Ayesha, a banker turned farmer and social impact innovator
Ayesha Vera-Yu is CEO and Co-Founder of ARK, a social impact innovator that co-invests WITH rural communities in the developing world who want to be food secure and self-sustaining.
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic that triggered acute hunger among farmers and fisherfolk who feed the world, Ayesha steered ARK to pivot its award-winning and the world’s only self-sustaining, 5-cent school lunch to a food security program that benefited everyone in the community.
Feed Back is a community-based vegetable exchange that is solving hunger in just 5 weeks. It creates a path for families to source food from their backyards, exchange excess produce with their neighbors, and sell to their own community, nearby villages and towns. It enables communities to work together, be food secure and resilient. It launches new entrepreneurs and new local, regenerative and equitable food systems. The program is 16 weeks and requires a one-time investment of $45/family or $15,000/community.
Because of its immediate and sustainable impact, Feed Back is one of only two (the only one that is self-sustaining) food security solutions that the national government and a consortium of leading corporations and foundations are endorsing in the Philippines.
Ayesha and ARK dream to secure and transform a million lives in the next 3 years. Starting in the Philippines, ARK plans to partner with 150 communities who will lead other communities to be food secure. ARK is also developing a playbook, a do-it-yourself guide, so that hard-to-reach communities in the Philippines and beyond can secure their food on their own.
In addition to being a solution maker, Ayesha is a future maker. Through ARK, she is creating a new path in the world that is catalytic and not colonistic. She truly believes in the agency, brilliance and innovation of her rural partners who have been overlooked or perceived as dependent “beneficiaries”. With them, Ayesha sources and designs solutions from within, that communities invest in and execute, and that create a near-term exit for catalytic investors.
Prior to ARK, Ayesha worked at BNP Paribas for 11 years where she led multi-billion dollar, cross border leverage buy-outs (LBO) and mergers & acquisitions (M&A) transactions across a wide variety of industries. Ayesha also fell in love with farming and restructured her family’s farm to be the first in the Capiz province to go back to organic and regenerative methods.
Ayesha has been recognized as a Young Global Leader in the World Economic Forum and an Ashoka Fellow. She was selected for Facebook’s Community Accelerator Program (2020) and Morgan Stanley’s Strategy Challenge Program (2019). Ayesha studied biochemistry, third world politics and art history at Mount Holyoke College. She has an executive MBA degree from Columbia University.