UN Sustainable Development Goal

1
No Poverty

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Date published: 21 Sep 2017
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KHEYTI

POVERTY ALLEVATION THROUGH SMART FARMING STRATEGY CALLED KHEYTI In 2000, world leaders set out to halve 1990 extreme poverty and hunger rates by the end of 2015. This means that the percentage of impoverished people – defined by the World Bank as those living on less than $1.25 (£0.83) a day – must fall to 25% by the end of this year, while the proportion of people without adequate food security must be reduced to 12.5%. Millennium development goal 1: 15 achievements on poverty and hunger Another target under MDG1 is to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all the working-age population, including women and young people. Will the goal be met? The target to reduce extreme poverty by half was reached by 2010, when the global poverty rate dropped to 22%, making it one of the first targets across all the goals to be met. However, stark regional differences mean that while east and south-east Asia have met the target, sub-Saharan Africa is unlikely to do so. It’s uncertain if hunger will be halved by the end of this year. There are 805 million chronically undernourished people, down by more than 100 million in the past decade, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. In its most recent progress report (pdf), the UN said 14% of the world doesn’t have adequate access to food. The UN has complained that progress towards the target has slowed since 2005, cautioning that immediate additional action is needed to meet the goal. Sustainable development goals: changing the world in 17 steps – interactive As for employment, the global economic crisis had a huge impact on labour markets, making the task of reducing the number of low-quality jobs even more difficult. This target is unlikely to be met. Women are still more likely to be working in low-quality jobs than men. How are hunger and poverty measured? Extreme poverty is measured by three indicators: the percentage of the population that lives on less than $1.25 a day; the number of people who live beneath the minimum income level deemed necessary to meet basic needs; and the share of national food consumption by the poorest 20% of the population. Poverty was first defined by the UN as anyone who earns less than $1 a day. This was revised to $1.25 a day to reflect rising commodity prices. The poverty line – a measure of the amount of money needed per day to survive – is dismissed by some as a poor way to calculate poverty. Critics say millions live very close to either side of the line, with not much difference in what they can afford. Kenya's small-scale farmers borrow seeds to grow potential | Mark Anderson More broadly, the MDGs have been criticised for targeting a reduction in the proportion of people living in poverty, rather than the absolute number. Thomas Pogge, a professor in development studies at Yale University, said this could “paint far too rosy a picture of the evolution of extreme poverty” (pdf). Hunger is measured by the country average of how many calories each person has access to every day, as well as the prevalence of underweight children younger than five. How accurate is the data? Gaps in data gathering have cast doubts on the credibility of the UN’s figures in eradicating hunger and poverty, some experts say. They claim that more than 40 developing countries lack sufficient data to track performance in these areas. The global rate masks uneven regional progress in reducing hunger and poverty, critics say. For example, China’s successful poverty reduction strategy accounts for most of the world’s gains over the past 25 years. East Asia’s poverty rate tumbled from 80% in 1980 to 20% in 2005. But, “the world doesn’t have another China”, says Lawrence Haddad, a senior fellow at the Institute of Development Studies. The fertile roots of Rwanda's green revolution | Agnes Kalibata and Amit Roy By contrast, sub-Saharan Africa’s rate hovered around 50% over the same period. “The rate of poverty reduction has been much slower in low-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where the absolute number of poor has continued to increase,” according to the World Food Programme. Which issues weren’t adequately addressed in MDG1? Food waste, land rights, soil quality, obesity, access to nutritious food, overreliance on certain crops, genetic modification, price volatility, disaster preparedness, monitoring progress. How do the MDG1 targets translate into the SDGs? The sustainable development goals (SDGs), which come into effect in 2016, include a target to end poverty everywhere, and one to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. There is a standalone target