BLOG Archive: November 2015


Carving a Better Future

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Nov 27, 2015 Category: Farmer Profile Tags: business harvest kenya smallholder

One Acre Fund is seeking passionate, mission-driven professionals to serve smallholder farmers. Visit our jobs page and apply for a field role in Kenya today!

In the sweltering heat of the midday sun, a man sits in the shade of a huge tree at the far corner of his home. He works in silence, swinging a machete up and down, chipping and scrubbing at stone sculptures. On his right, finished pieces are arranged in a semicircle.

"I can't believe it is almost fall again because last year at this time I was on the brink of giving up," Oganga Onzhangwa says. "Life was difficult, and I did not believe I would last for three more months."

Oganga Onzhangwa of Bokimai, Kenya.

Oganga, a farmer in Bokimai, Kenya, had serious concerns this time last year. Approaching the end of the year, only four pounds of his 297-pound maize harvest from August remained. The four pounds would only last his family of six for two more meals. After that, Oganga knew that until his next harvest, which was still 10 months away, his family would be without food.

In his pocket he had the equivalent of USD $5, the remainder of his savings, and knew he had a big decision to make. He could either buy food (enough for just two meals) or invest the money in something new.

In the end Oganga chose the latter. He used half of his remaining funds to enroll with One Acre Fund, to receive seed and fertilizer on credit. With the remaining few bills, he went to the nearby quarry, bought a few kilograms of soapstone, and started carving.

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Ogango working on his stone carvings

However, things were not immediately successful in his new soapstone sculpture business. After working from morning to evening, he still only earned a few dollars every day. With this money, Oganga would buy food and use the rest to buy more soapstone the next day. He was not able to save anything.

"I was like the family granary, and my family looked to me to provide food every day. I could not afford to fall sick because that would mean starvation for my family," Oganga says.

Over the course of this difficult period, Oganga's hope rested on the fact that he had enrolled with One Acre Fund. He felt relief knowing he didn't need to worry about raising money to buy seed and fertilizer during planting. These supplies were delivered near his home and on time without him spending any additional money upfront. He also hoped for a better harvest after learning new planting techniques in One Acre Fund's field trainings.

Oganga's dream for a better harvest finally came true in July this year. From just a quarter-acre of land, he harvested 992 pounds of maize — a 70% increase from his previous harvest!

His harvest couldn't have come at more suitable time, as later that month, his children were facing the threat of being sent home from school for failure to pay their examination fees. If the children's fees weren't paid, they could no longer attend their classes. Oganga sold a portion of his harvest and was able to cover the fees on the spot.

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Oganga with his children Ruben Mwangu (middle) and Josephine Moraa (right).

Oganga has saved the rest of his harvest and uses it for his family's food. With the money from his art, he is now able to buy more soapstone, produce even more pieces, and earn even more income.

"Previously I was desperate, and so I accepted any amount customers offered because if I declined my family would sleep hungry. But now I earn the right value for my work because I only sell for the right price," Oganga says, smiling as he tiptoes through soapstone chippings. Carefully, he settles his latest carving alongside several of his other works.

With enough food in his home, Oganga is now able to save his profits. Someday he plans to rent a big room at the market where he can display his soapstone sculptures and hopefully attract even more customers.

One Acre Fund is seeking passionate, mission-driven professionals to serve smallholder farmers. Visit our jobs page and apply for a field role in Kenya today!


The Access Challenge in Rural Kenya

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Nov 19, 2015 Category: Farmer Profile Market Access Tags: access distribution kenya smallholder

Grace Khasoa insists she’s too old to wake up early. “I’m very old, so I wake up at seven in the morning now.” Grace, a widow, lives alone with her granddaughter, Gladwin. Her five children are all adults, with homes and families of their own.

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Grace Khasoa.

At 67, Grace’s age means some things are more difficult for her. “Growing old means I’m no longer as strong as I used to be!” she says. “A place that would take me thirty minutes to reach now takes forty minutes or even one hour. Old age brings a lot of challenges.”

