This blog was written by David Hong, One Acre Fund global senior policy analyst, and was originally published by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. To view the original piece, click here.
Anjelica Mumewa helps Beatus Balama harvest maize on her farm in rural Tanzania
While the growth of cities has been well documented, it might come as a surprise to find out that Africa’s rural population will grow nearly 50 percent between 2015 and 2050. To address rural poverty in Africa and strengthen our food systems, it’s important to focus on helping smallholder farmers increase production and gain access to domestic markets. Many of these domestic markets—which represent real economic opportunity for smallholder farmers—will supply urban consumers.
Smallholder farmers are absolutely central to ending rural poverty. In fact, 75 percent of people living in poverty rely on agriculture as their primary means of income, and studies have shown that growth in the agriculture sector is at least twice as powerful in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. In many places, smallholder farmers are the engine of the rural economy—in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, they grow up to 80 percent of the food consumed, and some estimates peg the number of smallholder farms at 500 million worldwide. However, smallholder yields are low and have barely budged in decades. Many smallholder farmers in Africa are only producing a fraction of their crop’s genetic yield potential, which farmers in the United States and Argentina achieve every year.
If we want to drive down rural poverty and increase production to meet the demands of growing rural and urban populations, we need to invest in boosting smallholder farmer productivity. We already have the tools and technologies to dramatically increase yields and ensure the food security of hundreds of millions of families. But smallholder farmers living in remote areas lack access to these tools and technologies. To increase their yields, smallholders need access to basic products and services, specifically 1) financing for farm inputs, 2) training, 3) distribution, and 4) access to markets. Once these are in place, farmers are not only able to feed their own families, they are also able to grow enough to feed their surrounding communities.
First, smallholder farmers need access to flexible and innovative tools to finance the cost of farm inputs and productive assets. Many farmers have difficulty coming up with the upfront capital required to buy fertilizer or livestock, yet have the ability to make incremental payments over time. Juhudi Kilimo offers Kenyan farmers financing designed to help them buy productive assets such as dairy cows. Nearly half of the organization’s total loan portfolio is for dairy cows, which have the potential to increase household income by $600 per year. In Mali, myAgro allows farmers to use their mobile phones to pay for seed and fertilizer on layaway.
Second, many smallholder farmers lack basic information about agricultural best practices, and need training to maximize the benefits of improved technologies such as hybrid seed. In Rwanda, the Ministry of Agriculture has developed an effective extension system that provides each village with a “farmer promoter” – a volunteer who is trained in basic agronomy to provide agriculture information and advice to local farmers. There are now over 14,000 farmer promoters delivering life-changing tools and trainings to every village in all corners of the country.
Third, most smallholders live in remote rural areas that are underserved by traditional markets. “Agrodealers” or other rural retailers may find it unprofitable to set up businesses in these remote areas, thus cutting farmers off from access to productive technologies. Each year in East Africa, One Acre Fund hires a fleet of trucks to deliver seed and fertilizer, solar lamps, cookstoves, and other impactful products deep into rural areas where farmers live.
Fourth, farmers need output markets to buy their harvests and to ensure a return on their investment. While there are many examples of contract farming and off-take agreements at a small scale, few initiatives are as ambitious as the World Food Program’s Patient Procurement Platform. The Patient Procurement Platform is an initiative designed to connect smallholder farmers to commercial buyers at scale. Together with the private sector, the World Food Program is aiming to purchase $750 million of crops from 1.5 million smallholder farmers by the end of this year.
All of these examples showcase the ability to transform the agriculture sector and the lives of smallholder farmers. Relative to the overall need, however, the farmers being served only represent a drop in the bucket. There are literally hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers who, with the right interventions, could boost their productivity and contribute to their country’s food systems. To address this need, we’ll need the help of governments, donors, and private sector actors to invest in and partner with innovative organizations that are operating at scale. A strong food system is supported by productive farmers; when farmers thrive, hunger declines. That’s a win-win for the farm and the city.
One Acre Fund is hiring for over 60 positions. Apply today to join our family of leaders.
