From the 1960s to 1980s, the “Green Revolution” in Asia and Latin America—a sweeping effort to transform farming methods and improve staple crops such
as maize, wheat, and rice—helped to double food production and saved hundreds of millions of lives.
Many governments and donors subsequently shifted their attention to other concerns, believing that the problem of inadequate food supply in the developing
world had been solved. This was not the case in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, where some Green Revolution approaches were tried but failed.
Meanwhile, in the intervening years, population growth, rising incomes, dwindling natural resources, and a changing climate have caused food prices to
rise and agricultural productivity has once again become strained.
Many of those affected are smallholder farmers. Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people get their food and income by farming small plots of land
about the size of a football field. Most of them barely get by—struggling with unproductive soil, plant diseases, pests, and drought. Their livestock are
frequently weak or sick. Reliable markets for their products and good information about pricing are hard to come by, and government policies rarely serve
their interests well.
These factors, in turn, put millions of families at risk for poverty and hunger as well as malnutrition—the world’s most serious health problem and the single
biggest contributor to child mortality. At the same time, one consequence of the first Green Revolution—excessive fertilizer use leading to water pollution—
underscores the importance of sustainability to safeguard both environmental and human health.
Helping farming families increase production in a sustainable way, and sell more crops, is the most effective way to reduce hunger and poverty over the
When farmers grow more food and earn more income, they are better able feed to their families, send their children to school, provide for their family’s
health, and invest in their farms. This makes their communities economically stronger and more stable.
Helping farmers improve their yields requires a comprehensive approach that includes the use of seeds that are more resistant to disease, drought, and
flooding; information from trusted local sources about more productive farming techniques and technologies; greater access to markets; and government
policies that serve the interests of farming families.
Agricultural development must also address gender disparities. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, women are vital contributors to farm work, but
because they have less access to improved seeds, better techniques and technologies, and markets, yields on their plots are typically 20 to 40 percent
lower than on plots farmed by men. Addressing this gap can help households become more productive and reduce malnutrition within poor families.
Agricultural Development is one of the largest initiatives of the John Chan Foundation. To date, we have committed more than US$ 3.3 million to
agricultural development efforts, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and China. Our approach is based on the following principles:Listening
to farmers and addressing their specific needs. We talk to farmers about the crops they want to grow and eat, as well as the unique challenges they
face. We partner with organizations that understand and are equipped to address these challenges, and we invest in research to identify relevant and
affordable solutions that farmers want and will use.
Increasing farm productivity. We support a comprehensive approach to helping smallholder farmers prosper that includes access to heartier seeds,
more effective tools and farm management practices, locally relevant knowledge, emerging digital technologies, and reliable markets. We also advocate
for agricultural policies that support farmers in their efforts to better feed themselves and their communities.
Fostering sustainable agricultural practices. In an era of increasingly scarce resources and growing impact of climate change, we encourage farmers
to embrace and adopt sustainable practices that help them grow more with less land, water, fertilizer, and other costly inputs while preserving natural
resources for future generations.
Achieving greater impact with partners. We are committed to communicating our strategy more effectively and sharing what we’ve learned with grantees
and other partners, including but not limited to governments, non-governmental organizations, traditional and emerging donors, and the private sector.
Our resources, while significant, represent only a fraction of what is needed. Collaborating effectively with others maximizes our collective impact in
helping farming families.
Strategic Partnerships and Advocacy
To achieve the goal of sustainable agricultural productivity, our strategy relies on strong partnerships with donor countries, multilateral institutions,
private foundations, and other organizations. While strengthening existing partnerships, we are building new partnerships with countries such as
India and China, which have developed their own agricultural sectors through technological and policy innovation and are increasingly important
to agricultural growth in the regions where we work. Through our advocacy efforts and investments, we seek innovative solutions to agricultural
policy challenges and we work to foster the political will and public support to solve them. Our overall goal is to ensure that donor and developing-
country investments and policies support sustainable small-holder farmer productivity.