One thing that has gotten easier, though, is Grace’s ability to access farm inputs. That’s because in 2011, she enrolled with One Acre Fund, and has been receiving farm inputs delivered within walking distance of her farm in Mulimani village ever since.

It used to take Grace Khasoa one and half-hours by vehicle to get to the nearest town to buy farm inputs.

Before joining One Acre Fund, Grace would travel to Webuye to purchase seed and fertilizer. Webuye, the nearest town that sold the inputs she needed, was located one and half-hours away by car. Forced to spend precious time and money just to transport her inputs, Grace was barely able to make ends meet, let alone invest in her farm. 

Grace’s explanation of how challenging it is to access the goods and services she needs is deeply personal, but her experiences are not uncommon for smallholder farmers living in rural Kenya. In the following interview, Grace puts a human face on the access challenge in rural Kenya.

One Acre Fund delivers inputs to your village, within walking distance of your farm. How did you feel when you had to travel far to get inputs?

When I had to buy inputs in Webuye, I would waste a lot of time on the road. It was very far away, and sometimes I did not plant maize because I did not have money to go to Webuye.

When I could afford to go to Webuye, I always felt that I was supposed to be happy that I was getting inputs, but just the thought that I had to go very far to get them made me feel tired even before I started the journey.

When I joined One Acre Fund, the delivery site was brought even closer to me. All I have to do is to walk to the place! This has saved me money and time.

For people who don't live in the village, can you explain to them why having inputs delivered near your home is so helpful?

When One Acre Fund brings the inputs to us, near our homes, they save us a lot of the energy and resources we would spend getting inputs from places that are very far away.

People who live in the village are poor people who depend on the little they have to survive. Being able to buy and transport something like maize seed to plant is not easy.

Also, the terrain is not like the terrain in urban areas. Here, a place that is one kilometer away takes a longer time to reach because one has to cross rivers and climb mountains, not just walk down a road.

What prompted you to join One Acre Fund?

In this land, we as Luhya people love ugali. When that is not available, we feel very bad. It’s like just taking tea— without tea, you don’t have energy to do anything.

Life before One Acre Fund was very hard because I did not have ready access to inputs like maize seed or fertilizer. I used to harvest two bags of maize on a half-acre of land, which was not enough to feed my granddaughter and me. I would go to the markets to buy sweet potatoes and other vegetables, but the market was far, and it was an additional expense.

After I joined One Acre Fund in 2011, life changed for the better. The first year that I planted with One Acre Fund, I harvested nine bags of maize. This year I have harvested my maize but have not shelled it yet, but I am confident. I now regularly grow enough maize to feed myself and also pay school fees for my granddaughter.

 

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Before One Acre Fund, Grace used to hire a taxi to take her to get inputs in Webuye.

How frequently do you travel to Webuye now?

When I’m ok, I can go there just once a month to do my monthly shopping. I also buy things that my granddaughter needs, like textbooks and school items. It’s very far and also expensive, but I can’t get that stuff in the village.

When I’m sick though, I have to go there every week to buy medicine and get seen by the doctor.

Tell us more about your granddaughter.

Gladwin is 15 years, in form 2 in High School. She wants to be an engineer. She is motivated to be a civil engineer because she wants to make the roads in our village better since they are in a bad state. She has a hard time getting to school sometimes, especially when it rains since the roads are not passable.

Do you ever find yourself asking for help to get what you need?

When I have money I sometimes pay people to come and help with chores, like going to the river and splitting firewood. I’m glad One Acre Fund has the group system— my group members help me with the digging on my farm.

Asking for help makes me feel good and bad at the same time. I feel good because I can rest and save on time, and bad because I have to spend money to get the help that I need.

 

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Many farmers living in remote areas of East Africa must travel long distances on foot for basic necessities such as medical care.

What is the number one thing you wish was closer to your home, and why?

We have an M-pesa around here, but it would be nice to also have a bank. But what I would really love is to have a better hospital and chemist where I buy my medicine closer to my home. The hospital here and the chemist don’t always have what I need, so I have to travel to Webuye to get medicine.

