College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Agricultural & Resource Economics

Young Alum Plans to Help Farmers Ease Hunger

2011 AGNR alumnus to start company aimed at strengthening farming communities in impoverished nations
2011 AGNR alumnus Saheed Badmus is set to take his entrepreneurial dreams to Latin America.
Image Credit: 
Meg Dibley

Less than a year after graduating from the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR), 23-year-old Saheed Badmus ’11 is getting ready to launch a company he hopes will ease hunger by strengthening farming communities in some of the world’s poorest countries. The idea was born from a burning desire to help one country in particular – his mother’s homeland of Haiti.

Badmus grew up in Brentwood, Md. but visited Haiti periodically with his family and worked there as an intern for Caribbean Harvest Foundation, a social venture funded by the Clinton Global Initiative. His experiences in the small country led to the formation of a business he named Mache.A, which translates to “the market” in Haitian Creole. The basic concept is to create a web-based platform that will encourage farmers to partner with their neighbors in order to increase productivity and profits. 

“One of the major problems the farmers have is that they produce such a small amount that retailers don’t want to buy from them,” said Badmus.

Virtual Cooperatives

What the budding entrepreneur will try to do is create a system utilizing the Internet, text messaging and Interactive Voice Recording that provides farmers with important information like weather reports and crop advice to help increase yields. The same system would then allow farmers to collectively market their products to potential buyers like supermarkets.

 “We’re basically creating virtual cooperatives,” Badmus explained.

Badmus was recently awarded seed money to kick-start his endeavors through Start-up Chile, a program created by the Chilean government that seeks to attract entrepreneurs to the country and give them a platform for expanding globally. In mid-October, Badmus will travel to Chile where he’ll stay for six months developing a pilot program for Mache.A that he hopes to eventually implement in Haiti.

“I always knew I wanted to go back (to Haiti) and help because growing up I saw how conditions were getting worse and worse” said Badmus. “I never knew how I wanted to contribute until I got to the University of Maryland.”

Inspiration Strikes

Badmus said he came up with the idea for Mache.A while taking a course offered through the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC) called “World Hunger, Population, and Food Supplies" taught by Professor Kenneth Leonard, Ph.D. The class focuses on causes of hunger and how food is distributed internationally.

“The whole point of the class is to say ‘I don’t know the answer or the solution, you guys need to find it but this is the way the system works,’” said Leonard.

For Badmus, the message hit home.

“That just opened my eyes to how much agriculture matters in developing countries,” he said.

No Time to Waste

Almost immediately after receiving his degree in Agricultural and Resource Economics in December of 2011, Badmus went to work on a business plan for Mache.A –in part because of the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti in January of 2010.

“After the earthquake I saw how there was a lot of attention on Haiti and I thought that would be the best time to put this project out there because in a couple of years people might not be paying as much attention to Haiti,” Badmus said.

Earlier this year, Badmus was recognized as a semi-finalist in the Dell Social Innovation Challenge – a competition that awards cash prizes and sponsorship to young innovators with proposals for solving the world’s most pressing problems. After the challenge, however, a lull in interest and a lack of funding almost led Badmus to abandon his idea, at least temporarily.

“I kind of questioned whether I should be doing this right now,” he said. “But I thought if I didn’t proceed with this, who would pick it up in the future and ten years from now, would the country still be the same?”

Gaining Momentum

Since earning seed money this summer from Start-up Chile, Badmus has also been invited to make a presentation for the Caribbean Idea Marketplace, a business competition platform that awards grants and investment funding for projects aimed at improving Caribbean economies.

With momentum finally building, Badmus is feeling confident he’ll be able to one day make a difference in his mother’s home country and possibly, others like it.

 “You always see on the news that Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and if you’re able to help the poorest, you’re able to help others on that developmental ladder.”

For more information, contact Sara Gavin at 301-405-9235 or sgavin@umd.edu.

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