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Boda, Piki and Flip-Flop: Getting From Point A to B in Rural Kenya

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Nov 01, 2016 Category: Farmer Profile Field Photos Market Access Tags: farmer stories kenya

How far are you from the nearest power outlet? If you’re in North America or Europe, the answer is likely within 20 feet. But what would it mean if the nearest outlet wasn’t even in your neighborhood?

In most East African countries, only 10 to 20 percent of people have daily access to electricity, even in urban locations, according to a 2012 World Bank report. The situation is even more critical in rural areas, where people often lack access to even their most basic needs. Homes without electricity also don’t have running water or refrigeration, which can influence sanitation behaviors, cooking, and grocery shopping frequency. This also can affect how populations spend their money and time. And, the vast majority of these rural populations are farmers, since more than 75 percent of the world’s poor farm as a profession.

Most rural East Africans do not own cars, so the challenges are even tougher for farmers trying to access seeds, fertilizer, competitive markets, or even a safe place to keep their money.

So, how do farmers in East Africa get around?


Christine Nakhumicha, Kenya

The reality is that many of them walk, often barefoot or in flip-flops. For farmers who don’t own a bicycle or motorcycle, this is the most affordable way to get somewhere.

“I never have the 20 Kenyan shillings (approximately $0.19) that people use to go into town, so I prefer to walk,” says Christine Nakhumicha, a widowed mother who lives on the outskirts of Chwele, Kenya. “It’s not so far away, and it’s good for my health.”

Christine starts most days by walking to get water. There is a water pump at a church roughly 30 meters from her house, but it regularly runs dry, so she often has to walk 30 minutes to the nearest stream. From there, she’ll fill as many jugs of water as she can carry back home. On average, she returns to the stream for water one or two more times each day.

“I need the water to do everything: cooking, drinking, washing, and to water my cows,” Christine says.

Depending on the day, Christine might also walk to the market for some household shopping, or go to meet with the community savings group that she belongs to. The savings group is the closest thing Christine has to a bank. Each week, members pay a set amount, and one individual takes the lump sum to use for personal needs.

“The meetings for the savings group rotate through the houses of the eight farmers who are involved,” Christine says. “The furthest from me is a two-hour walk, but I have to attend so that I am able to receive the money when it is my turn to do so. Then the market can take an hour to get to and then an hour back.”

Bicycle or Boda Boda

Another popular transportation method is by bicycle. Whether it’s a personally owned bike or a bicycle taxi, known as a boda boda in Kenya, bicycles are deeply linked to farmer mobility.

The term boda boda, which is sometimes also used for motorbikes in other East African countries, stems from a history of people using bicycles and motorbikes to carry items across land borders between countries such as Kenya and Uganda. Because this was the cheapest way to travel longer distances, bicycle taxis became affectionately named after the journey. With a hint of Swahili flare, the name shifted from border to border to boda boda.

Francis Mamati, a smallholder farmer in western Kenya, purchased his first bicycle in 1985 to help him travel around for work. By 2006, his bike had started to break down, but since his farming was going well, he was able to upgrade to a newer model.

Similar to Christine, Francis spends most of the time he isn’t farming traveling to access basic necessities like food and water.

“Here we have a problem of water,” he says. “We must go very far to get water, and we would then have to carry the water up a very steep hill. If I don’t have money, and I have a journey I need to make, I can cycle there. To use a boda is too expensive compared to having your own. If I get a boda to take me somewhere, then I also get charged for any waiting, so owning a bicycle is cheaper over time.”

Still, many farmers cannot afford to purchase a bicycle upfront, which means bicycle taxis are a booming business in East Africa. Outside of cities, everything from couches to 100-pound pigs can be seen being transported by bicycle.

Motorbike or Piki Piki

Juliana Wavomba

Juliana Wavomba

When the terrain is too hilly, the load too heavy, or the distance too far, motorbikes become the next transportation solution. In Kenya, motorbike taxis are known as piki pikis.

For 63-year-old smallholder farmer Juliana Wavomba, using a motorbike taxi is the most effective way to run her business. Juliana goes to the market daily to buy a type of collard green called sukuma wiki in bulk, and then sells it in local villages to those who can’t afford to go to the market. She uses the extra money to care for her six grandchildren.

“I always want to get to the market very early so that I can get the freshest vegetables,” Juliana says. “With a motorbike, I’m assured that I can get there any time I want, and the motorbike owner will come and pick me up from my home.”