For an old woman like me, it can be scary at times. Imagine a situation where I fall sick at night or during the day and I’m all alone.  How will I get to the hospital? Once, one of my neighbor’s children almost died because she could not get medicine and proper medical care in time. As a mother, I felt so much pain on her behalf.

Help solve the access gap in rural Kenya. Apply to be a program associate on our Kenya team!


On World Food Day, Farmers Should Come First

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Nov 19, 2015 Category: Policy Tags: agriculture development sdgs smallholder

This blog was written by David Hong, and published originally in The Christian Science Monitor. To view the original piece, click here.

Last month, world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly to agree on a set of lofty “global goals”—officially known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—which set measurable targets to solve the world’s biggest challenges. This isn’t the first time world leaders have set ambitious targets – the SDGs built on the Millennium Development Goals that were created 15 years ago.

While the global goals present a daunting task, we already know how to make progress on many of them simultaneously: invest in smallholder farmers.

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Smallholder farmer Agnes Mukamana, with her healthy maize cobs.

End poverty (goal 1), and end hunger (goal 2) will only be achieved by supporting farmers. Smallholder farmers are the largest group of people in the world living in poverty. This presents a tremendous opportunity, because economic growth in agriculture is estimated to be two to four times more powerful at reducing poverty than growth in other sectors. As smallholders become more productive, they’re able to invest in new business opportunities, increase their purchasing power, build resilience, and save for the future.

To end hunger, the UN estimates that the world will need to produce 60 percent more food by 2050 than it does today. Smallholder farmers are perfectly positioned to meet that need – they already produce 70 percent of the food we consume. While yields are maximized in most regions, studies show that farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa only achieve 20-30 percent of possible yields. Africa is the “last frontier” for smallholder farmers to dramatically increase their productivity.

Smallholder farmers can also contribute to significant progress on other global goals, including ensure healthy lives (goal 3), ensure quality education (goal 4), and take care of the earth (goal 15). Research shows that increases in agriculture productivity improves nutrition for children and mothers, particularly in the critical 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. When farmers boost their incomes, they don’t have to clear additional land for agriculture use, and can keep their children in school.

smallholder farmer family after bean harvest

With access to the right tools and services, smallholder farmers can invest in their farms and their families.

In order for smallholder farmers to contribute to meaningful progress on the global goals, they need access to some basic tools and services. The solutions to unlocking greater productivity and incomes for farmers are known. But we need a significant investment of resources from governments, donors, and nonprofits to bring those solutions to the field where smallholder farmers live.

In 2003, all 54 heads of state in the African Union pledged to spend at least 10 percent of their budgets on agriculture and food security. However, over ten years later, most governments are still coming up short. For smallholder farmers to benefit, governments should move past rhetoric and deliver resources directed towards their needs.

Donors can build on that support as well. In the aftermath of the world food price crisis, donor governments stepped up at the L’Aquila G8 Summit and invested in agriculture development on a scale not seen for decades. Fortunately, food markets eventually stabilized, but unfortunately, donor interest waned, and overall funding has been gradually decreasing ever since. It shouldn’t take another crisis for smallholder farmers to get the support they need to make the business of farming productive. Donors need to increase their funding of agriculture development.

Nonprofit organizations play a key role in direct interaction with farmers in the field. My organization, One Acre Fund, supplies over 300,000 smallholder farmers in East Africa with financing, access to seed and fertilizer, village-level trainings, and market facilitation to help them grow their way out of hunger and poverty. Other organizations, such as BRAC and Opportunity International, are doing great work to link farmers to financial services adapted to their needs. HarvestPlus works to improve the nutrition of families living in poverty by ensuring they grow food fortified with key nutrients. These organizations need additional resources to scale up their work to reach millions of additional farmers.

 

farming village in rural rwanda

One Acre Fund makes necessary supplies, including seed and fertilizer, more accessible to smallholder farming villages.

Agriculture is the common thread running through nine of the 17 SDGs, from hunger and poverty to health, education, and the environment. Because smallholder farmers comprise the largest group of people living in poverty, no sector is more vital to achieving the global goals than agriculture. Without farm income, health interventions and access to education will fall flat. And increases in agricultural productivity are key to reducing water use, mitigating climate change, and growing rural economies. The resources available to invest in achieving the global goals are limited. To maximize the impact of our global efforts to achieve the SDGs, the world must prioritize investments in smallholder farmers.


Now Hiring! Logistics and Supply Chain Professionals

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Nov 12, 2015 Category: Roundup Staff Profile Tags: jobs logistics people operations recruitment supply chain

One Acre Fund Logistics and Supply Chain

It was Norman Borlaug who first issued the now-famous directive “take it to the farmer.” At One Acre Fund, we take these words to heart, putting Farmers First in everything we do, and delivering life-altering products and services to the very last mile.

One Acre Fund’s vision for 2020 is to improve the lives of more than 1 million farm families by delivering exemplary services to their doorsteps. To achieve this, our team must grow in both scale and complexity. We need additional high-performing staff members with experience in supply chain logistics and procurement to continue our strong growth trajectory.

If you join the One Acre Fund logistics team, you will have the opportunity to work in a fast-paced environment, surrounded by innovative, mission-driven individuals who are committed to growing and extending our well-established network of thousands of farm families.

Help us fulfill Norman Borlaug's directive and achieve our goal of serving 1 million farmers by 2020! Our team is looking for the following supply chain and logistics-related jobs:

To review all our current job opportunities, please visit our Job Openings section.


Get Your Boots Muddy as a Program Associate in Rwanda

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Nov 11, 2015 Category: Core Program Staff Profile Tags: field staff jobs rwanda

One Acre Fund Rwanda is our second largest country program, currently serving 106,000 clients.  As we prepare to reach 1 million clients across all of our countries of operation by 2020, we anticipate a significant portion of this growth to come from Rwanda.  We’re already aiming to enroll 125,000 clients next season!

To keep pace with this growth, we’re very excited to be growing our team.

One Acre Fund Rwanda Field Team

The field operations team in Rwanda celebrated a big milsetone this past spring: reaching 100,000 clients!

The field operations team works in the closest proximity to our clients, and it has the critical responsibility of delivering excellent service to each and every one of them. Members of the field operations team can expect to get their boots muddy and learn from the farmers we serve every single day.

As a program associate on our team, you will play an integral role in the design, execution and strategy behind One Acre Fund’s core program.  Most importantly, you'll develop valuable leadership skills through management of a regional operation, a business unit of hundreds of staff who serve up to 44,000 clients.  You will not only be responsible for building the capacity of local staff, but will also work with them collaboratively to problem-solve and innovate solutions to serving farmers on a daily basis.

Field operations has the most diverse portfolio of responsibilities of any team at One Acre Fund. This team is also the most uniquely positioned to work directly with farmers. You’ll never forget our mission in this role, which includes exciting and challenging projects like:

  • Development of a rural marketing campaign to recruit and enroll more farmers.
  • Management of a diverse set of systems and processes like seed, fertilizer and solar lamp delivery.
  • Increasing the scale of exciting innovations like mobile technology or new market access opportunities which allow our clients to sell their harvests on the East African market.
  • Improvement of our leadership development and training to create more home-grown leaders. Many of our senior field leadership started as clients or field officers, and you will help provide the professional training and mentorship to help our field leaders advance their careers.
  • Development of customer service initiatives which ensure the delivery of the highest quality customer service to all clients.

One Acre Fund training Rwanda

Rwanda field team members have the opportunity to learn and collaborate both inside and outside of the classroom.

We’re looking for humble leaders who will bring a lot of tenacity and commitment to our incredible team. If living and working in the field, collaborating with and learning from professionals with diverse backgrounds, and testing and executing new and innovative ideas to better serve farmers is your idea of a dream job, we encourage you to submit your application here today!


