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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


One Acre Fund Publishes 2016 Annual Report

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Jun 02, 2017 Category: News Tags:

Below is the opening letter from One Acre Fund's Executive Director Andrew Youn, found in our 2016 Annual Report. 


Greetings from One Acre Fund!

I’m excited to share with you our 2016 Annual Report, which details our progress over the past year and outlines our vision for the future. 2016 was a special year for us, and a time of reflection, because it marked our 10-year anniversary.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in our first ten years of service. Today, One Acre Fund still has the same mission, drive, and passion for serving smallholder farmers as it did back then, but in many other ways the organization has completely transformed. Ten years ago, we started out with only 38 farmers, and our shoestring staff operated out of a single room rented from the office of a small local Catholic charity in Bungoma, Kenya.

In those early days, I thought I was dreaming big. I aimed to serve 25,000 farm families in Kenya by 2012. Little did I know, we would have the customer demand, operational skills, and capital to reach five times that many by then. Now, we’re serving more than 445,000 farmers in six countries, and we’ve increased our staff to include more than 5,000 people, all of whom are steadfast in their commitment to putting Farmers First.

The lesson I learned—and am still learning—is that we must continually challenge ourselves to dream even bigger. In 2006, I thought of One Acre Fund solely as an agricultural organization. I didn’t account for all the other things farmers needed to improve their lives. That’s why, over the years, we’ve expanded our offerings from staple food crops into other products like tree seeds and solar lamps. And we’ve started government partnerships work that we hope will allow us to serve many, many more farming families in the future.

Today, One Acre Fund’s work is more important than ever. Serving 1 million farmers by 2020 is an ambitious target, but we must dream even bigger than that. Our next decade will focus on how we can contribute to the transformation of the agricultural sector at the national level in the countries where we work; how we can build sub-Saharan Africa’s largest network of climate-resilient smallholder farmers; and how we can influence more policymakers to put smallholder farmers at the center of their work.

Farmers First,

Andrew Youn
Executive Director, One Acre Fund


Climate Change Is Already A Reality For World’s Farmers

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Jun 02, 2017 Category: News Tags:

Kenyan smallholder farmer Moses Odoli with a handful of his drought-affected soil.

One Acre Fund releases statement following announcement of U.S. intention to withdraw from Paris climate agreement.

For many in the United States, climate change is a theory, but for those in the developing world who rely on agriculture, climate change is already happening.

Millions of the world’s smallholder farmers rely on agriculture as their primary source of income, and changing rain patterns and fluctuating temperatures can derail harvests and devastate families. Bad harvests force parents to make hard decisions about how to make ends meet. They might have to give their children one meal a day instead of two or pull them from secondary school. As recent extreme droughts and famines indicate, climate change is already here for millions of people who live off the land.

There are adaptation tactics that we can employ, but governments must also step up to the plate to address this problem. It is disheartening that the United States is planning to withdraw from the 2015 global agreement to fight climate change. We hope that other world leaders will remain firm in their resolve to address this issue, and that public, private, and nonprofit sector actors will continue the important work they have ahead of them.

“Smallholder farmers are among the world’s most vulnerable people to the effects of climate change,” said Stephanie Hanson, One Acre Fund’s senior vice president for policy and partnerships. “It is critically important that we support them in the face of increasingly volatile conditions. For them, climate change isn’t just an abstract political argument -- it’s reality. The world needs to stand together to address this issue before it becomes an even bigger challenge.”

To read more about One Acre Fund’s work on climate, soils, and the environment, click here.


One Acre Fund Applauds Nomination of Green To Lead USAID

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May 11, 2017 Category: News Tags:

Mark Green

Ambassador Mark Green (center) | Photo: Legatum Institute

One Acre Fund is delighted with the news that Ambassador Mark Green will be nominated by President Donald Trump to be the next administrator of USAID. Green has deep diplomatic experience, and as a former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, he has demonstrated a commitment to global development and to addressing the challenges facing Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Ambassador Green clearly understands the issues and is a proponent of smart aid policy,” said David Hong, global senior policy analyst at One Acre Fund. “We hope he will continue to prioritize agricultural development and food security at USAID, and ensure that the agency’s resources and policies align with the needs of smallholder farmers.”

