BLOG Tags: Harvest
Our government relations team supports field operations to provide vital services to farmers. Apply now to become a Rwanda government relations analyst at One Acre Fund.
Smallholder farmer Jean Pierre Nzabahimana was born and raised in Gitega. He's chosen to raise his own children—daughters Asifiwe, 9, Sifa, 2, and son Noel, 7— here as well. Though Sifa is still too young, both Asifiwe and Noel are enrolled in the nearby primary school.
Jean Pierre Nzabahimana of Gitega, Rwanda
Jean Pierre and his wife Donathile own less than an acre of land, where they grow beans, maize, eggplant, and tomatoes. These days, he is careful to plant in neat rows that are well spaced. His field is an organized grid, and he consistently harvests well. However, prior to enrolling with One Acre Fund in 2010, Jean Pierre's fields looked quite different.
Like many farmers in Rwanda, Jean Pierre began planting when the rains came in, first in November and then again February. In the past, his method for planting was to scatter seed and fertilizer across his land, ad hoc. The result was anything but organized. The crops would grow tall, but they grew much too close to each other, and wouldn't yield much produce.
"I could not regain the money I invested. The harvest would not cover the expenses of the fertilizer and seed I had bought or the cost of the workers I had hired," Jean Pierre says.
Frustrated by season after season of poor harvests, Jean Pierre enrolled with One Acre Fund. As part of his loan package, Jean Pierre participated in One Acre Fund trainings, where he learned how to improve his planting techniques, including how to micro-dose fertilizer and how to properly space individual plants with a measuring string.
That year, for the first time, Jean Pierre planted his beans, maize, eggplants, and tomatoes in an organized grid. Initially, he was skeptical about his harvest because he used less fertilizer and seed than he ever had before. But when the crops matured, Jean Pierre was surprised; he had harvested more than triple the amount he harvested the previous season.
"I was very happy with that harvest, and they have continued to be good since," Jean Pierre says. "It was the beginning of a richness that I have been searching for [for a] long time."
Some of Jean Pierre's tomatoes from his 2015 harvest
Jean Pierre's bountiful harvest in 2010 was only the beginning. Since then, he has harvested more than enough to feed his family. The money he's earned selling his annual harvest surplus has gone straight into his bank account. By 2013, he had saved a total of $790 USD—a large amount for a farmer accustomed to living on less than $2 per day.
2013 was also the year the Rwandan government told Jean Pierre that his house, located on a small hill, was susceptible to land slides during heavy rains. Because of the risks, he decided to leave his home and move to a safer location. When it came time to build his new home, he used the savings he'd generated from his One Acre Fund harvests to buy bricks and roof tiles.
Jean Pierre moved into his new house in December 2013, and in 2014 was able to use the money he earned from yet another successful harvest to put the finishing touches on it.
Jean Pierre outside of his new home, showing off his bean harvest from this year
"Before I moved into my new house, I used to worry about heavy rains damaging my house, but now I sleep well. I never have those bad dreams anymore," Jean Pierre says.
With the 2014 harvest, Jean Pierre also bought a young bull, which he hopes to sell in the future for a high price. In the meantime, it is providing valuable manure that he can use as organic fertilizer in his fields.
Though he's accomplished a lot in the last few years, Jean Pierre still hopes to achieve more. Armed with improved planting methods that result in strong harvests, he plans to buy more land in the next two years. With this land, he is confident he will be able to generate enough extra income to send Sifa to school when the time comes, and to ensure that Asifiwe and Noel are able to complete their studies, and even attend university if they desire.
Our government relations team supports field operations to provide vital services to farmers. Apply now to become a Rwanda government relations analyst at One Acre Fund.
One Acre Fund is seeking passionate, mission-driven professionals to serve smallholder farmers. Visit our jobs page and apply for a field role in Kenya today!
In the sweltering heat of the midday sun, a man sits in the shade of a huge tree at the far corner of his home. He works in silence, swinging a machete up and down, chipping and scrubbing at stone sculptures. On his right, finished pieces are arranged in a semicircle.
"I can't believe it is almost fall again because last year at this time I was on the brink of giving up," Oganga Onzhangwa says. "Life was difficult, and I did not believe I would last for three more months."
Oganga Onzhangwa of Bokimai, Kenya.
Oganga, a farmer in Bokimai, Kenya, had serious concerns this time last year. Approaching the end of the year, only four pounds of his 297-pound maize harvest from August remained. The four pounds would only last his family of six for two more meals. After that, Oganga knew that until his next harvest, which was still 10 months away, his family would be without food.
In his pocket he had the equivalent of USD $5, the remainder of his savings, and knew he had a big decision to make. He could either buy food (enough for just two meals) or invest the money in something new.
