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History + Philosophy

Getting at the root causes of rural poverty


Haiti woman with tool

History

Plant With Purpose was founded in 1984 because of the direct link between poverty and the environment. The founder, Tom Woodard, was working for a relief organization in the Dominican Republic. Despite their best efforts to help those in need, food aid was not providing a long-term solution to hunger and poverty. Tom sought a way to address root causes and discerned the close connection between deforestation and rural poverty.

With 70 percent of the world’s poorest people living in rural communities, the vast majority of poor families depend on the land for their survival. Therefore, any long-term solution to rural poverty would have to take into account how deforestation diminishes the ability of smallholder farmers to grow crops. As deforestation leads to smaller yields, families are left with less food and less opportunity to earn an income. The team came to understand that poverty had to be addressed from the ground up because handouts and food aid would never be enough to address the root causes of rural poverty.

Plant With Purpose, originally called Floresta USA, was founded to bring a holistic approach to the fight against poverty that integrates environmental, economic, and spiritual solutions. We believe that this three-part approach is the key to creating lasting, sustainable change.

Since those hopeful beginnings in the Dominican Republic, Plant With Purpose has expanded its program to walk alongside rural communities in Burundi, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Tanzania, and Thailand.


 

Philosophy

We believe that while environmental degradation negatively affects us all, it is ultimately the poor who suffer most from this unhealthy relationship between people and the environment.

We believe that restoring relationships between people, God and the environment is key to resolving many of the world’s social, economic, and environmental problems.

We believe lasting solutions that address the issues of poverty must involve poor individuals themselves in both design and execution. The poor can provide the solutions to many of their own problems when given more opportunity, access to resources, and appropriate coaching.

We believe that God has called us to be agents of encouragement and empowerment, enabling the poor to both feed their families and restore their degraded lands.

We believe that God entrusted us with caring for his creation, and that one of our responsibilities is restoring harmony between man and nature.
 
From Despair To Hope