TEDxSanJoaquin – Rachel Zedeck – Fast Food Farming!

TEDxSanJoaquin – Rachel Zedeck – Fast Food Farming!


Translator: Yunhi Maeng
Reviewer: Diba Szamosi I am a farmer so I normally don’t wear heels. And I wanted to impress all of you and be a professional. I have a small confession: I love food, I love eating. And I believe in my heart that the center of our lives actually revolves around food. Family dinners, telling stories, first dates,
birthday cake, chocolates, every woman in the room here just heard that. And today I’m going to tell you a story,
a story about food, farming, and the power of social enterprise to change the world. But before I start my story, I want
all of you to ask yourselves a question. This one simple question. And I want you to instead of thinking about what you would do, I want you to think about how you feel. And that’s “If tomorrow morning you wake up, — How many of you in the room have children?
Please raise your hands — you could not feed your children? There was not food to buy even
if there was money to buy it with”, so I want you to feel that for a moment
before we start our story because that is how most
of the world actually lives today. So we start our story, the scene,
by looking at a map of food security. Obviously most of it is in Sub-Saharan Africa. If you actually look at where we live, in Kenya we’re surrounded by extreme
hunger in Ethiopia and Somalia. Of all 20 countries listed on this map, 11 are currently in a conflict and all 20
have been in conflict the last 20 years. The most recent of which
now are Congo, Yemen, Somalia. But over here North America looks perfect; it’s green, it’s lush, everyone is happy and well fed. But are they? Because, well, in Subsaharan Africa
during the current famine and drought the UN have requested $16 billion
for emmergency response and food aid. While 30-40% of East Africa’s
children suffer from malnutrition, 21% suffer what’s called severe acute malnutrition which means on a daily basis their brains
suffer brain damage from lack of calories. One in six Americans are struggling
to eat, that’s 48 million Americans, 17 million of which are children. That numbers since 2007 has increased to 12 million and that’s two and a half years
before this economic recession started. The food in secure in your country
costs you $167 billion a year and I can’t help but wonder
where that money could be spent. Hunger is such a fact of life now in your culture that Sesame Street two days ago
launched a new character called Lily, and Lily and her family don’t have
enough food to eat on a daily basis. So we meet our first character the smallholder farmer. Her name is Mary. She is a 37-year-old single mother. She lives in part of Kenya called Makuyu. She owns two to five acres of land, she is producing about 20%
of what her soil could produce and of what she is producing
she is losing 60% of that in the same land where she is growing her food. Because she doesn’t have a market to sell it in. She is not subsistence, she is not growing food around huts. She doesn’t have flies in her eyes. She is a farmer. She earns her primary economic income from farming. She produces for both local,
regional and export market. Makuyu has papaya and cantalope and
watermelon and spinach and avocados. It is one of the most fertile areas of Kenya. Mary is one of 80-100 million smallholder
farmers in East and Sub-Saharan Africa. 80% of the food grown in this region
is grown by women just like Mary. I believe, many believe they’re the largest
untapped economic resource not only in Africa but the world. So what does Mary need? If she is such an amazing resource, economic resource, what’s really the challenge? She needs access to agricultural technology,
to training and finance. Yes, I have included water but I want to
come to that in a second, because water, you can access and learn
to manage better with training. This video is gonna demonstrate
for you guys exactly where, is not exactly where Mary lives,
but this is the Kerio Valley. The Kerio Valley is where more than a million smallholder farmers, just like Mary, live. And this is also the center of
the elections violence in 2007. We don’t live on vast estates. These guys live on 2-5 acres of land
and they’re neighbors with each other. They know exactly where they are. And I demonstrate this with you
with little houses in a minute because it’s very easy, for us,
as a business to access these people. So we have a new chapter: Rachel. Well, five years ago I was standing
on a runway in Southern Sudan. I was watching a plane loaded with food aid which is called a dropship. The plane doesn’t actually land
it just sort of hits the dirt and drop loads out of the back. 50-to-90-pound bags of dried beans and maize, corn. This is food aid. And out of the dust I saw hundreds of women most carrying children strapped to their backs, coming to pick up these bags
