September 25, 2014

Roger Thurow - One Acre Fund’s Disruptive Thinking

This post by senior fellow Roger Thurow originally appeared on the Outrage and Inspire blog. 

We’re excited to announce the launch of a new multi-part film series on Roger Thurow’s The Last Hunger Season. Now through October 16—coinciding with World Food Day 2014—we will be releasing two episodes from the series per week. Part 4 is now available below. See all episodes.

It is Africa’s cruelest irony that her hungriest people are her smallholder farmers.  For decades, development orthodoxy had prioritized feeding hungry farmers with emergency food aid rather than improving their farming with long-term agriculture development aid so they wouldn’t be hungry in the first place.

Andrew Youn saw this paradox—feeding hungry farmers rather than helping them feed themselves—and he had his own Amua moment.  He decided, “We can do better than this.”  He established One Acre Fund; rather than hand out food aid, One Acre would provide access to seed, soil nutrients, training, and the financing to pay for it.  It shifted the focus from food aid and emergency feeding programs for hunger farmers to creating the conditions for these farmers to be able to grow enough food to feed their families.  Youn’s mantra became: affordability, accessibility, training. Reach as many people as you can, have a meaningful impact, and do it cost effectively.  He latched on to two other words as well: scalability and sustainability.

In this episode of The Last Hunger Season film series, Andrew Youn talks about the beginning of One Acre Fund, its philosophy (“Farmers First”), and its work with farmers to conquer the hunger season.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

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International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


| By Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet.