Curt Bowen

Ashoka Fellow
,
Fellow Since 2014
Semilla Nueva

Citation

This profile was prepared when Curt Bowen was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Curt Bowen’s organization, Semilla Nueva --“New Seed” -- systematically changes the way that agricultural research and extension services for farmers work by ensuringthat these interventions respondfarmers’ actual needs. Through a new approach to farmer to farmer education, Semilla Nueva shifts ownership of the insights back tofarmers. Then, using experiments and data sourced from and shared by the farmers, Semilla Nuevascalessuccessful solutions by institutionalizing the practices within the government and CSOs.

Semilla Nueva´s mission is to develop a fully functional system of agricultural development, first in Guatemala and then Central America,to ensurethe food security, increased income,improvement of soil, and general wellbeing of the region´s farmers. Semilla Nueva does this by putting in place the right incentives for each stakeholder in the system. The strategy is based on three tiers: 1) Find, teach, and share the best appropriate agricultural technology for small holder farmers through international collaborations, participatory technology trials, and in house research; 2)Institutionalize research practices and successful services for farmers, working with government agencies and CSOs; and 3) Generate a new standard for development organizations creating synergies between them and with the government to result in systemic change.

By understanding the motivations of each of these actors, Curt has designed a strategy in which the work of one group feeds intothat of others, creating a virtuous cycle that has the farmer´s needs as a general starting point and that provides an easily translatable solution for the broken agricultural system that reignsin the region. With the help of Semilla Nueva, farmers are able toresearch and prove new technologies, and thendemand the right kinds of tools and services to grow themselves out of poverty. In turn, governments can provide these appropriate resources more effectively, and development organizations can work beyond their own programs in a more structured, accountable, and systemic way. Through partnerships with different actors, Curt is setting the stage for a social movement around agricultural development, and with this approach, the movement has begun to naturally spread throughout rural areas without a concerted effort from Semilla Nueva.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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