Every day, I feel thankful for the chance my team and I have to grow prosperity for low-income communities around the world. We serve farming families living in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable — moms, dads, and grandparents raising kids, crops, livestock. We help foster the growth of agricultural businesses that organize and purchase the harvests of hundreds, often thousands, of local producers. We provide services to strengthen enterprises and help them custom fit to local realities. It’s a highly local thing, and I love that.
Yet this Thanksgiving, I’m feeling even more grateful than usual for the global community that makes it all happen at Root Capital.
A few days ago, I got an email from afar that summed up many of the reasons for my gratitude.
The message was from Peggy Clark, a new Root Capital board member but longtime friend. Peggy, who works at the Aspen Institute, had recently returned from a trip visiting Root Capital clients in the far northern and deep southern coffee lands of Colombia. She was traveling with several Root Capital team members and a group of thought partners, supporters and champions of our Women in Agriculture Initiative. (Asya Troychansky, Root Capital’s senior impact officer, recently wrote about the trip here).
In her email Peggy wrote about the impact of meeting women leaders in a region once devastated by paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug traffickers. She described the group’s visit to an indigenous community where elders proclaimed, “Men have heated the earth, and now it’s time for women to cool it.”
“These women are brave, and capable, and imaginative,” she wrote. (Her email also included a video clip of the trip participants singing in the back seat of a beat up 4×4 while traversing some seriously rugged roads in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.)
Hearing about our board members, donors and investors having the opportunity to interact with our inspiring clients fills me with such pride and appreciation. It reminds me of what matters most in this kind of collaboration, like a traveling testament to the global commitment we need for localized solutions.
This year, our partner enterprises all over the world, and the smallholder farmers they source from, faced enormous challenges that hit hard locally: depressed commodity prices, the dire consequences of a changing climate, and increasingly erratic weather tied to the current El Niño cycle, to name a few.
But even in the face of such obstacles, since the beginning of 2015 you have already made it possible for us to reach over half a million farming families through loans and capacity-building services that strengthened nearly 300 businesses in far-flung, underserved places in over 20 countries. By the end of this year alone, these businesses will collectively pay producers upwards of $1 billion for their crops.
I wasn’t on the Colombia trip this time around (instead, I was in Chicago hosting a “Root Roundtable” dinner to cultivate a new circle of partners on the pioneer trails of the Midwest), but I know exactly the kind of leader Peggy’s talking about.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds of entrepreneurs, managers, accountants and farmers who are managing through tremendous hardships to bring about lasting change in their local communities. What an honor it is to know them and work alongside them, every day.
The work that we’re doing together is as challenging as it is important, and you — our donors, investors, partners and friends — are making a difference for so many people. For that, I am very gratefull.
Willy Foote, Founder & CEO