To get the freshest sukuma, Juliana leaves her house at 6 a.m. most mornings to embark on an hour-long motorbike ride, which gets her to the market right as the shops open. Juliana says she prefers to take a motorbike because otherwise the journey to the market and back would take up too much of her day, and with the motorbike, she knows she’ll make it on time.

Juliana Wavomba, Piki Piki

“I think bicycles are slow, and they might not be able to carry my large bags of sukuma,” Juliana says. “On the other hand, public transport buses would want to charge me both for my fare and all my sukuma bags, so I prefer using a piki piki.”

Minibuses, vans, and other means of public transportation are available for some rural populations, but like Juliana, many people struggle to afford them.

Smallholder farmers in East Africa often don’t have regular access to their daily necessities, much less the right types of seeds and fertilizer or markets to sell their crops. This is why One Acre Fund puts an emphasis on distribution and delivery, helping farmers attain the tools they need to produce more food. We believe that this is the best way to support rural populations in growing their way out of hunger and poverty.

How Compost Saved This Rwandan Farmer From Hunger

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Apr 25, 2016 Category: Core Program Farmer Profile Field Photos Tags: compost rwanda training

Ezira Ntegeyimbuga sits atop his completed compost pile.

Ezira Ntegeyimbuga sits atop his completed compost pile.

Raising the hand hoe high over his head, Ezira Ntegeyimbuga moves with a strength and assuredness that belies his 64 years. His middle son, 15-year-old Isaac Ndikuryayo, looks on as his father breaks up the red-brown dirt clods in a corner of their land. Breaking up the soil is the first step to creating a compost plot.

“The compost is easy to make. Whatever materials I need are around me, and I can make it near my field where it won’t be a big problem for transportation,” Ezira says.

Ezira made compost for the first time in 2013, but he’d been hearing about the benefits of composting since 2010. That was the year he first enrolled with One Acre Fund, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides over 400,000 farmers in East Africa with access to seed, fertilizer, and agriculture trainings. One of the trainings offered was how to make and apply compost, which is proven to enrich soils with vital nutrients needed to produce healthy crops.

Ezira’s decision to join One Acre Fund wasn’t about learning to make compost. A life-long smallholder farmer from Karongi, Rwanda, Ezira’s biggest challenge was that he could never afford the cost of purchasing and transporting fertilizer from the market to his remote village. As a result, his yields were always low. So when a One Acre Fund field officer told him he could purchase seed and fertilizer on credit and get his purchase delivered to a site in his village, Ezira was excited. He immediately enrolled and was elected leader of his farmer group.

In that first year, he harvested 110 pounds of beans and 330 pounds of maize on just one-third of an acre of land. Ezira’s excitement quickly turned to relief. His 2010 harvest, the largest of his life, was enough to feed his family for the whole year. But his relief stemmed from something else. For some time, he had been noticing troubling behavior in his sons.

“When my children were in the village and saw maize growing in someone’s field, they would just grab the maize and run away. I was depressed, and knew I had to somehow change this situation to help them,” Ezira says.

The following year, Ezira enrolled more land with One Acre Fund and planted maize and beans, again using the new methods he had learned. He harvested a whopping 154 pounds of beans and 375 pounds of maize from just under half an acre.

Buoyed by two strong harvests in a row, Ezira began to believe he could achieve success through farming. He attended One Acre Fund trainings regularly and learned about applying just a small amount of fertilizer through micro-dosing. He also learned about combining fertilizer and manure to improve soil and crop health. Ezira had a cow and a young bull, so he began collecting and applying the manure to further improve his yields.

Then, in 2013, things suddenly took a turn for the worse. Ezira’s big cow died of disease, and the young bull couldn’t produce enough manure to fertilize all his fields. That year, Ezira was only able to afford fertilizer for a very small portion of his fields, and he harvested a mere 55 pounds of beans and 110 pounds of maize. 

Ezira recalls feeling discouraged and apprehensive. “I really felt sad. I had gone backwards, and was harvesting the amount I used to harvest before joining One Acre Fund,” he says.

During this difficult time, Ezira attended a One Acre Fund training on how to prepare compost. He had been to One Acre Fund trainings on composting in the past but hadn’t ever made a compost pile, because he knew he could count on his manure. That year, though, he paid close attention and learned how to salvage plant-based harvest waste, how to properly create compost piles, and when and how to apply the nutrient-rich organic matter to his fields. 

