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The Audacity of the ‘One-Acre-Fund’, featured on the PBS Newshour (04/03/12)

April 4, 2012

An amazing piece from the PBS Newshour last night (04/03/12), a story from the series called ‘Food for 9 Billion,’ a partnership between the Center for Investigative Reporting, America Public Media’s Marketplace, and Homelands Productions. Reporter Fred de Sam Lazaro is also a participant of the University of Minnesota’s ‘The Undertold Stories Project.’

The PBS Newshour’s, Gwen Ifil kicks the story off. I’ll be showing the first minute, or so, of the story’s transcript that reveal the gist of the story (for our short attention spans, eh — I recommend watching or reading the whole thing — def’ly worth it, and it can’t be more than a 5 maybe 7 minute read/watch).

GWEN IFILL: Next, bringing business services to small-scale farmers in East Africa. Our story is part of a series called Food for 9 Billion. It’s a partnership with the Center for Investigative Reporting, American Public Media’s Marketplace, and Homelands Productions.

Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Andrew Youn was almost done with business school in 2005 when he took a brief vacation to Kenya. It was the Minnesota native’s first exposure to the irony of life for millions of people in rural Africa.

ANDREW YOUN, founder, One Acre Fund: The shocking thing and kind of an amazing paradox is that most of the world’s hungry people are actually farmers and their profession is to grow food. And the reason they’re not succeeding right now is they’re still using tools and techniques that literally date to the Bronze Age.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He decided to apply his new MBA skills to see if he could help. He began with a pilot project to assist 40 families.

I took $7,000 of my own savings and bought seed and fertilizer and hired some local staff. And we gave it a shot. The families just kind of signed up. And they were also interested. And they had the best harvest of their entire lives in that first season. And right when that happened, I knew that there was something there.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: His project turned into One Acre Fund, named after the small size of most African subsistence farms. Six years later, a staff of more than 800 serves over 125,000 farm families in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi.

ANDREW YOUN: If you look at those bales of seed, for example, that stack of bales is enough to change the lives of thousands of farm families with, you know, like more than 10,000 children living in those families.

The sheer magnitude of what we can accomplish from a humanitarian perspective with very little resources is just staggering.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But One Acre Fund isn’t a typical humanitarian service. It offers a business model. One Acre gives the smallest of farmers the same services available to the biggest of businesses, credit, seed, insurance and access to markets.

It’s called the market bundle. One Acre Fund also offers training, how to space plants, when to apply fertilizer and how much. It’s not rocket science, but the results are impressive.

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