BLOG Category: metrics

One Acre Fund’s Latest Impact Results

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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!

Why We Reformulated Our Organizational Vision

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Apr 25, 2016 Category: Core Program Metrics News Tags: education impact soil

A group of ‪#smallholder‬ farmers from Webuye, ‪‎Kenya‬.

A group of ‎smallholder‬ farmers from Webuye, ‎Kenya‬

At One Acre Fund, we often say that impact is our northstar. Since 2006, our mission has been to create meaningful impact by helping smallholder farmers improve their productivity and increase their on-farm incomes. Our vision has always been to become one of the world’s most impactful organizations and to serve millions of farmers across the planet.

As we head into our tenth year of operation, we are as committed as ever to helping farmers improve their productivity and incomes. However, we have realized that in order to permanently break the cycle of hunger and poverty for future generations of farmers, we need to push ourselves to think about our long-term impact.

We reformulated our organizational vision this year to reflect our new thinking around long-term impact. We now envision a future in which every farm family has the knowledge and means to achieve big harvests, support healthy families, and cultivate rich soils.

As our organizational vision has evolved to reflect a more long-term perspective, our thinking about impact measurement has also evolved. We have consistently used incremental profit as our main indicator to measure the impact of our operating model on farmers’ harvests. However, measuring profit per acre planted is only one piece of the puzzle. We are expanding our definition of impact to include categories like farmer health and resilience, and we are focusing on new impact metrics in order to gain a fuller picture of our impact on farmers’ lives.

One new way we are looking to measure holistic, long-term impact for the farm families we serve is through a longitudinal study. Launched in 2015, the study will run for at least three years in our two largest countries (Kenya and Rwanda) and focus on evaluating secondary outcomes in areas such as health, childhood nutrition, and education. We introduced this study to gain a better understanding of how we impact farmers’ lives beyond the farm. This study will help us understand in which secondary areas we are generating strong impact and what programmatic changes would spur improvement.

Measuring farmer access to things like education and health care helps us paint a picture of how our work contributes to healthy families. To better understand how our work contributes to rich soils, we’ve introduced several soil health initiatives that will allow us to develop targeted, data-driven solutions to protect farmers’ lands for future generations. We are currently conducting a longitudinal soil study, processing thousands of samples per month in our newly established soil analytics lab. Through our robust innovations platform, we are testing an extensive range of practices to boost soil health, including biochar, green manure cover crops, rhizobia, conservation agriculture, and more agroforestry options.

Pioneering long-term solutions that allow us to serve farmers, improve their quality of life, and protect and enhance the quality of their soils is our top priority. We remain focused on helping farmers overcome the challenges they face today, but if we can fulfill our new long-term vision, we will also help farmers successfully weather the challenges of tomorrow, and ensure that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will lead prosperous, healthy lives.

To learn more about our longitudinal impact study, please read page 20 of our 2015 Annual Report.

One Acre Fund Publishes 2015 Annual Report

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Apr 12, 2016 Category: Core Program Metrics News Tags: annual report farmers first impact

annual report 2015

Greetings from One Acre Fund!

We are excited to share our 2015 Annual Report, which details our progress, strategies, and new initiatives to reach more farmers than ever before.
2015 saw our operations reach their most impressive scale yet. We delivered our direct service model to more than 305,000 smallholder farmers across East Africa, and reached over 590,000 farmers through our government partnerships work. We now employ over 4,000 full-time staffers who make it possible to deliver life-changing products and services at this scale.

In many ways, 2015 marks a turning point in how we conceptualize impact. As we grow, we are pushing ourselves to move beyond exclusively evaluating the impact our operating model has on farmer harvests to measuring the broader, holistic impact our model has on farmer quality of life. We launched our first-ever longitudinal study this year, a first step toward better understanding and improving our impact in areas like childhood nutrition, education, and long-term poverty reduction.

To reflect our increased emphasis on achieving long-term impact, we’ve ex- panded our organizational vision to encompass “big harvests, healthy families, and rich soils.” This vision includes not only those who are One Acre Fund farmers today, but future generations of farmers.