Bringing “Take it to the Farmer” to the Very Last Mile

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Nov 09, 2015 Category: Core Program Sustainability Tags: farmer trainings kenya staff development

This blog was written by the One Acre Fund training department in Kenya. Click here and apply to become a One Acre Fund training department associate.

More than half a century ago, the Green Revolution transformed much of the world, doubling or even tripling agricultural output and bringing food security and greater prosperity to millions of families.  The unsung heroes of that revolution were agricultural extension (training) agents, traveling by bicycle, motorbike or foot down rural dirt roads, carrying better farming practices and better lives with them. These agents were literally putting Norman Borlaug's famous quote into practice.

One Acre fund farmers in Kenya transport inputs on their bike.

Like many farmers and the extension agents who train them, One Acre Fund farmer Jacqueline Nasonja from Webuye, Kenya relies on a bicycle as a primary mode of transport.

Despite the success of the Green Revolution in Asia and Latin America, it bypassed much of sub-Saharan Africa, where many rural farmers continue to use the same agricultural practices their forefathers used a century or more ago.  Today, university-educated agricultural extension agents with motorbikes or cars continue to travel down dirt roads doing incredible work, but are massively outnumbered by the rural farmers who need them.  In 2006, One Acre Fund founder Andrew Youn saw this mismatch and proposed a different approach.  He realized that in order to bring "take it to the farmer" to the very last mile, a dense network of trainers was needed to communicate complex skills and knowledge quickly and efficiently.

For this role, Andrew envisioned the One Acre Fund field officer, a person like Joy Khisa.  A farmer herself, Joy has always lived in the area of Kenya she serves.  She has no university degree, no white Land Rover, no large salary.  But Joy works with 154 families in her community, meeting them once a week all year round, to train them on topics as diverse as new planting methods, the proper use of reusable sanitary pads, financial planning, and how to maintain your solar light.  Her impact and the impact of One Acre Fund Kenya’s 900 other field officers is incredible: the average One Acre Fund farmer sees approximately 50 percent more income than a similarly-situated non-One Acre Fund farmer.  And Joy isn’t leaving– she will continue to work in her community, meeting the 154 families she works with once a week, every week, for many years to come.  This is sustainable impact at scale.  

one acre fund field officer Joy Khisa

One Acre Fund field officer Joy Khisa delivers a training to a group of farmers in Kenya.

Creating a simple, scalable, efficient training system for field officers like Joy is the responsibility of One Acre Fund’s training department.  Our mission is to empower our field officers to become the most impactful change agents they can be in their communities.  To achieve that goal, we focus on two areas: the information chain and long-term staff development

The Information Chain

One Acre Fund Kenya relies on a robust chain of information to transfer knowledge and skills quickly at scale.  On Monday, training materials are sent to print.  By Tuesday, our nine senior field directors have been trained.  By Wednesday, our 28 field directors have been trained.  By Friday, our 200 field managers have been trained.  By the following Monday, our 900 field officers have been trained.  By the following Tuesday, 136,000 families across Kenya are learning new information and skills. In just over a week, One Acre Fund is able to reach thousands and thousands of families with life-changing knowledge.

To support this chain, we use the One Acre Fund Integrated Training System.  Our training system combines a comprehensive Training of Writers course for curriculum developers, a three-month Training of Trainers course for our field team, field officer work planning tools that translate classroom concepts into a weekly agenda, and an assessment system that tests both field officer and farmer knowledge of our key concepts.  Our training system draws on best practices in adult education and active learning – brainstorming, case studies, roleplays and similar strategies keep our team engaged, thinking critically and ready to solve any unexpected challenge they might encounter in the field.

Staff Development

Our training system doesn’t stop at impactful trainings for farmers, though.  One Acre Fund’s field team is not only for farmers, it’s by farmers as well.  All nine of the senior field directors at the top of our information chain in Kenya started out as field officers– and many started out as farmer clients!

one acre fund training in the field in Kenya.

One Acre Fund farmer trainings involve a high percentage of practical, hands-on learning in the field.