Affordable farm inputs and agriculture training available to smallholder farmers
RUBENGERA, Rwanda, May 24, 2016—TUBURA, a nonprofit agriculture organization based in Rubengera that offers farming inputs and training on credit to smallholder farmers, is now enrolling farmers for the upcoming planting season in Rwanda. Participating farmers will receive a complete bundle of agricultural inputs and services on credit, including the delivery of improved seeds and fertilizer, training on how to maximize crop yields, and education on how to minimize post-harvest losses. In 2015, farmers in the program increased farm income by 53 percent.
TUBURA’s services are available to smallholder farmers in Rusizi, Nyamasheke, Karongi, Rutsiro, and Nyanza districts, and in selected sectors of Huye, Gisagara, Nyaruguru, Nyamagabe, Ngororero, Gatsibo, Kayonza, Ngoma, and Nyagatare districts. To join the program, farmers must sign up with their local TUBURA field officer by July 4, 2016.
This year, TUBURA is excited to offer a new and reduced pricing package, dubbed More For Less, which enables farmers to purchase inputs on credit with no additional service fee if repayment is completed in full by September 19, 2016. For repayments made after September 19, a service fee of 19 percent will apply. TUBURA accommodates its clients with a flexible repayment system; farmers may repay their loans in any amount and at any time as long as they complete repayment by July 31, 2017.
“TUBURA wants every farmer to have a great harvest. That is why we have made TUBURA more affordable than ever before with our More For Less Program,” said Eric Pohlman, country director for One Acre Fund Rwanda/TUBURA. “We encourage all farmers to sign up now so they may take advantage of the discounted prices, and to invest in improved seeds, fertilizer, and travertine. When farmers invest in increasing their harvests, the whole country succeeds.”
TUBURA offers farmers high-quality fertilizer, travertine (lime), improved maize seed, climbing and bush bean seed, and vegetable seeds. Farmers may also purchase non-agriculture products such as solar lights and energy-efficient cook stoves. TUBURA delivers all products to a drop-off point within walking distance of clients’ cells and leads regular in-person trainings so farmers can maximize the benefits from products purchased. All farmers in the program will be served by full-time field officers employed by TUBURA, and have access to a customer care hotline should they have any queries.
“With TUBURA, there is no longer hunger in my family,” said Samson Nkekabahizi, a smallholder farmer from Kabeza, Gatsibo district who enrolled with TUBURA in 2014. “I am also able to buy two calves and pay medical insurance now.”
To qualify for the TUBURA program, farmers are required to form local groups, attend agricultural trainings, and pay a materials and training fee of 2,500 Rwandan Francs. In Rwanda, TUBURA provides a maximum of one loan package per household. For more information, farmers are advised to call TUBURA’s free hotline, 2580; this line is accessible with Tigo, MTN, and Airtel.
TUBURA was founded in Rwanda in 2007 by One Acre Fund, a global nonprofit that supplies smallholder farmers with the financing and training they need to succeed. Offering a complete bundle of services on credit, the nonprofit organization distributes quality seeds and fertilizer to the remote areas where farmers live, provides financing for farm inputs, trains farmers in agriculture techniques, and educates them on how to minimize post-harvest losses and maximize market prices. On average, farmers working with TUBURA realize at least a 200 percent return on their investment, significantly increasing their farm income. One Acre Fund currently serves 400,000 farmers across Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Malawi and is growing quickly. For more information, visit the website at www.oneacrefund.org or follow @oneacrefund.
Free TUBURA Customer Care Hotline: 2580. Representatives are available Monday through Friday (8am – 5pm).
Agnes Kemunto, surrounded by her sukuma wiki crop
Sukuma wiki is Swahili for collard greens, but the literal translation means “pushing through the week.” In western Kenya, it is common for smallholder farmers to eat this leafy green during the financially lean weeks of the year.
Sukuma wiki is nutritious, full of fiber and vitamin A, and is also relatively affordable. Though it is cheap to buy, Agnes Kemunto, a smallholder farmer in Masaba, Kenya, is making big money from it.
