Soil, literally the ground under our feet, is one of the most important natural resources for smallholder farmers. Crops get most of the nutrients they need to thrive and grow from the soil—so its health and fertility are critical for farmers to achieve big harvests.
Across eastern and southern Africa, many farm families cultivate maize, beans, and other crops on degraded and depleted soils, the result of generations of intensive farming. Improving their soil health may enable them to use less fertilizer – typically leading to higher profits – and will help increase the long-term productivity of their farms.
That’s why One Acre Fund is proud to announce that we are contributing to the White House’s call to action to improve soil sustainability. We are embarking on a multi-year soil study to learn about how best to improve soil health and sustainability for over 364,000 clients in Kenya and Rwanda. More than 4,500 farmers will participate in the study, and our objectives are to answer three burning questions:
What’s the long-term effect of our program on soil health?
What’s the U.S. dollar value of soil health for participating farmers?
Which products and practices most effectively improve soil health?
How will we do this? Our impact team will undertake a few technical tools to hopefully uncover the answers to these questions. First, we will conduct annual surveys with participating farmers and will match soil samples with their harvest data. Second, we’ll take soil samples from farm plots where we’ve already collected years of historical harvest data, in order to determine the impact of soil types on yields over time. Third, through our innovations teams, we will evaluate the effect of different fertilizer products and practices on soil health and crop yields.
We hope to report back in a few years with compelling insights for how to generate big harvests, healthy families, and rich soils for our entire network of smallholder farmers. Stay tuned!
In early 2016, One Acre Fund co-founder and Executive Director Andrew Youn delivered a talk at the TED2016: Dream conference in Vancouver, Canada. In his talk, titled "3 Reasons Why We Can Win The Fight Against Poverty," Youn presented practical strategies to end extreme poverty– and made the case for putting farmers first in this fight.
The presentation began with Youn describing his own experiences living and working in rural East Africa for the past decade.
“When I first moved to rural East Africa, I stayed overnight with a farm family. They were wonderful people. They invited me into their home. We sang songs together and ate a simple dinner. They gave me a blanket to sleep on the floor. In the morning, however, there was nothing to eat. And then at lunchtime, I watched with an increasingly sick feeling as the eldest girl in the family cooked porridge as a substitute for lunch. For that meal, every child drank one cup to survive. And I cannot tell you how ashamed I felt when they handed one of those cups to me, and I knew I had to accept their hospitality.”
Youn went on to explain that while extreme poverty may seem like an insurmountable problem, it is actually a problem we can solve in our lifetimes. “Humanity is armed to the teeth with simple, effective solutions to poverty. We just need to deliver them,” he said.
One Acre Fund’s model was used to illustrate the idea that when farmers are able to access quality seed and fertilizer, credit, and agriculture trainings, it can mean the difference between hunger and plenty for entire communities. In addition, Youn highlighted the exciting potential to scale solutions like One Acre Fund’s model. Because most of the world’s poor are actually farmers, when they become more productive it means that “more than half the world's poor earn more money and climb out of poverty.” Youn said.
Watch the full video above to hear Andrew Youn describe the three levers we can pull to help smallholder farmers feed their families, and what he believes is the key ingredient in bringing a permanent end to global poverty.
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.
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.
Free TUBURA Customer Care Hotline: 2580. Representatives are available Monday through Friday (8am – 5pm).
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.
Field Officer Robert Kazana trains farmers on proper seed spacing in Uganda
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 50 million hungry smallholder farm families who we believe could immediately benefit from our model, the majority of whom live in countries we do not yet serve. Our new country expansion team is tasked with determining where to launch operations next, unlocking our organization’s pathway to continent-wide scale nation by nation. After studying and visiting high-potential countries, the third phase of this team’s scouting process is a local pilot, through which we test how our model functions before investing in a full-scale operation. We are currently running pilots in three countries: Zambia, initiated last year, and Malawi and Uganda, where we plan to launch full-scale country programs in 2016.
Our pilot in Uganda’s Eastern Region concluded a strong Year 2 in late 2015. Key accomplishments included successfully trialing new bean and soybean products, doubling our staffing efficiency, and collecting 100 percent of loan repayments. On average, our clients’ raw harvests were over 200 percent larger than those of control farmers, yielding $41 USD in new income.1 These results represent a decrease from our previous season, primarily due to the effects of a parasitic weed known as striga; in response, we have invested deeply in systems for mitigating striga for 2016. This pilot is on a strong trajectory for 2016. The scale of our Ugandan operations more than tripled between 2015 and 2016, and following our deployment of anti-striga measures we expect our average impact to increase in the current season
One Acre Fund farmers in Malawi’s Southern Region also achieved positive results in Year 2 in the face of extremely challenging circumstances. In 2015, severe flooding across Malawi caused widespread crop damage and loss. One Acre Fund was able to protect our clients in several ways, such as by replacing rain-damaged seed and distributing a modest weather insurance payout. As a result, One Acre Fund farmers harvested 71 percent more maize than control farmers, but due to the effects of flooding still achieved just $21 USD in average new income per family—far less than our 2014 impact of $56 USD. Our steadfast service during this difficult period, spearheaded by a talented team of field leaders, led to significant increase in scale in 2016. In the absence of abnormal weather, we can expect a resurgence of impact.