Ezira spent the next four months digging, stacking, scooping, and monitoring his decomposing compost pile, looking for the telltale changes in temperature and color to ensure he was on the right track. He was meticulous and determined and followed each training step to the letter. After applying the compost to his fields, Ezira found himself waiting anxiously for harvest to come.

Ezira helps prepare his compost pile.

Ezira helps prepare his compost pile

Ezira continues tending to his compost pile.

Ezira tends to his compost pile

When harvest finally came, Ezira could not have been more pleased with the results. He had harvested 176 pounds of beans and 397 pounds of maize from just under half an acre, more than his best season with One Acre Fund.

In the midst of placing dried maize stalks onto his compost pile, Ezira stops for a moment to reflect. “The compost training saved me from poverty and hunger,” he says.

With his harvest back to the levels he had been counting on, Ezira has wasted no time laying his plans for the future. Inspired by his own success with composting, Ezira plans to start a composting business to sell to neighboring farmers who lack his knowledge of composting techniques. 

“The skills I learned from One Acre Fund were just the beginning. I now have to turn my skills into money,” Ezira says.

This additional income stream will play a critical role in helping Ezira achieve his most important goal: raising his sons to be good men. With the threat of hunger behind them, they have stopped getting into trouble. Ezira plans to use the income from his composting business to pay for their school supplies.

“When a child is educated, he or she can live and survive in whatever circumstances,” Ezira says proudly. “I will send my children to school because it is my responsibility, but in the end, it is up to them to choose who they will become.”

How We Reach 100,000 Rwandan Farmers

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Sep 10, 2015 Category: Core Program Field Photos Tags: enrollment field staff marketing rwanda

Help One Acre Fund market life-changing products to serve even more farmers! Apply for our rural marketing associate role today!

Photos by Evariste Bagambiki.

Goal setting is fresh on everyone’s mind– after all, we're about to enact the Sustainable Development Goals and embark on the post-2015 development agenda. At One Acre Fund, we’ve set a few goals of our own, including reaching 1 million farm families by 2020.

Reaching farmers on that kind of scale requires careful planning and the right marketing strategies. Over the past two years, One Acre Fund Rwanda has paved the way by trialing new marketing methods to help us reach more clients. Founded in 2007 with just 100 farm families, our Rwanda program now serves more than 100,000 smallholder farmers.

We wanted to find out more about how our field team markets products and enrolls new clients. To get the scoop, we followed Agnes Mukahigiro, a field officer from Kirambo, Rwanda. 

enrollment one acre fund rwanda

Agnes has been working for One Acre Fund for 4 years. She's smiling because this year, she was able to recruit 230 smallholder farmers to sign up for our program.

season enrollment one acre fund rwanda

Before the marketing and enrollment process begins, Agnes attends a two-day enrollment boot camp at our headquarters in Rubengera. Training handouts like the one pictured about will help her remember what she learns, successfully market products, and enroll farmers.

After bootcamp, field officers head to their district sites, carrying a transparent bucket that contains samples of the products clients can purchase on credit. This year’s bucket included products such as fertilizer, seed, a crop storage bag, two solar lights, and a water purifier.

one acre fund marketing to farmers

Farmers are always curious to know what new products will be on offer each season. Agnes takes her time to show off each product, explaining what each one is, how it works, and how much it will cost.

oen acre fund new products

One Acre Fund’s product catalog helps farmers fully understand their package options.

one acre fund product catalogue

After meeting with groups of farmers, Agnes makes the occasional home visit to farmers who were not able to attend. She wants to be certain any interested farmer has the opportunity to learn about One Acre Fund’s offerings for the upcoming season.

one acre fund marketing products

Finally, after seven weeks of marketing meetings and Q&A sessions with farmers, Agnes starts enrolling farmers. She will ask farmers which products they are interested in purchasing, and then fill out a sign up sheet to mark down their preferences.

One Acre Fund field staff work hard, and are dedicated to putting Farmers First in everything they do. Click here to read the top 10 reasons One Acre Fund field staff love their jobs.

Why One Acre Fund Trains Farmers in Composting

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May 19, 2015 Category: Core Program Field Photos Tags: composting rwanda soil health training

Photos by Evariste Bagambiki, One Acre Fund communications associate.

