Blog Posts By: Steve Hollingworth


That morning ritual loved by millions, a simple cup of coffee, may one day be a thing of the past. New research shows that 60% of the world’s 124 species of wild coffee face a mounting threat of extinction, mostly as a result of deforestation. This potential loss of genetic diversity would, in turn, limit the ways in which coffee could be adapted to a changing climate and disease threats.

It’s not just coffee that is in danger. Deforestation is also threatening cocoa and the future of chocolate. Forest loss in the Amazon is eliminating wild relatives of cocoa, while in West Africa it is quickly depleting soils and making crop cultivation much harder. Soil depletion, along with aging trees and the increased risk of pests and disease, is threatening the livelihoods of the already-poor small farmers who produce the vast majority of the world’s cocoa and coffee. 


How much is your personal data worth? It depends on whom you ask. Last year, advertisers paid Facebook $40 billion to promote their products to us using that very data. And just last month, the company’s stock plunged almost 19 percent, in part, because of how Facebook protects the privacy of that data.


How much would ending poverty hurt the environment? This is the provocative question recently posed by researchers from the University of Leeds and the Mercator Research Institute. Put another way, can countries meet the basic human needs of their citizens and preserve our planet for future generations? 

Analyzing the data from 150 countries, the researchers reveal a point of no return: a point at which greater resource use leads to both diminishing social welfare and mounting environmental degradation. Furthermore, they find that no country currently meets the basic needs of its citizens at a globally sustainable level of resource use.


We’ve just scratched the surface. The spread of mobile technology combined with remote-sensing data, distributed computing and unprecedented cloud-based data storage capabilities creates new opportunities to bring precision agriculture to poor smallholder farmers and to integrate them into the broader food and financial systems.

Some 500 million farmers cultivating small plots of land are responsible for feeding at least two billion people. Yet, they have been operating largely outside of formal markets. They eat what they grow and sell any small surplus to local markets. The inability to participate in the formal market system reinforces poverty so deeply entrenched that 70 percent of the world’s extreme poor and half of all food-insecure people are farmers.


Last month, I had the opportunity to speak with dozens of Grameen Foundation supporters and volunteers during a live web chat. As part of the Grameen Family, you inspire me, and your questions point to issues at the core of our mission.

You asked: Is it truly possible to reach the poorest of the poor with financial services delivered over mobile phones? What will Grameen Foundation tackle next? Why do we emphasize women, and how can we ensure that women are in the forefront of, rather than left behind, the new wave of digital development? 

And that’s just the beginning. Your questions also touched on the role of culture and language in using digital technology for development, and strategies for financial inclusion going forward.

We covered a lot of territory in one hour. But this is an extended conversation, and one in which Grameen Foundation’s country and program leadership are central. 


In our increasingly connected but still profoundly divided world, global income inequality calls out for innovations that benefit the world’s poorest people. In many cases, such innovations start with getting vital financial, agricultural and health information and services to the millions of women and smallholder farmers who make up the majority of the world’s poor.