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Addressing Root Causes: Root Capital’s Quest to Combat Poverty, Food Insecurity, and Environmental Destruction

Small farmers don’t cut down forests or dispose of toxic byproducts in rivers and streams out of ignorance or indifference to the health of their environment. Neither do they voluntarily live in poverty or keep their children out of school.

These problems are the consequences of life at the margin and a lack of things more fortunate landholders take for granted: reliable water supplies, roads, access to markets, and collateral for a loan to invest in equipment that improves the quality of the product.

Willy Foote saw the connection, and Root Capital now counts its impact in ways that go far beyond loan volumes—to cleaner streams, improved education, and healthier communities.

“Of the 2.6 billion people who live on less than $2 a day, 75 percent are in rural areas. They are forced into short-term survival tactics, like illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture, which trigger environmental destruction and actually worsen poverty,” explains Foote.

“Root Capital is trying to solve the problem of rural poverty by investing in small businesses that can grow to have big impact, especially for family farmers with only a few acres of land. The [Kenyan] farmers’ ability to sell their products at premium prices enables them to make investments in their community. They’ve bought mats and school supplies, materials so their children can learn to speak English. The hopes and dreams of those children in many respects depend on the success of their parents’ business.”

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