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As aid to Haiti slows, a private coffee co-op scores loans and turns heads

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Kena Betancur/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A woman carries coffee to sell as she passes by a house destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a year after its catastrophic earthquake. A Haitian coffee co-op is a bright spot among the Caribbean nation's recovery efforts.

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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.

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.


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