Inside this report, you will read how Kenyan farmer Conrad Lukoye learned to leverage the power of improved planting techniques to feed his family of five and start a new, lucrative business venture that benefits his entire community. "The greenhouseisasignofhopetoeveryoneinthecommunity,”Conradsays.“Itsym- bolizes prosperity.” Conrad’s story reminds us that farmers are also small business owners and entrepreneurs who just need access to the right tools and information to achieve their dreams and secure their futures.

In 2016, we will embark on our tenth year serving smallholder farmers. While we’ve grown steadily over the past decade, the irony of the hungry farmer is still all too common. We have a solution that could end hunger for millions of families one day; now, we’re challenging ourselves to boldly scale that solution and ensure that the impact we generate is sustainable for future generations.

Farmers First!

Andrew Youn
Executive Director, One Acre Fund

Matthew Forti
Managing Director, One Acre Fund USA

One Acre Fund Reports on Progress, Projections for 2016

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Mar 28, 2016 Category: Core Program Metrics Operations Tags: analyst call kpis march 2016

sofia auma kenya

On Monday, March 28, 2016, One Acre Fund hosted its first bi-annual open analyst call in 2016. 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.

Youn began the call with a report on program scale. Thus far in 2016, One Acre Fund has already grown by more than 30 percent from 2015, and is currently serving over 400,000 farm families. Excitingly, we saw our largest ever enrollment in Kenya this year, crossing 200,000 farmer threshold! We expect to meet or surpass our 2016 target of 420,000 farmers with upcoming enrollment for the next season in Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. We also anticipate reaching an additional 700,000 clients through systems change work.

In terms of program impact, we are aiming for $140 USD of impact per-farmer in 2016, up from $137 USD in 2015. The slight increase is likely to result from higher adoption of add-on products as well as improved maize seed.

While preliminary 2015 program sustainability is calculated to be 80 percent, we anticipate our sustainability number in 2016 to dip slightly. This is due to a methodology change and the inclusion of Malawi and Uganda country operations, which are much newer and therefore much less sustainable, as part of our sustainability calculations going forward.

The second half of the call was dedicated to a discussion of Social Return on Investment, or SROI. This investment framework allows us to unify two of our core metrics— impact and sustainability —and is something One Acre Fund has begun using internally to compare various programming options. SROI can be used to set a minimum hurdle rate to commence new work, and helps leadership make resource-allocation decisions for projects that are already in-process. One Acre Fund’s Kenya core program and Zambia pilot were given as two examples of where SROI has helped inform decision-making around resource allocation. 

After calculating the SROI of our core model in 2015, Youn shared how One Acre Fund has increased its SROI over time, largely driven by improved net costs per farmer. While we are still honing the framework, One Acre Fund hopes to use SROI externally as well as internally, in discussions with results-oriented donors, investors, and other champions, as well as with peer organizations for benchmarking purposes and goal setting.

The call also featured an inspiring “mission moment,” in which participants heard the story of Ugandan smallholder Sofia Katende. A mother of four, Sofia Katende could never afford improved seed and fertilizer for her one-acre farm in Kasambira, Uganda.  Her harvests were always poor, and each season she faced the same dilemma: store her maize after harvest to sell at a higher price, but risk major losses from pests and rodents, or sell her maize immediately after harvest at a throw-away price.

smallholder farmer uganda

Sofia Katende of Kasambira, Uganda

Then, in 2014, she planted a small demonstration plot with One Acre Fund. Her yield, 350 kg of maize from 1 kg of seed, was three times her usual harvest from the same amount of seed. In 2015, she planted half of her one-acre plot with One Acre Fund. That half acre yielded 1600 kgs, twice her usual yield from planting a full acre.

Sofia had always hoped to protect her harvest from pests long enough to fetch a higher price at market. One Acre Fund’s program enabled her to do this for the first time.

After selling her surplus at a much higher price, Sofia used part of the proceeds to open a mobile money shop. Now, with her new sources of income, she hopes to send her eldest son, George, to university next year.

Keep an eye out for our next analyst call six months from now, when we will provide new program updates and scale projections.

One Acre Fund is hiring for over 60 new positions. Visit our jobs page and apply today to join our family of leaders!