In the end Oganga chose the latter. He used half of his remaining funds to enroll with One Acre Fund, to receive seed and fertilizer on credit. With the remaining few bills, he went to the nearby quarry, bought a few kilograms of soapstone, and started carving.
Ogango working on his stone carvings
However, things were not immediately successful in his new soapstone sculpture business. After working from morning to evening, he still only earned a few dollars every day. With this money, Oganga would buy food and use the rest to buy more soapstone the next day. He was not able to save anything.
"I was like the family granary, and my family looked to me to provide food every day. I could not afford to fall sick because that would mean starvation for my family," Oganga says.
Over the course of this difficult period, Oganga's hope rested on the fact that he had enrolled with One Acre Fund. He felt relief knowing he didn't need to worry about raising money to buy seed and fertilizer during planting. These supplies were delivered near his home and on time without him spending any additional money upfront. He also hoped for a better harvest after learning new planting techniques in One Acre Fund's field trainings.
Oganga's dream for a better harvest finally came true in July this year. From just a quarter-acre of land, he harvested 992 pounds of maize — a 70% increase from his previous harvest!
His harvest couldn't have come at more suitable time, as later that month, his children were facing the threat of being sent home from school for failure to pay their examination fees. If the children's fees weren't paid, they could no longer attend their classes. Oganga sold a portion of his harvest and was able to cover the fees on the spot.
Oganga with his children Ruben Mwangu (middle) and Josephine Moraa (right).
Oganga has saved the rest of his harvest and uses it for his family's food. With the money from his art, he is now able to buy more soapstone, produce even more pieces, and earn even more income.
"Previously I was desperate, and so I accepted any amount customers offered because if I declined my family would sleep hungry. But now I earn the right value for my work because I only sell for the right price," Oganga says, smiling as he tiptoes through soapstone chippings. Carefully, he settles his latest carving alongside several of his other works.
With enough food in his home, Oganga is now able to save his profits. Someday he plans to rent a big room at the market where he can display his soapstone sculptures and hopefully attract even more customers.
One Acre Fund is seeking passionate, mission-driven professionals to serve smallholder farmers. Visit our jobs page and apply for a field role in Kenya today!
Help Sakina and farmers like her improve their harvests and educate their children. Apply now to join our family of leaders!
Mama Halima's real name is Sakina Nyaulingo.
We first met Sakina Nyaulingo last year at her home in Luganga village, Tanzania, after she had just enrolled with One Acre Fund for the 2015 season. She told us all about her hopes for the season, and her big plans for ensuring that her three children could receive quality educations. Because of her oldest daughter Halima’s reputation in her village as a smart student with big potential, Sakina earned the nickname “Mama Halima.”
Sakina decided to take a loan with One Acre Fund to gain access to better quality seed and fertilizer. The inputs available at her local shop weren’t always high quality, and sometimes Sakina wasn’t able to afford any fertilizer at all. She used to harvest a mere 16 bags of maize from just over two acres of land. Unfortunately, this was barely enough to provide food for her family and cover her farming costs.
“It was difficult to spare even a single cent to support my children’s education,” she recalls.
A key priority for Sakina was to grow enough to pay for Halima’s education. At age 14, Halima’s dream is to become a physician— Sakina knew she had to equip her daughter with a good education to fulfill that dream. She also knew Halima would serve as a good example for her younger children. Salma (11) and Shabani (7) are in primary school.
Sakina's personal mission is part of a larger effort to educate the next generation in Tanzania.“To educate a child is more important than to give her money. Money won’t last, but education will stay with them until they die. With education, they will be able to build a strong future for generations to come.”
This season, Sakina harvested a total of 7 bags of maize from just the half-acre of land she had enrolled with One Acre Fund. This meant she had finally harvested enough to feed her family, cover her investment in a One Acre Fund loan, and educate her daughter Halima.
In addition, Sakina was able to earn a whopping 200,000 Tanzanian Shillings (approximately $92 USD) during the green maize harvest, locally known as Gobo. During Gobo, maize is harvested and sold before it dries out, when it is still green and fresh. Selling fresh maize earns almost double the amount of dry maize, so farmers are eager to harvest and sell maize while it is still green. Green maize is often used for cooking, and can be grilled or boiled.
After shelling their maize, Sakina and her husband Asheli separate the waste from the kernels.
“I am so happy I enrolled with One Acre Fund. I have increased my farming knowledge significantly, and the loan of seed and fertilizer makes my farming activities much easier than before!” she exclaims. “People in my neighborhood were surprised by how big the maize cobs in my field were. I have never experienced such big cobs in my farming before.”
With her seven bags of maize, she plans to keep two bags to feed her family and sell five as surplus to make more money to pay school fees for Halima.
“It costs 1,200,000 Tanzanian Shillings (approximately $553 USD) annually for Halima’s education. My farm income alone will not be enough to pay her total school fees, but I can still make a significant contribution.”