One Acre Fund is sharply focused on our program’s long-term impact on soil. We are dedicated to making sure that at a minimum, the methods we teach don’t degrade farmers’ fields over time, and whenever possible improve the health of the soil they depend upon to make their living.

One way we help farmers improve their soil is through composting trainings, which we offer in Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi. By creating their own compost and then using it during planting, farmers are able to return much-needed nutrients to their fields. This enriches the soil and results in improved yields.

In Rwanda, the field team just completed a series of composting trainings. We asked Rwanda field manager Eric Nyiruburanga to explain exactly how we teach farmers to create and use compost.

one acre fund field manager compost training

Meet Eric Nyiruburanga!

Eric worked as a One Acre Fund field officer for five years before being promoted this year to field manager. Before working with One Acre Fund, he farmed with us too!

One acre fund compost training rwanda

Eric begins his compost training in Kibogora, Rwanda.

Eric, before we dive into the compost trainings, would you tell us what your favorite part of your job is? 

Training farmers is the most important thing I do. Every farmer I work with has the chance to improve his or her harvests by following the methods I teach them. That’s why I enjoy trainings and put a lot of effort into delivering them well. If my trainings are done well, then more farmers will be able to realize their harvest potential.

Why do you think the trainings you give on making compost are so valuable to farmers?

At One Acre Fund, we always encourage farmers to both micro-dose fertilizer and use organic compost. This way they can make their soil productive while still keeping it healthy. Some farmers do not have livestock, so they don’t have manure to use while farming. The organic compost that we teach farmers to make is a good alternative because all the materials, such as ash, grasses, and soil, are easy for everyone to find.

How do farmers feel about the compost mixture?

They like it! The farmers I work with are used to having to buy manure from neighbors for their fields. Now they don’t need to buy manure and can save the money to use for other needs. When the farmers know it is the compost training day, they make sure not to miss the training. If they are not available that day, they send their children because they know how important compost is.

Can you tell us the basics of how you make compost?

Making compost doesn’t require money. All of the ingredients – ash, fresh and dried grasses, animal waste, soil, and water – are available at almost every farmer’s home. After they compile the ingredients, I teach them the techniques of stacking and combining them.

First you have to prepare a space in the ground. You can dig a hole or prepare the surface.

Then you lay small sticks on the ground.

maize sticks from harvesting for compost base

Maize stalks from harvesting can make a good base for compost.

The next step is to begin stacking the materials: first are dried grasses, second are fresh grasses, third is manure, fourth is soil, and fifth is ash, and then animal urine and water. That completes one layer— compost can be made of more than one layer of the same materials if you like.

layers of compost one acre fund rwanda

Farmers add the various layers of materials to build a compost pile.

one acre fund compost training Rwanda

Eric demonstrates how to add a water and livestock urine mixture to the compost.

compost layers one acre fund rwanda

Eric shows farmers how to stack multiple layers when making compost.

When you have finished with the layers, you put a small stick in the center, which will help show if the compost pile is decaying. If the stick is warm when you check it, it means the pile is decaying. If it is cold, the pile is not decaying, so you need to stir the pile.

compost pile one acre fund

Eric demonstrates how to check for heat in a compost pile.

The final step is to cover the compost pile with bananas leaves or other grasses.

So after the compost is ready, how do farmers apply it to their fields?

I always recommend farmers make the compost near their fields so it won’t be a challenge to transport it when the compost is ready. The application of the compost is not much different from animal manure application- I recommend use two hands, and dump the compost into a hole to about one meter if they are planting in furrows. However, you can use more than that quantity if you have much compost to satisfy the whole field.
The compost is applied to all crops and can be used for every season. I mostly encourage farmers to use the compost in season B. Here in Rwanda, season B doesn't provide much rain, so the wet compost helps prevent crops from being damaged by the sun.

Compost trainings are just part of One Acre Fund’s efforts not only to improve farmers’ yields within a single season, but to ensure healthy soils and bountiful harvests for years to come. Read more about our big plans for measuring our long term impact.

Want to read more about soil health at One Acre Fund? Check out these blogs!