Finding the Formula for Social Good

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Jul 29, 2014 Category: Metrics Tags: agriculture development data-driven impact innovation ssir

This blog was co-written by Andrew Youn, co-founder and executive director at One Acre Fund and Matt Forti, managing director at One Acre Fund USA. It was originially published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Pursuit of social good has never been more prominent than it is today. Funding flows are larger than ever. The number, size, and variety of organizations delivering services are all steadily increasing, as are the amount and quality of research and evaluation that academics and others are carrying out. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to make the most of this historic opportunity and maximize impact on people and planet.

However, we are troubled by the widening gap between how those delivering services (particularly nonprofits) and those evaluating interventions (particularly academics) approach this challenge.

Nonprofits often focus on scale while evaluators focus on net impact. We need both, and we need nonprofits and evaluators to adapt their approaches in pursuit of maximum social good.

At its worst, nonprofits’ laser-focus on scale manifests as “empire-building”—some raise vast funds to get big fast and assume impact will follow. But more often, this focus is for good reason: Nonprofits are keenly aware of the magnitude of the social problems they address and want to grow beyond the microscopic “market shares” they typically command. At One Acre Fund, for example, we will serve roughly 200,000 African staple-crop, small-scale farm families this year—just 0.4 percent of the potential market of 50 million. Many peers, including several contributors to the recent “SSIR x Bridgespan Achieving Transformative Scale” series, face similar challenges.

Pursuit of scale with little regard for impact is dangerous. When nonprofits aren’t equally concerned with continually improving their programs through measurement and R&D, they are less able to create transformational change.

On the other hand, evaluators (particularly academics) often devote too much mindshare to “net impact” (impact per cost), as they pursue the best “bang for the buck” in a given outcome area among the maddeningly large number of interventions from which donors, policy-makers, and replicators must choose.

But pursuit of high net impact with little regard for scale is also dangerous. Too often, it means evaluators conduct research under idealized conditions, with little regard for whether a given intervention will ever impact the lives of millions. Too much academic research ignores real-world settings (will impact hold up under greater contextual diversity?), implementation factors (how do leader characteristics or the regulatory climate, for instance, influence outcomes?), and scale factors (what is the real cost of the intervention at scale, and what mechanism will allow it to reach lots of people?). The sad result is that few interventions that “prove” effective through high-quality research actually scale.

Bringing Together Scale and Impact

At One Acre Fund, we are working to de-isolate these two critical factors, and achieve both meaningful scale and net impact. We’ve grown more than 75 percent per year in farmers reached in the last five years and nearly doubled our net impact per client (measured as the incremental farm income we generate, less the donor cost to generate that income, on a per-farmer basis). We validate our scale and net impact through robust internal systems, and calculate our impact by physically weighing the harvests of our farm families and comparing them to a well-formed control group of newly enrolled families. Recognizing we still have room to improve, we constantly experiment with new measurement designs and techniques to more definitively attribute our impact.

Behind this progress is an extremely simple visual (see below) we use to guide our decision-making—the “social good box.”

The One Acre Fund Social Good Box

This construct has been extremely helpful to our thinking. To share three examples:

  • We recently segmented our growing R&D operation into two arms: product innovations (testing and rolling-out more impact-enhancing products to clients) and scale innovations (searching for opportunities to increase our penetration in existing areas).
  • Our recent strategic plan includes a mix of initiatives, some focused on higher net impact per client (for example, improving soil health and climate resilience), others on greater scale (such as more rigorous new country scouting operations).
  • We now conduct new product trials by examining both expected adoption (scale), and expected impact per adopter, helping us avoid enticing and very high net impact products that would have relatively modest adoption. Before this shift, for instance, we introduced passion fruit to our Kenyan farmers based on research showing very high profit potential, but we completely underestimated the challenge of convincing farmers to adopt this entirely unfamiliar product. It was a colossal failure, and we soon discontinued the product.