We use a comprehensive staff development curriculum that integrates the three parts of the ‘10/20/70’ model to build skills rapidly through rigorous classroom exercise (10 percent), one-on-one mentorship (20 percent), and practical, real-world experience (70 percent).  Senior field directors may manage over 100 staff, 100,000 US dollars in microfinance loans, and 30,000 clients.

At One Acre Fund, we believe farmers are the key to their own food security, prosperity, and sustainable development.  At the One Acre Fund Training Department, we work every day to help turn that belief into a reality.

Are you an education professional looking to get out in the field? Apply to become a One Acre Fund training associate.


One Acre Fund Announces Promising Growth Projections

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Nov 06, 2015 Category: News Trials Tags: analyst call growth new country pilot

We have over 60 open positions to support smallholder farmers. Apply now to join our family of leaders.

Last month, One Acre Fund hosted its bi-annual open analyst call. During these calls, One Acre Fund founder Andrew Youn discusses the organization’s progress towards achieving key performance indicators, announces country-specific milestones, and shares plans for the future. On this call, we learned about One Acre Fund's promising growth projections and new country expansion plans.

The call began with a report on growth over the last six months. The One Acre Fund core program is now projected to reach 314,000 farmers by year-end, exceeding our goal to reach 305,000 farmers in 2015. This is a 33 percent increase in farmers served since 2014.

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A One Acre Fund warehouse in Rwanda.

In Kenya, our field team is almost finished collecting repayment from farmers for 2015. Enrollment recently opened for the 2016 season, and demand for the program is running ahead of projections. In Rwanda, 98 percent of farmers repaid their loans, slightly above last year’s repayment rate, and input distribution for the 2016A season (September through March) was completed.

Excitingly, Burundi was able to close the 2015B season (March-June) at 100 percent repayment for the second year in a row, and input distribution for the 2016A season was completed. And in Tanzania, we added a new operating region, Mbeya, this past season. It is the largest operating region geographically of any existing One Acre Fund country operation, which presents us with new learning opportunities for serving farmers with larger average land sizes.

Youn dedicated the final portion of the call to a deep dive on One Acre Fund’s new country expansion plans. After outlining One Acre Fund’s phased trial approach for new countries— which begins with market analysis, then initial scouting and progresses to pilot launch— Youn provided in-depth updates on three new country pilots: Malawi, Uganda and Zambia.

Headquartered in Zomba, One Acre Fund’s Malawi pilot presents an incredible opportunity to reach the 1.9 million food-insecure farm families that could benefit from our core program. 90 percent of the workforce in Malawi works in agriculture, and One Acre Fund has extensive experience working with the primary staple crop of Malawi, maize.

Uganda has a very similar farmer profile to that of Kenya— high population density and reliance on maize and beans. However, because farmer adoption of hybrid seed and fertilizer is much lower than in Kenya, there is a big opportunity to serve Ugandan farmers beyond One Acre Fund’s pilot site in Kamuli.

Zambia is our newest country pilot. The country has a lower population density and larger plot sizes, which will allow us to test out model adaptations such as larger loans, a more robust market access program, and R&D on mechanized tools (e.g. tractors).

Keep an eye out for our next analyst call six months from now, when we will provide updates on how all these initiatives are proceeding.

One Acre Fund is growing fast. Click here to join the team!


To End Poverty, We Must Empower Rural Women

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Nov 03, 2015 Category: Farmer Profile Tags: rural women day rwanda sdgs smallholder

This blog was written by Hailey Tucker, and originally published by FoodTank. To view the original piece, click here. If you are interested in working with One Acre Fund Rwanda, apply now for one of our field-based roles.

smallholder farmer female in Kenya

Jeanette Uwimanimpaye stands in front of the door to her home.

Atop a hillside, in the remote village of Gitega, Rwanda, 27-year-old mother of two Jeanette Uwimanimpaye wakes up at 5am to begin her day.

