Field Officer Robert Kazana trains farmers on proper seed spacing in Uganda
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 50 million hungry smallholder farm families who we believe could immediately benefit from our model, the majority of whom live in countries we do not yet serve. Our new country expansion team is tasked with determining where to launch operations next, unlocking our organization’s pathway to continent-wide scale nation by nation. After studying and visiting high-potential countries, the third phase of this team’s scouting process is a local pilot, through which we test how our model functions before investing in a full-scale operation. We are currently running pilots in three countries: Zambia, initiated last year, and Malawi and Uganda, where we plan to launch full-scale country programs in 2016.
Our pilot in Uganda’s Eastern Region concluded a strong Year 2 in late 2015. Key accomplishments included successfully trialing new bean and soybean products, doubling our staffing efficiency, and collecting 100 percent of loan repayments. On average, our clients’ raw harvests were over 200 percent larger than those of control farmers, yielding $41 USD in new income.1 These results represent a decrease from our previous season, primarily due to the effects of a parasitic weed known as striga; in response, we have invested deeply in systems for mitigating striga for 2016. This pilot is on a strong trajectory for 2016. The scale of our Ugandan operations more than tripled between 2015 and 2016, and following our deployment of anti-striga measures we expect our average impact to increase in the current season
One Acre Fund farmers in Malawi’s Southern Region also achieved positive results in Year 2 in the face of extremely challenging circumstances. In 2015, severe flooding across Malawi caused widespread crop damage and loss. One Acre Fund was able to protect our clients in several ways, such as by replacing rain-damaged seed and distributing a modest weather insurance payout. As a result, One Acre Fund farmers harvested 71 percent more maize than control farmers, but due to the effects of flooding still achieved just $21 USD in average new income per family—far less than our 2014 impact of $56 USD. Our steadfast service during this difficult period, spearheaded by a talented team of field leaders, led to significant increase in scale in 2016. In the absence of abnormal weather, we can expect a resurgence of impact.
Linley Kachapila, a smallholder farmer from Mandota, Malawi
One Acre Fund successfully launched our newest pilot in Zambia’s Central Province in late 2015. Zambia represents a unique national context for One Acre Fund in that its population density is much lower than anywhere else we work. Since farmers in Zambia live further apart, their farm sizes tend to be larger, creating both operational challenges and opportunities for significant impact. Although harvest is still months away, this new pilot is off to a promising start. We have already greatly exceeded our initial enrollment target of 100 farmers, and now expect to supply 500 farmers with $300+ USD in supplies for one hectare of land—the largest loans we have ever offered. If we can successfully adapt our model to serve Zambia’s low-density smallholder population, we will open an entirely new farmer demographic throughout Africa to our further expansion in the coming years.
Ezira Ntegeyimbuga sits atop his completed compost pile.
Raising the hand hoe high over his head, Ezira Ntegeyimbuga moves with a strength and assuredness that belies his 64 years. His middle son, 15-year-old Isaac Ndikuryayo, looks on as his father breaks up the red-brown dirt clods in a corner of their land. Breaking up the soil is the first step to creating a compost plot.
“The compost is easy to make. Whatever materials I need are around me, and I can make it near my field where it won’t be a big problem for transportation,” Ezira says.
Ezira made compost for the first time in 2013, but he’d been hearing about the benefits of composting since 2010. That was the year he first enrolled with One Acre Fund, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides over 400,000 farmers in East Africa with access to seed, fertilizer, and agriculture trainings. One of the trainings offered was how to make and apply compost, which is proven to enrich soils with vital nutrients needed to produce healthy crops.
Ezira’s decision to join One Acre Fund wasn’t about learning to make compost. A life-long smallholder farmer from Karongi, Rwanda, Ezira’s biggest challenge was that he could never afford the cost of purchasing and transporting fertilizer from the market to his remote village. As a result, his yields were always low. So when a One Acre Fund field officer told him he could purchase seed and fertilizer on credit and get his purchase delivered to a site in his village, Ezira was excited. He immediately enrolled and was elected leader of his farmer group.