Increasing the Size of the Social Good Box, Sector-wide

Nonprofits must devote much more attention to measuring and managing performance to achieve maximum net impact per client, and academics can be powerful partners. In our own work, we have benefited tremendously from partnerships with IDinsight, which uses rigorous field experiments to help leaders improve their programs and decisions, and UC-Berkeley’s Center for Effective Global Action, which conducts research with our farmers on topics of joint interest—we then rapidly scale those with high net impact through our network.

Meanwhile, evaluators must give greater consideration to client adoption in their research and adjust study design accordingly. They should also devote more time to measuring at-scale work implemented by real-world actors who plan to further scale after the research concludes, or create another mechanism to achieve scale based on successful research. A great example of the latter is Evidence Action, a year-old organization incubated out of the evaluation firm Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). The organization’s leadership is already hard at work on scaling two interventions—chlorine dispenses and deworming treatments—backed by rigorous evidence from IPA’s research.

Finally, funders—particularly foundations—need to help bridge the gap. They can insist that nonprofits verify scale and net impact for each intervention they support, and do the same in their own due diligence on prospective grantees. The latter means paying deeper attention to the integration of net impact (outcomes relative to a well-constructed control group, full cost to serve a client today and in steady state) and scale (including market size, barriers to entry, resource magnetism of the leader, and leadership bench).

Only by working together, and prioritizing scale with impact, will we maximize the social good we achieve.

2013 Annual Report

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Feb 24, 2014 Category: Metrics Tags: metrics reports

Dear Friends,

We are excited to share with you our first-ever annual performance report. To date, we have published six–month performance reports. This new annual format allows us to provide greater depth of information, including impact and financial figures that incorporate all of our countries.

Please click here to view a pdf of the report.

This report offers a frank look at the hard metrics we use to guide every step of our operations, and a review of the major milestones achieved over the past year. A few examples:

  • We served 130,000 farm families across four countries, including our newest country program, Tanzania.
  • We developed and disseminated an entirely new crop package in Kenya, in the face of a potentially devastating new virus.
  • For the second year in a row, One Acre Fund was recognized by The Global Journal as a Top 100 NGO.

Importantly, we are excited for what 2014 holds, and are poised to reach our 200,000th farmer this year.

On behalf of our board members, staff, and most importantly, our farm families, thank you!

Andrew Youn, Executive Director
Matt Forti, Director of One Acre Fund USA

Measuring to Improve vs. Improving Measurement

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Jun 28, 2013 Category: Metrics Tags: m&e metrics skoll stanford social innovation review

The following post was written by Matt Forti, director of One Acre Fund USA. It originally appeared on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog. The original post is available here.

Measurement was once again a hot topic at this year’s Skoll Forum; with seven measurement-related sessions over three days, it eclipsed other perennially popular topics like funding and innovation. And yet there was a marked difference in the discourse this year, with many speakers and attendees questioning whether social sector organizations are thinking too narrowly about the whole paradigm of measurement. Put another way, there seemed a real tension between whether the greatest bang for the buck in measurement will come from organizations measuring for their own improvement, or from the social sector improving on the measurement tools and techniques available to organizations in the first place.

A session I co-led, “Measuring to Improve (and Not Just to Prove),” fell decidedly in the first camp. With most social sector organizations under-resourcing and under-prioritizing measurement, the session argued that organizations get the best return when they: a) collect a small number of easily verifiable measures linked to their theories of change, b) do this regularly at every level, and c) couple data collection with analysis, learning, and action. The session used One Acre Fund, an NGO that boosts incomes of smallholder farmers in East Africa (and where I’m the founding board chair), as an example. At the lowest level, field officers, who work directly with farmers, collect and work in groups to analyze data each week on farmer repayments, farmer attendance at trainings, and farmer adoption of One Acre Fund techniques. Middle managers are trained to look at aggregate data around these measures and quickly take action to fix anomalies. And at the highest level, leadership focuses on simple organizational measures, such as average increase in farmer income and farm income generated per donor dollar invested, rather than every possible outcome.