Many of the women in Jeanette’s village farm for a living. The ones who don’t farm work as porters— they carry bricks that are made in a nearby valley up to the nearest road, more than an hour’s climb up, at a price of 2 Rwandan Francs (less than one cent) per brick. These are the only two options for women in Gitega to earn an income, Jeanette says.

“One of the greatest challenges women living in my village face is poverty,” Jeanette says. “Men can earn more than the women because they are able to find jobs in town, whereas the women have to stay in the village to care for their children and house throughout the day.”

Around the world, 75 percent of people living in poverty depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Many of these people are women just like Jeanette. While rural poverty affects both men and women, research suggests that putting more income in the hands of women leads to improvements in child nutrition, health and education. The economic empowerment of rural women— through increased access to livelihoods training, education, and health and financial services— is key to reducing rural poverty across the globe.

One Acre Fund’s comprehensive 4–part model is designed to help rural women improve their farms’ productivity, increase their incomes, and grow their way out of hunger and poverty. With increased income comes increased purchasing power— farmers are able to invest in livestock and small businesses, pay for their children’s education and health care, and even bring running water to their homes.

Even with programs like One Acre Fund to help them, Jeanette and women like her still must work incredibly hard to ensure their families’ survival. This rural women’s day, Jeanette provides us with a glimpse of what day-to-day life is really like for her and her family.

smallholder farming village

Jeanette sweeps her compound.

After waking up, Jeanette sweeps her compound to start the morning with a clean home. Her two sons, Jerome, 5, and Isaac, 3, wake slowly after her and make their way out of the bedroom. After sweeping, she helps Isaac dress and feeds both children.

Once the children are dressed and fed, Jeanette locks up the house and together they walk to her field. Today, Jeanette’s farm work involves preparing the soil for planting, which she must do using nothing but her hands and a hoe. Jeanette’s husband, Antoine, works as a brick-maker, so his time to help with farm duties is limited. It will take Jeanette a full week working alone to fully prepare her fields for for planting.

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Jeanette prepares sweet potatoes for lunch.

Later on, Jeanette walks over to another part of her farm, where she harvests some sweet potatoes to cook for lunch. Before she begins cooking, she must scrub the pots and utensils from the night before with dirt to clean them, peel and wash the potatoes she harvested, shred cabbage, dice tomatoes—all with a handle-less knife. She then cooks it all on a three-stone fire in her mud hut kitchen. The entire process takes her two hours without a moment’s rest.

“The work I enjoy most is cooking because it means I have food for my family,” Jeanette says. “When I’m done, I see that they are happy and full—it in turn makes me happy too.”

smallholder farmer family and children

Jeanette with her two sons, Jerome, 5, and Isaac, 3.

Jeanette and her sons sit to enjoy the food she’s cooked, and later her younger sister joins them. Jeanette and her sister were orphaned in 1994 when their parents fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo at the height of the Rwandan genocide. Their parents fled with three of her five siblings, while Jeanette and her sister were left behind. She says since that day, they have never heard from their family again.

Both Jeanette and her sister used to struggle to feed their children, but since joining One Acre Fund, they both have enough food to feed their families for the entire year.

“Not only does more harvest mean more food,” she explains, “but having enough food at home often means there will be peace between the husband and wife when there might not have been before.”

In the afternoon and evening, Jeanette will attack a seemingly endless list of other chores and activities she plans to do before the sun sets—visit the market, more cooking, more land preparation. Before heading off to market, she smiles and encourages us to visit again. She is eager for us to share more stories of the resilient women in her community.

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Jeanette clears brush on her farm.

In remote areas across sub-Saharan Africa, women are responsible for growing the food that will feed their families and communities. Solutions to boost the productivity and incomes of rural women can directly reduce poverty and increase food security in the world’s most vulnerable regions. As the development community works to achieve the sustainable development goals, we must remember that rural women are central figures in the fight to end global hunger.

Inspired by Jeanette's story? Be sure to read One Acre Fund Rwanda Country Director Eric Pohlman's World Food Prize speech about serving the world's smallholder farmers.


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