In that first year, he harvested 110 pounds of beans and 330 pounds of maize on just one-third of an acre of land. Ezira’s excitement quickly turned to relief. His 2010 harvest, the largest of his life, was enough to feed his family for the whole year. But his relief stemmed from something else. For some time, he had been noticing troubling behavior in his sons.
“When my children were in the village and saw maize growing in someone’s field, they would just grab the maize and run away. I was depressed, and knew I had to somehow change this situation to help them,” Ezira says.
The following year, Ezira enrolled more land with One Acre Fund and planted maize and beans, again using the new methods he had learned. He harvested a whopping 154 pounds of beans and 375 pounds of maize from just under half an acre.
Buoyed by two strong harvests in a row, Ezira began to believe he could achieve success through farming. He attended One Acre Fund trainings regularly and learned about applying just a small amount of fertilizer through micro-dosing. He also learned about combining fertilizer and manure to improve soil and crop health. Ezira had a cow and a young bull, so he began collecting and applying the manure to further improve his yields.
Then, in 2013, things suddenly took a turn for the worse. Ezira’s big cow died of disease, and the young bull couldn’t produce enough manure to fertilize all his fields. That year, Ezira was only able to afford fertilizer for a very small portion of his fields, and he harvested a mere 55 pounds of beans and 110 pounds of maize.
Ezira recalls feeling discouraged and apprehensive. “I really felt sad. I had gone backwards, and was harvesting the amount I used to harvest before joining One Acre Fund,” he says.
During this difficult time, Ezira attended a One Acre Fund training on how to prepare compost. He had been to One Acre Fund trainings on composting in the past but hadn’t ever made a compost pile, because he knew he could count on his manure. That year, though, he paid close attention and learned how to salvage plant-based harvest waste, how to properly create compost piles, and when and how to apply the nutrient-rich organic matter to his fields.
Ezira spent the next four months digging, stacking, scooping, and monitoring his decomposing compost pile, looking for the telltale changes in temperature and color to ensure he was on the right track. He was meticulous and determined and followed each training step to the letter. After applying the compost to his fields, Ezira found himself waiting anxiously for harvest to come.
Ezira helps prepare his compost pile
Ezira tends to his compost pile
When harvest finally came, Ezira could not have been more pleased with the results. He had harvested 176 pounds of beans and 397 pounds of maize from just under half an acre, more than his best season with One Acre Fund.
In the midst of placing dried maize stalks onto his compost pile, Ezira stops for a moment to reflect. “The compost training saved me from poverty and hunger,” he says.
With his harvest back to the levels he had been counting on, Ezira has wasted no time laying his plans for the future. Inspired by his own success with composting, Ezira plans to start a composting business to sell to neighboring farmers who lack his knowledge of composting techniques.
“The skills I learned from One Acre Fund were just the beginning. I now have to turn my skills into money,” Ezira says.
This additional income stream will play a critical role in helping Ezira achieve his most important goal: raising his sons to be good men. With the threat of hunger behind them, they have stopped getting into trouble. Ezira plans to use the income from his composting business to pay for their school supplies.
“When a child is educated, he or she can live and survive in whatever circumstances,” Ezira says proudly. “I will send my children to school because it is my responsibility, but in the end, it is up to them to choose who they will become.”
A group of smallholder farmers from Webuye, Kenya
At One Acre Fund, we often say that impact is our northstar. Since 2006, our mission has been to create meaningful impact by helping smallholder farmers improve their productivity and increase their on-farm incomes. Our vision has always been to become one of the world’s most impactful organizations and to serve millions of farmers across the planet.
As we head into our tenth year of operation, we are as committed as ever to helping farmers improve their productivity and incomes. However, we have realized that in order to permanently break the cycle of hunger and poverty for future generations of farmers, we need to push ourselves to think about our long-term impact.
We reformulated our organizational vision this year to reflect our new thinking around long-term impact. We now envision a future in which every farm family has the knowledge and means to achieve big harvests, support healthy families, and cultivate rich soils.
As our organizational vision has evolved to reflect a more long-term perspective, our thinking about impact measurement has also evolved. We have consistently used incremental profit as our main indicator to measure the impact of our operating model on farmers’ harvests. However, measuring profit per acre planted is only one piece of the puzzle. We are expanding our definition of impact to include categories like farmer health and resilience, and we are focusing on new impact metrics in order to gain a fuller picture of our impact on farmers’ lives.
One new way we are looking to measure holistic, long-term impact for the farm families we serve is through a longitudinal study. Launched in 2015, the study will run for at least three years in our two largest countries (Kenya and Rwanda) and focus on evaluating secondary outcomes in areas such as health, childhood nutrition, and education. We introduced this study to gain a better understanding of how we impact farmers’ lives beyond the farm. This study will help us understand in which secondary areas we are generating strong impact and what programmatic changes would spur improvement.
Measuring farmer access to things like education and health care helps us paint a picture of how our work contributes to healthy families. To better understand how our work contributes to rich soils, we’ve introduced several soil health initiatives that will allow us to develop targeted, data-driven solutions to protect farmers’ lands for future generations. We are currently conducting a longitudinal soil study, processing thousands of samples per month in our newly established soil analytics lab. Through our robust innovations platform, we are testing an extensive range of practices to boost soil health, including biochar, green manure cover crops, rhizobia, conservation agriculture, and more agroforestry options.
Pioneering long-term solutions that allow us to serve farmers, improve their quality of life, and protect and enhance the quality of their soils is our top priority. We remain focused on helping farmers overcome the challenges they face today, but if we can fulfill our new long-term vision, we will also help farmers successfully weather the challenges of tomorrow, and ensure that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will lead prosperous, healthy lives.
To learn more about our longitudinal impact study, please read page 20 of our 2015 Annual Report.
One Acre Fund commends the passage of the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567, S. 1252), which passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday April 12 on a vote of 370-33, followed by the Senate on Wednesday April 20 by unanimous consent.
Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) in the House and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate, the Global Food Security Act seeks to permanently authorize Feed the Future, a presidential initiative that has helped millions of smallholder farm families get the financing, inputs, training, and access to markets they need to thrive. Feed the Future is active in five countries where One Acre Fund operates (Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda) and USAID is a critical partner for our work in Kenya and Rwanda.
According to David Hong, One Acre Fund’s global senior policy analyst, “In an era of political polarization, it’s encouraging to know that Congress is not divided on the U.S. Government’s commitment to global food security and supporting smallholder farmers grow their way out of hunger and poverty."
Click here for additional information about the Global Food Security act, and watch this quick video about the importance of investing in smallholder farmers to bring an end to end global hunger.
Interested in working to influence global food security policy? We have just the job for you!
Greetings from One Acre Fund!
We are excited to share our 2015 Annual Report, which details our progress, strategies, and new initiatives to reach more farmers than ever before.
2015 saw our operations reach their most impressive scale yet. We delivered our direct service model to more than 305,000 smallholder farmers across East Africa, and reached over 590,000 farmers through our government partnerships work. We now employ over 4,000 full-time staffers who make it possible to deliver life-changing products and services at this scale.
In many ways, 2015 marks a turning point in how we conceptualize impact. As we grow, we are pushing ourselves to move beyond exclusively evaluating the impact our operating model has on farmer harvests to measuring the broader, holistic impact our model has on farmer quality of life. We launched our first-ever longitudinal study this year, a first step toward better understanding and improving our impact in areas like childhood nutrition, education, and long-term poverty reduction.
To reflect our increased emphasis on achieving long-term impact, we’ve ex- panded our organizational vision to encompass “big harvests, healthy families, and rich soils.” This vision includes not only those who are One Acre Fund farmers today, but future generations of farmers.
Inside this report, you will read how Kenyan farmer Conrad Lukoye learned to leverage the power of improved planting techniques to feed his family of five and start a new, lucrative business venture that benefits his entire community. "The greenhouseisasignofhopetoeveryoneinthecommunity,”Conradsays.“Itsym- bolizes prosperity.” Conrad’s story reminds us that farmers are also small business owners and entrepreneurs who just need access to the right tools and information to achieve their dreams and secure their futures.
