This week Root Capital hit a big milestone, approving our 1500th loan. The $250,000 trade credit loan will be disbursed to Nahualá, a Guatemalan organic and fair trade coffee cooperative and Root Capital client since 2008.
With a name translating roughly to “enchanted water” from K’iche—one of the nearly two dozen indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala’s highlands—the Nahualá cooperative sits at the end of a dead-end, single lane gravel road along the Nahualate River basin on Guatemala’s Pacific slope. Hours off the beaten path, Nahualá peers into a densely forested coffee-growing valley, the coffee plants of its members interspersed with trees and other shade-bearing crops like bananas used to help supplement farmers’ incomes in “los meses flacos”—the lean months.
Nahualá was founded almost 50 years ago to combat pervasive poverty in the region, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the cooperative began exporting its coffee to specialty buyers like the Organic Products Trading Company (OPTCO). Today, with fair trade and organic certifications, Nahualá is able to provide its 103 small-scale farmer members scattered among 10 different rural communities with fair prices for their high-quality organic coffee.
In a country where gender inequity and discrimination have a chokehold on political representation, educational opportunity and wages, Nahualá has also placed a heavy—and atypical—emphasis on gender inclusion. Women producers, constituting 42 percent of the cooperative’s membership, earn an additional premium for their product through the Café Femenino program. A third of the cooperative’s exports to OPTCO bear the Café Femenino seal. This incentive for increased participation and potential for higher incomes gives rural women the opportunity to rise to positions of leadership within their own households, the cooperative and ultimately their communities.
We’re thrilled to see our 1500th loan go to Nahualá and look forward to continuing to accompany the cooperative in their growth, just as they have accompanied us in ours. As we celebrate this milestone in our own lending history, we also celebrate the enormous social and environmental impacts that Nahualá and more than 450 other Root Capital clients have had on their communities. Together, we’re helping grow rural prosperity and build better livelihoods in poor, environmentally vulnerable areas in Latin America and Africa.
Here’s to the next 1500.