5 Reasons Soil Health Is Key To The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

Meet David Guerena, One Acre Fund Soil Scientist

7 Unsung Heroes of Soil Science

On International Day of Families, Farmers Share Hopes for Their Children

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May 14, 2015 Category: Farmer Profile Field Photos Tags: east africa farmers international day of families

Photos by Kelvin Owino, One Acre Fund senior communications associate.

smallholder farmer family Tanzania international day of families

“I love my children. Every day when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is to check on them and make sure everyone is okay,” says Yovita Kawage, a smallholder farmer from Mlanda, Tanzania. Accompanied by her daughter Rehema and her niece Karoline, Yovita walks proudly amidst the healthy maize stalks in her field. As a One Acre Fund farmer, this year she received high-quality seed and fertilizer delivered right to her doorstep, and training on how to use them effectively. Her investment in the One Acre Fund program will allow her to grow more than enough maize to feed her family, with an additional surplus left over to sell at market.

Yovita may live in a remote part of Tanzania, yet in many ways she is no different from parents worldwide. She takes great pride in her children, and works hard every single day to ensure they have healthy and happy lives, full of opportunities.

In honor of the International Day of Families 2015, we asked Yovita and a few smallholder farmers who work with One Acre Fund in East Africa to tell us why family is so important to them, and what they hope for their childrens' futures:

smallholder farmer family in tanzania one acre fund

“The best moment of my day is when I sit down and enjoy food with my family.  I feel very proud as a mother when my children are all healthy and laughing.” –Maria Luma, from Sadani, Tanzania.

kenya farmer family on international day of families

“I work hard on my farm every day because the thought of my family going hungry scares me a lot. If everyone eats and is satisfied, then as a mother, I also feel satisfied and happy.” –Jemima Ayiema, from Masongo, Kenya.

Kenya farmer and family international day of families

“Family is very important to me, and I do everything I can to make my family happy. As a mother, raising my children well and building a bright future for them is my number one priority.”— Christine Wasike, from Marakaru, Kenya.

Kenya farmer and family one acre fund

“I always try to teach my children how to become productive members of society. My parents taught me everything I know, and if I fail to teach my children then I will feel like I’ve let my parents down.” –Teresa Osebe, from Masongo, Kenya.

Rwanda farmer and family one acre fund

“Having peace and love in my family is better than any wealth in the world. I don’t wish for anything else as long as everybody in my family loves each other and works together.” –Emmanuel Nzasiyenga, from Karongi, Rwanda.

rwanda farm family one acre fund

“I want my children to have a better life than me. I invest everything I have in their education because I know when they complete school they will get good jobs and live a better life than I did.” – Ferdinand Nkundakozera, from Nyamasheke, Rwanda.

uganda farmer and family one acre fund

“When I was growing up, I wanted to be a doctor, but I did not achieve this dream because I was not educated. Now I enroll all my children in school to ensure they achieve their dreams.” – Andrew Kavulude, from Kamuli, Uganda.

Whether it’s providing for our basic needs when we’re young, or offering advice and support when we’re older, families play an important role in every culture. In rural East Africa, smallholder farmers must overcome significant challenges, such as degraded soils, poor training, and lack of access to quality seed and fertilizer, just in order to feed their children. This International Day of Families, we honor these farmers’ hard work in seeing their children’s hopes and dreams fulfilled.

10 Farmers Show off their Sunflower Fields in Tanzania

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May 11, 2015 Category: Field Photos Tags: growing season smallholder sunflowers tanzania

Photos by Hailey Tucker, One Acre Fund field communications manager.

By April of every year, the entire landscape surrounding Iringa, Tanzania turns a golden yellow. Below the boulder-covered mountain ridges, endless fields of sunflowers peer over the tasseling maize.

Sunflower seed oil and flour are popular in the regions of Tanzania surrounding Iringa, and the seeds sell at a high price in the local markets. This year, One Acre Fund Tanzania offered sunflower seeds and fertilizer as an add-on product farmers could sign up to buy on credit.

By spacing their flowers in rows and applying micro doses of fertilizer, many farmers saw their flowers grow bigger and stronger.

