Even though he was the son of one of the world’s richest men, Howard Buffett struggling throughout his life to become a successful farmer. Now, he’s combining his farming skills with his father’s billions to end world hunger.
Howard’s dad, Warren Buffett is one of the two richest men in America — and made history ten years ago when he gave away the largest ever philanthropic gift, $37 billion, to charity.
When he joined with Bill and Melinda Gates to create The Giving Pledge, urging wealthy people to give their fortunes away, part of his charitable donation went to set up foundations headed by each of his three children — Susie, Howard, and Peter.
Susie created two foundations that help children and promote women’s health. Peter’s foundation seeks to end discrimination and poverty among young girls.
He wrote a best-selling book in 2013 — 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World — explaining his vision. Although he’s quick to admit he is not sure how to do it, he is certain that governments and NGO’s have been going about it all wrong.
Howard Buffet wants to start with sub-Saharan Africa, where the droughts are now longer and erratic weather has wrecked growing seasons.
He’s partnered with other foundations and corporations to promote no-till farming in Ghana and provided loan guarantees for local seed companies across the African continent.
The approach for decades has been to use technology — improved seeds and fertilizer — to rebuild the region’s agriculture. It’s the approach that led to the “Green Revolution” in the 1960s that turned the Indian subcontinent from bordering on famine to a grain-producing powerhouse.
Buffett says it hasn’t worked in Africa because things are different than India in the 1960s.
“I’m a farmer. I know what I can get from improved seed. I know what I get from fertilizer. They’re huge,” he told The Atlantic for an extended feature article. “But technology can’t build organic matter. It can’t create topsoil. It can’t magically protect water quality. It’s a quick fix, and Africa needs a long-term solution.”
Instead, his Howard Buffett Foundation working toward a “Brown Revolution” — creating sustainable farms that prevent erosion, preserve topsoil, and regenerate farmland. It’s a much slower approach than the seemingly overnight success of India in the sixties, but he says until the soil is restored, seeds and fertilizer won’t be enough.
Buffett now spends 200 days a year traveling the world, living and working among poverty and hunger in 154 countries. He’s been to all 84 nations in Africa on his fact-finding trips and operates four research farm in South Africa to test his theories.