Andrew Youn On Ending Poverty in Our Lifetimes

From foodtank.com, by Nina Sparling
Andrew Youn On Ending Poverty in Our Lifetimes

In his recent TED Talk, Andrew Youn describes One Acre Fund as “Amazon for rural farmers.” The nonprofit organization delivers goods and services to smallholder farms across Sub-Saharan Africa. Through these tools and resources, the farmers One Acre Fund serves “earn more food… help to feed healthy communities and thriving economies [and] reduce environmental pressure.” 

Youn has worked as an agricultural practitioner in rural East Africa since 2006. His talk focuses on the tools to solve the interdependent problems of hunger and extreme poverty. He is familiar with the lives of hungry, impoverished farmers and deeply troubled that the human race has “left more than one billion of our members behind.” He acknowledges that the problems of hunger and poverty may seem insurmountable, “too big to solve.” Unfazed by its scale and complexity, Youn insists that “logistically speaking, it is incredibly possible to end extreme poverty.” 

First, most of the world’s impoverished people are farmers. Giving farmers the tools move out of poverty has enormous potential to effect change on a personal and community level: “Farmers stand at the center of the world,” Youn says. Second, the tools to end agricultural poverty exist. According to Youn, these tools are seed, fertilizer, and education about best practices. Used alongside one another, they can increase yields and decrease poverty for smallholder farmers across the globe. 

The missing link, and Youn’s third lever, is delivery. The farmers in need are there. The proven means to promote agricultural and human development exist. The necessary delivery networks to get goods and services to the people who need them are feeble. One Acre Fund works to solve this problem with a delivery army of 2,000 rural field officers. Each of those field officers serves 200 smallholder farms, reaching 1,000 people. Currently, One Acre Fund serves 400,000 farmers. 

This model for scalable delivery networks could extend well beyond farming, says Youn. “Humanity is armed to the teeth with simple, effective solutions to poverty. We just need to deliver these to a pretty small area,” Youn says. “Logistically speaking, it's incredibly possible to end extreme poverty. We just need to deliver proven goods and services to everybody. If we have the will, every one of us has a role to play. Let's deploy our time, our careers, our collective wealth. Let us deliver an end to extreme poverty in this lifetime.”