This was obviously a favorable introduction, and we soon learned more about Mr. Sasakawa's background. He had been a famous fighter pilot in World War II, and at the war's end was imprisoned by General MacArthur for three years for alleged corruption and subversive activities involving Japan's military operations in the Orient. During this time of incarceration he devised an ingenious scheme for rejuvenating Japan's devastated industrial capability. When finally freed (without having been put on trial), Sasakawa developed a legal and official gambling syndicate. Since there were no lotteries, horse racing, or dog racing events, he built a network of lakes throughout Japan and designed standard speedboats on which bets could be placed.
The organization was first named the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation and several Japanese cabinet members, including the minister of transportation and finance, were designated to serve as directors. Gambling profits amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars, and practical control of these funds remained in Mr. Sasakawa's hands. When we first met him, he had established several benevolent organizations around the world, one of which was the United States-Japan Foundation, which he endowed with $50 million. Sasakawa also made large contributions to UN agencies and expressed an interest in forming a partnership with The Carter Center to meet some benevolent needs in the developing world.
After several years of exploratory discussions, we decided to convene a meeting in Geneva with Sasakawa, the scientist Norman Borlaug, and me presiding. Our purpose was to find ways to increase the production of food grains in Africa, beginning with four nations as test cases. We selected Sudan, Ghana, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe so that we could employ the different seasons north and south of the equator. The Carter Center in negotiating contracts with leaders of selected nations, and Borlaug would implement some of the agricultural techniques that had made him famous of the Green Revolution in India and Pakistan. We decided that our project would be called Global 2000 (later changed to Sasakawa-Global 2000).
Along with our health programs, work with farm families in their fields gave us an unprecedented insight into their cultural practices. After our Global 2000 agriculture program had been implemented for a few years, we traveled to a few of the nations to honor the most outstanding farmers. One such visit was to a rural village in Zimbabwe about 125 miles from the capital city, Harare. I dressed that morning in the hotel as though I would be going to our own farm near Plains.