Hundreds of Sub-Saharan Africans won’t go hungry this year because of a backpack and one woman. The backpack, eco-friendly and filled with sustainable farming inputs, is a result of years of Change Agent Rachel Zedeck’s sweat and tears, literally.
The backpack, essential to building community cooperative farms in Kenya, came out of Rachel’s trial and error. Rachel, a humanitarian at heart, passed through Kenya in 2007 on her way to Southern Sudan where she worked on a commercial farming project with the goal of building communal farms.
The drama surrounding the project—corruption, defunct and inefficient NGOs, complicated UN agencies and shady characters—took its toll on Rachel. With raw emotions and physically exhausted, she retreated determined to figure out why the project fell flat.
Three years later, after careful analysis of political, social and environmental issues, Rachel devised a new plan with a team of agricultural experts and launched Backpack Farm. The program focuses on not feeding a nation, but giving the community the power to feed itself.
“The program enhances bottom pyramid value chains targeting small landholder farmers’ production models,” said Rachel.
In addition to creating a farming program accessible for the people, she’s also helping preserve and protect the environment. The backpack kit eliminates the need for traditional fertilizers, which cuts the cost by nearly 1/5 and prevents pollution of the water table and soil.
In the region where Rachel works, preservation is a huge deal. The Mau Forest has delicate eco-systems including the local Lake Victoria. For years, harmful farming methods have threatened local ecology and the people. For example, toxic fertilizers can seep into water supplies.
Not only is Rachel helping people farm, but she’s also helping them do it safely. Crops and communities have flourished since Rachel’s arrival. She’s helped better connect people to their land and each other.
On that note, there is much work to be done in 2010. Rachel is working on the final draft for her impact study to be launched on January 2, 2010. She and her new intern Patrick will be publishing a Backpack Farm Manual in late January while they finalize a new business plan and shop around for funding.
Rachel is sharing her story on Changents.com and is looking for help in 2010. If you or anyone you know is interested in helping propel the incredible mission of this Change Agent drop her a line.