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Our Top 5 Highlights from 2023

Our Top 5 Highlights from 2023
Leonor Gutiérrez, Director of the Women in Agricultural Initiative (WAI), presents to the Women’s Council at a convening in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2023. Credit: Root Capital.

2023 was a year of sustained progress for Root Capital, thanks to our dedicated community of supporters. As we enter 2024-a milestone year as we celebrate our 25th anniversary!-we reflect on our top five highlights from the past year.

Leonor Gutiérrez, Director of the Women in Agricultural Initiative (WAI), presents to the Women's Council at a convening in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2023. Credit: Root Capital. Leonor Gutiérrez, Director of the Women in Agricultural Initiative (WAI), presents to the Women’s Council at a convening in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2023. Credit: Root Capital.

1. Launching the Women’s Council

The past year was an exciting one for our Women in Agriculture Initiative (WAI) as we launched our first ever Women’s Council, a forum for women leaders to explore key issues, such as climate change, access to finance, and gender barriers that women working in agriculture face. The council, which consists of five women leaders in African agriculture, met in Nairobi, Kenya in September. We spoke with these inspiring women, all of whom are Root Capital clients, to learn about the challenges they face as women leaders in a male-dominated field. We are excited to launch the Women’s Council in Latin America this year!

 Ana Zacapa (Root Capital Chair Board), Kayla Massey (Senior Associate of Supporter Engagement), Scott McDonald (Chief External Affairs Officer), and Lizzie Teague (Director of Climate Resilience), pose at the Root Capital booth at the GIIN Forum hosted in Copenhagen in 2023. Credit: Root Capital. Ana Zacapa (Root Capital Chair Board), Kayla Massey (Senior Associate of Supporter Engagement), Scott McDonald (Chief External Affairs Officer), and Lizzie Teague (Director of Climate Resilience), pose at the Root Capital booth at the GIIN Forum hosted in Copenhagen in 2023. Credit: Root Capital.

2. Sharing Our Climate Action Progress with Impact Investors

In October 2023, Root Capital hosted a panel discussion at the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), entitled “Investing in the Frontlines: Climate Finance Solutions for Smallholder Farmers.” The panel was moderated by Root Capital Board Chair, Ana Zacapa, and featured our own Senior Director of Climate Resilience Lizzie Teague, as well as representatives from the IKEA Foundation, ISF Advisors, and One Acre Fund. The panel was a rousing success with nearly double the room’s 50-person capacity! Check out this two-minute video highlighting our collective work on climate action that kicked off the session.

Julia Diegel, Root Capital's Senior Director of Supporter Engagement, alongside Jeannette Mukayisenga, a Talent Partner who is now a full-time employee at KOPAKAKI-Dutegure in Mabanza, Rwanda, 2023. Credit: Root Capital. Julia Diegel, Root Capital’s Senior Director of Supporter Engagement, alongside Jeannette Mukayisenga, a Talent Partner who is now a full-time employee at KOPAKAKI-Dutegure in Mabanza, Rwanda, 2023. Credit: Root Capital.

3. Next Steps for Next Generation Jobs

Root Capital’s Next Generation Jobs initiative works to connect rural youth to decent job opportunities, providing our agricultural business clients with fresh, local talent and the youth with valuable work experience. In 2023, we expanded the footprint of our Talent Partnerships program and youth advisory services, launching 69 Talent Partnerships across all of the regions in which we operate. The vast majority of these Talent Partnerships, which are a year-long internship at a Root Capital client, were in Africa. Jeannette Mukayisenga was one of these interns-she graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in crop production only to find herself unemployed on her parent’s small farm in Rwanda. She came across Root Capital’s Talent Partnership program on social media and knew that she could put her education to use training coffee farmers on good agricultural practices, such as mulching, applying fertilizer, and planting shade trees. At the end of a successful Talent Partnership with the coffee-growing cooperative, Kopakaki, Jeannette accepted a full-time employment offer in their technical assistance department. This year, we look forward to creating more sustainable job opportunities and pathways for young people like Jeannette to excel in their rural communities.

Root Capital colleagues at 2023 Staff Retreats held in Rwanda, the United States, and Colombia. Credit: Root Capital. Root Capital colleagues at 2023 Staff Retreats held in Rwanda, the United States, and Colombia. Credit: Root Capital.

4. Connecting In Person at Our Regional Retreats

Root Capital staff were able to meet and collaborate in person this year at three separate regional retreats. Our Latin America team convened in Colombia, our Africa team in Rwanda, and our U.S. team in Massachusetts. We relished the opportunity to team build and strategize during these impactful, in-person gatherings. Since Root Capital transitioned to virtual work in response to the pandemic in 2020, the chance to connect face-to-face was invaluable. We are feeling reenergized by our teammates from across the globe, and we plan to channel that energy into our work with agricultural enterprises in rural communities in 2024!

Members of the coffee-growing Koperative Abakundakawa-Rushashi in the hills of Gakenke, Rwanda in 2022. Credit: Adam Finch/Root Capital. Members of the coffee-growing Koperative Abakundakawa-Rushashi in the hills of Gakenke, Rwanda in 2022. Credit: Adam Finch/Root Capital.

5. Crossing the Halfway Point of Our Five-Year Strategy

We launched our 5-year strategic plan in 2021, with the aim of helping farming communities address threats like climate change and a lack of job opportunities-and move forward into a reimagined future of agricultural prosperity. Three years into the plan, we are proud to report on our progress. Access to finance is sorely needed in rural communities, evidenced by the fact that 91 percent of Root Capital loans in 2023 met critical financing needs unmet by commercial lenders. This well exceeds our goal of 75 percent under our original strategy. In 2023, 34 percent of our loans went to businesses led by women-surpassing our five-year goal to have these businesses make up 25 percent of our portfolio. This critical milestone shows how we continue to help these businesses-which are disproportionately excluded from the financial system-access the credit they need to thrive. As we look ahead to 2030, Root Capital is more committed than ever to evolving our strategy to meet our clients’ needs and fulfilling our role in advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.


About the Author

Tess Fisher is the Content Development Associate at Root Capital.

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