and wander back into the bush approx of 40 miles and everyday or two to be able to have
enough food to keep their families alive. What I’d like you guys to learn about the first thing is that only 2% of all interntional food aid in the last 7 years has had nutritional requirements. Geez, we’re giving people food that they
either don’t recognize and don’t wanna eat but more importantly keep some alive
but dodesn’t nourish some. It’s not real food. And so I got angry. I couldn’t help but wonder if we can give people and we can spend
millions of dollars in one week on shipments to one runway to dropship food, why can’t we teach people to farm? And so that was when the Backpack farmers
were born in Nairobi Kenya with a small group of companies that are partners. This is our backpack. It is designed to support 32 different crops. The packs are modular so they support
a quarter, a half or 1 acre planting. We have seeds. We have training. We have all sorts of amazing stuff
that actually fits inside of this backpack. And like every good story,
I think you need to have little magic. And we have two pieces of magic in our backpack not just that it’s actually portable and then everything has been sized
and packaged specifically for a farmer. That is the technology we use. We are providing farmers access
to some of the best biological and botanical, organic farming inputs in the world. We just package them really really tiny. And the second is drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is truly magic. These small little plastic lines can double if not triple the yield of what a farmer produces in their first harvest. An acre of irrigation costs less than $500. What does the shipment of food aid cost us? More than 1.2 million. How many drip irrigation gets us
to pipe up entire community? More importantly it helps farmers
to manage their water resources. So the backpack farm agricultural program. We are for profit, for profit we
make money, social enterprise. And we’re a registered limited
liability company in Nairobi Kenya. Last year, two different agencies
from the UN named us one of the world’s top 30 green social enterprises eco-friendly. Why for profit? A lot of people ask me this question. First I don’t believe aid is sustainable.
Aid also makes me angry. I have worked in the aid world. More importantly it’s because I believe that farmers like Mary have worth. She is poor and she is one
of the most amazing women that I’ve gotten to worked with in my life
because she doesn’t see that. She gets up everyday, and she feeds
her children, and she farms, and she’s happy. She has worth as a human being. So our company sees the worth in her. We are commited to multi-functional farming. And what that means is obviously
the goal of farming is to grow food we commit to growing nutritionally dense food, while impacting social, economic and ecological domains. You don’t have to have one you can have
all four in the same package. Our idealogical pillars, this is not only what we offer, it is what we expect of every farmer and every organization that we work with: desirability, commitment, and determination. Because farming is a hard work,
there is no simple answer to hunger. We’re busy, we’re busy doing– in 2011 we launched new partnerships, new access to finace our farmers
and soil testing services were affordable. We don’t make any money from this partnerships. We maintain our existing partnerships
with companies like Synths from Kenya who design our bags out of recycled products and who are actually premium luggage company and they donated the design of our backpack. We launched– we have 12 training farms now in Kenya which is where we distribute and
train farmers on backpack farm. We launched Kuza doctor, kuza is Swahili for growing. It’s one of the first mobile applications available to smallholder farmers in Kenya
to provide them technical support for ten different crops in both English and Swahili. Our 2012 expansion, we hope by January, February before the next long rains to have 20 complete training farms expand into Uganda and Tanzania and expand — I’m proud to announce
our mobile platform is going from an SMS into a mobile platform
with Inmobia from Denmark. Physically, we will — at minimum — physically touch and train 150,000
smallholder farmers in Kenya alone and we will reach more than a quarter
of a million with mobile support. I wanna talk about our training farms for a center because that’s really the heart
of what we do at backpack farm. We are a funny little farming company that trains. This is one of our farms in Aldred. This is Handred Schnitz, who’s a fellow,
who’s just arrived in Kenya to work with us and is going to stay on board. This is Jeffery, our trainer, and this is Ami Matar who is our local director. This is how simple our training farms are: they’re exactly one acre or less, they mirror exactly what a smallholder
