BLOG Category: core-program


Mobile Phones are Making A Huge Difference for Kenya’s Smallholder Farmers. Here’s How.

image description
Jun 08, 2017 Category: Core Program News Tags: kenya mobile phones repayment

One of the most important tools on Everline Wakhungu’s farm is her mobile phone.

Everline, who raises maize, beans, and livestock on a four-acre farm in western Kenya, always plants her crops on time because of text message reminders she receives from One Acre Fund. Mobile phones have become ubiquitous in Kenya, and the nonprofit, which provides smallholder farmers with inputs on credit and agricultural training, has expanded its digital presence in the past few years. In 2016, all 198,000 of its farmer clients in the country were able to use their mobile phones to pay back their loans.
 

Everline, who farms with her husband Matthew near the village of Namawanga, said text message reminders about field preparation and planting helped her harvest a big crop last year. She also said that the mobile repayment system made it easier to manage the family’s finances. Now, instead of waiting for a One Acre Fund field officer to collect cash from her every week, she uses her phone to send loan repayments directly to the organization whenever she has enough money on hand.

A new study by the UN-based Better Than Cash Alliance provides a deeper look into how One Acre Fund successfully digitized loan repayments for smallholder farmers in Kenya. It also details the tremendous benefits that were achieved due to this shift, from boosting transparency and efficiency to increased economic opportunity and financial inclusion for thousands of smallholder farmers and their families.

“We trust this system better than the other one, because before sometimes money could be stolen or lost,” Everline said. “Now, when you send the money, you receive a message back immediately. You can see your balance, and know what amount is left on your loan.”

Mobile repayment has also made life easier for One Acre Fund staff, said Meshack Mocho, a field director who oversees workers in Teso district, where more than 180 farmers are enrolled. Prior to 2014, farmer repayment to One Acre Fund was a 12 to 16-day process that involved a host of middlemen, from field officers to bankers, treasurers, bookkeepers and farmers. Now, due to mobile repayments, the process takes only 4 days. “Now, field officers are able to spend more time working on training sessions and answering questions for farmers, instead of collecting cash,” Meshack said.

“Before, field officers would have payment meetings, and not all farmers would attend, so then they would have to do a lot of work following up with everyone. Now, field officers can basically focus on training. They can get back to what is important and what they need to do.”


Enrollment Opens for One Acre Fund Farmers in Kenya for 2017

image description
Sep 28, 2016 Category: Core Program Tags: enrollment kenya

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.”

Contacts

Farmer Inquiries:
One Acre Fund Kenya Enrollment toll free number 0800723355.
Representatives available Monday through Friday (8am – 5pm) and Saturday (8am – 11am).


Why Growing Trees Makes Perfect Sense for Smallholder Farmers

image description
Jun 27, 2016 Category: Core Program Farmer Profile Tags: grevillea kenya trees

Kenyan smallholder farmer, Alice Nasambu

Alice Nasambu, Kenyan smallholder farmer

Alice Nasambu always has money on her mind. Most of her children are still young, and she is determined that all five of them receive a good education, which means building up her savings now.

The desire to save for the future is what first prompted Alice to plant trees. To her village neighbors—who regularly struggle with hunger—planting an inedible crop seemed illogical. But with the nearest savings bank more than hour's walk from her home in rural Kenya, growing a crop with the intention of selling it several years later presented a unique opportunity.

“Trees are the closest bank I have,” Alice says. “With trees, one is generating money from an investment. Eventually when they are tall, one can sell the trees and get a lot of money in return.”

Alice first started planting trees years ago, inspired by the profit she heard was possible from selling mature trees. At first, she planted Eucalyptus trees, which worked well the first year. However, in subsequent years, she noticed her other crops were not doing very well.

“Even the texture of the soil in my field changed. The soil was very dry and brown in color,” Alice says. She later learned that Eucalyptus trees require significant amounts of water and nutrients to grow, and were robbing her crops and soil of both.

Disappointed with her trees and in search of new investment opportunities, Alice joined One Acre Fund, purchasing a variety of farming products on credit. One of those products was Grevillea tree seeds.

Alice with a Grevillea tree

Alice and her son Abel (6) stand alongside one of their young Grevillea trees

Alice had learned about Grevillea trees from a One Acre Fund field officer. Similar to Eucalyptus, Grevillea trees grow quickly and grow straight, which makes them marketable as timber for building houses and furniture. Unlike Eucalyptus trees, however, Grevillea tree leaves are nutrient-rich and contribute to soil fertility when they fall around the trees. Alice realized that by planting Grevillea trees, she could get the financial benefits she hoped for from Eucalyptus without her compromising her harvest yield.

Grevillea trees, which are worth less than $1 USD as saplings, become worth roughly $15 USD a piece after six years. For smallholder farmers like Alice, this is an incredible return on investment. In Western Kenya, the profits from just 10 six-year-old trees could cover an entire term of a child’s high school tuition—and the trees rapidly increase in value each year after that.  