to promote sustainable economic growth, which includes full and productive employment, and decent work for all. Kheyti — Hindi for farming — is a one-year-old startup based in Hyderabad, India that aims to turn India’s class of small-scale farmers into ‘smart’ farmers. Founded by a team of two graduate students currently in the United States and three full-time staffers on the ground in India, Kheyti provides 2,500-square-foot, technologically based modular greenhouses for small-scale farmers at $280 a piece. Dubbed ‘Greenhouse in a Box,’ farmers with 0.2 to two hectares of land may grow faster-producing crops like tomatoes and cucumbers in addition to more traditional staples like wheat and rice they grow on the rest of their land. Kheyti — Hindi for farming — is a one-year-old startup based in Hyderabad, India that aims to turn India’s class of small-scale farmers into ‘smart’ farmers. Founded by a team of two graduate students currently in the United States and three full-time staffers on the ground in India, Kheyti provides 2,500-square-foot, technologically based modular greenhouses for small-scale farmers at $280 a piece. Dubbed ‘Greenhouse in a Box,’ farmers with 0.2 to two hectares of land may grow faster-producing crops like tomatoes and cucumbers in addition to more traditional staples like wheat and rice they grow on the rest of their land. In India, farming is a way of life. About a third the size of the United States, the country produces billions of dollars’ worth of produce, largely to feed its own ballooning population. It’s estimated that India has more than 100 million small-scale farmers, and they all face a looming and growing problem: a volatile climate that is increasingly less conducive to growing. After two consecutive years of underwhelming monsoon seasons, small-scale farmers in India — who depend heavily on rain because of limited irrigation — are reeling. As the climate continues to change, millions of farmers who rely on produce to feed themselves and make a living will need to find an alternative. The co-founders of a hot new social enterprise believe they have that alternative. Kheyti — Hindi for farming — is a one-year-old startup based in Hyderabad that aims to turn India’s class of small-scale farmers into “smart” farmers. Founded by a team of two graduate students currently in the United States and three full-time staffers on the ground in India, Kheyti provides 2,500-square-foot, technologically based modular greenhouses for small-scale farmers at $280 a piece. Dubbed “Greenhouse in a Box,” farmers with 0.2 to two hectares of land may grow faster-producing crops like tomatoes and cucumbers in addition to the more traditional wheat and rice they grow on the rest of their land. WINNING COMMONBOND’S SOCIAL IMPACT AWARD Over the past six months, the Kheyti team has taken a smart approach to growing the venture. Half of the team is working with the product and farmers in India (currently growing cucumbers) while the graduate students pile up funding through grants and competitions. Since December, the team has scooped up more than $100,000 in grants and awards, most recently a $25,000 grant courtesy of Columbia University’s Tamer Fund Investment Board and a $10,000 win at CommonBond’s Social Impact Award. CommonBond, a financial tech student loan-providing startup with a social twist of its own, has hosted a social impact startup competition for the past three years with a lofty goal. “The CommonBond Social Impact Award is meant to award $10,000 to the country’s top social entrepreneur,” David Klein, CommonBond CEO and co-founder tells We See Genius. This year three finalists were whittled down from more than 100 nominations to pitch Klein and a panel of judges at CommonBond’s New York offices, which are very much the epitome of a startup office — think beer-stuffed fridge, a massive open room with hardwood floors lined with scrambling 20- and 30-somethings in denim, and an over-worked Keurig. Finalists spanned geographies and industries. From traffic safety issues in Uganda to refugee placement in New York City, Klein says choosing a winner was difficult. What elevated Kheyti, he says, was its go-to-market readiness. “We want to be a leader in this social business space,” Klein says. “And as a leader you’ve got to lead and model the right behavior. You’ve also got to find next-generation talent to support. And that’s a lot of what the CommonBond social impact award is largely about.” A ‘SMART’ PLAN TO FOREVER CHANGE FARMING IN RURAL INDIA Klein and company can check that box. Despite its relative youth — no one on the team is older than 30 — experience is compensated by smarts. The team of five boasts a pair of Acumen fellows as well as current Northwestern Kellogg School of Management MBA candidate Saumya (who