As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, we believe that saving lives must go hand in hand with preserving livelihoods. Agricultural businesses can play a key role in reaching the most vulnerable populations with creative, rapid responses that build long-term resilience. In a survey of our client businesses, we found they are struggling to manage their cash flow projections, comply with safety regulations, and deliver emergency assistance to their farmers and employees. Root Capital aims to provide our clients with the advice, capital, and flexibility they need to keep their business and their impact going amid heightened uncertainty.
What We're Doing
In collaboration with rural businesses—as well as donors, institutional partners, global platforms, and other technical assistance providers—Root Capital is scoping or implementing a number of COVID-19 response activities. Our immediate response spans three key activity areas, summarized below. For more details, see page 14 of our COVID-19 client survey report.
1) Resilience Grants
Where possible, Root Capital is providing direct support to reduce financial strain on clients, their employees, and their farmers, and help them meet emergency needs. These grants are tailored to the priorities of each business and its community—some will enable purchases of hygienic supplies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while others will help businesses provide emergency cash or credit to farmers and employees so they can purchase food, seeds, and other vital items. We will also deploy grants to relieve enterprises' own liquidity crisis due to market upheaval during the pandemic.
A farmer holding food supplies provided by the Triunfo Verde coffee cooperative in Mexico.
2) Virtual Technical Assistance
Root Capital is dialing up our existing mobile and digital capabilities so our advisory services team can help businesses implement new processes, policies, and best practices to survive this crisis. Focus areas include crisis management and emergency operations, financial management, and digital data collection and analysis. By enhancing these capabilities, we will help businesses understand the market, make sound decisions, and communicate with key stakeholders, including farmers and buyers.
3) Building Resilience Together
Our clients need us to continue doing our job, so they can do theirs—and so farmers can survive and adapt for the future. Our ability to accompany our clients through whatever challenges they face requires sufficient, flexible resources. With support from philanthropic partners, we can lean in to clients' shifting credit needs during this period of high uncertainty and risk. Flexible funding will ensure that we can continue to tailor financing solutions and stay the course when other lenders leave.
Our Impact So Far
In sub-Saharan Africa, Root Capital organized Operation Soap-PPE, deploying $660,000 worth of grant funding to provide soap, handwashing stations, gloves, masks, and educational materials to 24 agricultural businesses. Across Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, these businesses are now putting critical supplies into the hands of their employees and farmers—representing almost 200,000 rural families. In Peru, where coffee and cocoa harvests are underway amid the continued spread of COVID-19, we are currently disbursing another $250,000 in grant funding to 50 farmer cooperatives. The cooperatives will use these funds to provide masks, disinfectants, thermometers, and other supplies to approximately 20,000 farming families.
A handwashing station set up by Kuapa Kokoo, a cocoa cooperative in Ghana, with funds from Operation Soap-PPE.
We continue to implement remote advisory services wherever possible—for example, in West Africa, Root Capital trainers helped clients put together applications for government stimulus funds. Across sub-Saharan Africa, we are working with longtime ally Partners in Food Solutions to ensure agro-processing businesses have the knowledge and capacity to comply with new government health and safety regulations, remain operational, and mitigate the economic and food security impacts of the pandemic.
As members of two cross-sector coalitions, we are partnering with others to reimagine and reinvent the systems that exacerbate COVID-19 risks in rural communities. We play an active role in the COVID-19 Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, a coalition of 40+ organizations led by the World Economic Forum that supports social enterprises to coordinate emergency response efforts in low- and middle-income countries. Through the Coalition for Farmer Allied Intermediaries, we are working with Technoserve, Partners in Food Solutions, Land O'Lakes Venture 37, Acumen, and Bain & Company to support agricultural businesses that anchor local food systems in sub-Saharan Africa.
For all of these activities, it's critical that we continue to understand, in real-time, the challenges and needs of agricultural businesses. We are currently conducting a follow-up survey of our clients (building on our first survey in April) to determine how their operations have changed, what new challenges have arised, and how we can ensure their needs are front and center in our rapid response activities.
How You Can Help
Our approach is evolving, and will continue to evolve as different stages of the COVID-19 response unfold. We will continue to listen closely to our clients in order to identify support opportunities that are not being met by other actors. We are determined to leverage our unique platform and connections in rural communities to mobilize impactful responses to this ongoing crisis.
By supporting Root Capital, you can ensure that capital, training, and other resources—fit to each client’s unique challenges and needs—get to the businesses and farmers that need them. Join our COVID-19 Rapid Response today.