Rural Innovation and Farming

In Southern Africa, rural communities that rely on agriculture for their food and income are facing increasingly complex challenges. Social entrepreneurs like the ones Ashoka supports pioneer solutions to overcome systematic obstacles facing small farmers.


The Rural Innovation and Farming (RIF) Program of Ashoka is focused on identifying the key entrepreneurial leverages that will increase the overall livelihood and quality of life of small farmers and rural inhabitants.

Tthe two main elements of our vision are:

“Nutrients for All”

Ashoka’s RIF program is promoting a new movement towards: Nutrients for All. This new vision is an overarching effort to connect the four areas of focus which we see leading social entrepreneurs beginning to transact and build delivery systems based on the actual flow of nutrients. What is Ashoka’s vision for a Nutrients for All world? In short, public health, food production, agriculture and the environment will focus on a critical need: life-sustaining, absorbable nutrients for all beings and ecosystems. We’ve learned this from a great many Fellows who are transforming systems to create, transfer, and preserve nutrients – in ecosystems, farms and landscapes, crops, food, and humans.

“The Nutrient Economy”

We see tremendous social and business opportunity throughout the value chains for food and environmental commodities. Envision a world where consumers and health professionals value foods based on how well they deliver nutrients to the body, with wellness and productivity increasing as a result.  Imagine food processors and commodity traders valuing agricultural crops based on nutrients provided, in addition to factors like bulk, calories and storage. Consider farmers and investors paying more for land with high nutrient availability, and nurturing ecosystems that sustain soils to begin with, increasing productivity and opening new income channels like carbon financing.  And consider financial vehicles for underwriting such “nutrient banks” to diversify income and reduce weather and labor risks in supply chains.Combined, these innovations might form a “Nutrient Economy” that transforms our interaction with the natural environment from extraction to generation of a new kind of wealth — nutrients in soil, food, and body. This goes beyond “sustainability,” instead creating food systems and business operations that actively improve public health and economic productivity.


The general objective of the RIF program is to create a next generation “Entrepreneurial Green Revolution” in smallholder farming and rural non-farm economic development and create and environment in which every farmer can be a Changemaker.

More specifically, the objectives are:

  • Ashoka continues to search for and select Ashoka Fellows working in agriculture and sustainable rural development in Sub-Saharan Africa and India.

  • Ashoka helps successfully develop insights to transform agriculture and sustainable rural development in Sub-Saharan Africa and India.

  • Insights that emerge from Ashoka’s Rural Innovation and Farming program become the new paradigm for the field. Such is the case of Nutrients for All and the Nutrient Economy.

To find out more about Ashoka's Rural Innovation and Farming, click here.