Today, we continue our focus on sustainable farming and we bring to you a conversation with the incredible Sarah Buchanan, Co-Founder of the Kula Project. Sarah co-founded the Kula Project after a life-changing trip to Kenya and other developing nations. She has one major goal - to eliminate poverty for future generations by equipping one billion small farmers to be self-sustaining.
The Kula Project is actively building communities in Rwanda, starting with the family farm. Here is just a small piece of what we have learned from Sarah, prepare to be inspired. When you invest in a farmer, they are twice as likely to eliminate poverty than if you invested in any other sector of development. When you invest in a farmer they are able to feed their families, educate their children and pay for healthcare.
“Kula” means “to eat” in Swahili and “a community of heart” in Sanskrit.
Where did your drive to contribute to your work originate from?
The kids. Kula’s work focuses on farmers, but at the end of the day, our farmers are simply parents that want only to be able to feed their children and send them to school. When I was in Kenya, my heart broke for one particular little girl, and she was starving. Wanting to feed her, I knew the most sustainable way to ensure she would continue to have food was to help her parents be able to provide it, so that’s what we decided to do.
What compelled you to step up as a leader in this world and in this work?
I wanted to create an organization that focused on the root of the problem. For 90% of the developing world, the far majority of the effects of poverty could be solved if the farm is successful. However, I wanted to make sure the focus on relationship was just as important as the focus on programs. I couldn’t find an organization that represented all of those values, so I started one myself.
When did you know you were stepping into a calling - a purpose?
Right now our work is in one community of Rwanda. I think for me, the first time I was 100% I was where I was supposed to be was the first time one of farmers ran to to me when she saw me pull into the village. I have such special bonds with our first group of farmers, and they are pretty unlikely relationships, so I truly feel like I was specifically designed to meet them.
What is the boldest thing you have done on your path today?
Quit my “Day job.” Kula definitely wasn’t at a point where it could guarantee a salary for me, but I knew I had to make that step, and if I didn’t make that step, we would never grow. It was insanely scary and it still is some months, but it was the right move.
What's been a moment of understanding or realization that your work has created an impact on others?
When our farmers were in the middle of their first planting about a month ago, one of our farmers named Odette picked up a coffee tree seedling, looked at her son and said, “One day, this tree will send you to school.” I walked away alone and started crying. It’s so easy to get caught up in logistics and fundraising and team building that sometimes you forget the actual impact you are making!
Why do you lead?
Once you really know the people that you have dedicated your life to; their priorities become your priorities. My farmers’ biggest goals and dreams are now mine, so I have to lead. I have to help make those dreams a reality for them.
What's your take on living and leading with soul?
There are times when it would be really easy to “chase the money,” whether that be taking another job or taking donor dollars to fund a program that you know is “off-mission”. It is at those moments where you have to look inward, look into your soul and remind yourself that you were born for what you are doing. To me, being aware of those moments and checking yourself is what it means to lead with soul.
Learn more about Sarah and the incredible community of the Kula Project