Joseph Khisa, Kenya
Soil, literally the ground under our feet, is one of the most important natural resources for smallholder farmers. Crops get most of the nutrients they need to thrive and grow from the soil—so its health and fertility are critical for farmers to achieve big harvests.
Across eastern and southern Africa, many farm families cultivate maize, beans, and other crops on degraded and depleted soils, the result of generations of intensive farming. Improving their soil health may enable them to use less fertilizer – typically leading to higher profits – and will help increase the long-term productivity of their farms.
That’s why One Acre Fund is proud to announce that we are contributing to the White House’s call to action to improve soil sustainability. We are embarking on a multi-year soil study to learn about how best to improve soil health and sustainability for over 364,000 clients in Kenya and Rwanda. More than 4,500 farmers will participate in the study, and our objectives are to answer three burning questions:
- What’s the long-term effect of our program on soil health?
- What’s the U.S. dollar value of soil health for participating farmers?
- Which products and practices most effectively improve soil health?
How will we do this? Our impact team will undertake a few technical tools to hopefully uncover the answers to these questions. First, we will conduct annual surveys with participating farmers and will match soil samples with their harvest data. Second, we’ll take soil samples from farm plots where we’ve already collected years of historical harvest data, in order to determine the impact of soil types on yields over time. Third, through our innovations teams, we will evaluate the effect of different fertilizer products and practices on soil health and crop yields.
We hope to report back in a few years with compelling insights for how to generate big harvests, healthy families, and rich soils for our entire network of smallholder farmers. Stay tuned!