We invited 10 farmers in Tanzania to show off their fields and tell us why they love growing these bright blossoms, and what they plan to do with the extra income they’ll generate.

smallholder farmer sunflowers tanzania
“I used to spend so much money buying cooking oil using money that I made from my maize harvest. This would reduce the amount of money I could save to pay school fees for my children. But when I harvest my sunflowers, I will be able to get cooking oil for my family and also generate additional income.” –Mwanaidi Kisegelo

Smallholder farmer in tanzania in sunflower field
“I like to plant sunflowers in order to get cooking oil for my family and also make an income. You can earn a good price for them in the market.” –William Duma

farmer in sunflower fields in Tanzania

“I like the sunflowers because I know they can be used for oil and will help my family.” –Veronica Kilovele, daughter of farmer Amalia Kilovele

smallholder farmer sunflowers tanzania
"I want to grow sunflowers because they fetch a good price at the market. This way, it will be much easier for me to make enough money to build a decent house for my family. " –Zuberi Yasin

farmer sunflower fields tanzania
“I hope I will make an extra income from my sunflowers that I will spend on the education of my children. I will also be very happy when I start using oil from my own field!” –Jennifer Ngunda

farmer sunflower fields tanzania
“I used to plant a few sunflowers on the edge of my maize fields— I would then grind the sunflowers by using a hand mill to get flour to mix into sauces. If I get huge harvest this year, I will sell part of it to pay for school fees for my daughter Leonola Landa, who is in secondary school.” – Fausta Landa

sunflower farmer tanzania

“I decided to grow sunflowers this season so I can have cooking oil for my family. But also, if I have enough oil, I can sell some in order to cover other expenses such as school fees and other foods to supplement my maize harvest.” –Maria Ngunda

farmer sunflowers tanzania
“I like to grow sunflowers because their price is always very high at the market. When I harvest more, I will make money to invest in the education of my children.” –Peter Chadali

sunflower farmer tanzania

“I have been spending so much money buying cooking oil from shops since I haven’t grown sunflowers before. But now, I will be able to supply my family with cooking oil from my sunflower field.” – Charles Kimbe

sunflower farmer tanzania

“I grew sunflowers so I can have enough cooking oil for my family. Also, I plan to use the waste materials from the sunflowers to feed pigs, which will make pigs grow fat in a short period of time.” –Joshua Mbwilo

A Day in The Life: Bean Planting in Burundi

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Mar 23, 2015 Category: Field Photos Tags: burundi compost fertilizer planting methods

Photos by Evariste Bagambiki.

Late January and early February mark the planting season in Burundi. Farmers in Burundi plant twice a year; they generally plant beans in one season and maize in the second. 

Smallholder farmer Flora Ngendakumana has been farming with One Acre Fund since 2014. From Mbuye, Burundi, Flora grows beans, maize, and sweet potatoes. When Flora enrolled with One Acre Fund, other farmers immediately elected her as their group leader. She intends not only to increase her harvest, but also to be a good model to other farmers of her group.

“I like my voluntary work as a group leader because I want to help many farmers in the village apply One Acre Fund’s planting methods correctly to increase their harvests,” Flora says.

Here we follow Flora for an entire day, capturing images of her daily routine of cooking, farming, and relaxing in her home.

Flora starts the morning preparing porridge as a breakfast for her two daughters, Siera Ngabineza and Marie Cleria Uwiteka, To make this porridge, Flora uses maize flour and boiled water.

Next Flora collects the planting sticks and string she made with One Acre Fund to help her measure spacing as she plants.

Flora prepares to go to farm to plant. She carries her hoe, which she will use to dig the holes for her bean seed, on her shoulder and carefully balances a basket with compost on her head.

Flora digs evenly spaced holes for her beans. To measure the spacing, Flora digs the holes alongside a marked string.

Flora digs all the holes on her land before adding compost, fertilizer, and seeds.

Flora Ngendakumana and her daughters sort through the bean seed, selecting the best seeds to plant.

Compost comes next! Flora made her compost from grasses, banana leaves, goat manure and other organic materials, which she learned how to do from a One Acre Fund training.

Flora puts the compost in the planting holes before adding fertilizer or seed.

Flora then adds fertilizer and the seeds. Using a traditional basket called an inkoko, Flora picks up individual bean seeds and places them in each hole.

After hours of farming, Flora breaks for lunch with her two daughters. The lunch is a mixture of bananas, beans, potatoes, and maize.

After lunch, Flora cleans her hoe, scraping mud from the blade before it hardens.

By 5 p.m., after a full day on the farm, Flora is happy to rest at home and play with her children.

Farmer Feedback Shapes Input Delivery in Nyanza Province

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Feb 10, 2015 Category: Field Photos Tags: climate change input delivery kenya nyanza

This blog is part of a series profiling input delivery at One Acre Fund. Be sure to read the first and second blogs in the series. 