A central component of USAID’s mission is to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth. Given that 70 percent of the world’s poorest people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, this mission is best met when smallholder farmers are put at the center.


One Acre Fund Joins White House Initiative To Improve Soil Health

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Dec 10, 2016 Category: News Policy Tags: soil soil health us government

Joseph Khisa

Joseph Khisa, Kenya

Soil, literally the ground under our feet, is one of the most important natural resources for smallholder farmers. Crops get most of the nutrients they need to thrive and grow from the soil—so its health and fertility are critical for farmers to achieve big harvests.

Across eastern and southern Africa, many farm families cultivate maize, beans, and other crops on degraded and depleted soils, the result of generations of intensive farming. Improving their soil health may enable them to use less fertilizer – typically leading to higher profits – and will help increase the long-term productivity of their farms.

That’s why One Acre Fund is proud to announce that we are contributing to the White House’s call to action to improve soil sustainability. We are embarking on a multi-year soil study to learn about how best to improve soil health and sustainability for over 364,000 clients in Kenya and Rwanda. More than 4,500 farmers will participate in the study, and our objectives are to answer three burning questions:

  1. What’s the long-term effect of our program on soil health?
  2. What’s the U.S. dollar value of soil health for participating farmers?
  3. 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!


Andrew Youn’s TED Talk: 3 Reasons Why We Can Win The Fight Against Poverty

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Jul 06, 2016 Category: News Roundup Tags: andrew youn video

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.


TUBURA ANNOUNCES OPEN ENROLLMENT FOR SMALLHOLDER FARMERS IN RWANDA

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


Affordable farm inputs and agriculture training available to smallholder farmers

RUBENGERA, Rwanda, May 24, 2016—TUBURA, a nonprofit agriculture organization based in Rubengera that offers farming inputs and training on credit to smallholder farmers, is now enrolling farmers for the upcoming planting season in Rwanda. Participating farmers will receive a complete bundle of agricultural inputs and services on credit, including the delivery of improved seeds and fertilizer, training on how to maximize crop yields, and education on how to minimize post-harvest losses. In 2015, farmers in the program increased farm income by 53 percent.

TUBURA’s services are available to smallholder farmers in Rusizi, Nyamasheke, Karongi, Rutsiro, and Nyanza districts, and in selected sectors of Huye, Gisagara, Nyaruguru, Nyamagabe, Ngororero, Gatsibo, Kayonza, Ngoma, and Nyagatare districts. To join the program, farmers must sign up with their local TUBURA field officer by July 4, 2016. 

This year, TUBURA is excited to offer a new and reduced pricing package, dubbed More For Less, which enables farmers to purchase inputs on credit with no additional service fee if repayment is completed in full by September 19, 2016. For repayments made after September 19, a service fee of 19 percent will apply. TUBURA accommodates its clients with a flexible repayment system; farmers may repay their loans in any amount and at any time as long as they complete repayment by July 31, 2017.

“TUBURA wants every farmer to have a great harvest. That is why we have made TUBURA more affordable than ever before with our More For Less Program,” said Eric Pohlman, country director for One Acre Fund Rwanda/TUBURA. “We encourage all farmers to sign up now so they may take advantage of the discounted prices, and to invest in improved seeds, fertilizer, and travertine.  When farmers invest in increasing their harvests, the whole country succeeds.”

TUBURA offers farmers high-quality fertilizer, travertine (lime), improved maize seed, climbing and bush bean seed, and vegetable seeds. Farmers may also purchase non-agriculture products such as solar lights and energy-efficient cook stoves. TUBURA delivers all products to a drop-off point within walking distance of clients’ cells and leads regular in-person trainings so farmers can maximize the benefits from products purchased. All farmers in the program will be served by full-time field officers employed by TUBURA, and have access to a customer care hotline should they have any queries.

