NPR recently profiled Howard Buffett, the philanthropist farmer and son of billionaire investor, Warren Buffett. Howard found an uncanny interest in farming at a young age, and now through his namesake foundation, he combines his passion for agricultural science and his wealth to help fight global hunger.
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation has established a number of research farms around the globe, and one of them is in southern Arizona. The dry heat of the Sonoran Desert poses some unique challenges to farmers, similar to those endured by farmers in food insecure places like Africa. On his test farm, Howard is testing ways to get the most out of drought prone land, gathering useful information that will be shared with farmers around the world. On his farm in Wilcox, Arizona, the focus is on irrigation techniques, soil improvement, planting techniques, and efficient use of oxen (he named them Earl and Ike.) In South Africa, the Ukulima Farm supplies both food and information through researching the development of seed varieties that thrive in different environments and conservation minded practices like legume-based cover crops, which restore nutrients to eroded soil, as an alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Buffett is interested in doing his own research on the benefits of diverse agricultural methods that will work for poor farmers, and says “nitrogen prices will determine the short term goals, but longer term, we need to learn how to do things differently, so when volatility and expenses are higher, we’ve established a plan that allows us to go in and produce in a different way.”
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation focuses on improving the lives of the world’s most impoverished people through food and water security and conflict resolution. Buffett hopes to achieve these goals through developing agricultural resources which can be utilized by small farmers, and he understands the connection between global conflict and hunger. “Conflict breeds hunger and hunger fuels conflict,” according to the Howard G. Buffett foundation, which recently earned him an award from the U.N. World Food Program.
– Jennifer Bills