For us here at Root Capital, Earth Day is all about celebrating the world’s 450 million smallholder farmers who cultivate about a quarter of the earth’s farmland – and the businesses that provide them with the resources needed to serve as stewards of their land.
Agriculture is a leading force behind many of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, including ecosystem and biodiversity loss, soil degradation, freshwater aquifer exhaustion, and even climate change. The threat is particularly urgent in the world’s remaining “biodiversity hotspots,” as almost half of these hotspots are in regions where agriculture is a major land use.
But agriculture doesn’t have to be part of the problem. Farmers can serve as environmental leaders, preserving vital resources such as soil fertility or water quality for generations to come. The challenge lies in providing farmers with the resources and the incentives they need to adopt sustainable practices – particularly smallholder farmers who manage around 90 percent of the world’s farms, yet generally suffer from limited access to crucial agricultural inputs and equipment, technical assistance, and financing that would enable them to serve as stewards.
That’s where Root Capital’s clients come in.
Root Capital’s work is grounded in the belief that agricultural businesses embedded in local communities can play a critical role in facilitating win-win outcomes for farmers and the environment. By providing smallholders with training, technology, market linkages, and credit, these enterprises can help otherwise marginalized farmers adopt more sustainable production practices. These businesses promote practices like agroforestry, which enriches the soil, captures and retains rainfall, helps farmers manage pests, and removes carbon from the atmosphere; they provide farmers with access to organic fertilizers that fortify the soil and increase yields; they help farmers build resilience to climate risks. And, in the process, these agricultural businesses help transform smallholder agriculture from an environmental threat to a conservation strategy.
Check out a couple of examples from our clients:
This Earth Day, we challenge you to start thinking of agriculture in a different light – as a mechanism of environmental stewardship, rather than one of environmental degradation. Join us in our efforts to unlock the conservation potential of smallholders all over the world.