Our loan partners made loans in 13 countries—including Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras, Rwanda, Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Kenya, Uganda, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Indonesia – to suppliers we both buy from as well as ones we do not. Loan recipients also receive technical assistance in the form of agronomy best practices, business planning and price risk management training.
Ubeda never thought she’d be running a coffee business. 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. In return for their high-quality, specialty coffee, UCCEI provides farmers with higher prices, technical trainings to help producers increase yields, an internal credit fund to help members invest in their farms and their families, and programs focused on improving health and education.
Initially, UCCEI struggled to find the financing it needed to succeed. But in 2010, Root Capital provided UCCEI with a $300,000 loan—a loan that UCCEI paid back in full. Today, UCCEI has a $1.5 million line of credit open with Root Capital, and is using that capital to invest in the farmers that produce the high-quality coffee that Starbucks purchases year after year. Working with UCCEI, Kenia reports, some farmers have as much as doubled their production—and their incomes.
Today, the “thousand hills” that give Rwanda its nickname are speckled with coffee farms that produce some of the finest coffee in the world. But not long ago, the Rwandan coffee industry looked very different. The 1994 genocide had devastated communities in Rwanda’s coffee-growing regions, leaving them struggling to rebuild. With the population and countryside ravaged by conflict, it was difficult to grow, process and export coffee. For Rwanda’s women—many of whom had been widowed by the genocide, and were left in charge of coffee farms they had never before managed—the path forward looked particularly bleak.
But in the decades since the conflict, smart and targeted investment in the specialty coffee sector have allowed the industry to recover and offered these women a path for hope and reconstruction. One such woman is Esperance Nyirahabiamana, producer-member of Maraba Cooperative. Root Capital has financed Maraba since 2005, supporting them in generating sustainable incomes and economic opportunities for 1,415 smallholder coffee farmers like Esperance. Now, says Esperance, “my situation has improved, and my life today is very different from those women who are not in the cooperative. I have been able to get a job and receive benefits like training from the cooperative, and I can get credit for small projects.”
For more information about Root Capital's work with coffee cooperatives like UCCEI and Maraba, visit their website at rootcapital.org.
Providing access to credit at reasonable terms is a critical aspect of our farmer support model. By investing in farmer loans, we’re helping cooperatives manage risk and strengthen their businesses. We are currently on target to achieve our goal of increasing our farmer loans investment to $50 million by 2020.