“Sukuma is making me rich,” Agnes laughs. “My whole village depends on sukuma to feed their families and they all line up at my house every day to buy from me.”
Just three years ago, Agnes was not able to feed her own family, let alone a whole village. Each season she would invest the little money she had in seed and fertilizer purchased from local retailers. Often, the expired seed and fertilizer would produce low yields, and Agnes’ family would inevitably go hungry. And then, before she knew it, it was time to purchase planting supplies and begin the frustrating cycle again.
“I had given up on farming. I always wondered why I should spend so much energy and money on farming in a year, and then watch my family sleep hungry the following year,” Agnes says.
In 2013, Agnes took out a loan for seed and fertilizer from One Acre Fund. Along with the loan she also received sukuma seeds and planting trainings. In that season, Agnes planted her first sukuma garden and made $176 USD in just three months.
Agnes purchased solar lamps on credit from One Acre Fund
Her success didn’t stop there. Through One Acre Fund, Agnes was able to buy two cell phone-charging solar lamps on credit. She began earning money every week charging her neighbors’ cell phones, and was able to save the money she had previously spent on kerosene. Agnes’ home now shines brighter at night than any other house in her village.
“I’ve chased darkness out of my house completely. The solar lamp produces so much brightness that people passing by my house at night think I have electricity,” Agnes says.
With profits from her sukuma wiki and solar lamps, Agnes has been able to educate her children. Two of her children are currently studying at university.
“I work very hard in school because I hope one day I will be able to repay all the hard work my mother does on the farm every day. I respect her a lot,” says Pauline Mwige, Agnes’ daughter, who is studying journalism and communications.
Agnes with her daughter Pauline
In the future, Agnes hopes to expand her business beyond her village. She plans to lease more land this season, plant more sukuma, and hopes to sell her leafy greens to big cities throughout Kenya.
One Acre Fund is hiring for over 60 positions. Apply today to join our family of leaders.
This blog was written by Evariste Bagambiki, and originally published by FoodTank. To view the original piece, click here.
Odette Nyirahabineza winnows her beans.
It is 9 a.m. in Ruhinga, Rwanda, and everyone in Odette Nyirahabineza’s family is busy with doing something different. Her daughters Chantal Mujawimana, 21, and Françoise Nishimwe, 19, are working in the field; her husband Francois Sebitabi feeds the milk cow; and her youngest children Collette Ibyimanikora, 17, Domina Iradukunda, 14, Emmanuel Kwizera, 12, are at school. Just outside their mud-walled home, Odette picks grass and pebbles out of the beans that she will cook for lunch.
Before Odette married her husband François Sebitabi in 1994, she never thought about planting beans, let alone making them a part of her daily diet. It all started when her first child, Chantal Mujawimana, started to eat solid foods, around the age of two.
“Beans were Chantal’s first favorite food. If there were no beans on her plate, she would be in tears. So I would make sure to put at least a little bit of beans on her plate at every meal,” Odette says.
A year later, Odette was blessed with her second child, little Françoise Nishimwe. Given her experience with her first baby, Odette wasn’t altogether surprised when, around the two-year mark, it became clear that beans were also Françoise’s favorite food. Odette began to think loving beans was hereditary. With plans to grow her family, she started cultivating beans on her less than an acre farm.
Her kids’ love of beans was the main reason Odette decided to grow beans, but it wasn’t the only one. A nutrition officer from the nearest health center had taught Odette that beans are very nutritious. Odette was excited to grow more beans because of the protein they would deliver to her growing children.
“Beans are very nutritious— they make me strong, and I can work in my field until sunset,” Odette says.“I had known the secret of beans before, but speaking to the nutrition officer confirmed it.”
As the years went by, Chantal and Francoise grew older, but their love of beans remained as strong as when they were toddlers. Odette and her husband had five more children, all of whom shared their older siblings’ enthusiasm for beans.
Over time, it became clear that Odette’s 220-pound bean harvest was just not enough to feed such big family. Once her harvest ran out, she would sell some of her bananas to buy beans, so that she could feed her family while she waited for her next bean to mature enough to harvest.