Other Skoll sessions and content drove home a similar view. Caroline Fiennes, director of Giving Evidence, talked about the “operational uselessness” of collecting impact data solely on your organization’s current model, without comparison to other approaches you or others are utilizing or testing that might deliver better results, lower costs, or both. Ehren Reed, Skoll Foundation’s research and evaluation officer, argued that the most successful social entrepreneurs are constantly tweaking their business models by scanning their environments and internalizing the implications for their strategies. One social enterprise leader perhaps put it best when she noted, “We decided that if we couldn’t name a meaningful action we would take as a result, we would stop collecting the data.”

On the other hand, several Skoll sessions were devoted to new measurement tools and techniques that could theoretically propel a giant leap forward in the social sector’s use of data. Big data, for one, arose time and again, with proponents arguing for its ability to turbo-charge social sector impact much in the same way that it has turbo-charged profits for the Facebook’s and’s of the corporate world. While presenters shared several promising examples, including Global Giving’s Storytelling Tools and Benetech’s new Bookshare Web Reader, there seemed a dangerous extrapolation from these examples to a prevailing belief that “big data” would plug the “big gap” in social impact potential across the sector.

Similarly, funding vehicles such as impact investing and social impact bonds were highlighted extensively as new tools meant to accelerate impact in the social sector. And yet the data suggests that both are struggling to gain traction, given the small number of interventions that can absorb these funding types.

At the end of the day, the usefulness of any measurement tool depends on whether it is the best at addressing a high-priority question that a decision-maker at any level of an organization is seeking to answer. Most social sector organizations are still struggling to answer basic questions about their program models: Do a high proportion of the clients they reach meet the organization’s own selection criteria? Do clients that participate more realize higher levels of outcomes? Does the organization’s model produce greater impact per dollar than the other models available for their target clients? These basic questions require basic measurement tools, coupled with a much greater leadership commitment to—and a culture that embraces—data-driven decision-making. For this reason, newer tools like big data may be more of a big distraction than a big opportunity for the typical social sector organization.

What is your experience applying these new kinds of measurement tools and approaches to your organization? Has it worked, and if so, why?

Fall 2012 Performance Report

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Feb 05, 2013 Category: General Metrics Operations Tags: harvest metrics performance report

We are excited to announce the release of our new six-month performance report! Our program continues to grow rapidly, with your generous support.

Our latest six month report offers a frank look at the hard metrics we use to guide every step of our operations. From May – December 2012, we:

  • Grew program size from 130,000 farm families to 137,000 farm families, serving more than 548,000 children.
  • Had our twelfth harvest, increasing take-home farm income by 100% per acre, with 97% of farmers repaying program fees.
  • Covered 84% of our field costs through farmer repayments.

Please click here to view the report.

Analyzing Farmer Repayment, Part 3: How Much Are Farmers Repaying?

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Jul 12, 2011 Category: Core Program General Metrics Tags: farmers field staff kenya repayment

Part 1 of this blog post was a bird’s eye view of loan repayment at One Acre Fund’s Kenya operation. Part 2 looked at a graphical representation of 2010 repayment, which is proving to be a helpful tool as 2011 repayment races toward completion. In this blog post, we’ll look at two graphs on average repayment per month, and the volume of farmers repaying each month.


Repayment3 As we saw in the graph of Cumulative % over time, this graph shows a sharp increase in the average amount paid per farmer in May, June, and July, with a dramatic drop after July.

In addition to the shift away from hunger season, these large changes can also be attributed to field staff dedication—the final rounds of top-dress fertilizer trainings have finished, and 95% of the focus can be put to encouraging repayment.

In the July spike, the average is close to 1000ksh (about $11-$12 USD), between 15% and 25% of most farmer loans.

What Portion of Farmers are Repaying? More than average amounts repaid, the volume of farmers who repay each month is also key to understanding farmer repayment patterns.  Given One Acre Fund’s flexible repayment schedule, one might expect seasonal variations in the # of farmers contributing toward their loans each month (similar to the variation seen in repayment amounts):


Repayment4 In contrast to the large fluctuations, jumps, and changes over time in other metrics, the number of farmers paying (any amount) over time shows much less variation. In fact, from February until July, more than half of all 12,000 farmers paid something towards their loan.

