Palms for Life is above all interested in innovative and effective means of helping the poor. This morning I read a story that is inspiring for all of us who work in this field, whether we are working for a non profit or contributing to the cause. Andrew Youn, a young graduate from Yale and Northwestern University who founded a nonprofit “One Acre Fund” in Africa has one main goal: prevent generations of children from starving during the “hunger season” and instead having surplus food and money enough to go to school.
Youn started in Kenya, where hunger kills more children than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, by applying an innovative micro-loan project (see ClarionLedger.com)
The business model is relatively simple, namely: provide poor farmers with micro-loans so that they can procure good seeds and fertilizers; educate them in managing their assets and production and help them develop their markets.
I have no doubts that the model can work. Throughout my career in the field, I have seen the magic effect of small loans. Without such loans, farmers would sell their grain even before the harvest just to get the cash to buy the seeds and the fertilizers. This simple cash input makes all the difference and can truly advance poor farmers and help them increase their food production. It is also worth mentioning that poor people have a very high repayment rate.
However, my experience also tells me that out of the four elements of that business model market development is the most difficult one. I think of the underdeveloped local and regional markets, the fragile and unstable national market and then well beyond, the voracious global market. The implications are enormous and can not be ignored.
I have witnessed in Ecuador for instance how farmers see their potatoes or onions or corn getting rotten in their farms because a bridge has fallen, a landslide blocked the road and the truck did not make it to their remote village; I have seen how farmers were obliged to sell their milk at pathetically low costs and had no infrastructure to handle perishable products. There are much more complex issues related to cooperatives, price policy, food imports…
Fair trade is what will ultimately make a long-lasting difference in the fight against hunger and poverty.
This is why Palms for Life is so worthwhile, because we see our projects as an integral part of the entire journey of fighting hunger and poverty. We look at the root causes of poverty and work with executing partners who embrace this approach and tackle poverty from all its angles. We ensure that education, training and capacity building are integral parts of every project.
This is how we are actively engaged in helping the world realize that we are all elements of one single system; a system, like the replica of our own body, where all parts are interconnected and must be beautifully aligned in workable harmony. The same way where it takes each of us to work hard to care for our health and integrity, to nurture the wonderful gift of life, this is the way each of us is responsible for making this world a better place for all.