped eating spicy food, all so that I can continue to be a good cupper. Now, I have a job in the cooperative, thanks to this workshop and the staff who, in such a short time, were able to teach me a lot of things that I didn’t know. I know that I still have a lot to learn, and I will do all that I can to get to my final goal and achieve my Q Grader certification. I’m very grateful to the Ubiriki cooperative, and to Root Capital, for the training that they’ve brought to members of the cooperative and to their children.


Years ago, I studied the first six courses of the Forestry Engineering major at the University of Central Peru. However, for financial reasons, I wasn’t able to continue my studies, and I had to return home to support my parents on their farm. That’s where I met my wife, with whom I have two children, and bought my own plot of land…where I grow coffee. This year [2018], I was able to attend the cupping training upon the invitation of the cooperative. Through this training, I discovered that I really liked cupping, and developed a passion for it.

In the first training, I learned a lot about quality control, cupping, and roasting, and how important roasting is for flavor. In the intermediate course, they taught me to test for water quality, aromas, and for how much a coffee had been roasted. With all of this knowledge, I was able to get first place in the intermediate course.

I know that I’m going to achieve my goal of getting my Q Grader certificate by applying what I’ve learned from Ingeniera Lourdes. I’m going to be a good cupper, and help the farmers at this cooperative produce a high-quality cup of coffee.

My life has completely changed; I have a new job opportunity in cupping and quality control. I learn something new every day. I’d like to thank the cooperative and Root Capital for this project.

The Resilience Fund is an initiative of the Feed the Future Partnership for Sustainable Coffee—a collaboration between USAID, Keurig Dr Pepper, Intelligentsia Coffee, and Root Capital to bring lending and training to 120 coffee enterprises and improve the livelihoods of 90,000 smallholder farmers. Learn more about the partnership here.

Cover photo © Sean Hawkey

Topics: Livelihoods | South America | Stories of Impact | Youth |

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