One year ago, when we asked about what she would do with her increased harvest, Sakina mentioned building a hotel to rent rooms and earn more money. By the time we checked back in with her, she had already accomplished this. Her family runs a small business renting rooms. Now, she’s focused on realizing her farm’s full potential because “increasing my harvest each season is the way to support my family and help Halima achieve her dream.”
“Halima’s education is the only plan I have for now." Sakina tells us. "Education is the only treasure that I want my children to have when I am gone, because I know if they are educated, they will not suffer in my absence, and they will be able to run their lives by themselves.”
Our team in Tanzania is seeking passionate leaders to put Farmers First in the fight to end global hunger. Apply now to becomes a program associate in Tanzania!
New Country Program Associates join a much smaller team, and are tasked with proving our model in a new context. If you think you have what it takes, apply now and help us reach even more farm families!
Robert sitting atop a portion of his 2015 maize harvest
Robert Tigarya, a 30-year-old father of three, had no doubt in his mind about what he wanted to do in his life. Growing up, his peers left Lulyambuzi Village, Uganda, in search of white-collar jobs in the city, but Robert never abandoned his early passion for farming. Seated atop a mountain of maize outside his home, Robert's smile tells the story of a man satisfied with his achievement.
"This is the moment I've always dreamed about: becoming the best farmer in my village. I'm very happy," Robert says, lifting one large cob after another from his pile.
Robert's journey to becoming the best farmer of Lulyambuzi has taken him six difficult years. Until last year, he was on the verge of giving up on farming altogether. He gestures to one small corner in his house where he's stored his harvest in the past. Most years, about four months after harvest, the corner was empty. Robert's family would have quickly run out of food, and for the rest of the year, he would have to borrow from neighbors and local shop owners.
"I know I have a responsibility to provide for my family. My children are very important to me, and I get very sad if I'm not able to provide enough for them," Robert says, cradling his youngest daughter Tracy in his arms.
Robert with his family
Robert would work long hours each day on his farm, hoping his hard work would bring about the strong harvests he'd always dreamed of. In spite of his efforts, nothing changed— the small corner in his home would sit empty just a few months after harvest. Then, in August of last year, his friends told him about One Acre Fund, an organization working with farmers in his village.
Robert enrolled in One Acre Fund's program, purchasing a half-acre's worth of hybrid maize seed and fertilizer on credit. For the first time in his life, Robert planted with hybrid seed and fertilizer, something he could never afford before. In One Acre Fund trainings, he learned how to properly apply fertilizer using a microdosing technique.
This season, Robert's harvest filled all the corners of his house.
"This harvest is amazing— I'm at a loss for words to explain it. I'm even worried I might not have enough space to store it in my house!" Robert laughs.
The corners of Robert's house – and the bowls of his family – won't be empty anytime soon. Now, he's not only able to feed his family, he's also able to sell the surplus produce at market. Last month, he sold part of his harvest and bought a motorcycle. The motorcycle has not only made it easier for Robert to get around, he also earns money from transporting other people. On average, he earns $5 USD every day from his investment.
Robert with the motorbike he bought last month
With the money he earns from his motorcycle business, Robert is planning to buy a cow. In the future, once he's generated even more savings, he plans to plaster the walls of his house and buy more land.
"I now know farming can be a business," Robert smiles. "Now that I've started benefiting from my business, I look forward to expanding it and enjoying more success in the future."
Want to learn more about One Acre Fund Uganda? Check out:
Lessons From One Acre Fund's First Uganda Pilot
A Secret Worth Sharing in Busota, Uganda
Interested in joining One Acre Fund's field team? Visit our jobs page to learn about our open positions.
If you visit the impact page of our website, you’ll see that on average, One Acre Fund farmers gain an extra $128 USD in farm income compared with neighboring farmers who don’t enroll with One Acre Fund. So how do we know that farmers experience this increase in income? The answer is through our rigorous harvest monitoring and evaluation (M&E) process!
At harvest time, One Acre Fund M&E agents measure and compare the harvests of One Acre Fund farmers with the harvests of farmers who have enrolled with One Acre Fund but who have not yet planted with us. The data we collect by comparing these similar farmer groups during harvest is a critical factor in determining which crops we will offer in next year’s loan package. We are also able to measure the impact of our program on harvest yields. Finally, our survey agents are an important touch point for our clients. They can collect feedback from farmers that will ultimately allow us to improve our customer service.
But before they actually weigh farmers’ harvests, M&E agents must follow a specific set of instructions to create the boxes they use to delineate which sections of farmers’ fields will be measured. These instructions help ensure uniformity and reduce the possibility of errors that could potentially skew the data we collect during monitoring and evaluation.
