By the time you finish reading this article, a few dozen children will have died from hunger. This fact will make most of us cringe. In the case of Raju Agarwal, 42, however, this fact made him give up his job in the financial sector and establish OneProsper International; an organization based in Canada that targets hunger in India, specifically in the state of Andhra Pradesh, by giving family farmers access to irrigation systems. OneProsper uses the Krishak Bandhu (KB Drip) “farmer's friend” technology developed by International Development Enterprises India (IDEI). What makes it innovative is the use of a simple plastic extrusion manufacturing process to produce thin plastic drip tape.
Why did you pick this issue?
“I picked agriculture because the first need of a family is to eat. Bottom line: Food is a primary need. I believe in education but a person with an empty stomach will not be receptive to learning; 75 per cent of the world's poorest people are small farmers who depend upon their crops for food and income. As a result, empowering people to grow more food is the single most powerful lever for reducing hunger and poverty and increasing their well-being.”
“When I was 12, I spent two months in India. When we were travelling by train, I saw families on the New Delhi railway platform whose bodies were emaciated; they were literally skin and bones.”
“In 2009, I read about IDEI, a non-profit that has created an innovative drip-irrigation technology for small farmers. I called the executive director and asked him how I could help. He happened to be in Ottawa, so we met for two hours and we began to work together. I reached out to some friends and raised almost $10,000 in six months to begin our work in India.”
Who is your hero?
“John Wood, the former Microsoft executive who founded Room to Read. He started with $20,000 to build a school in Nepal and has now built thousands of schools in developing countries.”
How do you describe success?
“Success means engaging Canadians in taking action to empower poor families to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. For the short term, this means raising $100,000 dollars to support 250 small farmer families.”
What can money accomplish?
“An investment of $400 provides a family with a one-acre drip-irrigation system, training and evaluation of the system. Ultimately, this $400 enables them to double their income within one harvest.”
“Money. I am working on a full-time volunteer basis.” (His wife, Neha, works full time and he benefits from real-estate income through family investments.)
“Persuasive in a nice way.”
“We are creating a campaign to motivate Canadian students to take action to support our cause. Students will be encouraged to raise funds by fasting for a day, selling a fair-trade tea or selling corporate gift cards.”
Who is your dream celebrity sponsor?
Matt Damon, because he recently created a video to raise awareness of the world hunger crisis.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Farah Mohamed is president of the Belinda Stronach Foundation. Send suggestions for the Action Figure to firstname.lastname@example.org.