“I was not able to purchase clothes for the kids regularly anymore. At a certain point, I started using the income from my bananas to buy beans instead of buying clothes,” Odette says
Odette stands with her family and her bean harvest.
With seven kids to feed and clothe, Odette decided to enroll with One Acre Fund in 2012. She purchased fertilizer on credit and learned improved planting techniques, including how to micro-dose fertilizer and how to properly space seed. Her hope was that the improved planting techniques would be enough to turn things around for her family.
That year, Odette’s beans harvest doubled. She and her family were able to enjoy beans grown on their own farm year-round, and she was once again able to buy the children the clothes they needed. The next year, Odette increased the amount land where she grew beans.
“I thought big when I expanded the amount of land for bean-growing; I was no longer worried about the harvest shortage. Since I was secure with having enough beans for food at home, I planned to sell my surplus to pay for our needs in the future,” Odette says.
In 2013, Odette’s dreams came true. That year, she sold her bean surplus and purchased a goat for $13 USD. That goat has since produced three more goats. Odette is still raising all of them, though she is planning to sell two of them in September to buy Christmas clothes for her children.
“My harvest store room never runs out of beans. Even better, there are no more tears from any of my kids because we don’t have beans for dinner. When I chose to grow beans those years ago, I knew I made the right choice!” Odette says.
If you're interested in helping farmers like Odette grow their way out of hunger and poverty, apply to join the One Acre Fund field team today!
Louis Terren had been working for corporations for almost five years when he came across One Acre Fund in an article about non-profit careers. He immediately visited the website, and after reading about the organization’s impressive impact, decided to apply to the new country expansion team.
Here, Louis shares his experiences working on One Acre Fund’s first-ever pilot in East Asia, and offers some sound advice for would-be applicants interested in applying to work with One Acre Fund.
What does it mean to be a New Country Scout for One Acre Fund?
Being a new country scout means being professionally curious, driven and adaptable. My role is exciting and energizing, but also requires flexibility and a willingness to see an unconventional set up as an adventure rather than a barrier. Initially, during my first three weeks in-country, I worked out of a hotel room and traveled to the field everyday on a Honda scooter. These days, I still spend a lot of time in the field, studying the market and checking that our strategy makes sense. It can be tricky though, because now I also interview candidates to build our Myanmar team, and am responsible for office and administrative work, which must be done after I get back from the field. Pilot teams are small, so people often carry a wide range of responsibilities, but we also get to work on a lot of new and exciting projects at once…it’s a trade-off!
Can you tell us more about One Acre Fund’s early-stage work in Myanmar?
One Acre Fund is running a pilot program in Myanmar. We’re based in Pyay, a town in Bago province, along the Irrawaddy River. Here, farmers mostly grow rice during the monsoon season and beans and sesame in the dry season. I flew down here four months ago to launch the pilot.
Our goal for this pilot is to test whether One Acre Fund’s model could increase farmer incomes significantly in Myanmar. We’re specifically interested in trying to raise farm profitability for smallholder farmers through yield increase and credit cost reduction. Farmers in Myanmar cultivate many different crops, but the most common crop in the Bago region where we’re located is rice. Unfortunately, rice has not been a very profitable crop for farmers here due to low yields and high costs of labor. So we are piloting a fertilizer loan program at low interest rates to give farmers the opportunity to earn greater profits by increasing the productivity of their land.
What is team Myanmar working on at the moment?
This week, farmers are forming groups to enroll in our program, so I’m in the field everyday with our field director and field officers.
If you were to stop by our office in town, you’d meet Joseph, my agronomist colleague, who is preparing our cultivation training curriculum in Burmese, and Gloria, our accountant, who is closing the books for March and setting up our CRM system. Later this year, we’re planning to research and potentially launch other interventions, such as mechanization, access to markets, cash crops, and an open research station for seed selection and agronomy trials.
What are the priorities for the Myanmar pilot moving forward?
