The MasterCard Foundation partners with EARTH University to create $19.5 million scholarship program

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: April 26th, 2012

The MasterCard Foundation and EARTH University have formed a seven-year, USD 19.5 million partnership to provide educational opportunities to young people from disadvantaged communities in Africa, Latin America and The Caribbean.  The partnership will offer comprehensive scholarships to 120 students at EARTH University – an international, non-profit university in Costa Rica with an innovative four-year program in sustainable agriculture, natural resource management and community development.

“This scholarship program offers young people the opportunity to be part of EARTH’s extraordinary learning environment,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. “They will become leaders who will make significant contributions to agricultural and economic initiatives in their countries.”

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars will be engaged in a culture of philanthropy and volunteerism, encouraging them to transition from being beneficiaries to benefactors and active contributors in their communities. The program also integrates complementary supports such as mentoring, career counseling, service learning opportunities and internships. Following successful completion of EARTH University’s four-year program, the Scholars will return to their countries to be part of a cohort of new leaders committed to transforming the agricultural sector and contributing to sustainable livelihoods.  The partnership is part of The MasterCard Foundation’s Youth Learning Program, which works with institutions like EARTH University to enable young people in developing countries – particularly Sub-Saharan Africa – to make successful transitions to the workforce and actively engage with their communities.

“Since our inception we have been committed to giving educational opportunities to young people who want to make a difference, but lack the financial resources for a higher education.  To this end, 60 percent of our students receive full scholarships.   We could not achieve this, particularly given the tough global economic conditions, without committed partners like The MasterCard Foundation, and hope the alliance inspires others to join our effort to change the world through education,” remarked EARTH University President, José Zaglul.

EARTH expands impact in Africa

With approximately one-third of the scholars coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, the partnership with The MasterCard Foundation is also helping EARTH expand its global reach and impact (read: EARTH grows through its involvement in Africa). EARTH University already has 19 alumni from Africa promoting sustainable agriculture, economic development and entrepreneurship in their home countries.

One alumnus, Kalema Andrew Joseph, returned to his native Uganda in 2004 after graduating from EARTH. He began working with a program called Export Promotion of Organic Products from Africa (EPOPA) as an assistant project leader, developing internal control systems for organic certification and conducting baseline and impact surveys of projects. When the program ended in 2008, Kalema began working with the Louis Bolk Institute and now directs their East African office.  He organizes producers into groups, then associations and then links them to local and international markets.  He helps farmers build capacity, improve management practices and increase productivity, and links them to financing institutions.  In the last seven years, he has worked with five producer associations (each comprised of approximately 650 farmers) that have all managed to export products.

Kalema is also an independent consultant.  In 2009, he designed and implemented a successful pilot project, funded by the Progreso Program, to promote the production of bioferments, bokashi, micro-organisms and organic fertilizers among two coffee producing associations and one cocoa association in Uganda.

Since 2005, Kalema has managed his own 5.5 hectare farm where he is growing sustainable pineapple and passion fruit sold locally.

Says Kalema about his experience at EARTH, “EARTH is a one-stop university where you can get innovative ideas for social change.  My education at EARTH has enabled me to be successful in Uganda, to be very proactive and hands-on in promoting agricultural development.”

Following in his footsteps and those of EARTH’s other African alumni, in her blog post The MasterCard Foundation Scholar Hajaratu Wumbei Issahaka from Ghana expressed optimism about the opportunity to study at EARTH and return to her country to make a difference: “I am very happy here at EARTH University though far from my family back in Africa. I now belong to a new family where I feel at home, respected…and with equal opportunities to turn my dreams of being a leader of change into reality.”