In 2016, we will embark on our tenth year serving smallholder farmers. While we’ve grown steadily over the past decade, the irony of the hungry farmer is still all too common. We have a solution that could end hunger for millions of families one day; now, we’re challenging ourselves to boldly scale that solution and ensure that the impact we generate is sustainable for future generations.
Executive Director, One Acre Fund
Managing Director, One Acre Fund USA
An inflection point in the era of “farmer finance” for the world’s smallholders
New study identifies innovative approaches to dramatically
change growth trajectory in smallholder finance
11, April 2016 - LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
A new study, “Inflection Point: Unlocking growth in the era of farmer finance,” suggests that while current efforts to expand financial inclusion are not sufficient to meet smallholder demand, concerted efforts around customer centricity, progressive partnerships, and smart subsidy have the potential to change the sector’s growth trajectory to best serve the world’s smallholder farmers.
Currently, over 270 million smallholder farmers in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia require over USD 200 billion in financing to grow their businesses and improve their livelihoods. Formal financial institutions and value chain actors meet less than a sixth of this need today. Doubling projected annual growth (from roughly seven percent to 14 percent) would allow these providers to meet more than half the need by 2025. To achieve this, this study presents a bold call to action for financial service providers and other actors to engage closely with customers to design and offer appropriate, desirable products through integrated partnerships, supported by more and smarter subsidy.
The new study, released today by the Initiative for Smallholder Finance (ISF) and the Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab builds on the 2012 Dalberg-conducted study Catalyzing Smallholder Agricultural Finance, which laid a foundation for understanding the size, nature and challenge of global smallholder financing.
In addition to presenting a more sophisticated picture of the state of smallholder finance, “Inflection Point” explains that we are undergoing a significant change in the era of “farmer finance.” Following decades of more singular approaches to providing smallholder farmers with financial services, the smallholder finance industry is now marked by a more diverse set of actors. A wide range of financial service providers, funders, market and research platforms, and technical assistance providers have yielded new approaches to collaboration and greater access to information and technology than ever before.
Matt Shakhovskoy, Executive Director of ISF, commented on the inflection point within the sector: “In the past five years we have seen a new focus and resolve around tackling the smallholder finance challenge; our task now is to work with this momentum to fundamentally shift the current growth trajectory of models that are working.”
The study’s new research was led by Dalberg Global Development Advisors under guidance from ISF, an initiative incubated by the Global Development Incubator (GDI), and the Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab, which is jointly implemented by GDI and Dalberg. The MasterCard Foundation and USAID sponsored the study.
The study emphasizes that meaningful progress will require a concerted effort across the smallholder finance ecosystem to simultaneously resolve a number of constraints hindering smallholder access to finance. Rewa Misra, Senior Programme Manager, Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation, said, “this report makes visible opportunities for change and will guide our thinking on how we can help unlock financial access for 48 million smallholders in Africa with services centered on their needs and demands. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with an increasing set of public and private sector stakeholders to help achieve the vision set out in this report.”
Drawing on interviews with representatives from nearly 80 different organizations and contributions from the study’s collaborative research group, the study shares insights on opportunities to close the financial inclusion gap in smallholder finance. The study demonstrates that the smallholder finance industry must move towards a future in which financial service providers – including formal financial institutions, value chain actors, and informal or community-based organizations – engage in three main areas of opportunity to unlock smallholder farmers’ access to finance: (1) customer centricity, (2) progressive partnerships, and (3) smart subsidy.
First, the study recommends that financial service providers must fundamentally change how they engage with clients to better understand who their clients are and to design offerings and interactions that increase demand and reduce risk. Jason Wendle, Director of The Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab, commented, "Financial solutions that do not explicitly account for the distinct needs of smallholder farmers tend to meet limited uptake and usage by those farmers. Customer centered approaches not only increase financial inclusion among rural and agricultural households but will also improve business model sustainability."
