Affordable Agricultural Loans and Training Available to Farmers in Western and Nyanza
BUNGOMA, Kenya, Sept. 27, 2016 — One Acre Fund, a nonprofit agriculture organization that offers farming inputs and training on credit to smallholder farmers, today announced open enrollment for the 2017 long rain growing season in Kenya. 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 55 percent.
Loan package values range from 4,000 to 15,000 Kenyan shillings ($40 to $148) for new farmers and up to 27,500 shillings ($272) for returning farmers. One Acre Fund’s service bundle is available to smallholder farmers in selected counties in Western and Nyanza, Kenya.
One Acre Fund delivers all products to a drop-off point within walking distance of farmers’ homes and leads regular in-person training sessions so that farmers can maximize the benefit from the products they receive. Farmers in the program also have access to full-time field officers employed by One Acre Fund, a customer-care hotline, and local staff throughout Western and Nyanza in Kenya. One Acre Fund offers a flexible repayment system: Farmers may repay loans in any amount at any time during the growing season.
"One Acre Fund Kenya is excited to offer farmers its most affordable package yet,” said Kiette Tucker, One Acre Fund Kenya country director. “Enrollment for the program is officially open, and we're looking to serve more new farmers than ever before."
One Acre Fund’s loan packages vary depending on farmers’ preferences. Farmers may enroll as little as a quarter of an acre of land, or choose to take non-agricultural products entirely. In Kenya, One Acre Fund provides a maximum of one loan package per household. To join One Acre Fund this season, farmers must sign up before October 21. To qualify to receive inputs, farmers are required to pay at least 500 Kenyan shillings toward their loan by December 31, 2016. They are expected to complete loan repayment in full by the end of harvest time, or no later than September 3, 2017.
Farmers may enroll for the following core products on credit from One Acre Fund: seeds for maize, beans and onions, fertilizer, additional topdressing fertilizer, solar lights, cook stoves, drying tarps, crop storage bags, PICS bags, actellic dust, reusable sanitary pads, and compost boosters. Every farmer will be required to take the client support bundle, which includes trainings, funeral insurance, a grevillea tree package, and sukuma wiki seeds. Returning farmers will also be able to enroll for a Solar Home System.
“When I enrolled with One Acre Fund in 2011, I harvested 15 bags of maize, three times more than before, and I have kept on harvesting more ever since,” said Andrew Murefu, a smallholder farmer in Nang’eni, Bungoma County. “With my harvests, I have been able to educate my children, and I’m now sure they will find good jobs and be able to support their own families.”
Farmer Inquiries: One Acre Fund Kenya Enrollment toll free number 0800723355.
Representatives available Monday through Friday (8am – 5pm) and Saturday (8am – 11am).
Kija Katemana hadn’t ever owned much. The 36-year-old single mother of four rented both her house and a small plot of land in rural Tanzania. The little income she earned from farming and selling baked samosas in town went entirely toward food and trying to pay her children’s school fees. She always felt as if she didn’t have much to show for her years of hard work.
Each year, Kija hoped to harvest enough maize to do more than pay the rent on her land again the following year. However, her three-acre farm plot rarely produced more than 10 sacks of maize – not enough to feed her family or generate extra money to change her status quo.
“Life was a real challenge then,” Kija says. “Sometimes we’d go the night without a meal. There were even times when I would have a little money from work that day, but I couldn’t find food to buy.”
In late 2013, Kija learned One Acre Fund was operating in her village. She heard they would provide agricultural training to help farmers improve their yields. So, she took a gamble and enrolled.
“I had only ever used local seed, and I had no idea how to space anything when I planted,” Kija says. “I sometimes would use a little fertilizer as well, but I didn’t know how much was correct to use.”
It turned out that One Acre Fund’s training would be the key she had been missing to improving her yields. When harvest time rolled around in 2014, she produced 20 sacks of maize from one acre of land. Kija was in disbelief.
Since then, she’s continued to plant with One Acre Fund year after year, and slowly she has started to alter her finances.
“My family can eat as many times a day as we like now,” Kija says. “My kids now are joyful knowing they’ll always come home to a meal. Before One Acre Fund, meat at our house was unheard of, but now we can have it any time we want.”
Not only has Kija been able to provide food for her family year-round, but she’s also made investments. In 2014, she sold a portion of her harvest and bought her own quarter acre of farm land. The next year, she built her own house. Between the two purchases, she’s now saving roughly $12 each month that she used to spend on rent.
“With that money, I’ve now been able to take all four of my children to school,” Kija says.
She also has grown her samosa-baking operation. She produces roughly double what she could before because she can afford to buy more ingredients upfront.
“Before I thought my life would be one of hardship, but thanks to One Acre Fund, I feel free of that life now,” Kija says. “I feel very confident that I am able to take care of my children, unlike before. The future I see ahead is now bright.”
In a new partnership with ONE campaign, we’ll be following a small community called Luucho in Western Kenya through the agricultural season. From planting to harvest, we will check in with the villagers of Luucho every month to learn about the choices and decisions their families must make as they seek to suvive the hunger season in rural Kenya. To view the original post, click here.