“With TUBURA, there is no longer hunger in my family,” said Samson Nkekabahizi, a smallholder farmer from Kabeza, Gatsibo district who enrolled with TUBURA in 2014. “I am also able to buy two calves and pay medical insurance now.”

To qualify for the TUBURA program, farmers are required to form local groups, attend agricultural trainings, and pay a materials and training fee of 2,500 Rwandan Francs. In Rwanda, TUBURA provides a maximum of one loan package per household. For more information, farmers are advised to call TUBURA’s free hotline, 2580; this line is accessible with Tigo, MTN, and Airtel.


About TUBURA
TUBURA was founded in Rwanda in 2007 by One Acre Fund, a global nonprofit that supplies smallholder farmers with the financing and training they need to succeed. Offering a complete bundle of services on credit, the nonprofit organization distributes quality seeds and fertilizer to the remote areas where farmers live, provides financing for farm inputs, trains farmers in agriculture techniques, and educates them on how to minimize post-harvest losses and maximize market prices. On average, farmers working with TUBURA realize at least a 200 percent return on their investment, significantly increasing their farm income. One Acre Fund currently serves 400,000 farmers across Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Malawi and is growing quickly.  For more information, visit the website at www.oneacrefund.org or follow @oneacrefund.

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


One Acre Fund Expands Smallholder Farmer Services to Malawi and Uganda

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

ONE ACRE FUND EXPANDS SMALLHOLDER FARMER SERVICES TO MALAWI AND UGANDA

BUNGOMA, Kenya, May 4, 2016 — One Acre Fund, a nonprofit agriculture organization that supplies smallholder farmers with the financing and training they need to increase their incomes and food security, today announced the official opening of its Malawi and Uganda operations. Malawi and Uganda began as pilots in 2013 and 2014 respectively. One Acre Fund now serves 400,000 smallholder farmers—with an estimated two million people in those households—across East and Southern Africa.

“The majority of the world’s poor are hard-working smallholder farmers who can reach their full potential with access to finance, training, and services,” said Andrew Youn, One Acre Fund’s founder and executive director. “I’m thrilled to announce that One Acre Fund is now able to serve smallholder farmers in Malawi and Uganda and we will continue to grow our program until no farmer goes hungry.”

Participating farmers in the One Acre Fund program receive a complete bundle of agricultural inputs and services on credit, including the delivery of high-quality seeds and fertilizer, training on how to maximize crop yields, and education on how to minimize post-harvest losses. To accommodate clients, One Acre Fund offers a flexible repayment system: Farmers may make payments toward loans in any amount and at any time during the growing season as long as they complete repayment by the season’s end. In 2015, 99 percent of One Acre Fund farmers repaid their loans in full and on time.

One Acre Fund is currently working with 2,600 farmers in the Zomba, Mulanje, and Chiradzulu districts of Malawi and 3,700 farmers in the Jinja and Kamuli districts of Uganda. Loan packages vary depending on the size of land registered; farmers may enroll as little as half an acre of land. To be eligible for a loan, farmers are required to submit a small down payment of the total loan, meet regularly with a local One Acre Fund field officer, and attend in-person agricultural trainings.

Founded in 2006 in western Kenya, One Acre Fund works with more than 400,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda, and anticipates it will serve one million farmers by 2020.

About One Acre Fund

One Acre Fund supplies smallholder farmers with the financing and training they need to grow their way out of hunger and poverty. Through a complete bundle of services offered on credit, the organization distributes quality farm inputs to the remote areas where farmers live, trains farmers on agriculture techniques, and educates them on how to minimize post-harvest losses and maximize market prices. The organization was founded in Bungoma, Kenya in 2006 and serves 400,000 smallholder farmers across Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda. Follow @oneacrefund on social media or visit www.oneacrefund.org for more information.

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


Expanding Our Reach To New Countries

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Apr 26, 2016 Category: Core Program News Tags: malawi pilot uganda zambia

Field Officer Robert Kazana trains farmers on proper seed spacing

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.

Uganda

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

Malawi

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

Linley Kachapila, a smallholder farmer from Mandota, Malawi

Zambia

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.


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.


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