Skoll Foundation


Root Capital

Skoll Entrepreneur(s): William Foote
Award Year: 2005
Focus Area(s) Addressed: Smallholder Productivity and Food Security

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William Foote was an investment banker during the Latin American growth years of the early 1990s. After the 1994 peso devaluation in Mexico, he spent 2 years in the rural areas of that country, studying and writing about the financial crisis and its effects on people and the environment. He realized that farmers could adopt sustainable practices only if they had resources to sustain themselves during transition periods and could acquire skills, equipment and market knowledge to launch a viable new enterprise. They needed more than microcredit, but were still too small to be bankable by commercial lenders. This realization inspired him to develop a lending model to meet those needs.


  • Root received the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) special award for achievement in impact investing.
  • In the first three quarters of 2013, Root provided a total of $82.8 million in financing to 182 small and growing agricultural businesses, reached 470,000 small holder farmers and artisans, and trained 280 enterprises to build skills in key competencies like accounting, financial planning and risk management.
  • On March 28, 2013, Root hit a major milestone, topping $500 million in cumulative lending to more than 425 small and growing businesses providing some 750,000 small-scale farm families (3 million individuals) with better livelihoods in poor, environmentally vulnerable locations in Africa and Latin America.
  • In Jan. 2013, FC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the private sector window of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) invested $5 million each in Root Capital to help expand access to working capital and markets for 300,000  farmers over the next four years.
  • Through their Lending program and Financial Advisory Services, Root Capital strengthens rural small and growing businesses.
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