Field staff generally agree that clients who contribute regularly towards their loan (even if it is only small amounts) are much less risky than those who get into the habit of waiting long periods of time to make big chunks of payments. Much like a personal savings plan, it is often helpful for an individual to “deposit” disposable income at the moment that they are able, in order to avoid wasting the money on unnecessary items. The One Acre Fund repayments do, in fact, act much like a savings plan, in that early repayment ensures that harvest can be put into long-term storage, rather than sold at low prices during the harvest season glut. Farmers who do wait until the final deadline to repay will lose out, in part, on their ability to wait and capture the best maize prices, while also liquidating a large part of their family’s future food security.

If 2010 was any indication, the majority of outstanding credit will be repaid before harvest season—leaving farm families with the potential to invest further in moving themselves toward secure food stock and improved income. Field directors are using 2010 repayment data to benchmark progress in 2011. The benchmarks reveal which field staff are working harder and better than ever—with more acreage and more farmers than ever in One Acre Fund history. Field directors use this information to set targets for various incentive structures (for both farmers and their officers)---awarding vegetable seeds, mobile phone minutes, solar lamps, and farming tools to staff and farmers who meet or beat specific repayment targets.  Competition and excitement over incentives keeps morale and momentum high. Understanding repayment trends for our farmers allows our field directors to set appropriate targets for their field staff that encourage farmers to repay when they can, without pressuring them to repay during the “hunger season.” Our Kenya operation is aiming to achieve 99 percent repayment this year with 28,000 farmers—our biggest season ever!

Analyzing Farmer Repayment, Part 2: “Jumping” Toward the Finish Line

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Jul 05, 2011 Category: Core Program General Metrics Tags: farmers field staff harvest kenya repayment

Part 1 of this blog post was a bird’s eye view of loan repayment at One Acre Fund’s Kenya operation. Now, we’ll take a look at a graphical representation of 2010 repayment, which is proving to be a helpful tool as 2011 repayment races toward completion.

One Acre Fund has taken on a radical repayment format: the flexible repayment schedule.  This means that farmers are not required to pay specific amounts each week or month; they are only required to complete their loan payments by a final deadline.*  So far, One Acre Fund has achieved very successful repayment rates in this format. In light of flexible repayment, many people are curious, asking us, “So how do farmers repay?  Slowly or quickly?  Erratically or steadily?  One Acre Fund field staff often report a mixture of these patterns, influenced by both individual family conditions and seasonal pressures on family income. The numbers further break down that description: RepaymentChart2

The chart above shows some interesting patterns.  Right around the time that farmers receive the One Acre Fund package (Feb/March), most farmers have not paid very much towards their loans. Staff might refer to this as the “believe it when you see it” factor— farmers are reluctant to start payments before One Acre Fund has delivered on a most important promise: input delivery.

By April and May, the majority of farmers have jumped from the lowest category (0-25%) to the middle categories (25-50% and up).  In August, farmers have completely reversed the categories seen in March: The majority have repaid in full a month or more before the final deadline.

The graph also shows a “jumping” characteristic—very few farmers land in the 75%-99% category at any time, similar to the 50-75% category. From May onwards, the 100% complete category grows in large chunks, gathering significant momentum every month.

Does this mean that farmers pay little by little, or erratically?  Overall, the demographic seems to pay in chunks starting in June/July, taking only three months to finish payments. The pattern is neither “little by little” nor erratic—it suggests a significant seasonal change. In most cases, this is the end of the most severe part of the “hunger season”—where crops are growing in the fields but storehouses with last season’s harvests are empty.  In June and July, farmers often harvest intercropped beans from their maize fields—boosting families out of the hunger season, and reducing the stress on income via food expenditure.

Understanding this repayment trend has led to some new approaches in the field. Now, field officers report weekly on the financial stresses that families encounter during the hunger season.  Their managers often deploy reminders and re-trainings on positive customer service, and being sensitive to difficult situations.

Finally, field officers are always encouraged to reiterate the “pay little by little” mantra to farmers throughout the year, so that farmers never reach the discouraging prospect of paying the bulk of repayment right at the One Acre Fund deadline. In part 3 of this blog post, we’ll look at the average amount that farmers are repaying each month, and how many farmers are repaying each month.

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