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Ashoka brings social innovation and entrepreneurship to agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa and India

Submitted by: Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

Categories: Sustainability, Community Development

Posted: Jan 07, 2009 – 12:45 PM EST


Jan. 07 /CSRwire/ - ARLINGTON, VA. - January 7, 2009 - Ashoka today announced a $15 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support social innovation and entrepreneurship in agricultural and sustainable rural development. The foundation's grant will allow Ashoka to elect more than 90 Fellows who will spread promising innovations aimed at helping small farmers living in poor, rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and India move out of poverty.

Diana Wells, President of Ashoka states, "Aligned with Ashoka's vision of forming an Everyone a Changemaker(TM) world, this partnership underscores that the most important change must be to empower humans from passive recipients of solutions to initiators and champions of innovation in the social sector. Instead of operating within the existing social-political framework using the same incentives and elements that aren't producing results, these carefully selected Fellows will help change the system and support new frameworks and value chains that enable large numbers of citizens to participate in—and drive—social change."

Hear the Story: contact nkhan@ashoka.org for exclusive interviews

Ashoka's proven expertise and local and global networks — approximately 2000 social entrepreneurs in 63 countries—are supporting the world's most powerful new ideas and its leading social entrepreneurs. Through its wide-ranging, global "nominators network," Ashoka finds individuals with transformative ideas who lack financing, legal support, or the basic means for scaling their work. After completing Ashoka's rigorous global selection process, Ashoka Fellows are provided with the best intellectual and process leadership for refining and replicating their successes, and for hatching entirely new ideas.

"The promise of agricultural development will be realized in part through the spread of new ideas and solutions to the challenges facing farmers in developing countries," said Dr. Rajiv Shah, director of Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Stimulating these innovations has the potential to help thousands of smallholder farmers build better lives for themselves and their families."

Agricultural and rural sustainable development initiatives supported by Ashoka will be oriented around key issues such as new technologies, farmer productivity, key agricultural policies, and connections between smallholder farmers and markets. Ashoka's network already includes many Fellows working on agriculture and rural development related issues— whether developing markets for small farmers in Kenya, or using local knowledge to regenerate arid land through natural farming and permaculture in India.

Ashoka realizes that innovations alone do not create sustainable large-scale solutions in agriculture and sustainable rural development. These new solutions endure only when social entrepreneurs have a community-level understanding, build a broad citizen base of support, introduce incentives for participation, and topple traditional barriers to entry or involvement. This partnership will allow Ashoka to launch 90 social entrepreneurs and their powerful, pattern- changing ideas that are built on this bottom up approach. Additionally, as a product of the increased number of entrepreneurs in this area and their broad base of supporters, Ashoka will be able to identify transformative universal principles that will ultimately revolutionize the field.

Valeria Merino, Ashoka's Vice President leading this partnership, shares, "We are committed to finding a solution and building a broad coalition to end the cycle of poverty in India and Africa. By refocusing agricultural development initiatives around the needs and perspectives of smallholder farmers, it's possible to build on systemic change from the bottom up. Ashoka is honored to join this movement that looks towards permanently alleviating poverty for rural communities."

Due to these critical partnerships, the world's largest community of social entrepreneurs is taking social innovation and entrepreneurialism to new fields. Ashoka has recently been able to elect new Fellows in the areas of journalism and technology and now looks forward to bringing these transformative principles to the areas of youth, climate change, and disability.

About Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

Founded in 1980, Ashoka is the world's working community of approximately 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs. It champions the most important new social change ideas and supports the entrepreneurs behind them to start, grow, succeed, and collaborate on their ventures. As Ashoka expands its capacity to integrate and connect social and business entrepreneurs around the world, it builds an entrepreneurial infrastructure comprised of global initiatives that supports the fast-growing needs of the citizen sector. Ashoka is creating change today, for an Everyone a Changemaker(TM) society to become the reality of tomorrow. For more information, visit www.ashoka.org.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

For more information, please contact:

Natasha Khan Ashoka
Phone: 703.600.8204


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