Follow One Acre Fund on Instagram February 9th-21st for in-the-moment footage from input delivery in Nyanza, Kenya!

When it comes to making operational changes, farmer feedback is a fundamental part of One Acre Fund’s decision-making process. In 2012, we created the customer engagement team and hotline, so clients could contact headquarters staff directly to provide feedback on the program and voice any concerns.

In 2013, the team reported that large numbers of clients from Nyanza province, Kenya were calling the hotline, and that their concerns were very similar. 

Farmers explained that weather patterns in the region had become more erratic. They suggested that One Acre Fund’s pre-established seed and fertilizer delivery dates were no longer ideal, as they were too close to the arrival of the rains (when farmers needed to be planting).

The Nyanza province was also seeing some cases of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND). Farmers reported less disease in affected fields if they planted earlier rather than later in the year. Our monitoring and evaluation team was dispatched to confirm this, studying cases of both One Acre Fund and non-One Acre Fund farmers’ fields in 2013.

The impact study conducted by the M&E team, along with reports from field officers, corroborated the feedback Nyanza farmers had provided the previous year. Taken together, One Acre Fund realized that an operational adjustment was in order.

Instead of delivering seed and fertilizer to Nyanza farmers in early February, when we also deliver to farmers in the Western province, we decided to deliver seed and fertilizer to Nyanza one month in advance.

This year, on January 19th, 2015, we began our deliveries to the Nyanza province. With seed and fertilizer stacked atop heads, bicycles and wheelbarrows, farmers in Nyanza let us know how happy they were with the new delivery date. “Over the years, the seasons have changed." Millicent Aoko Kaunda, who has farmed with One Acre Fund for two years, said. "Sometimes we can have early rains, and at times delayed rains—either way we get to benefit because we now already have the seeds with us!” 

Below are some photos depicting input delivery in Nyanza.

Farmer Millicent Aoko Kaunda with her planting supplies in Kanyamamba, Nyanza.

Field staff in Nyanza unload seed and fertilizer from the delivery trucks early in the morning as farmers wait to pick up the supplies they purchased on credit for the 2015 season.

Field manager Kelvin Otieno arranges the seed and fertilizer into piles for each farmer based on what they signed up to receive during our enrollment period.

After farmers confirm that they have received the supplies they purchased, they sign a receipt. Here farmer Ruth Akeyo signs to confirm her delivery with field officer Elizabeth Adoyo.

The Umoja group in Homabay, Nyanza, with their seed and fertilizer.

Farmers Philisters Aoko Ojwang and Teresa Ojwang Ajwang carry the seed and fertilizer they received on their heads.

Surviving Field Officer Bootcamp in Kenya

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Sep 28, 2014 Category: Field Photos Tags: boot camp field officers kenya training

Photos by Kelvin Owino.

At One Acre Fund, before the start of any major activity on our calendar, field staff must undergo rigorous training.  This ensures everyone is confident and prepared to handle anything that comes their way in the field. 

Recently, we photographed one of these training “boot camps” in Kenya, where field officers were preparing for 2015 enrollment. Field officers spent three days learning how to provide top-notch customer service to farmers during enrollment meetings. 

Field officers study the enrollment contract during boot camp. The contract lists farmers’ enrollment requirements, the credit limits for different farmers, and the various products farmers can purchase.

One key activity field officers review during boot camp is how to help farmers with their season credit contracts. Many field officers like this year's contract, saying it seems easy-to-use and will help farmers make informed product choices. 

“This year’s contract will save me a lot of time. Farmers can easily read through it and choose the products they desire without much supervision from me,” says field officer, Erick Nyanja.

Field manager Chrispinus Kisiangani trains field officers during boot camp.

Unlike normal weekly trainings where field managers separately train small groups of field officers, at boot camp, field managers train a large group of field officers at one time. This is both fun and intense!

With such a large group, field managers like to use role-playing to reinforce key lessons. First, field officers act out scenarios they could encounter in the field, then field managers discuss the role-play's strengths and point out areas for improvement.

Field officers take part in a role-play where a field officer is asked to explain to a farmer why enrolling with One Acre Fund will be beneficial.

The training materials for boot camp are simple and straight-forward, so that field officers can easily digest a multitude of topics in just three days.

Francis Wamukaba reads through the training handout at boot camp.

