1. Tell us about your mission.
Plant With Purpose is a faith-based organization which serves small-holder farming families and subsistence farmers around the world, focusing on places where extreme poverty and environmental degradation are both present. Small-holder farmers are among the poorest and most under-nourished people in the world. At the same time, many of those who inhabit the shantytowns of the developing world are recent migrants from farming communities, seeking a better life in the city.
Plant With Purpose works upstream, at the roots of poverty, seeking to make farms more productive and sustainable. There is often a vicious cycle between deforestation and economic need, each making the other worse.
The two most important assets for someone who depends on the land are their soil and the rain that falls on it. Deforestation and environmental degradation rob them of both of those assets, impacting farm yields and contributing to rural poverty. Working with poor farmers to restore the land is an important step in creating a virtuous cycle of environmental restoration, economic empowerment, and spiritual renewal.
We have ongoing programs staffed by national teams in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Tanzania, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, and Thailand. These programs focus on key sub-watersheds, which allows us to maximize ecological, economic and social impact, not only for our direct participants, but for all those living within a particular watershed.
2. How is The West Foundation supporting your mission?
The West Foundation has been a faithful partner with Plant With Purpose for 20 years. The foundation has not only invested in the direct implementation our work in Haiti, Thailand and the Dominican Republic, but also in improving in our efficiency and effectiveness. The donations from the early years of our partnership have been multiplied many times, as they have empowered us to grow and get better at transforming lives and watersheds.
3. Considering your impactful work to eliminate poverty, how is The West Foundation’s philanthropic support providing you with sustainability and mobility?
One of the things that distinguishes The West Foundation from many other foundations is their willingness to fund projects that are critical, but not otherwise attractive to other funders.
Most recently we have been able to use funding from The West Foundation to upgrade, teach, and publish our regenerative agriculture curriculum, Seeds of Change. This curriculum is a fundamental part of our offering to farmers, so The West Foundation support has had an outsized impact in improving our programs around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people are today better able to utilize their land, and sustainably increase their farm yields because of this grant. The published version of the curriculum also gives us the ability to share what we have learned with other organizations.
4. How are you realizing your potential?
At Plant With Purpose, we have dedicated ourselves to rigorously collecting data on impact and using that to continually improve what we do. It is exciting to reflect on how far we have come during the time that we have been partnering with The West Foundation and even more exciting to imagine where we can go in the years ahead. For example, we are currently directly serving about 250,000 people, and we plan to nearly double that over the next five years.
Our partnering farmers have planted over 38 million trees in the process of restoring their watersheds, while amassing nearly $7 million of their own savings, which they continue to re-invest in their communities. They are have come to see caring for the watersheds they live in as a part of their God-given purpose and are measurably more engaged in helping one another. We view those we work with as our partners not our projects, and we achieve our potential only when they begin to realize theirs.
5. What’s one important thing you want others to know about your organization?
Plant With Purpose is committed to the idea that poor farmers can be our greatest allies in halting and reversing deforestation. They are the ones responsible for planting all of the trees we talk about, restoring their land, investing in their communities and helping each other out. We are blessed to be the catalyst in this process, but without their passion, industry, and creativity, little would be accomplished.
6. How can people reading this help you?
It is often tempting to look at the twin problems of global poverty and deforestation and feel overwhelmed. However, we have seen that something that starts small can have a massive impact. The few families that we began working with in Tanzania fifteen years ago are now part of an annual celebration that brings together more than ten-thousand farmers to celebrate planting 1.5 million trees each year.
Another example is the initial grants from The West Foundation, which may have seemed to be risky investments then, but which made possible all that is happening today.
With that in mind, we invite people to start by planting a tree. It only costs $1 to plant a tree, which will provide fruit, restore soil fertility and store carbon for generations. (Of course, you can do much more – it costs us about $122 to serve a family for a year.)
Another important way that people can participate is to help us to get the word out about what we do. Most of our support comes from word of mouth. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. (If you follow us on Instagram, we’ll even plant a tree!)
7. What are your deepest needs as an organization?
Funding is always a need, but so is help in networking and sharing with others about what we do. We are eager to partner with those who seek win-win solutions and see the possibility for synergy between poverty alleviation and environmental restoration.