Last week, the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) recognized Root Capital founder and CEO Willy Foote with its 2016 Leadership Medal of Merit. The CQI medal has been presented annually for the past decade during the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Expo, which took place April 14 to 17 in Atlanta.
“Willy Foote and Root Capital saw the incredible need to develop programs and training to get much needed financing to small coffee growers, many of whom are producing top quality coffee,” InterAmerican Coffee president and Root Capital partner Guy Burdett said in CQI’s announcement. “Root Capital took a tremendous risk to provide access to credit, and to date they have successfully loaned nearly one billion dollars to the people who need it most.”
Accepting the award, Willy emphasized the critical role of high-impact farmer organizations and their leaders, including ASOBAGRI (Guatemala), Cenfrocafe (Peru), Rwashoscco (Rwanda), and Soppexcca (Nicaragua). He also explained how Root Capital aims to reach more of these businesses and has recently expanded to new regions, such as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – where over the past three years we’ve lent a combined $14 million to nine enterprises representing almost 20,000 coffee farmers.
“My colleagues and I got into this work because we fundamentally believe that investment in sustainable agriculture is one of the most powerful forces we have for addressing some of the greatest challenges of our time – from rural poverty to hunger to environmental degradation to youth unemployment,” said Willy.
He also reminded the audience of more than 500 industry leaders that “great coffee doesn’t just happen,” and he urged roasters, traders and retailers to invest more in their supply chains. “We know that, over the past few years, collaboration has become more important than ever before,” explained Willy. “And we know that the unpredictable growing conditions that come with climate change will continue to jeopardize producer livelihoods, and test their ability to cope with pests and pathogens, with drought and disease.”
CQI is a nonprofit organization working internationally to improve the quality of coffee and the lives of people who produce it. Through its quality grading program, the organization has helped to establish a common language throughout the coffee supply chain, and it continues to expand its reach into new coffee-growing regions.