One Farmer at a Time, TOV Changes Lives

One Farmer at a Time, TOV Changes Lives

By: Rebecca Zisholtz - JDC Media Relations Manager

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 on agriculture, making TOV not only an important economical project, but also a great humanitarian one. As a representative of the Ethiopian government, we see it as a great opportunity,” explained Ethiopian Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Sani Redi.

To enhance productivity, farmers are given access to innovative agricultural technology including drip irrigation and fertilization systems, and hybrid seeds designed to help grow tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers.

“A proof of how amazing this technology is,” stated Mudin, the first farmer to sign up for TOV, “is that I see that all of the tomato plots in the area are heavily infected with viruses, but in my plot, despite that problem, I succeed in producing salable tomatoes thanks to these new methods…I believe this technology will change the entire community.”

Abebech, like Mudin, joined TOV out of a desire to improve daily 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 become a 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 of her community to help lighten her workload, diversify her crops, and obtain additional farming equipment. 

TOV is now entering the final stage of its pilot program and has already experienced amazing results, growing from 4 farmers initially to 31. These include 25 smallholder farmers, four training centers, and two youth collectives, with another 30-40 farmers expected to join in the final pilot stage in the fall of 2019. Increased yields have also been reported by the TOV farmers, including 10% who have seen a significant increase. Additionally, the grassroots enthusiasm generated by the program in local communities has resulted 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 meet changing farmer needs, correct course when certain aspects of the program needed adjustment and added new partners and initiatives to    boost farmer success. As part of this ongoing transformation, TOV launched a partnership with Israeli agriculture experts Fair Planet, formalizing an ongoing training program for farmers, and working with local experts to implement TOV’s technology and farming methods.  Since then, TOV’s Israeli experts have run six training sessions on use of the drip irrigation system, system installation and maintenance, pest control, and disease management.   

In November, TOV’s Innovation Journey will bring five carefully selected Israeli companies to Ethiopia to see TOV’s activity in the field, meet farmers and learn about the local needs. The goal is to give participants the opportunity to learn about the smallholder farmer ecosystem up close and inspire them to adapt their products to be relevant to smallholder farmers in developing countries.

Just a year in, TOV has already begun to change the lives of smallholders farmers across Ethiopia. But this is just the beginning. As TOV continues to grow, and TOV’s AgTech expertise, loans and markets access are made more widely available, countless other farmers, just like Abebech and Mudin, will also reap the benefits, growing themselves a better future—one seed at a time.