About 250 miles northwest of Nairobi, Kenya, the sun rises over Luucho, a quiet village nestled between large granite boulders. At the centre of the village, there is an outdoor market where three orange, dusty roads intersect, bordered by thick and thorny vegetation.
In the morning, the market begins to stir as the first of the vendors arrive to unlock their booths and restock their shelves. Later in the day, the vendors will be busy counting change and wrapping items in recycled newspapers. Until then, they work quickly to prepare for their customers and try to stay out of the sun’s increasingly punishing heat.
Residents of Luucho gather at a water pump to collect water to take to their homes, most of which do not have running water.
On the outskirts of the market lives 66-year-old David Wanangeiye, one of the village elders responsible for solving minor disputes in the community. Also trying to escape the sun’s wrath, David takes refuge under a lone tree outside his mud-walled home.
“This has been an extraordinary year. I’ve never experienced a year as hot as this in my whole life,” David says, his eyes gazing up toward the sky. “But I can see signs of the coming rain everywhere now.”
A woman farms her rocky field in Luucho, Kenya.
Like many smallholder farmers in Luucho, David depends solely on the rain to water his crops. In an ordinary season, the rains start somewhere between late February and early March with most farmers planting seeds by mid-March. This year, the fields sit empty, waiting, while farmers anxiously await the return of the rains. It’s now late March.
“My grandfather taught me that if the rain pours heavily at night, then it’s time to start planting. Every night before bed I walk outside and look to the sky searching for dark clouds,” David says. “I pray the rains start soon because if not, then this whole village will lack food in a few months.”
Signs around Luucho village.
Ironically, lack of food is a common struggle for farmers in western Kenya. The majority of farmers run out of food three to four months after harvesting, leading to a period of food insecurity that lasts until the next year’s harvest is mature. This period is commonly referred to as wanjala in Bukusu, the local dialect; it means “hunger season.” During this time, farmers and their families will rely on a cup of tea or porridge in place of a meal.
Wanjala is still vivid in Shalene Simiyu’s mind. Shalene lives about 300 feet east of David’s home and could never grow enough food to make it through the entire year. Usually, Shalene managed to harvest just one bag of maize from her half-acre farm, and this single sack of food would only last her family of six for two months. For the rest of the year, her family would be limited to one meal a day.
“When we had no food in the evening, I would give my children a cup of water and then ask them to go to sleep. But they could not sleep because their stomachs were hungry, so I had to stay awake the whole night trying to calm them down,” Shalene says.
One Acre Fund field officer Salate Oteba hands out planting trainings to Shalene (far left) and her neighbors as part of a One Acre Fund crop training.
In 2009, Shalene bought seed and fertiliser from One Acre Fund, a nonprofit social enterprise that delivers farm inputs on credit to farmers in remote areas of East Africa and trains them on how to increase farm productivity and income.
Armed with new agricultural knowledge and supplies, Shalene increased her harvest that season to an astounding eight bags of maize. With this food, she was able to defeat the hunger season and feed her family for the full year. Since then, she has continued to improve her crop yields, and says she even has a surplus that she can share with her neighbours.
Shalene Simiyu and her daughter Lenise Nafulasit together in their house in Luucho.
“All I wanted was to give my children a good life. I’m now happy when I see them smiling and happy because I’m able to provide them with at least three meals in a day,” Shalene says. “I pray for rains so that I’m able to continue producing enough food for my family.”
At half past noon, a distant gong signals lunchtime at Luucho primary school. As her children arrive home, Shalene quickly moves to the kitchen and starts serving a meal of rice and beans. She is soon joined by Christine Nanjala, her immediate neighbour and friend. The two friends chat happily as they arrange the plates on the table.
Residents of Luucho travel primarily by foot or bicycle.
According to Christine, a meal of rice and beans is common for this time of year in many Luucho households. Since onset of the dry season three months ago, green vegetables have become scarce and expensive. Villagers now depend on other foods that can be dried and stored, and beans fit the bill.
“During the dry season, all the farms in this village are empty, so our options become limited. I’m looking forward to the start of the rains because then there will be plenty of fresh vegetables in the farm for us to choose from,” Christine says, Shalene nodding in agreement.
Shalene’s children (from left) Laban Wanyonyi, Mark Wekesa, and Getrine Nasimiyu eat a lunch of rice and beans at home in Luucho.
Shalene and Christine clear the table after the children finish lunch, and the two women prepare to head out in the heat to the market where Shalene sells clothes, fish, and mangoes.
Unlike the morning, the market is now abuzz with activity. Sellers and their customers bargain to get the best price. Music booms from several shops, and a growing line forms at the cereals mill, where parents wait their turn to grind grains into flour for porridge. Unexpectedly, a cool breeze sweeps through and the whole market pauses for a moment. Everyone looks to the sky, hoping—perhaps today will be the day when the rain finally returns.
Want to know if the rain finally falls over Luucho? Check back next month for part two of this year’s harvest series.