One Acre Fund has a decade of experience in field operations serving farm families; we hope to leverage our learnings and systems from East Africa to replicate our impactful programs in the Burmese context. The fundamentals are similar: 70 percent of the population are farmers with very low yields, and who pay very high interest rates to invest in inputs for their farms.
Interestingly, unlike many of our customers in East Africa, most Burmese farmers do not struggle to grow enough to feed their families year-round. However, farmers unfortunately aren’t generating enough profits from their activities to improve their quality of life and achieve financial security. Farmers rely heavily on very high interest rate credits to cover emergency and living expenses between harvests. Our priority is to create programs that can raise farmer annual revenues so that they can build a financial safety net and break free of this debt cycle.
What is your favorite thing about working for One Acre Fund?
I love our complete focus on impact. The organization is very effective at changing farmers’ lives in Africa, and it’s an extremely rewarding project to be part of. I hope we will achieve the same with Burmese farmers.
What has been the biggest lesson you've learned so far at One Acre Fund?
“Success is in the details” is my motto these days. In One Acre Fund jargon it’s called “zooming in”, meaning project managers need to go deep into the operational details to make sure their strategy is implementable. Often times, an idea makes sense on paper and looks promising, but it fails in the field because of simple logistical things like “farmers can’t read” or “you can’t carry 200 kilograms of fertilizer on one motorbike.” One Acre Fund has a culture of building the strategy from the field up, starting with farmer surveys and focus groups, then building up into excel models, and then back down into a field trial, and back up for analysis and strategic pivots. In my opinion, it’s this constant back-and-forth between the field and the drawing board that has made the organization excellent at execution.
Do you have any advice for candidates applying to one of our roles in Myanmar?
Pack your hobbies in your suitcase and start learning Burmese! But in all seriousness, if you’re interested in a career that combines professional rigor with a little bit of risk and a lot of impact potential, I highly recommend applying to a role on our new country scouting team.
We are proud to report that 2015 was a strong year for impact with some key improvements from 2014.
Improvements Across the Board
We look at our impact on farmer profit in three main ways:
1. Percent gain in farmer profit: This is the percent increase in an average One Acre Fund farmer’s profit, compared to a non-One Acre Fund farmer’s profit on One Acre Fund sup- ported activities. We measure income for both groups on all products and services we offer, including “add-on” products such as solar lights. Burundi tends to have a higher percent improvement because farmers there are relatively poorer, so an extra dollar represents a larger percent improvement. The opposite is true for wealthier countries, like Kenya. In 2015, we increased farmer profit by 55 percent across our program, surpassing our expected impact of 50 percent.
2. Absolute dollar gain in farmer profit: This is the absolute dollar increase in an average One Acre Fund farmer’s profit, compared to a non-One Acre Fund farmer’s profit on One Acre Fund supported activities. Kenya tends to have higher dollar gains relative to other countries due to its stronger economy. Our current goal is $135 USD per farmer per year, and in 2015, our absolute dollar impact per farmer averaged $137 USD, slightly above target.
3. Farmer return on investment (ROI): This is the extra profit a One Acre Fund farmer makes (relative to a comparison farmer) for every extra dollar she invests in our program (also relative to a comparison farmer). A 100 percent ROI means that our client received $1 USD of extra income (profit) for every $1 USD of extra cost invested. In 2015, we surpassed our goal of 100 percent, achieving a 300 percent ROI.
Understanding 2015 Impact
Our average impact improvement was attributable to several factors. We saw a much greater maize impact in Kenya, our largest country operation. In 2014 we measured an average of 20 percent improvement in One Acre Fund maize harvests compared to non-One Acre Fund land, but in 2015 this jumped to a 40 percent increase. Total yields were lower in 2015, but it could be that proper planting techniques and use of inputs is even more impactful in a tougher agronomic environment. In addition, we saw big impacts for maize and potatoes in Burundi relative to comparison farmers, who had a much worse harvest than the prior season. We suspect that One Acre Fund farmers were better able to cope with the irregular rains than their neighbors.
