I believe that all people — no matter what color, religion, ethnicity, or class — want things to be better, for themselves, for their families, for their communities, for their countries, and for the world. If we are divided, it is because the world is a complex place. It’s hard to see that the rising tide is lifting all boats if the water isn’t lapping at your own skiff.
A hundred years ago, more than half the population of the world lived on less than $2 a day (adjusted for inflation). That amount is now less than 12%. While the world population has also grown in that time, the sheer number of poor people is less now than ever before.
I believe this change has happened because we have learned about the root causes of poverty and how to solve them. The answer is opportunity.
When poor women and men have the ability to earn an increased income, their lives change. They become leaders of farm businesses, not subsistence farmers. They become trusted advisors and salespeople, not charity cases. They open up seed stores and market stalls. They become entrepreneurs.
Opportunity powers markets, the creation and exchange of products between people. I believe in the power of markets as the most powerful force for significant, widespread, and lasting impact on rural prosperity.
Opportunity isn’t always readily available, especially for the poorest of the poor. If you are constantly sick because of poor sanitation or lack of nutrition, you’re too weak to grab that opportunity. If you live so far into the country that there are no roads, your opportunities may be out of reach. If you have no collateral, no one will loan you the money you need to establish your business.
At iDE, we focus on making opportunities happen. We help latrine business owners to hear what their customers need so they can design and deliver cost-effective sanitation options. Our Farm Business Advisors travel the distance to listen to the difficulties of farming in remote places, then help connect rural farmers to urban markets so that they can obtain the equipment and seeds that they need to grow more, better crops and also deliver their harvests to waiting buyers. We listen to people who tell us what they need to be able to improve their lives, and we connect them to finance, business training, and communities of practice.
I not only believe, I know that our work is having a positive impact. That’s because iDE constantly collects data on the number of people we work with and evaluates how our interventions are making a difference in their lives. We are able to do this with increasing certainty through the use of business information systems that leverage cellular technologies and mobile computers.
I believe in people. That’s why I believe that we will reduce the number of people in poverty to less than 1% of our global population within my lifetime.
It’s happening now.