Linley Kachapila, a smallholder farmer from Mandota, Malawi
One Acre Fund successfully launched our newest pilot in Zambia’s Central Province in late 2015. Zambia represents a unique national context for One Acre Fund in that its population density is much lower than anywhere else we work. Since farmers in Zambia live further apart, their farm sizes tend to be larger, creating both operational challenges and opportunities for significant impact. Although harvest is still months away, this new pilot is off to a promising start. We have already greatly exceeded our initial enrollment target of 100 farmers, and now expect to supply 500 farmers with $300+ USD in supplies for one hectare of land—the largest loans we have ever offered. If we can successfully adapt our model to serve Zambia’s low-density smallholder population, we will open an entirely new farmer demographic throughout Africa to our further expansion in the coming years.
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.
One Acre Fund commends the passage of the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567, S. 1252), which passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday April 12 on a vote of 370-33, followed by the Senate on Wednesday April 20 by unanimous consent.
Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) in the House and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate, the Global Food Security Act seeks to permanently authorize Feed the Future, a presidential initiative that has helped millions of smallholder farm families get the financing, inputs, training, and access to markets they need to thrive. Feed the Future is active in five countries where One Acre Fund operates (Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda) and USAID is a critical partner for our work in Kenya and Rwanda.
According to David Hong, One Acre Fund’s global senior policy analyst, “In an era of political polarization, it’s encouraging to know that Congress is not divided on the U.S. Government’s commitment to global food security and supporting smallholder farmers grow their way out of hunger and poverty."
Click herefor additional information about the Global Food Security act, and watch this quick video about the importance of investing in smallholder farmers to bring an end to end global hunger.
Interested in working to influence global food security policy? We have just the job for you!
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.
Executive Director, One Acre Fund
Managing Director, One Acre Fund USA
An inflection point in the era of “farmer finance” for the world’s smallholders
New study identifies innovative approaches to dramatically
change growth trajectory in smallholder finance
11, April 2016 - LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
A new study, “Inflection Point: Unlocking growth in the era of farmer finance,” suggests that while current efforts to expand financial inclusion are not sufficient to meet smallholder demand, concerted efforts around customer centricity, progressive partnerships, and smart subsidy have the potential to change the sector’s growth trajectory to best serve the world’s smallholder farmers.
Currently, over 270 million smallholder farmers in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia require over USD 200 billion in financing to grow their businesses and improve their livelihoods. Formal financial institutions and value chain actors meet less than a sixth of this need today. Doubling projected annual growth (from roughly seven percent to 14 percent) would allow these providers to meet more than half the need by 2025. To achieve this, this study presents a bold call to action for financial service providers and other actors to engage closely with customers to design and offer appropriate, desirable products through integrated partnerships, supported by more and smarter subsidy.
In addition to presenting a more sophisticated picture of the state of smallholder finance, “Inflection Point” explains that we are undergoing a significant change in the era of “farmer finance.” Following decades of more singular approaches to providing smallholder farmers with financial services, the smallholder finance industry is now marked by a more diverse set of actors. A wide range of financial service providers, funders, market and research platforms, and technical assistance providers have yielded new approaches to collaboration and greater access to information and technology than ever before.
Matt Shakhovskoy, Executive Director of ISF, commented on the inflection point within the sector: “In the past five years we have seen a new focus and resolve around tackling the smallholder finance challenge; our task now is to work with this momentum to fundamentally shift the current growth trajectory of models that are working.”
The study’s new research was led by Dalberg Global Development Advisors under guidance from ISF, an initiative incubated by the Global Development Incubator (GDI), and the Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab, which is jointly implemented by GDI and Dalberg. The MasterCard Foundation and USAID sponsored the study.
The study emphasizes that meaningful progress will require a concerted effort across the smallholder finance ecosystem to simultaneously resolve a number of constraints hindering smallholder access to finance. Rewa Misra, Senior Programme Manager, Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation, said, “this report makes visible opportunities for change and will guide our thinking on how we can help unlock financial access for 48 million smallholders in Africa with services centered on their needs and demands. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with an increasing set of public and private sector stakeholders to help achieve the vision set out in this report.”