Rwanda saw a slight decline in impact relative to non-One Acre Fund farmers in 2015. Some crops, like potatoes, did worse relative to 2014, and farmer package size reduced by 25 percent, both of which contributed to the decrease. It is also worth noting that our direct service model has increasing competition as we work with the government to affect farmers country-wide through a national farmer-training program and agrodealer (agricultural input store) network. Tanzania had a slight decline in impact largely due to poorer harvests on clients’ land planted with non-program techniques and supplies.
In 2015 we continued to refine our analysis of impact. Where possible, we used a statistical technique called propensity score matching to help control for any differences (such as wealth, education, and gender) between One Acre Fund farmers and comparison farmers. We also conducted a study looking at whether taking a One Acre Fund loan led farmers to increase their overall cultivation in Kenya and Tanzania (our two countries with relatively more land availability) and made adjustments based on those findings.
In Kenya, we also took a rigorous look at “program spillover,” the program benefit experienced by non-enrolled farmers who might use One Acre Fund farming practices. Analyzing data from our Kenya program for both 2014 and 2015, we found that non-clients in “old” One Acre Fund sites, where our methods are more pervasive, had an increase of about 200 pounds of maize per acre. While spillover makes it more difficult for us to assess our impact, we are thrilled to learn that farmers who have not taken One Acre Fund loans might still benefit from learning new agriculture techniques from One Acre Fund farmers.
Expanding Our Definition of Impact
In 2015, we began investigating a more holistic understanding of impact, looking at One Acre Fund’s impact on farmer quality of life and soil health. In the future, we will issue a detailed impact report that will discuss these studies, as well as our efforts to understand the social return on our investments. (Click here for more information on One Acre Fund’s long-term impact.)
Help us continue to improve and refine our impact measurement methdology. Apply now to become a One Acre Fund M&E associate!
A tangled mass of vegetation and knobby stalks stretches from floor to ceiling, each vine reaching to grow just a little taller. Conrad Lukoye bobs and weaves through the stalks, hidden except for the occasional flash of his baby blue button-down shirt. This is Luuya, Kenya’s newest jungle—and Conrad is one of 19 farmers who owns it.
One Acre Fund farmer Conrad Lukoye
Conrad, 34, didn’t used to own much. Aside from his three-room, mud-walled house, he owned a half-acre of land, and a few small hand hoes he would use to till and farm the soil each year. Most years, he would plant maize and harvest only enough to last his family for a few months before he would need to start purchasing food at the local market. Money was hard to come by for Conrad, so his family would often skip meals to get by until the next year’s harvest.
Looking at Conrad today, he is relaxed. His wife and four children are healthy, and there are signs of plenty all around their compound. Untarnished chicken wire fences in a bobbing sea of poultry, keeping them from pecking at the newly harvested bean bushels that blanket the ground in front of his door. The kitchen is stocked with pots, spoons, salt, and oil; and the old wooden furniture is now decorated with handmade lace coverings.
“I’m not so poor right now,” Conrad says. “ There is something in my pocket, and I can afford three meals a day, which was not the case before. This year, I can even afford to send my children to private school.”
The changes Conrad has seen have happened gradually over the last three years, but he says they all link back to a single decision.
At the end of 2011, his wife, Eunice, had started taking a course to receive a diploma in teaching. Eunice had never been employed before, and the couple knew that if she were able to earn an income, it might just be the leverage they needed to help pull their family out of poverty.
Unfortunately, not even a month in, Eunice and Conrad were faced with a painful decision: spend money on her classes or buy food for their children. They opted for food. Eunice was allowed to continue attending the course, but she was told she would not be awarded her official diploma until their debt was cleared.
Around the same time, Conrad was also trying to find a way to afford the supplies he needed to plant on his farm. Because they had been investing in Eunice’s education, their finances were at an all-time low.
Out of desperation, Conrad decided to enroll with One Acre Fund. He had heard the organization would provide him with planting supplies on credit, and that he could pay his loan
off later in the year. He was nervous about taking on more debt, but he didn’t see any other options. A few months later, Conrad says his world changed.
