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- 75% of the world’s poorest countries are in Africa.
- About 1 in 3 people living in sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished.
- The U.N. Millennium Project stated that more than 40% of Africans do not have access to food regularly.
These are the sort of statistics I read about Africa, and am forced to wonder: how did a vast and diverse continent become a land of such misfortune? Was it colonization that caused this land to never truly develop or are there other undercurrents at work which we are unaware off?
Whatever the reasons, it is heart rendering to see images of children suffering from malnutrition, and dying of Ebola, malaria, and other such diseases which we know can be cured. It is mind blowing that while we leisurely indulge in swimming, there are people living in Africa who do not even have access to a drop of clean water.
I think to myself, what can I do? I am just one person sitting in a far-away city of the United States. How can I make a difference? We have enough problems in our own nation without trying to solve the problems of the world.
It is then I hear about the works of people like Andrew Youn, who create social enterprises like the One Acre Fund. Social enterprises which start out as a one man mission, and through sheer entrepreneurial passion, grow into non-profit organizations that make a difference. Such social entrepreneurs should run for presidential elections. They understand the needs of their people and address to them.
I am forced to acknowledge that it is such a shame. Such a shame that educated people like myself can think in such a narrow and constricting manner. What difference can I make? A whole lot, apparently, if I just care enough.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Therefore, for the May edition of Spotlight on a Social Entrepreneur, I have chosen Andrew Youn of the ‘One Acre Fund’, who saw hunger and poverty in Kenya, Africa and decided that one man in the United States could make a difference, and so he did.
The Idea Behind The One Acre Fund
Most social enterprises focus on the short-term solution for a problem. If there is a lack of food, they give away food to the hungry. If there is a lack of medicine, they provide non-perishable necessities. However, the One Acre Fund is about a long term solution to alleviate hunger in Africa.
A majority of the people starving in Africa come from a farming background. If they are provided the tools and education to run their farms, then they would be able to triple their yield of farming produce in just six months.
Understanding this need through research and studies, the One Acre Fund provides the people of Africa not with food but with the tools which will allow them to grow their own food and solve the problem of hunger permanently. Consider this, the market to which this organization caters to is constituted of a population where 15% of the children die before reaching adulthood due to starvation.
This non-profit organization provides the people with:
- Farm education sessions on a weekly basis
- Access to markets
- Farm tools and other input on credit
- Crop insurance
The Man Behind The Organization
Andrew Youn began the One Acre Fund in 2006. As a Yale graduate, Andrew’s background is in management consulting and he has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management. He co-founded the program with John Gachunga in Kenya, and is now living in Rwanda.
The Philosophy Of The Non-Profit
The key to the success of the program is placing the farmers first. Serving the small-scale farmers helps them become more prosperous and independent.
The values the firm upholds include:
1. Humble Service: The employees of the firm help the farmer in a hands-on way, understanding that giving respect to the farmers is how the program will be successful.
2. Hard Work: The team is built of management and farming experts who excel in their fields, and so can help the farmers excel as well.
3. Continual Growth: Goals are created, reached, and then exceeded, to reach ever greater heights.
4. Family of Leaders: The team is treated like family, and the growth is thus continuous.
5. Dreaming Big: The team thinks in terms of millions, and scale their dreams to ensure success.
6. Integrity: They ensure their promises are always fulfilled.
The program was launched in 2006, and Kenya was the first nation of operation. The firm is ready to expand through the Western and Nyanza Provinces which form the main farming region, and hold one third of Kenya’s 45 million people.
In 2013, the firm served 130,400 farmers and is projected to increase that number to 305,000 by the end of 2015. The success of the program can be gauged by the fact that in 2014, the organization achieved 99.3% loan repayment organization-wide, including 100% repayment in both Kenya and Burundi. Read more about the impact at One Acre Fund Results.
Kate Douglas, in her article ‘Meet the Boss: Andrew Youn, founder, One Acre Fund’ asked Andrew:
How Can Africa Realize Its Full Potential?
Andrew Youn: “Invest and support in its smallholder farmers and meet their agriculture, economic and educational needs. Farmers are the answer.”
Regular meals should be a reality for everyone around the world, not a luxury. Africa is a continent that needs the help of the world, one person at a time. Supporting social enterprises like Andrew Youn’s is what will help create the change. UN, WHO, and other such big time entities sometimes get overwhelmed with the amount of work required and the red tape involved is never ending. It is the small time social entrepreneurs like Andrew Youn who can, and are creating real change and with our support, the change will soon create a new face for Africa.