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Five Innovative NGOs in Agriculture

African Bamboo
African Bamboo

Founded: 2012
Primary Work: Optimizing the many benefits of bamboo by producing sustainable goods for both the export and local markets
Location: Ethiopia

One Acre Fund
One Acre Fund

Founded: 2006
Primary Work: Creating networks to support smallholder farmers
Location: Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi

Promethean Power Systems
Promethean Power Systems

Founded: 2007
Primary Work: Offering Indian farmers and food processors affordable cold-storage equipment for perishable food items
Location: India

World Concern International
World Concern International

Founded: 1955
Primary Work: Global relief and development for people facing extreme poverty, including food security, farming support, clean water, and job training
Location: Headquartered in Seattle, with operations in East Africa, South East Asia, and Haiti

ACORD International
ACORD International

Founded: 1976
Primary Work: Promoting social justice through food sovereignty, HIV/AIDS programs, peace building, and women’s rights
Location: 17 African countries, including Angola, Sudan, and Mali


From bamboo floorboards to emergency food relief, agriculture is an incredibly important part of everyday life. Many poverty-stricken areas find it hard to grow socially and economically due to a lack of resources and training. These five innovative NGOs and companies work in developing countries to help those in need by addressing key agricultural issues in sustainable international development.

African Bamboo

Founded: 2012
Primary Work: Optimizing the many benefits of bamboo by producing sustainable goods for both the export and local markets
Location: Ethiopia
Website: http://www.african-bamboo.com/
Interesting fact: Ethiopia has the largest bamboo resources in Africa.

In 2009, Ethiopia-based furniture manufacturer Fortune Enterprise entered into a public-private partnership with GIZ, a branch of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. This partnership created a sustainable supply chain for industrial bamboo production and was awarded an investment grant by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency two years later. In 2012, this partnership was officially registered as African Bamboo, an Ethiopian and Dutch bamboo-based floorboard business. Just one year later, African Bamboo was awarded the “Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development” award by USAID, and in 2014, the company won a contract from the African Development Bank under the “Agriculture Fast Track Fund.”

African Bamboo seeks to take advantage of Ethiopia’s vast bamboo resources in a sustainable way. To do this, the company focuses on the supply chain. By organizing cooperatives of over 2,000 farmers and training them in sustainable harvesting techniques, African Bamboo effectively reduces negative environmental impact and brings about considerable community engagement and employment. They help to boost the local economy by producing woven strand floorboards for exporting and teaching farmers how to sustainably increase their bamboo production as a local fuel source. With their innovative development of eco-friendly glue and more, African Bamboo looks to be a successful sustainability endeavor with incredible growth potential.

One Acre Fund

Founded: 2006
Primary Work: Creating networks to support smallholder farmers
Location: Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi
Website: http://www.oneacrefund.org/
Interesting fact: One Acre Fund seeks to triple its full-time staff from 1,000 to 3,000 in the next three years.

The brainchild of Yale graduate Andrew Youn, One Acre Fund was founded in Kenya in 2006. The NGO received its first funds from the Echoing Green Foundation in the form of a two-year start-up grant. The grants quickly started to accumulate, with One Acre Fund being awarded funds from the Draper Richards Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and USAID, among others. The NGO receives funding from over ten foundations and has been featured in Forbes’ Impact 30 and NewsHour on PBS.

One Acre Fund believes in the power of the individual African farmer and has created a vision to develop and support them. To help alleviate poverty, the NGO implements a basic four-step plan: 1) Provide an $80 seed and fertilizer loan, 2) deliver these goods to the farmer, 3) train farmers in sustainability techniques to improve farm profitability, and 4) increase market access and improve storage to help farmers sell their goods. Because of these efforts, One Acre Fund has successfully helped more than 130,000 farm families create more sustainable fields and double their income on every planted acre.

Promethean Power Systems

Founded: 2007
Primary Work: Offering Indian farmers and food processors affordable cold-storage equipment for perishable food items
Location: India
Website: http://www.coolectrica.com/
Interesting fact: It only takes four hours for unrefrigerated milk to spoil.

Sorin Grama and Sam White founded Promethean Power Systems (PPS) in Boston in 2007. Five years later, PPS formed a joint venture, called Promethean Spenta Technologies, with a Navi Mumbai company, Spenta Refrigeration Pvt. Ltd., to directly support Indian farmers and food processors.

Promethean Power Systems has found its niche in the rural dairy industry of India by developing a battery that stores and releases cold thermal energy to be used in refrigeration. Because many rural areas receive electricity only at night, this battery takes advantage of the Indian grid power when available to recharge itself. Thus, refrigeration can be available when electricity is not. Additionally, PPS has produced a rapid milk chiller that uses this battery and cools milk faster than conventional bulk milk coolers. By providing these products to farmers and food suppliers at reasonable prices, PPS helps to grow local economies and ultimately supports global health by ensuring that the milk people drink is safe.

World Concern International

Founded: 1955
Primary Work: Global relief and development for people facing extreme poverty, including food security, farming support, clean water, and job training
Location: Headquartered in Seattle, with operations in East Africa, South East Asia, and Haiti
Website: http://worldconcern.org/
Interesting fact: 90 percent of every dollar donated goes directly to the programs that seek to bring about sustainable development or disaster relief.

World Concern started out as Medicine for Missions in 1955. Founded by physician Wilbert Saunders and pharmacist Jim McCoy, this humanitarian organization initially supplied medicine to clinics and hospitals overseas. After responding to a destructive earthquake in Guatemala, however, Medicine for Missions realized that long-term development of a country was more beneficial to its citizens than simply giving handouts and leaving. Soon after, the organization began sending qualified professionals and passionate volunteers to help the poor improve their standard of living. The organization was officially renamed to World Concern in 1976 and opened its first international integrated rural development project in Haiti.

Now in over 15 countries around the globe, World Concern focuses on eight long-term sustainable development strategies in addition to disaster relief. The One Village Transformed project helps to target and assuage problems such as sanitation and food security in the most needy villages. World Concern protects children by establishing child trafficking prevention and education programs, empowering poor female entrepreneurs through microloans, and helping people of all ages gain valuable career skills. Finally, the sanitation and food security projects complement the vast array of global health services World Concern offers, such as HIV/AIDS prevention programs, deworming medication, and leprosy treatment.

ACORD International

Founded: 1976
Primary Work: Promoting social justice through food sovereignty, HIV/AIDS programs, peace building, and women’s rights
Location: 17 African countries, including Angola, Sudan, and Mali
Website: http://www.acordinternational.org
Interesting fact: ACORD works with more than one million Africans and 2,000 partners worldwide.

Like World Concern, the Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD) was established in 1976 as an emergency relief NGO. Gradually, this organization shifted its focus to more sustainable development, rehabilitation, long-term programming research, and capacity building. ACORD’s board of trustees includes representatives from Burundi, Malawi, and Mauritania, and it oversees the organization’s mission and policies. The nine-member general assembly manages the statutory functions, such as the allocation of funds from individual, corporate, and foundation contributions.

ACORD’s mission is to work with the poor and strengthen social justice and development. This organization aims to empower the most affected communities to understand, challenge, and change their conditions themselves. Through food sovereignty, women’s rights, peace building, and HIV/AIDS programs, ACORD seeks to promote long-lasting and sustainable change throughout the African continent.

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