Nuru’s Story

Nuru’s Beginning and Future Vision

Learn more about our origins as a company as well as our future plans for serving even more vulnerable and marginalized communities.

Nuru was founded in 2007 by Jake Harriman.

Jake graduated with distinction from the US Naval Academy and served seven and a half years as an Infantry and Special Operations Platoon Commander in the Marine Corps. He led four operational deployments and was awarded the Bronze Star for actions in combat. Jake’s experiences convinced him that the “War on Terror” can’t be won on the battlefield alone; the contributing causes of terrorism–specifically extreme poverty–must also be eradicated. Jake left the military and enrolled at Stanford Graduate School of Business to found Nuru International. Upon graduation, Jake led a team to launch Nuru’s first project in Kenya.

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From the very beginning, Nuru’s approach has been to work specifically with smallholder farmers and their families living in extreme poverty in fragile rural areas.

These people are the most vulnerable members of society. They lack adequate tools to improve their rain-fed agricultural yields and suffer from chronic hunger and an inability to cope with financial shocks (sickness, crop failure, death of a family member). Mothers and children in particular become sick from preventable disease, and children lack access to quality educational opportunities. Nuru works to address a community’s ability to cope with hunger, financial shocks, and preventable disease and death, particularly for mothers and small children. Nuru works to include all members of a household in its intervention, and is among the first organizations to commit to the Minimum Standards for Mainstreaming Gender Equality.

Nuru’s approach of sustainable, locally-led development is based on this philosophy: a strong African woman who possesses the same skill set and knowledge as an international development expert is far more capable of sustainably ending extreme poverty in her country than the expert will ever be. From day one, every Nuru project starts with building local ownership and buy-in. Nuru starts a separate local organization (with its own board) in each country that it operates. Nuru acts as the scaffolding around the local organization. Needs are identified with the community. Programs are co-designed locally. As the local organization matures, Nuru removes layers of scaffolding until the international team eventually leaves after 5-7 years. The local organization continues to make impact, scale and adapt. Nuru has already accomplished this exit with its projects in Kenya (exited June 2015) and Ethiopia (exited June 2018). Nuru’s work in Kenya also featured in 2020 as part of a three-year USAID funded research study called “Stopping As Success: Planning For Success From Start To Exit” conducted by Search for Common Ground.

As Nuru looks to the future, we acknowledge that our world is at a crossroads.

One path leads to the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals and an end to extreme poverty, the other path leads to the widespread collapse of fragile states with horrific global consequences that are unprecedented in scale, severity, and persistence. The fate of the Sahel region of Africa will be the first determinant of which path will be taken and which future will be created. Conflict fueled by violent extremism and state fragility is spreading throughout the Sahel. There is no clear backstop preventing the spread of extremism across the continent. Extremists are exploiting vulnerabilities of marginalized populations in fragile states to gain footholds, launch attacks and grow. Fragile states are too weak to stop them. Access to meaningful choices is at the heart of this divide.

The ambitious vision set forth in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is not on track – fragile states are experiencing an acute concentration of both poverty and extremism. Too dangerous for traditional NGOs to reach, these areas are ripe for extremists to exploit. Nuru International was formed to serve populations that would otherwise go unreached. Nuru creates the missing backstop and has spent the past decade proving a model to address this gap. Violent extremism cannot succeed without local support. By restoring agency, fostering resilience, and unlocking prosperity among vulnerable marginalized communities through sustainable livelihoods and increased social cohesion, Nuru deprives extremists of their local support.

The Sahel has the youngest population globally (14 years old) as well as one of the highest birth rates. Every year of conflict that persists is another year that peace becomes a more distant memory until it is fully erased. Nuru aspires to cultivate a homegrown, transformational vision of hope in the Sahel. Without intervention, the Sahel is destined to be mired in instability: a region of failed states with no memory of peace and an enduring safe haven and launchpad for extremism and terrorism, but together we can bring an alternative future into reality. A bold future where these same communities are thriving and contributing to a better world for everyone.

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Our Model