Meet: Claire Sands Baker - The Toothpick Project
Full Bio: Claire Sands Baker is the director of The Toothpick Project, based in Bozeman, Montana (with on-the-ground operations in western Kenya). The Toothpick Project uses an innovative biocontrol technology to kill Striga, a parasitic weed depleting crops on 40 million African smallholder farms. Her co-founder is her father, a plant pathologist at Montana State University. Claire has 25 years experience in non-profit management ranging from the arts to education to conservation to biotechnology: PATHS (Pathways to Agriculture and Native foods, Tribal Health, and Food Sovereignty – a USDA program with Montana State University and Tribal College students); the Tributary Fund (species preservation and mining reclamation in Mongolia and Bhutan); Self Enhancement, Inc. (an inner-city youth development agency, Portland, Oregon); MSU College of Arts & Architecture; Portland Art Museum; Big Sky Youth Empowerment. BA Scripps College. MassChallenge Finalist 2017. Blackstone Launchpad 406Labs. Co-author on the Frontiers Biocontrol of Striga paper. Baker credits her involvement at Scripps as critical to her current nonprofit work. Holding two internship positions as well as various leadership roles, including student board representative and senior class co-president, Baker helped enact policies that shaped student life and community involvement during her years at the College. Through her cross-continental collaboration, Baker also realizes the role technology plays in connecting partners worldwide.Claire lives in Bozeman, Montana, with her husband, two daughters, gigantic Labrador, and a broody red hen. She carves out time to coach Destination Imagination, raft, and ski.
Work Description: The Toothpick Project started with the end-user in mind, when Baker’s uncle volunteered in Kenya and noticed patients’ concerns of a parasitic weed, Striga. Through the biocontrol of Striga with the FOXY T14 toothpick technology, their goals are to reduce labor and increase crop yield for smallholder farmers. Claire Sands Baker co-founded this project with the aim for this technology to improve health through more nutritious, diversified crops; increase income by providing enough yield for both family use and sale; and provide greater access to education. Because the vast majority of maize farmers are women, these results will also impact women's empowerment, which will be reflected in a Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index (USAID, Feed the Future) study that evaluates independence, literacy, time use, domestic violence, land ownership, and other measures of empowerment. Their aim to build partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are already reaching farmers with training and inputs. The Toothpick Project team is made up of experts from Africa, Europe, and the US; including experts on plant pathology, microbiology, agronomy, literacy, and community organizing.