The Second Chance Foundation is a private, non-profit organization set up to help alleviate poverty in South India through locally-based NGOs. We work with NGOS specializing in alternative agriculture, especially alternative approaches being developed by small farmers in India and around the globe. Small farmers were the world’s main producers of food for most of human history, relying on methods that were ecologically sustainable, diverse, and democratic. We believe that these methods could offer a better alternative to the industrial approach to agriculture that is dominant today, and the Second Chance Foundation is committed to sharing small farmer’s knowledge through small seed grants, research, and writing.

The Second Chance Foundation has provided small seed grants for projects that engage in innovative approaches to agriculture and food supply issues affecting the poor, especially women. In the past we have provided funding for projects related to the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), mushroom cultivation, and for projects growing vegetables for local markets in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, India.

We are also interested in funding projects relating to:

  • training in innovative sustainable , low-input technologies including ecologically-sound methods of intercropping,  crop rotations, tree crops, perma-culture
  • introducing new technologies such as SRI cultivation which produces higher yields with less seed, less water, and no artificial inputs
  • training workshops to improve individual and group communication skills
  • the collection and sharing of small farming knowledge, including seed melas
  • the development of networks between small farmer organizations
  • the promotion of leadership within and between small farmer organizations

Please visit our Projects page for more information about projects we have funded in the past.


Our Staff

Dr. Joan Mencher

Dr. Joan Mencher

-Chair and Managing Director

Dr. Mencher is a Professor emerita of Anthropology from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and Lehman College of the City University of New York. She has worked as an anthropologist in South India for over 50 years on issues relating to ecology, caste, land reform, agriculture, and women. She has published  widely and given talks both in the U.S. and in India on all of these subjects.

Recently, Dr. Mencher has been deeply involved with research on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and the System of Crop Intensification (SCI). She has also, for several years, been a consultant with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank for their India operations. For more information on Dr. Mencher’s career, please click here for a full length interview published in Frontline Magazine.



Devaraj Southworth

-Vice-Chair and Executive Director

Devaraj has been working at the intersection of business, online media and mobile technology for close to 18 years. Devaraj is currently a Senior Advisor and Executive Vice President of Zipmark. He is responsible for partnership and channel development strategies, including business development, capital introductions as well as mergers and acquisitions. Prior to Zipmark, Devaraj was Vice President of Product Strategy and Partnerships and helped build American Express’ mobile payments platform. Prior to that, Devaraj was the Founder and President of iThink Labs, an online media services and ad-tech agency. Devaraj also founded 30Seven Design, an interactive agency which was successfully sold in 2008.

Devaraj holds degrees in Organizational Psychology and Journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University, and studied Business, Entrepreneurship and Japanese at Kansai International University in Japan. He currently serves as a limited partner to ENIAC, a mobile venture fund, and is an Angel investor in over 40 early stage companies.



Leela Southworth

-Administrative Assistant



Daniel Schneider

-Research Assistant