As aid to Haiti slows, a private coffee co-op scores loans and turns heads
COOPCAB, a Haitian coffee co-op that now includes 5,000 members, markets its products internationally while investing money in local reforestation efforts.
On the third anniversary of the quake that killed nearly 300,000, a growing coffee co-op is writing its own success story with loans and homegrown management.Skip to next paragraph
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Haiti can seem like a place where relief efforts lead only to more disasters, especially in the agricultural sector. Though 70 percent of Haitians are farmers, 60 to 70 percent of the country’s food is imported due to reduced tariffs designed to lower food prices. Meanwhile, further natural disasters have hindered recovery efforts and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund has announced that it is winding down operations, removing an important source of funding.
At the same time, American lawmakers recently extended farm legislation, including subsidies that allow U.S. agricultural imports to undercut the prices of local Haitian products, which are often produced using centuries-old farming techniques.
This is why agricultural lender Root Capital is providing loans and consulting expertise to COOPCAB, a Haitian coffee co-op that markets its products internationally while investing money in local reforestation efforts that improve its own production. The cooperative, which has expanded six-fold under Root Capital’s guidance, now includes 5,000 members and has attracted the attention of dignitaries such as Paul Altidor, U.S. ambassador to Haiti.
Managing COOPCAB comes with its own set of challenges. Meeting them requires a model that creates local business leaders rather than simply employing foreign relief workers. Root Capital’s Willy Foote explains:
"COOPCAB ... is managed by local Haitian farmers with little formal training in financial management and accounting. ... As a consequence, we’ve had to innovate and hone our business model in Haiti, slowing our lending in the short term while accelerating and deepening our financial advisory services program."