Drawing on interviews with representatives from nearly 80 different organizations and contributions from the study’s collaborative research group, the study shares insights on opportunities to close the financial inclusion gap in smallholder finance. The study demonstrates that the smallholder finance industry must move towards a future in which financial service providers – including formal financial institutions, value chain actors, and informal or community-based organizations – engage in three main areas of opportunity to unlock smallholder farmers’ access to finance: (1) customer centricity, (2) progressive partnerships, and (3) smart subsidy.
First, the study recommends that financial service providers must fundamentally change how they engage with clients to better understand who their clients are and to design offerings and interactions that increase demand and reduce risk. Jason Wendle, Director of The Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab, commented, "Financial solutions that do not explicitly account for the distinct needs of smallholder farmers tend to meet limited uptake and usage by those farmers. Customer centered approaches not only increase financial inclusion among rural and agricultural households but will also improve business model sustainability."
Next, the study recommends that progressive partnerships, such as those between financial institutions and value chain actors, can enable cost and risk sharing. Ultimately, this reduces the need for direct subsidy of services and thus increases smallholder financial access and reach.
Lastly, the study finds that support from more and smarter subsidies can draw much-needed capital into the sector through blended capital models, where public or philanthropic funds enable the entry of investors seeking market-returns. To target these subsidies effectively, stakeholders must consider whether the subsidy required is catalytic or ongoing, and whether the business constraint targeted is risk or cost.
For more information, please contact:
Global Development Incubator, Communications Department
Malia Bachesta: email@example.com
The Initiative for Smallholder Finance is a multi-donor and investor platform for the development of financial services for the smallholder farmer market. The ISF’s primary role is to act as a "design catalyst." The emphasis is on mobilizing additional financing for smallholders and seeding replication of innovative models in new markets.
The Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab fosters knowledge creation, sharing and collaboration that leads to better financial solutions provided to more smallholder farmers and other rural clients. The Lab is an initiative of The MasterCard Foundation pursuing a learning agenda that spans customer, provider, ecosystem and ultimately impact. For more information, please visit www.raflearning.org. Follow the Learning Lab at @RAFLearning on Twitter.
The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest, independent foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to alleviate poverty. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by MasterCard when the Foundation was created in 2006. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MCFoundation on Twitter.
USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential. USAID works in several different sectors across global development, including, their agriculture and food security programs which work to combat world hunger and strengthen agricultural growth.
PROPAGATE: A COALITION OF SMALLHOLDER FINANCE PRACTITIONERS LAUNCHES TO ADVANCE FINANCIAL INCLUSION OF SMALLHOLDER FARMERS WORLDWIDE
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, March 16, 2016 — Propagate: A Coalition of Smallholder Finance Practitioners, today announced its formation and formal launch of activities at the 18th Microcredit Summit. The coalition includes representatives from some of the largest and most innovative organizations engaged in smallholder finance, including Agora Microfinance, BRAC, Juhudi Kilimo, One Acre Fund, Opportunity International, and VisionFund. The group will collaborate to increase the quality and availability of financial services tailored to meet the unique needs of smallholder farmers.
Smallholder farmers represent more than 70 percent of people living in poverty around the world. Yet only 3 percent of smallholder demand for financing is currently being met, presenting one of the greatest—and most urgent—opportunities for scale and impact in financial inclusion today.
“The sheer magnitude of the existence of poverty amongst smallholder farmers makes it one of the biggest economic challenges of our times. As we know, finance is an integral part of any solution that is attempted,” said Tanmay Chetan, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Agora Microfinance. “The group comprises institutions with serious responses to the issue. It can bring together diverse approaches and encourage synergy for larger scale solutions to the issue of agrifinance. It can also become a relevant voice on the issue.”
Going forward, coalition members will develop and adopt common principles to enhance financial services accessible to smallholder farmers. Through outreach to key sector stakeholders, they hope to influence the availability and structure of wholesale financing to attract appropriate investment and better support the growth of smallholder financial services. Among their own organizations, coalition members will develop commercial and operational partnerships that drive product development and innovation in smallholder finance and create stronger value chains for farmers.
“We know that when smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa have access to production credit, savings accounts, cash flow management tools, and quality extension services, they can significantly increase their productivity and yields and receive fair prices for their crops,” said Simona Haiduc, Vice President of International Business Development at Opportunity International.
Propagate coalition representatives include:
Tanmay Chetan, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Agora Microfinance
Shameran Abed, Microfinance Director, BRAC
Bernard Kivava, CEO, Juhudi Kilimo
Mike Warmington, Microfinance Partnerships Manager, One Acre Fund
Simona Haiduc, Vice President of International Business Development at Opportunity International
Scott Brown, President and CEO, VisionFund International