Buffett Commits $13 Million To Help World's Small Farmers

Howard Buffett, an Illinois farmer and son of Warren Buffett, the second richest man in America, is giving $13 million over four years to develop agricultural markets for smallholder farmers in rural Central America

Published on: Oct 15, 2010

A well-known farmer from central Illinois, Howard Buffett, speaking at the World Food Prize annual symposium October 13 in Des Moines, Iowa, announced that the Howard G. Buffett Foundation is expanding its commitment to the United Nations World Food Program's "Purchase for Progress" (P4P) initiative. The foundation is giving a $13 million grant over four years to help smallholder farmers in rural communities in Central America.

The funding will support 24,000 farmers in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua to access agricultural markets and increase their incomes, putting a special emphasis on involving female farmers, says Buffett. Howard Buffett is the farming son of Warrren Buffett, the well-known stock market investment wizard from Omaha, Nebraska who is the second-richest man in America, behind only Microsoft computer software industry mogul Bill Gates.

Small farmers play critical role in fighting world hunger and poverty

"Small farmers play a crucial role in fighting global hunger and poverty, both for their own families and for the regions in which they live. It is critically important they have the opportunity to truly compete in the market place in order to reliably feed their families, help make their regions more food secure, and become full participants in their local economies," says Howard Buffett, who was one of the featured speakers at the World Food Prize 2010 Borlaug Dialogue.

Howard Buffett, who stopped his harvesting, climbed down from the combine cab and came to Des Moines to speak at the session, says "We are proud to build on our partnership with the World Food Program, first to develop the P4P concept, and then to expand it to Central America. We hope over the next four years to demonstrate how a program like P4P at that scale can truly transform a local economy and address hunger and poverty in a sustainable way."

P4P program helps small farmers earn a profit in competitive markets

Launched in September 2008, P4P brings together the World Food Program's demand for local commodities with the technical expertise of a wide range of partners to support smallholder farmers to increase their yields, reduce post-harvest losses, improve the quality of their crops, and earn a higher profit for their crop surpluses in competitive markets. With World Food Program as a committed buyer, farmers have a market incentive to increase the quantity and quality of their crops and to strengthen farmers' organizations.

By working through these organizations, farmers are able to negotiate better prices for inputs, improve the sales price of their yield and gain access to credit markets, adds Buffett. A key feature of the program is identifying and sharing best practices among all stakeholders including the local community, governments, non-profit organizations, and private sector partners.

"Our partnership with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation is critical to our efforts to work toward ending global hunger," says Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program. "Connecting small farmers to markets is one of the key actions I consider vital for feeding the world. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation's early commitment to P4P helped the World Food Program through a challenging task of translating a concept into a pilot program, and the foundation's continued support has helped us roll this out globally. What's more, Mr. Buffett's first-hand knowledge of farming and farming practices makes him an especially effective partner in this initiative."

Buffett has first-hand knowledge of farming & farming practices

The foundation's current commitment builds on its early critical support of the P4P concept and an investment of US$ 12.1 million to expand the program to some of the most difficult post-conflict countries, including Liberia, Sierra Leone and southern Sudan, as well as to Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. The additional commitment will help scale up P4P in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua over four years. A fourth pilot program in Honduras is being expanded through funding from the European Union.

P4P in Central America is part of a five-year pilot project launched in 21 countries to stimulate smallholder farmers to produce food surpluses and increase their access to markets. By 2013, at least half a million smallholder farmers – mostly women – will have increased and improved their agricultural production and earnings. By raising farmers' incomes, P4P turns WFP's local procurement into a vital tool to address hunger and poverty. To learn more about P4P visit www.wfp.org/purchase-progress.

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation works to improve the quality of life for the world's most impoverished and marginalized populations. It focuses on three core areas: food security, clean water, and humanitarian aid to fulfill immediate needs and help rehabilitate and rebuild conflict and post-conflict areas. Based in Decatur, Illinois, the foundation is led by President Howard G. Buffett. The World Food Program is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.  Each year, on average, the World Food Program, as part of the United Nations, feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries.