While studying neuroscience in college, Tevis made several trips to Kenya to do malaria research. Seeing extreme rural poverty at length for the first time made him realize that there was something even more fun to tackle than malaria and he switched from science to social entrepreneurship. Now he splits his time between San Francisco and Kenya, where KOMAZA's team develops profitable solutions to serve the hardest-to-reach families living in chronic poverty.
75% of the world's poor are farmers, with the hardest to serve living in infertile, dry environments where traditional farming fails more often than it succeeds. Most of the land lies fallow and many families eke out income by cutting down what's left of indigenous trees to sell as charcoal. Tevis started KOMAZA to develop new agricultural businesses that turn families' unproductive land into cash-crop farms. KOMAZA provides poor farmers with training, inputs, credit and markets to grow trees and other profitable crops on dry fallow land, and the sequence of crop harvests makes them money continuously with a lump sum when trees are cut down.