Episcopal Relief & Development Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant

November 20, 2013

Episcopal Relief & Development Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

NEW YORK – Episcopal Relief & Development announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The Episcopal agency, in collaboration with its Ghanaian partner, ADDRO (the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization), will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled Testing a Financing Solution & Technical Assistance Package to increase Women Smallholder Farmers’ Labor Productivity through Ownership of Donkeys with Ploughs.”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.  Episcopal Relief & Development’s project is one of more than 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 11 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

To receive funding, Episcopal Relief & Development and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 11 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, development of the next generation condom and neglected tropical diseases.  

Episcopal Relief & Development’s project will promote an innovative, labor saving strategy for women smallholder farmers – the donkey plough.  Most women farmers in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to oxen for farming and are consigned to grueling and time-consuming labor using hand tools.  Women’s access has been limited by cost, cultural taboos and the difficulty of managing oxen due to their large size.  In the 1990s, a plough was developed for use by a single donkey, which would be more affordable and practical for women, and save 18 or more days of labor per hectare of land versus using a hand hoe alone.  However, the donkey plough has not been widely popularized to date and cost is a major obstacle. 

Episcopal Relief & Development and ADDRO will provide women smallholder farmers the opportunity to acquire the necessary equipment, as well as improved seeds and fertilizer, through affordable credit.  The project will test two credit options through a revolving loan fund designed to be financially sustainable, and participants will also receive skills training in donkey care, farm business management, and agricultural techniques.  The loan amount will cover the cost of a donkey, a plough and a cart, enabling the owners to earn extra income and repay their loans more quickly by renting the donkey set to others for farming and transporting goods.

Active in approximately 40 countries, Episcopal Relief & Development works with Church and ecumenical partners to mobilize local resources toward alleviating hunger, promoting health, creating economic opportunities and responding to disasters.  The organization’s programs with ADDRO in Ghana help farmers feed their families through improved agricultural techniques, empower women through micro-finance services and train health volunteers to protect their communities from malaria,  HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

“It is a tremendous honor for Episcopal Relief & Development to receive the Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Gates Foundation,” said Rob Radtke, the agency’s President. “Innovations such as the donkey plough can increase farming efficiency, allowing women to increase their harvests and devote the time they save to other endeavors such as building skills and marketing produce. Empowering women economically helps bring all members of a community into fuller participation in the creation of a brighter future for their families.”

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 850 people in more than 50 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants.  The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization.  The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required.  Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners to help rebuild after disasters and to empower local communities to find lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.