Seattle, WA and Austin, TX
(December 8, 2008) —
Unitus, Inc., an international nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing global poverty by accelerating access to microfinance, and Whole Planet Foundation, a Whole Foods Market foundation that funds microlending projects in communities where the Company sources products, today announced plans to fuel the growth of microfinance in the coffee-growing regions of Kenya. The partnership will leverage the foundation’s support to help Jamii Bora Trust, one of Kenya’s fastest growing microfinance institutionsand a Unitus partner since 2003, expand into the rural coffee-growing regions of Central and Eastern provinces in Kenya. This project marks Whole Planet Foundation’s first entry into Africa and Unitus’s initial expansion into East Africa. Whole Planet Foundation microlending funds are not directed to Whole Foods Market suppliers, but rather to the poorest of the poor in the communities where these suppliers live and work. With this combined support, Jamii Bora Trust will extend its reach into small farming communities through the latest mobile technology and develop new microfinance products specifically designed for rural farmers. Using existing telephone infrastructure, Jamii Bora Trust puts handheld POS (point of sale) devices in its branches throughout Kenya, allowing the institution to register new members on-site, immediately provide members with debit cards, and track banking transactions in real time. Through the use of this technology Jamii Bora Trust will increase its reach into rural coffee communities with financial tools coffee farmers need to support their businesses.
More than 25 million small-scale family coffee farmers around the world are dependent on their crop for survival. Kenya is the 17th largest producer of coffee in the world and an estimated six million people are employed in coffee growing and production industries. Without access to credit and other financial resources to stabilize income throughout a crop cycle, coffee farmers historically find themselves facing obstacles like the fluctuating global commodities market, climate change, political trends, and widespread rural poverty. With the support of Whole Planet Foundation and Unitus, Jamii Bora Trust will be able to provide life-changing financial services to nearly 80,000 microentrepreneurs and their families and intends to double its reach in the region by 2010.
“We are thrilled to partner with an organization that not only has a proven commitment to operating its business in a socially responsible manner, but is deeply committed to fighting poverty and increasing the impact of microfinance for millions of working poor,” said Ed Bland, President of Unitus. “By working together, Whole Planet Foundation, Unitus and Jamii Bora Trust can help spur the development of innovation in the field and ensure the power of microfinance reaches those who need it most.”
More than 2.5 billion people—nearly half the world’s population—live on less than two dollars a day, yet only 133 million people currently have access to microfinance services. Using a highly leveraged, impact-driven model, Unitus partners with high-potential microfinance institutions around the globe to connect them to the growth capital and innovative business tools they need to grow rapidly, strengthen their businesses, and reach those in need.
Fueled by the business acumen, innovation, and excellence of some of the brightest social entrepreneurs in the world, the Unitus network of microfinance partners aims to rapidly close the “poverty gap” and is currently providing access to financial services including microcredit loans, savings, and insurance products to more than six million of the world’s working poor. By partnering with Whole Foods Market and Whole Planet Foundation, Unitus will be able to support partners such as Jamii Bora Trust to expand, ensuring the poor have access to opportunities to build stronger families, better lives, and a brighter future.
“At Whole Planet Foundation, we believe in the power and creativity of the entrepreneurial spirit. Microfinance is a tangible and powerful way of supporting and fueling that spirit. By increasing people’s access to credit and other financial services, we can begin to foster wealth and prosperity in the emerging economies that need it most,” said Philip Sansone, President and Executive Director of Whole Planet Foundation. “Unitus was an obvious partner to help us expand microfinance in the communities that we support. As a ‘microfinance accelerator’ with experience on the ground in nine countries around the globe, Unitus has an approach that is high-powered, innovative, entrepreneurial, focused and smart. We are thrilled to partner with such a dedicated group of people to make a big difference.”
Whole Foods Market shoppers will have the opportunity to empower the poor through microcredit by donating at the registers at all U.S.-based stores during the Whole Planet Foundation Prosperity Campaign that runs from February 18 through March 31, 2009. One hundred percent of contributions will go to microlending projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States. For more information, please visit www.wholeplanetfoundation.org.
The Unitus portfolio currently reaches more than 6 million families through 23 partners in India and Southeast Asia, East Africa, Mexico, and South America. Our goal is to reach more than 15 million of the world’s working poor by 2010.
Unitus has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, PBS, and National Public Radio. We received Fast Company magazine’s Social Capitalist award for 2006, 2007, and 2008, and were awarded the prestigious 4-star rating for sound fiscal management from Charity Navigator in 2007 and 2008. Unitus is a 501(c)3 with offices in Seattle, Washington and Bangalore, India. For more information, please visit www.unitus.com.
About Jamii Bora Trust
About Whole Planet Foundation™