Leif Van Grinsven was the D-6270 Global Grant Scholar in 2019-2020. He is a product of Cudahy, Wisconsin, and a graduate of Wheaton College, where he not only excelled in academics but was also a three-time All-American in Track and Field. His Global Grant Scholarship resulted in a Master of Arts in Development Studies from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. After several short stints with the United Nations and the World Health Organization, he landed in Rwanda and then in Malawi, where his newly developed skills in economic development have produced great results.

In his own words, he reports the following. Small Farm Cities (SFC) has grown considerably. We have two sites, our development center, which acts as
an idea incubator/product staging area, and our 3.5-hectare Mpingu build out site, which serves as a demonstration of what SFC looks like when it scales. Mpingu is complete with several staff houses, 14 commercial greenhouses with 23,000 plants (we harvested roughly 4-5 tons a week), 6 commercial ponds stocked with 25,000 fish, and various other activities (basketball court, soccer field, staff house, distribution center). We’ve settled into the business of building accessible planned communities that create value through horticulture and aquaculture, and we provide a pathway for upward mobility for people of all demographics through storing and applying that value in the houses they can buy and live in.

We currently have over 60 staff — 10 college-educated development associates/managers and over 50 professionals with high school or lower education level. There are 6 development staff living on site, and we will have even more professionals living at Mpingu when we complete construction of our staff house. All staff are earning toward full ownership of a house/apartment unit. On top of this, we hold daily English lessons for all staff and are working on helping all staff achieve their high school equivalent diploma. We’ll be embarking on building and selling several more buildings to our Mpingu site and then working toward another funding round at the start of the spring quarter.

Here's a brief Video from several months ago that captures some of what’s been happening here. What is exciting is that all footage is from our sites and the video was produced entirely by our talented team. [Ed.: Download the PDF containing a brief about Small Farm Cities Africa.]

I can’t thank Rotary enough for enabling me to study development and gain the knowledge that I apply daily here. I would be happy to share what SFC and I have been up to and how Rotary has enabled this to happen whenever and however I can. Thank you again and looking forward to sharing more updates soon.

Leif is willing to connect with any local Rotary club via Zoom to provide a more detailed presentation of the work he is doing and how his Global Grant Scholarship made it possible. Contact him at: leif.vangrinsven@gmail.com. When asking him to present, please remember that there is a 7-hour time difference during CDT and an 8-hour time difference during CST.