has only one name). Saumya and co-founder Kaushik K, a graduate student at Columbia University, have extensive vocational training experience. Meantime, co-founders Sathya Mokkapati and Ayush Sharma have already founded Cosmos Green, a farming production practices dissemination venture in India. Traditionally, greenhouses in India have been massive and expensive. At $100,000 per 40,000-square-foot monstrosity, a greenhouse wasn’t anywhere close to a reality for the typical Indian farming family — the median annual income for an Indian farmer being around $290. “We decided this was a problem worth solving,” Saumya tells We See Genius. Kheyti has begun doing just that by leveraging internal research of “off-the-shelf” technologies to reduce costs. With their low-cost, climate-controlled and automated “smart” greenhouses, they hope to forever end the days of farmers battling the elements in a do-or-die struggle to feed the family and sell enough to keep the farm going. LEVERAGING B-SCHOOL RESOURCES For Saumya, Kheyti is the extension of an entrepreneurial thirst and a couple of friendships. When funding was pulled from her previous startup, a vocational training venture in Bangalore called YellowLeaf Solutions, Saumya decided to pursue some formal entrepreneurial training. “I thought if I had more formal training in business in things like leadership, or even simply getting financial models better — all of those things I learned on the job (at YellowLeaf) in a structured environment — it would help also accessing a lot of resources,” she says. About the same time Saumya started at Kellogg last fall, she spoke with Mokkapati and Kaushik K, who were researching “technologies at the bottom of the pyramid” as part of their Acumen fellowships. They had found about 200 companies around the world that were using technology to increase impact and scale. Focused on organic farming in India, the duo began looking into greenhouses. Saumya was sold on the idea. But there was one potential problem. “I thought, if I start an agricultural company while in business school, I’m not sure what type of support I’d be getting,” she recalls. It turns out, quite a lot. Saumya quickly met Mohanbir Sawhney, the McCormick Tribune professor of technology who also directs the Center for Research in Technology & Innovation at Kellogg. Sawhney didn’t just like the greenhouse idea — he awarded Saumya a fellowship to pursue it full-time during the summer between her first and second years. “This is all I’m going to do for the next two years while I’m here,” Saumya says. PILOT TESTS PENDING After completing her core courses, Saumya promptly enrolled in Kellogg’s New Venture Launch course and leveraged Kellogg’s resources even more. She’ll soon join the rest of the team in Hyderabad, where they have five farmers signed on for pilot tests. They’ve also established a partnership with a local bank that will loan 90% of the greenhouse cost for farmers. Meaning that, for $280, farmers can purchase the greenhouse and begin farming. Kheyti plans to offer an “end-to-end” service that assists farmers in gaining necessary inputs — like seeds and fertilizers — and then connects them to buyers. Saumya says from years one to five, they expect farmers to earn about $40 a month while feeding their families and paying back the loan. At $480 a year, the potential dwarfs the annual national median rate of $280. Once the debt is paid off after five years, Saumya says, farmers could make up to $100 a month. And the market potential is massive. Of rural India’s 100 million farmers, Saumya says fewer than .05% currently have access to protected horticulture. Noting the economies of scale model, she says costs for the greenhouses will decrease as more farmers purchase them, and more will purchase them as a changing climate makes water even more scarce — the greenhouses are expected to use 80% to 90% less water than traditional farming. If all goes according to plan, Saumya says, Kheyti hopes to have 1,000 farmers using their greenhouses by the end of 2016 — and a million by 2025 SMALL FARMING ACHIEVEMENTS For a small farmer in India, the last year might have gone something like this: She plants tomatoes, and the crop is destroyed by pests. Months of extreme heat mean that she can’t plant anything else. When she finally plants another crop, it’s destroyed by drought. After backbreaking labor, she’s still broke, or worse, in serious debt. In 2015, more than 8,000 farmers in India committed suicide, most because of their financial situation. ADVERTISEMENT As climate change increases environmental risks for farmers in the area–from monsoons to heat waves–one startup is testing a potential solution. Kheyti, which recently won the Global Social Venture Competition,makes what it calls the Greenhouse in a