“This is a lot of money for poor farmers like me," Alice says, standing next to one of her young Grevillea trees. "My children will be in high school by the time my trees mature, and I use that money for their school fees."

Alice Nyongesa and her family

Alice with her sons Abel (6) and Bednego (8)

Since joining One Acre Fund in 2011, Alice has planted Grevillea trees every year. After talking with her field officer, Alice chose to plant her trees around her house and the perimeter of her farm, so that they wouldn’t take up valuable space for edible crops in her field. In total, she has roughly 65 Grevillea trees scattered about her property, growing tall and strong.

With a few of her trees already approaching the six-year mark, Alice feels she can rest assured that her dreams of educating her children will come to be. Her 14-year-old daughter Wendy will start secondary school next year, when Alice’s first round of trees reach maturity.

“Wendy hopes to be a doctor someday,” Alice says. Her smile is the smile of a woman on track to accomplish her goals.

Alice with her Grevillea trees in the background

Alice and her son Abel, standing near one of their Grevillea trees (tallest tree to their left)

SaveSave


One Acre Fund’s Progress Towards Sustainability

image description
Jun 08, 2016 Category: Core Program Sustainability Tags: repayment sroi sustainability

one acre fund revenue expenses

Sustainability is an indicator of the efficiency of our operating model. We calculate sustainability by measuring the percentage of our direct service model and agrodealer program costs that is covered by farmer repayments.

The more sustainable we become, the fewer donor dollars we need per farmer to support our operations. It also means we generate more impact for every dollar invested, which improves our Social Return on Investment (SROI).

one acre fund revenue

With the exception of 2013, when a devastating maize virus in Kenya affected farmer enrollment and revenue, our financial sustainability has been steadily increasing each year. In 2015, our financial sustainability was at 79 percent, up from 74 percent in 2014.

To improve sustainability, we focus on levers like transaction size per farmer and farmer loan repayment rate, as well as staffing ratios like clients per field officer. Each country’s path to sustainability depends on its operational context. For example, because Tanzania has a much lower population density than Rwanda, field officers in Tanzania are responsible for fewer clients. On average, farmers in Tanzania also have more land than Rwandan smallholder farmers. As a result, to improve sustainability, Tanzania will focus on increasing transaction size per farmer.

TOTAL FARMER LOAN REPAYMENTS (USD)
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016(p)
14.1M 14.9M 19.5M 29M 39.6M

 

We continue to have strong repayment performance across our operations, so we’re focusing our efforts on increasing transaction size and impact per farmer, and clients per field officer. The scale innovations team trials operational modifications to improve those metrics, while the finance team suggests areas for cost efficiency.

Sustainability is an important organizational goal, but achieving sustainability at the expense of customer service or farmer impact is not something we’re willing to consider. Our operations have dedicated customer engagement teams to ensure that we provide quality customer service year-round. We remain as committed as ever to developing country operations that achieve financial sustainability objectives while maintaining operational excellence.


Note: As of May 1, 2016, our financial sustainability number was updated to reflect audited figures. Additionally, revenues from previous years have been adjusted to more accurately reflect our core and farm input sales business results.


TUBURA ANNOUNCES OPEN ENROLLMENT FOR SMALLHOLDER FARMERS IN RWANDA

image description
May 24, 2016 Category: Core Program News Tags: enrollment press release rwanda


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.


About TUBURA
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.

Contact:
Farmer Inquiries:
Free TUBURA Customer Care Hotline: 2580. Representatives are available Monday through Friday (8am – 5pm).


Chasing Hunger and Darkness from her Home

image description
May 20, 2016 Category: Core Program Farmer Profile Tags: kenya solar lamp sukuma wiki

sukuma wiki collards one acre fund

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.

solar lamps one acre fund

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.

mother and daughter kenya One Acre Fund

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.


Their Favorite Food at Every Meal

image description
May 20, 2016 Category: Core Program Farmer Profile Tags: beans farmer stories rwanda

This blog was written by Evariste Bagambiki, and originally published by FoodTank. To view the original piece, click here.

farmer winnowing bean harvest

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

one acre fund rwanda farm family

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!


One Acre Fund’s Latest Impact Results

image description
May 17, 2016 Category: Core Program Metrics Tags: 2015 annual report impact methodology

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:

percent gain farm income one acre fund

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.

dollar gain in farm income one acre fund

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.

farmer ROI one acre fund

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.

Methodology Improvements

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!


Luuya’s Tomato Jungle

image description
May 13, 2016 Category: Core Program Farmer Profile Tags: 2015 annual report kenya productive assets

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.

conrad tomatoes kenya

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.

HOTMA group

HOTMA group

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

image description
May 04, 2016 Category: Core Program News Tags: malawi press release uganda

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.

Press Contact:
Lillian Onyango, One Acre Fund | lillian.onyango@oneacrefund.org | +254 723-266-111 (Kenya)
 


Page 1 of 8 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›

inner