Philanthropy Action

News & Commentary



Jun 29, 2010

U.S. Lagging, Not Leading, Social Entrepreneurship

Jun 02, 2010

The Brown Revolution

It’s often discussed that philanthropy has a fad problem. Philanthropic attention tends to gravitate to the “new”, and even when these “hot” areas show success, they are infrequently carried to scale. In other cases, donors simply declare victory and move on, leaving programs that require on-going funding to spiral downward into failure.

Agriculture is one area that has been a victim of philanthropy fads. Investment poured into the sector during the 1960s and 1970s and yielded perhaps the greatest success in the history of global philanthropy: the green revolution. But the success of the green revolution in Asia led many funders to focus on other sectors, believing the problem was solved. As a result, investment in agriculture and agricultural research declined and progress on improved varieties of global staple crops slowed—and the green revolution never reached Africa.

Recently there has been some movement on this front. The Gates Foundation in particular has become vocal about agriculture in Africa in particular, initiating the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and bringing other funders on board.

But the neglect of the agricultural sector has exposed us all to a counter-revolution, a brown revolution.