Box, a simple, low-cost greenhouse that can sit on a small area of a farm and provide regular crops which guarantees year-round income if everything else goes wrong. Two layers of shade netting on the top reduce the temperature inside by 5-8 degrees Celsius. Insect netting on all sides reduces pest attacks 90%. [Photo: Venugopal Goundla] “The biggest problem that we found is income variability,” says co-founder Kaushik Kappagantulu. “Farmers make money only once or twice in a year. That income is affected by all sorts of environmental risks, including unseasonable rain, pest attacks . . . That’s why they’re stuck in that poverty cycle.” The typical greenhouse available in India was originally designed for farmers in developed countries who grow high-value flowers or vegetables–and it’s well out of the price range of a low-income farmer. The new greenhouse is simpler, with fewer materials and a smaller footprint (it’s roughly half the size of a basketball court or 2% of the land area of a typical small farm in India). Two layers of shade netting on the top reduce the temperature inside by 5-8 degrees Celsius. Insect netting on all sides reduces pest attacks 90%. A drip irrigation system, coupled with the shade that reduces heat and evaporation, helps cut water use 90%. Along with the greenhouse’s ability to protect crops from pests and floods, this means that farmers can grow seven times more produce. [Photo: Janice Cantieri] The team is now working with Extreme, a course at Stanford University’s d.school that focuses on design for extreme affordability, to bring the cost down further. The current version of the greenhouse costs $2,000 to make, and through a partnership with a bank, the startup is offering it to pilot customers at cost, with a $400 down payment and quarterly payments of $175 over three years. A high-quality cow, by comparison, costs around $800. “It’s basically the same investment that a farmer would make to start a daily operation, buy two or three cows so they can make a steady income from dairy, or invest in making a small poultry shed in their farms for chickens and eggs,” Kappagantulu says. “I think it’s comparable to other small investments that farmers make.” Over the next year, Kheyti plans to continue testing the system with around 300 farmers, gathering data about yields and how much money farmers have to repay their loans. [Photo: Janice Cantieri] On average, farmers should make $475 a quarter from the greenhouse, leaving them a profit of $300 per quarter. ADVERTISEMENT Still, the $400 down payment is more than the poorest farmers can afford. The startup is aiming to be able to offer it for a down payment of $100 or $200. In experiments on the startup’s own farm, the greenhouse has performed even as the same crops fail outside. “Right now the temperature in Hyderabad is about 115 degrees Fahrenheit, I would say, and in this time, nothing grows,” says Kappagantulu. “From this time until about June, farmers aren’t able to grow anything outside. When we did this experiment side by side, all the plants [outside] died when the temperature hit 115, and all the plants inside survived and gave us a steady income.” A drip irrigation system, coupled with the shade that reduces heat and evaporation, helps cut water use 90%. Along with the greenhouse’s ability to protect crops from pests and floods, this means that farmers can grow seven times more produce. But the startup believes that the greenhouse on its own can’t fully address the challenges that farmers face, so it also provides a suite of services. “If we give them a greenhouse and they don’t have access to the right seeds and fertilizers to be used inside, the crop fails and they’re back in the same cycle,” Kappagantulu says. “If we don’t give them the right training needed to manage any diseases or growing practices that need to be done inside, again, the crop fails. If they can’t get access to the financing to buy the greenhouse in the first place, not enough small farmers are going to buy With the small group of farmers currently testing the greenhouse, the startup’s field officers regularly visit the farms, providing connections to financing, the best supplies, the best place to sell products in the market, and ongoing training. The company is working on an app that may be able to automatically assist a larger group of farmers. Over the next year, Kheyti plans to continue testing the system with around 300 farmers, gathering data about yields and how much money farmers have to repay their loans. In theory, a farmer should be able to earn $100 a month when the loan is paid off, a 100% increase in average income. In 2018, the company plans to quickly scale up. Because of word of mouth, it already has a list of 3,000 interested farmers. By 2025, it hopes to reach 1 mil