Field officers read through the product catalog for the 2015 season. This year's product catalogue contains photos, which allows farmers to see the products they can purchase.

Field officers also spend time discussing how to plan and conduct farmer meetings. They talk about common challenges that may arise in the field, and brainstorm how best to solve them.

Boot camp is a chance for field officers to consult with each other and share stragies for interacting with farmers.

Field officers Fred and Roselyne (seated) and Catherine (standing) share stories at boot camp.

Many field officers say they enjoy boot camp because it is an opportunity to catch up with their colleagues and problem solve collectively.

“Boot camp is unlike any other meeting. It's hard but I love it! I also like that there are little breaks for me to chat with my workmates. I find out about their families and any new incidents in their lives,” says field officer Rhoda Wekesa.

Field officers sing and dance throughout the trainings. 

It's not all work and no play, though. Many activities during bootcamp involve singing and dancing, which keeps everyone in high spirits as they learn.

By the end of boot camp, field officers are ready to start enrolling farmers for the new 2015 season. Many are excited to test out their new skills- since each field officer aims to serve approximately 250 farmers, we know they will put the lessons they learn during training to good use!

Click here for more on One Acre Fund field officers.

A Harvest Morning in Photos

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Aug 14, 2014 Category: Field Photos Tags: harvest maize photos smallholder tanzania

To learn more about harvest time in Tanzania, click here and here.

Isaya Msilu and Elisi Ndanga of Kikombwe, Tanazania enrolled with One Acre Fund for the first time this year. They own four acres of land and decided to purchase hybrid maize seed and fertilizer on credit for one acre.

August 6th marked the day they would harvest their One Acre Fund acre. Isaya and Elisi were excited. They had watched as the maize on that one acre grew taller and stronger than the rest of their maize crop, and were eager to begin the harvest.

The couple had arranged with their neighbors to work in a group for all farming activities.

“Working in a group helps us to finish the work more quickly than if we do it ourselves,” Elisi says. “It would take a week if we harvested by ourselves. With our neighbors it will only take one exchange, it is our culture that when people come to help you with any job, you should prepare food and drinks for them.”

The morning of their harvest, Elisi and Isaya woke before the sun rose and began to prepare.

Elisi crushes dried maize with a large wooden mallet to break loose a thin outer husk on the maize seeds. Without the husk, she says the maize tastes and cooks better.

After her morning routine, Elisi prepares a traditional Tanzanian dish known as “kande” to be shared with the group. Kande is a maize and bean porridge.

“It is a simple food, which can easily feed many people. It’s easy to prepare and will keep them full,” Elisi explains.

After crushing the maize, Elisi winnows the maize in a flat basket. She shakes the contents, tossing them up and swirling them round, as she lightly blows on the maize.

Winnowing helps separate the kernel casings from the kernels that Elisi will cook. Later, Isaya will feed the leftover casings to the chickens.

Elisi sorts through dried beans to measure out how much she would like to add to the kande.

Though she described kande as an easy-to-prepare dish, Elisi spends close to an hour preparing the kande before it even reaches the stove.

After the kande is ready to cook, Elisi calls her two children, Jonathan and Gifti, to the kitchen.

Elisi pours the children their morning tea.

Throughout the morning, Elisi tends to her children between other chores. Jonathan, now 7, has started elementary school, and will leave for classes in the afternoon. Until he goes, he entertains Gifti, 4, and prepares him for the day.

Jonathan and Gifti brush their teeth and play with a toy car with wheels made from bottle caps.

As Elisi finishes sweeping, cooking and preparing the children, Isaya returns from tending to their land. Now it’s time to head out to the field, meet the group, and begin the harvest.

Franciska Musisi and Elisi harvest maize from one of six tall piles on the farm.

“I have seen a difference,” Elisi says. “I expect to have a better harvest than other years. The One Acre Fund maize looks better than the others.”

The couple estimate that they will harvest 17 bags of maize from the acre they farmed with One Acre Fund. Their other acres produced an average of 7 bags of maize per acre.

“I feel better,” Isaya says. “I know I will have enough harvest. I know this year I have enough food, and I hope I may be able to get an oxen to help me with cultivating next year.”

The family poses for a portrait with their maize.

For 2015, the couple has re-enrolled with One Acre Fund. This time, they’re planning to receive seed and fertilizer for one and a half acres of maize.

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