One Farmer at a Time, TOV Changes Lives
Launched one year ago, TOV is JDC’s program that focuses on improving the lives of farmers in Africa through access to Israeli agricultural technology and Jewish philanthropic loans.
By Rebecca Zisholtz - JDC Media Relations Manager | December 4, 2019
One year ago, Abebech’s life was changed.
As a farmer in Ethiopia, 45-year-old Abebech relies on her five-acre farm to support her and her family of six. Unfortunately, her farm’s harsh soil conditions combined with a tough selling market often makes this difficult.
It is for this reason that TOV, which stands for Tikkun Olam Ventures, was created. Launched one year ago, TOV is JDC’s program that focuses on improving the lives of farmers in Africa through access to Israeli agricultural technology and Jewish philanthropic loans. TOV helps lift these vulnerable farmers out of poverty through an innovative philanthropic loan fund that provides fairly priced loans, Israeli agritech and training, and access to new markets.
‘Over 90% of nutrition in Ethiopia is based onagriculture, making TOV not only an important economical project, but also agreat humanitarian one. As a representative of the Ethiopian government, we seeit as a great opportunity,” explained Ethiopian Deputy Minister of Agriculture,Sani Redi.
To enhance productivity, farmers are given access toinnovative agricultural technology including drip irrigation and fertilizationsystems, and hybrid seeds designed to help grow tomatoes, onions, and hotpeppers.
“A proof ofhow amazing this technology is,” stated Mudin, the first farmer to sign up forTOV, “is that I see that all of the tomato plots in the area are heavilyinfected with viruses, but in my plot, despite that problem, I succeed inproducing salable tomatoes thanks to these new methods…I believe thistechnology will change the entire community.”
Abebech, like Mudin, joined TOV out of a desire to improvedaily life for her family. Today, she has not only seen change on her own farm,but Abebech has become an active member of her farming cooperative and has becomea model farmer by providing guidance to other members of her cooperative. Additionally,with her increased income, Abebech will now be able to employ other members ofher community to help lighten her workload, diversify her crops, and obtain additionalfarming equipment.
TOV is now entering the final stage of its pilot program andhas already experienced amazing results, growing from 4 farmers initially to 31.These include 25 smallholder farmers, four training centers, and two youthcollectives, with another 30-40 farmers expected to join in the final pilotstage in the fall of 2019. Increased yields have also been reported by the TOVfarmers, including 10% who have seen a significant increase. Additionally, thegrassroots enthusiasm generated by the program in local communities hasresulted in more than 200 farmers on the waitlist to join TOV.
The grassroots enthusiasm generated by the program in local communities has resulted in more than 200 farmers on the waitlist to join TOV.
Throughout the pilot, TOV evolved the program to meetchanging farmer needs, correct course when certain aspects of the programneeded adjustment and added new partners and initiatives to boostfarmer success. As part of this ongoing transformation, TOV launched a partnershipwith Israeli agriculture experts Fair Planet, formalizing an ongoing trainingprogram for farmers, and working with local experts to implement TOV’stechnology and farming methods. Sincethen, TOV’s Israeli experts have run six training sessions on use of the dripirrigation system, system installation and maintenance, pest control, anddisease management.
In November, TOV’s Innovation Journey will bring fivecarefully selected Israeli companies to Ethiopia to see TOV’s activity in thefield, meet farmers and learn about the local needs. The goal is to giveparticipants the opportunity to learn about the smallholder farmer ecosystem upclose and inspire them to adapt their products to be relevant to smallholderfarmers in developing countries.
Just a year in, TOV has already begun to change the lives ofsmallholders farmers across Ethiopia. But this is just the beginning. As TOVcontinues to grow, and TOV’s AgTech expertise, loans and markets access aremade more widely available, countless other farmers, just like Abebech andMudin, will also reap the benefits, growing themselves a better future—one seedat a time.