“I saw my mistakes. I realized the planting techniques I used before One Acre Fund were wrong. I had only ever known one type of seed before. Through One Acre Fund, I learned there were different varieties of seed, and I saw that certain types grew better in different conditions,” Conrad says.
For twenty-odd years, Conrad had been planting the wrong seed—and not because he had made the wrong decision. He had been planting the wrong seed because it was the only seed available to him. Enrolling with One Acre Fund gave him access to options and information, which allowed him to make choices about which kind of seed to buy. This was the first time Conrad had ever had the opportunity to make this kind of decision, and it made him hopeful.
In the fall of 2012, Conrad harvested twice as much as he ever had before. That year, he had enough food to feed his family without skipping meals. He was also able to sell some of his maize to pay the debt for Eunice’s certification, which meant she could start working and earning money. This was their breakthrough.
In 2013, Conrad enrolled with One Acre Fund again—this time with business on his mind. He had seen how investing the money he earned from selling his harvest could generate an income and improve his family’s livelihood over time.
He attended all the available trainings with One Acre Fund about planting and seed types, and decided to try a different variety of seed that year. By harvest time that year, his yield was up even more than the year before. After harvesting 2,380 pounds of maize, he began to plan.
Conrad had heard that his county government was going to give six farmer groups the materials to build greenhouses if they could demonstrate teamwork, strong farming skills, and money to invest. Conrad organized with his neighbors, the majority of whom were also One Acre Fund farmers, to form a group and apply to receive a greenhouse. They named themselves the Horticultural Trade and Marketing Group, or HOTMA.
Soon after, they were granted a greenhouse, and a business was born. Over the last two years, the HOTMA group has invested money from their maize harvests to grow a forest of tomatoes. Ducking between the rows and vines to survey the results of his vision, Conrad explains their choices.
“The controlled conditions in the greenhouse are more favorable for growing tomatoes than the outside climate here, so the tomatoes are healthier and grow faster. The greenhouse also protects them from pests, so we’re able to save money by not having to buy pesticides to protect them,” Conrad says.
The HOTMA greenhouse grows more than 600 individual tomato plants and generates enough income for each farmer to take some home and still continue to invest. Conrad has invested his profits in poultry as a second income-generating business.
“The knowledge that we got from One Acre Fund made it possible for us to run our greenhouse,” Conrad says. “My next dream is to buy a cow. I also want to lease another piece of land where I can plant Napier grass, which is used for grazing cows, and then I hope to start a dairy business.”
The income Conrad has made from his portion of the greenhouse sales has also allowed him to enroll his children in private school. His three school-aged children now attend Sunset Academy, a private school down the road that guarantees smaller class sizes and has a record of high performance. Conrad knows that this school is an investment in Noel, Eugenia, and Aurelia’s futures.
“They already know what they want to be when they grow up, so I just want them to follow their dreams. Noel wants to be a teacher. Eugenia wants to be a doctor. I have a brother who is a doctor. When he comes around she sits next to him and asks him so many questions about what he does. And then Aurelia wants to be a policewoman,” Conrad says.
While touring around the HOTMA greenhouse, Conrad talks about how the lattices help encourage the tomatoes to climb high and grow strong. Like the tomatoes he tends to daily, Conrad says what he and his family needed all along was a little boost.
“The greenhouse is a sign of hope to everyone in the community,” Conrad says. “To them, it is a symbol of prosperity because when people look at the success that the HOTMA group has had, they realize that they too can achieve a lot through hard work and cooperation.”
ONE ACRE FUND EXPANDS SMALLHOLDER FARMER SERVICES TO MALAWI AND UGANDA
BUNGOMA, Kenya, May 4, 2016 — One Acre Fund, a nonprofit agriculture organization that supplies smallholder farmers with the financing and training they need to increase their incomes and food security, today announced the official opening of its Malawi and Uganda operations. Malawi and Uganda began as pilots in 2013 and 2014 respectively. One Acre Fund now serves 400,000 smallholder farmers—with an estimated two million people in those households—across East and Southern Africa.
