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Echoing green fellows: meet the next generation of food system leaders

The Echoing Green Fellowship Programs ignite the power of social entrepreneurs to face the world’s most pressing challenges, including climate change and sustainable development.Find out more about them. 

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    Cory Davis examines one of the first flowers on his 760 acres of green peas east of Canyon Ferry Lake, Montana, on Monday, June 8, 2015. Agriculture accounts for approximately one third of greenhouse gas emissions globally.
    Alison Noon/AP
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Agriculture accounts for approximately one third of greenhouse gas emissions globally,according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). And changes in temperature, amount of carbon dioxide, and the frequency of extreme weather can significantly impact crop yields. Climate change is especially threatening to smallholder farmers in the developing world, because of their geographic location and greater reliance on agriculture for income.

Fortunately, many beginning farmers and emerging entrepreneurs—the next generation of food system leaders—are working to address these urgent global challenges. The Echoing Green Fellowship Programs ignite the power of social entrepreneurs to face the world’s most pressing challenges, including climate change and sustainable development.

Through the fellowship programs, young entrepreneurs and leaders receive up to US$90,000 during their first two years in seed funding. Furthermore, fellows participate in leadership development activities, receive mentorship from leading professionals, and learn to drive positive social change across the globe. In 2015, the fellowships will award more than US$4.6 million to 52 emerging social impact leaders.

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Three distinct programs harness the power of young people creating global solutions to social challenges. The Global Fellowship addresses social needs around the world, soliciting applications from community leaders and founders of new businesses that address global issues. The Climate Fellowship, launched in 2013, is specifically geared toward climate change adaptation and mitigation. The Black Male Achievement Fellowship focuses on improving outcomes for black men and boys in the United States by investing in emerging leaders. Since 1990, nearly 700 leaders have completed the Echoing Green Fellowships and created a growing network to gather ideas and spur action for positive social change.

According to Janna Oberdorf, Director of Strategic Communications for Echoing Green, 2015 fellows “are challenging the status quo, and they are ready to test new ideas to decades-old problems. From spurring last mile communities to extending farming efficiencies to the rural poor using a sharing economy model, it is clear that dramatically improving our food systems requires an understanding of the cross-cutting effects of these new solutions.”

Aleem Ahmed is a 2015 Echoing Green Global Fellow, and founder/CEO of Love Grain. Love Grain connects teff farmers in Ethiopia to the international market for gluten-free products to increase farmer profits and improve yields. Teff is an important indigenous crop in Africa that contributes to sustainable livelihoods for more than six million farmers in Ethiopia.

Laura D’Asaro and Rose Wang, 2015 Echoing Green Climate Fellows, are on an entrepreneurial mission to convince Americans that eating insects is both delicious and sustainable. To reduce the environmental degradation caused by livestock farming, the entrepreneurs are focusing on snack foods that contain insect protein, through their startup Six Legs Foods. D’Asaro and Wang, both graduates of Harvard University, were featured on Food Tank’s list of 30 Women Under 30 Changing Food.

Jehiel Oliver, a 2015 Echoing Green Global Fellow, is producing affordable ‘Smart Tractors’ in sub-Saharan Africa to increase food security and farmer incomes. Through the program, Hello Tractor, Inc., farmers pay via text messaging for tractor services, which connect to cloud-based software. The program aims to provide self-sufficiency for farmers and tractor owners, spurring economic growth in the African agricultural sector.

Tsechu Dolma, a 2015 Echoing Green Climate Fellow and director of Yulha Fund, is working to reduce the impact of climate change on Himalayan communities by developing strategies for food and energy security. Yulha Fund works with existing schools and monasteries to generate revenue through crop yields, greenhouses, and orchards. Dolma, a graduate of the Colombia School of International and Public Affairs, has advised the United Nations Development Programme on natural resource management and impact on indigenous communities.

The fellowships emphasize breaking down silos within global funding structures to foster collaboration across organizations, countries, and issues. The program’s global focus allows fellows from diverse backgrounds to come together and share a vision for a more sustainable and just world. “The fellows that we support are breaking boundaries and bringing together unlikely allies to make a dramatic impact,” says Oberdorf. “And, we know that the best solutions are often found by leaders closest to the problem.” 

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