Next, the study recommends that progressive partnerships, such as those between financial institutions and value chain actors, can enable cost and risk sharing. Ultimately, this reduces the need for direct subsidy of services and thus increases smallholder financial access and reach.
Lastly, the study finds that support from more and smarter subsidies can draw much-needed capital into the sector through blended capital models, where public or philanthropic funds enable the entry of investors seeking market-returns. To target these subsidies effectively, stakeholders must consider whether the subsidy required is catalytic or ongoing, and whether the business constraint targeted is risk or cost.
For more information, please contact:
Global Development Incubator, Communications Department
Malia Bachesta: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Initiative for Smallholder Finance is a multi-donor and investor platform for the development of financial services for the smallholder farmer market. The ISF’s primary role is to act as a "design catalyst." The emphasis is on mobilizing additional financing for smallholders and seeding replication of innovative models in new markets.
The Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab fosters knowledge creation, sharing and collaboration that leads to better financial solutions provided to more smallholder farmers and other rural clients. The Lab is an initiative of The MasterCard Foundation pursuing a learning agenda that spans customer, provider, ecosystem and ultimately impact. For more information, please visit www.raflearning.org. Follow the Learning Lab at @RAFLearning on Twitter.
The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest, independent foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to alleviate poverty. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by MasterCard when the Foundation was created in 2006. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MCFoundation on Twitter.
USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential. USAID works in several different sectors across global development, including, their agriculture and food security programs which work to combat world hunger and strengthen agricultural growth.
Germana stands with her bags of her maize.
A 61-year-old mother of three, Germana Nevele had farmed for decades, but with little success. Her harvest was often a meager six bags, barely enough to feed her family. Even in good years, a lack of access to markets meant there were no opportunities for Germana to sell any surplus she grew.
In 2013, Germana heard about One Acre Fund and was impressed by the loan offering. She decided to join, hoping to earn a larger profit from her harvest. In her first season with One Acre Fund, Germana enrolled for one acre of land and harvested more than 16 bags of maize.
“I used to help other people to weed their farms to get money to buy extra food and pay for the education of my children,” she says. “Now, I never work for other people.”
For many Tanzanian farmers like Germana, poor harvests are just one of the barriers they face in the fight to achieve food security. Lack of access to markets is another barrier—poor roads and lack of infrastructure, long distances to the nearest towns, and high transportation costs prevent farmers from selling their harvest surplus and turning their farms into profitable businesses.
To help farmers truly maximize their farm income, One Acre Fund is trialling a market access program in Iringa, Tanzania. In September 2014, One Acre Fund offered to purchase up to three bags of maize per farmer, and collected 150 metric tons of maize from farmers across 13 villages in the region. During the 2015 season, we adjusted the trial to test buying as much maize as each farmer would like to sell, and collected more than 250 metric tons of maize across 16 villages.
After purchasing maize from farmers, One Acre Fund is able to sell it in bulk quantities to large processing companies. In this way, we’re helping smallholder farmers reach markets they would not otherwise be able to access.
Germana watches on as bags of her maize are loaded onto a One Acre Fund truck.
“We want farmers to be able to maximize their farm income to improve their lives,” Veronica Kindole, a manager on the One Acre Fund scale innovations team, says. “We innovate based on what farmers say they need.”
Germana is just one of the farmers who has been impacted by this new program. Now, she no longer worries about whether she’ll be able to sell her surplus at market. She knows that come harvest time, she can count on selling her maize at a reasonable price.
“I am so happy that now I can sell my maize right from my village with the same price as it is in town,” Germana says.
One Acre Fund is in the process of collecting data on the trial, and will determine next steps based on our findings and feedback from farmers. For Germana, gaining access to this market opportunity has already resulted in less uncertainty, more cash in her pocket, and a year of schooling for her children. We look forward to sharing more stories about the impact of this trial on the farmers we serve.
Interested in helping smallholder farmers in Tanzania maximize their harvest profits? Apply to become One Acre Fund's Tanzania deputy country director today!