JDC Launches Tikun Olam Ventures Empowering Africa’s Smallholder Farmers
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) launched Tikun Olam Ventures (TOV), an innovative new program addressing poverty among Africa’s smallholder farmers by leveraging Israeli agricultural technology and training, Jewish philanthropy and private capital, and access to new markets for crops. Initiated with a two-year pilot in Ethiopia, TOV currently has seven demonstration sites growing vegetables in the country’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR). Inspired by Seth Merrin — founder and CEO of the fintech company Liquidnet, which provided the anchor grant for TOV through its corporate impact program, Liquidnet for Good — JDC partnered with other leading American Jewish philanthropists and Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry to bring TOV to fruition.
TOV’s operating model is based around a philanthropic loan fund – created with lead support from Seth Merrin and Liquidnet for Good, Laura Gurwin Flug, and Danielle Flug Capalino – leveraging monies from a local bank. Loans to farmer cooperative unions and agribusinesses at reasonable terms allow smallholder farmers to purchase Israeli AgTech and receive training and support from Israeli and local experts. Their higher quality crops are then sold to new markets at fair pricing. Repaid loans feed back into the philanthropic loan fund for use in catalyzing new markets in TOV locations in the future.
During the pilot, TOV will invest in 5-10 agricultural enterprises, supporting more than 300 smallholder farmers. Pilot sites will include Israeli drip irrigation equipment and other technology, hybrid seeds, and specialized training in new technology and improved agricultural practices.In the first five years, the program aims to reach 5,000 farmers and aid 22,000 of their family and community members.