Access to Finance
When small and growing agricultural enterprises can access affordable financing, they have a larger impact on rural communities.
Financing catalyzes enterprise growth, which results in better incomes, services, and other support for farming families. Over more than 20 years, Root Capital has loaned $1.6 billion to agricultural enterprises worldwide, proving that these under-served businesses are bankable—and that access to finance can have a ripple effect in rural communities.
Too many small and growing agricultural enterprises are stuck in the “missing middle”—considered too big for microfinance and too small and risky for commercial banks. Without access to credit, cooperatives and other businesses are incredibly vulnerable to shocks, from COVID-19 to climate disaster.
But businesses with reliable financing—tailored to their unique needs and harvest cycles—are resilient. When that financing is paired with training in critical business skills, the potential for growth and innovation is boundless.
Provide tailored, affordable financing to under-served businesses.
Build enterprise capacity to manage and grow credit.
Pilot blended financing models to reach early-stage, riskier businesses.
Demonstrate proven models and build the agricultural finance sector.
disbursed to under-served enterprises.
of our 2020 loans filled credit needs unmet by commercial lenders.
average annual growth of Root Capital clients.
Stories of Impact
Hills rise into the sky in the coffeelands of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Looking out the window as my taxi jostles along a bumpy dirt road that winds from Goli to Ndrele town through the hills of the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), I’m struck by the peaceful scenery that surrounds us. Grassy hills spotted with groves of trees and small gardens of banana, maize, and coffee trees rise gently into the horizon, stretching for miles on either side of the road. However, this region’s apparent tranquility belies a violent past — and scars that a few scrappy businesses are fighting against all odds to heal.
Root Capital, like many impact investors, operates in the gray area between traditional philanthropy and mainstream commercial markets. As a mission-focused lender, the organization serves the financial needs of small- and medium-sized enterprises—a Fair trade coffee cooperative in Uganda or an association of women quinoa producers in Bolivia, for example.
Two years ago almost to the day, 60 Colombian musicians came together and released a song called “Un Paso Hacia la Paz” (“A Step Toward Peace”). Amid joggling maracas, an impassioned choir of pop stars, indigenous singers, and Vallenato musicians sing, “Así es como canta Colombia por la paz” (“This is how Colombia sings for peace”), urging for an end to the country’s 50-year armed conflict. Fast-forward to today, and the peace Colombia sings for is finally within reach.
After a decade of growth, a coffee cooperative shows why reliable access to finance is critical for success. Global coffee consumption is on the rise. According to the International Coffee Organization, demand will increase by 25 percent over the next five years. As The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, this offers tremendous opportunities for smallholder coffee producers in Uganda, Africa’s biggest coffee exporter. It’s here where, in my role as a portfolio manager for Root Capital, I witness how the cultivation and sale of coffee can transform rural communities. Since 2005, Root Capital has lent over $200 million to small and medium-sized enterprises throughout Africa, including more than $80 million to clients in East Africa’s coffee industry. And I have seen how access to finance is a crucial ingredient in the sector’s growth.
A look at the challenges and decisions that agricultural entrepreneurs experience over the course of a year. PART I: HARVEST
This year, the world will consume more coffee than ever before. And industry projections point to growing demand in the years ahead, especially in emerging markets. Take China, for example. During its annual investor meeting last month, Starbucks highlighted that it’s opening the equivalent of one new store in China every day. The problem, however, is that this rising global demand for coffee cannot be met with a dwindling supply.
Kenia Ubeda, general manager of UCCEI, a Root Capital client in Matagalpa, Nicaragua Kenia Ubeda never thought she’d be running a coffee business. “I was an agronomist and a coffee farmer,” she says with a smile on her face. “I didn’t know the first thing about commercializing coffee.” But the community leaders who tapped Kenia to found and run UCCEI, a farmer cooperative in the coffee-fueled town of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, knew she had what it took. And in 2009, Kenia rose to the challenge and became UCCEI’s general manager, overseeing a business currently sourcing from over 900 smallholder farmers in the region.
A young woman picks coffee on a farm associated with the Maya Ixil coop. Photo credit: Sean Hawkey. With towering oaks, gushing waterfalls and long green stretches of bountiful coffee trees, Guatemala’s Maya Ixil region is a place of lyrical beauty. But listen closely enough, and the lyrics tell an entirely different story – a story of an ugly past marked by heartbreaking violence.
En las tierras altas de Marcala, en Honduras, donde las calles no tienen nombre, para poder ir desde la iglesia - el punto principal de referencia que se utiliza en el pueblo– hasta la Cooperativa RAOS (la primera cooperativa de café 100% orgánica del país), es necesario contar con una de estas tres cosas: un mapa muy detallado, una guía local o una buena dosis de suerte.