“The majority of the world’s poor are hard-working smallholder farmers who can reach their full potential with access to finance, training, and services,” said Andrew Youn, One Acre Fund’s founder and executive director. “I’m thrilled to announce that One Acre Fund is now able to serve smallholder farmers in Malawi and Uganda and we will continue to grow our program until no farmer goes hungry.”
Participating farmers in the One Acre Fund program receive a complete bundle of agricultural inputs and services on credit, including the delivery of high-quality seeds and fertilizer, training on how to maximize crop yields, and education on how to minimize post-harvest losses. To accommodate clients, One Acre Fund offers a flexible repayment system: Farmers may make payments toward loans in any amount and at any time during the growing season as long as they complete repayment by the season’s end. In 2015, 99 percent of One Acre Fund farmers repaid their loans in full and on time.
One Acre Fund is currently working with 2,600 farmers in the Zomba, Mulanje, and Chiradzulu districts of Malawi and 3,700 farmers in the Jinja and Kamuli districts of Uganda. Loan packages vary depending on the size of land registered; farmers may enroll as little as half an acre of land. To be eligible for a loan, farmers are required to submit a small down payment of the total loan, meet regularly with a local One Acre Fund field officer, and attend in-person agricultural trainings.
Founded in 2006 in western Kenya, One Acre Fund works with more than 400,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda, and anticipates it will serve one million farmers by 2020.
About One Acre Fund
One Acre Fund supplies smallholder farmers with the financing and training they need to grow their way out of hunger and poverty. Through a complete bundle of services offered on credit, the organization distributes quality farm inputs to the remote areas where farmers live, trains farmers on agriculture techniques, and educates them on how to minimize post-harvest losses and maximize market prices. The organization was founded in Bungoma, Kenya in 2006 and serves 400,000 smallholder farmers across Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda. Follow @oneacrefund on social media or visit www.oneacrefund.org for more information.
Lillian Onyango, One Acre Fund | email@example.com | +254 723-266-111 (Kenya)
May 02, 2016
"I felt farming was a punishment. It was work for the poor people, those without any other alternative in life." Sofia Katende says.
For most of her life, Sofia Katende felt she had no choice. Her one-acre farm in Kasambira, Uganda was her sole source of income, but produced very little because she could never afford quality seed and fertilizer at the time of year when she needed to plant. Come harvest time, she faced the same dilemma every year: store her maize for several months to later sell it at a higher price—but risk major harvest losses from pests and rodents—or sell her maize immediately after harvest at a throw-away price.
“My life had stagnated. Nothing I tried worked.” Sofia says.
As a mother of four children, Sofia depended on income from her harvest to pay for her children’s education. Her eldest son, George, was in his final years of high school and Sofia couldn’t bear to watch him stay at home.
“I worried about my son’s performance at school. He had to miss so many days,” Sofia says.
Sofia with a One Acre Fund field officer
Sofia desperately needed a change. She planted a small plot with One Acre Fund. Together with her neighbors, she learned new planting techniques, including seed spacing and how to microdose fertilizer. The results were clear: from two pounds of seed, Sofia harvested 770 pounds of maize, more than three times her normal harvest. In 2015, Sofia learned how to reduce her post-harvest losses with improved storage techniques to ward off pests. Five months later, the price for maize at the market had increased 75% as maize became harder to come by. Sofia took advantage of the demand and sold her surplus.
Sofia and her son George
With the money she earned from selling her surplus, Sofia was finally able to pay George’s school fees. She also had enough money left over to open a shop at her market, where she transacts mobile money and earns a profit through the transaction fees. And recently, Sofia bought a refrigerator and placed it in her shop so she could sell cold water and passion fruit juice to thirsty customers.
Sofia with her new refrigerator in her shop
For Sofia, it feels like a new beginning.
“I want to be the best farmer in my village and provide the best for my children. When my children grow up, I want them to remember me as a hard-working mother,” Sofia says with a smile. Her plan is to send George who is going for his final high school examinations this year, to university next year.
Thinking about her success last season and what she hopes to accomplish next season, Sofia has realized that she doesn’t need any other alternative. Farming is no longer a punishment: it is her best bet to achieve her full potential.