50 years impact, the journey of Rabo Foundation

30 January 2024 9:00

This year marks a milestone for Rabo Foundation. It has been half a century since our organisation was founded. It all started in 1974 with an idea and a small foundation. The idea to pass on the rich history and beliefs of our founder Rabobank. Rabobank was founded 125 years ago by smallholder farmers that wanted to improve their livelihoods but did not have the means to do so. They started a savings and credit cooperative based on the belief that when you join forces you stand stronger than alone, and that self-reliance is the key to a better future.

Farmers in Brazil with 50 years

When I joined Rabo Foundation more than a year ago, my colleagues told me about the rich history and the many accomplishments of the foundation. I was surprised by the sheer size of what this ‘small’ foundation had achieved. Rabo Foundation may have started small with an idea, however has grown as an organisation that impacts the lives of millions around the world. Since 1974, we have always put the needs of people first, looking at ways to invest in the self-reliance of underserved groups to structurally improve their lives and build a better future. We do so in the Netherlands, and in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Throughout the years Rabo Foundation adapted its strategy to better serve the needs of people, and as a response to the changing environment. The foundation moved from donating to providing loans in local currency and financing social entrepreneurs that are leading the way towards a more inclusive society in the Netherlands. But also to setting up new initiatives such as the Rabo Rural Fund B.V. in 2011, and a new initiative currently being set up that will enable smallholders to transition to agroforestry and contribute to building climate resilience while improving their living standards.

“The real impact lies with the more than 5,000 business and millions of people we have supported”

Rabo Foundation's real impact lies with the more than 5,000 organisations and the millions of people we have supported since 1974. These organisations create opportunities for a better and more equal future, but require additional support to obtain the needed resources to do so. An example is Dignita, one of the first social enterprises we supported in the Netherlands. Dignita assisted hundreds of people in developing greater resilience and reintegrating into the workplace and society. In another case in Tanzania, 1,600 smallholder cashew farmers joined forces with Mama Cashew, getting a better and more fair price for their produce and increasing their income. At the same time, the organisation developed ways to make the value chain more sustainable by processing cashews in the country where they are grown.

The impact of the foundation reaches even further. On a global scale, smallholder farmers produce at least one third of the world’s food supply, and therefore play a vital role in feeding our growing global population. As the impacts of climate change further threaten farmers’ livelihoods and their crops, our international financing contributes to improving productivity, building climate resilience, and raising incomes. In the Netherlands, the social entrepreneurs we support are leading the way in finding innovative solutions to promote a more inclusive labour market and transition to a more circular economy.

That is why we will continue our journey. This year, as we mark our 50th anniversary, we reflect on the power of self-reliance. By giving voice to organisations and people that can grow thanks to our support and by telling the real story of Rabo Foundation over and over again. 50 years are just the beginning. Leveraging on our knowledge and experience, our objective is to reach even more people and continue to make a strong contribution to society.

We would like to thank all our supporters over these years, our partners, and our clients for their continued trust in our foundation. We look forward to continuing our contribution to a better world.

Lidwien Schils
Managing Director, Rabo Foundation

50 years of Rabo Foundation. Discover important moments from half a century of making an impact.