farmer has available to them to plant. They plant four to six different crops, two of those crops must be indigenous
which means local crops. They must plant either of local’s kale, it’s a kuma wiki, spinach of some kind, because of
nutritinal value in ad zinc and iron as well as local bean for it’s carbohydrate value. Kundae will baseline the insuline levels
of malnourished child in three days. It is indigenous to Kenya, corn is not. It will give a farmer 600 to 800
times more economic return, and it gets harvested in 10 weeks, and corn gets harvested in 4 to 6 months. So this farm has one crop on this and on this, you can actually see what’s planted now, it’s bird’s eye chilis and passion fruit. Because we also do plant high in economic crops. Because if a farmer wants to earn
even more money, they can and Coca Cola has just launched a value chain project mobilizing 45,000 farmers to grow passion fruit for juicing. So now we have a new chapter, and that’s America, and America’s family farmer. It’s been a pleasure to arrive here in California and when I flew into Scramento,
I actually flew over a farm. More than 1.7 million
American family farmers have been forced off their land in the last 25 years. Which is shocking, considering that 40% of produce that you buy in your markets
comes from other countries. There are more Americans in prison
than there are farming in this country. And I don’t understand that.
More rural Americans are on food stamps than the city folk having watched America’s bread basket transformed into an industial workhorse. America’s family farmer struggles to earn 20 cents on every dollar they invest in their farm. This is not the picture that Norman Rockwell painted for us. This is our newest character, the Yang family. They emigrated among family in 1990. They were farmers from their own country. They came here to start a farm
and to raise their children. This is the American dream:
to farm and feed your children and raise your children. They own a 12-acre organic farm here in Fresno. They specialize in Asian vegetables and fresh herbs. The first two farms failed because of limited market, bad soil and water shortages. So without the capital finance
or the tools to effectively plan, plants and harvest, everything
was also being done by hand. In October in 2003 the farm
did start to transform itself because it got asistance from
a local non profit, working with family farmers. The Yang family here in Fresno and Mary
in Kenya face the same challenges: access to affordable technologies, finance, training, equitable markets and yes, water. It’s the same story in a different country. So what we really need to invest in, what I believe is not only in Kenya but also in America, starting with soil testing and that’s technical, only because what do you put in the soil before
you know what’s already in it, as far as agricultural inputs? We, national training and youth campaigns. I’ve been in this country less than a week and all I’ve heard about is unemployment,
jobs, youth, the future. There is honor in farming. Collaborative finance, the public-private sector, the public, the private, government and non profit need to start spending more time talking to each other. We need to develop new markets.
It’s ok to import food. It’d just be great to know
where it’s coming from and that farmers are being paid
an ethical price for it. Practical research, research is power;
you can’t do anything without knowledge. And mobile technologies. I want to build a link between farming
in America, and farming in Africa. We have so much to learn from each other and we don’t have as much time as you may think. Like African story — I come to an end — there is no real fast food answer to hunger. There’s no real magical Shazam — and we’re going to fix everything over night; farming is hard work. We are commited to that at Backpack farm. I will say this in closing: this social enterprise
has been the best and worst decision of my life. I have learned, I have witnessed and I have lost more in the last four years than I learned
in the rest of my life combined. And so I challenge you guys today to learn more about farming. Smallholder farming is the future to feeding the world; it can be green, it can be sustainable, it can be scalable and financially viable. I can’t necessarily say that we’re gonna have
a happy ending for everyone in our story. But I do believe in the future and
the power of farming and food. And so I’d like to leave you with these few words that resonate with me and I try to remind myself of them: “When you feed an empty stomach you open a mind and heart to endless possibility.” My father. Thank you. (Applause)

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