Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the lush, coffee-growing region of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Northern Colombia. The Sierra Nevada is a unique coastal mountain range—with altitudes reaching well above 18,000 feet within sight of the Caribbean. Its rugged and steep geography makes travel to the region quite difficult. Driving to a farm only 14 miles from town took me almost four hours.
But of course, the journey is always worth it. At the end of the dirt road was a wonderful and welcoming coffee farming family who are members of La Red Ecolsierra, a Fair Trade and organic-certified cooperative. For the nine years I’ve been working at Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP), La Red Ecolsierra has been a reliable Colombian supplier. And for nearly that same period, La Red Ecolsierra has received vital credit and training from KDP’s longstanding partner, Root Capital.
For almost 20 years, KDP has worked collaboratively with Root Capital to deliver critical advisory services and catalytic financing to coffee cooperatives throughout the globe. This support enables these businesses to grow, access additional sources of credit, and become more resilient in the face of climate change and other challenges. Ultimately, these impacts benefit the cooperative members: smallholder coffee farmers, their families, and the rural communities in which they live. Our support of Root Capital is one way that KDP demonstrates our commitment to farmer livelihoods, knowing that strong coffee businesses—in this case, coffee cooperatives—are critical to connecting farmers to markets. Both KDP and smallholder coffee farmers rely on these businesses to be professional, efficient, and service-oriented—upstream to their members (farmers) and downstream to their clients (KDP).
We’re proud that, together, Root Capital and KDP have fueled the growth of coffee cooperatives across the globe. Our latest collaboration is the Partnership for Sustainable Coffee, an alliance between KDP, Root Capital, Intelligentsia, and USAID. Amid shifting market dynamics and weather extremes, the Partnership for Sustainable Coffee is building the resilience and competitiveness of coffee businesses in Peru, Colombia, Honduras, Rwanda, Uganda, and Indonesia. This three-year project brings together public and private sector resources, applying Root Capital’s proven “credit-plus-capacity” model to expand access to finance and build critical management capacities. Since 2017, the partnership has reached 141 coffee businesses, fueling growth and strengthening the livelihoods of more than 300,000 smallholder farmers in coffee communities across the globe.
In Colombia, I saw the impacts of this partnership firsthand. At La Red Ecolsierra, the cooperative’s manager, Victor Ardilla, proudly showed me a new management dashboard created with the help of Root Capital’s advisory services on digital business intelligence. The dashboard contains real-time information on contracts, pricing, quality, inventory, and other key data that Victor uses to manage his business and make important decisions. Years ago, this digitally-enabled platform would have been unimaginable. That’s the power of partnering across public, private, and nonprofit sectors to support hardworking professionals throughout the coffee value chain to get the tools and training they need.
I also had the opportunity to visit the ASOANEI cooperative, another long-time KDP supplier and beneficiary of the Partnership for Sustainable Coffee. ASOANEI was founded by leaders of four of Colombia’s main indigenous groups: the Arhuacos, Koguis, Wiwas, and Kankuamos. The Arhuaco believe that the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the beating heart of the world, and that protecting this precious ecosystem helps preserve the equilibrium of the entire planet. Since 1995, ASOANEI has created economic opportunities for indigenous farmers who have endured decades of poverty and marginalization. And with its Fair Trade and organic certifications, the cooperative earns premiums for those farmers while also helping them implement agricultural techniques that support their commitment to environmental stewardship. Root Capital has financed the cooperative since 2012; and through the Partnership for Sustainable Coffee, ASOANEI also receives trainings in financial planning, agronomic assistance, and mobile technology that will build the businesses’ long-term resilience.
KDP is committed to sourcing, producing, and distributing our beverages responsibly, while making a positive impact on farming communities. In fact, we recently joined the Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) platform, a coalition of 34 leading international companies committed to stepping up business action to advance human rights throughout their value chains, build inclusive workplaces and strengthen inclusion in their internal and external business ecosystems. Our enduring partnership with Root Capital is a vital part of that commitment. We believe farmer cooperatives play a critical role in transforming rural communities—and that Root Capital’s unique model can unlock the full potential of these businesses to promote inclusive growth for smallholder farmers.
Want to learn more? Read how KDP’s partnership with Root Capital has helped this Honduran coffee cooperative grow in the face of adversity.