Huffington Post, May 31, 2011
In the far-flung town of Thiotte, located in the sliver of rainforest still left in Haiti, women in pastel-colored kerchiefs sit at outdoor tables piled high with pale dried Arabica coffee beans. Their hands move rapidly, picking out the blighted or damaged ones, which they toss into a separate plastic tub. This painstaking sifting process is one of the last laps in the coffee beans’ long, labor-intensive journey from the plantation to your double-tall latte. And this year, the 4,000 members of this coffee cooperative will be paid in advance for their harvest, allowing them to pay for schools and other basic social services. The loan comes from Root Capital, a non-profit bank with 250 ongoing projects worldwide, whose mission is to finance the great overlooked middle — projects too big for microfinance, and too small for the commercial banking system — with low-interest loans. It’s a rubric that would cover, in other words, a large portion of the small farms and cooperatives throughout the developing world.