Below, we share the six steps M&E agents follow to prepare for harvest M&E:
After receiving the farmer’s consent and assuring them that One Acre Fund is not going to take away their harvest, the survey agent finds the starting corner by standing on the corner of the plot nearest the farmer’s house. This is labeled “corner 1” on the control sheet. The numbers go from one to four in a clockwise fashion.
Next, the survey agent will move into the field. He or she stands on the corner listed on the control sheet, and takes four steps along the rows of the field. Then they take 4 steps into the field, and place the first stake just next to the closest plant.
After that, the agent makes what we call the harvest box. He or she moves five meters along the line of plants and places the second stake. Next, he or she moves eight meters across the plants and place the third stake. Finally, after measuring five meters along the line of plants again, the agent places the fourth stake.
Now it’s time to make the second harvest box. The agent moves diagonally towards the opposite corner of the field for eight steps (or four steps if eight steps means stepping out of the field or into a place the box can’t be made). The agent then follows the same process outlined in steps one through three to create the second harvest box.
The next-to-last step involves filling out the control sheet. Agents fill in the date the boxes were made, the crops being measured, and, with the farmer’s help, the approximate date when they predict the field will be ready to harvest. Noting an approximate date for harvest is important— this is how field agents prioritize which farmers to visit when farmers begin to harvest their crop.
Finally, the field agent will review a set of instructions with the farmer. Farmers are reminded not the move the box, or allow their children or animals to destroy or move the box. Farmers are also instructed not to harvest their box without a field agent being present.
And of course, field agents are careful to reiterate to farmers that One Acre Fund uses harvest boxes to understand and compare how One Acre Fund and non-One Acre Fund crops are performing, and will never take away their harvest.
The information One Acre Fund collects during harvest M&E is essential data for impact measurement. It helps us better understand the farmer’s experience with their farming, and ultimately ensure that we’re providing them with the inputs, tools and training they need to permanently increase their farm income.
Want to hear from the people who actually conduct harvest M&E? Read this Q&A with One Acre Fund M&E agent Gaudentia Washiali!
Regina Muhehe, her eldest daughter Oliver Chubaka far right, her daughter Dafroza Chubaka far left, and her grandchildren in front of her maize field at the back of her home in Ihimbo, Kilolo District, Iringa.
It was always the same. By April of each year, Regina Muhehe’s hard-won harvest—the result of long hours of hard labor on her farm— would run out. “I was never able to grow enough to feed my family for the entire year,” Regina says.
Regina Muhehe is a 53 year-old single mother with six children and five grandchildren. She lives in Ihimbo village, in Iringa, Tanzania. Despite her hard work, Regina’s harvests were always meager. Though she owned four acres of land, the one acre she farmed would only yield three or four bags of maize.
“In my village, we depend on agriculture. Yet my harvests were never enough to pay for my children’s schooling or medical bills. Sometimes I could hardly afford to put meat or fish on our table,” Regina says.
Though ambitious and hardworking, it was difficult for Regina to raise her children and grandchildren with the threat of hunger always looming. In addition to growing maize, she also planted peas on a half-acre of land, sold traditional beer, and worked on other peoples’ land as a casual laborer. But no matter how much time and energy she invested, it was never enough.
Regina also struggled with the lack of electricity in her home. “I used to spend 3,000 Tanzanian shillings every week to fuel my lamp with kerosene,” she says. “I used my lamp for cooking, and my children used it at night for their studies.” When Regina couldn’t afford to buy kerosene, she would have to buy it on credit, or do household chores in a thick darkness.
"I want to end hunger and poverty in my entire family and community." Read the inspiring story of Yovita Kawaga, a Tanzanian farmer whose decision to enroll with One Acre Fund led to a brighter future for her family.
When One Acre Fund expanded its programs in her village in 2014, Regina realized that her chance had come to make a change for her family. She enrolled with One Acre Fund, and received maize seed and improved fertilizer on credit. She used these inputs and the information she learned in One Acre Fund trainings to plant her half-acre of land. Regina also purchased a solar lamp on credit, which allowed her to save money she would have otherwise spent on kerosene.
In her very first season with One Acre Fund, Regina harvested very well. She produced more than enough to feed her family for the year, and earned an additional 310,000 Tanzanian Shillings from selling her surplus maize at market.
“I had never earned such money from my harvest, ever!” Regina said. “Everybody in the neighborhood was surprised by how big the maize cobs were in my fields. It was incredible!”
The income she earned from selling her harvest surplus enabled Regina to pay for her daughter Dafroza and her son Emmanuel to complete their schooling. Dafroza, 20, just received her teaching certificate, and Emmanuel, 25, is a trained nurse.
“I am very excited that I managed to send two of my children to college. Now my mind is at peace because I know my other children will not be troubled by the school management due to the lack of school fees.”
The solar lamp Regina acquired from One Acre Fund also contributed to her savings. “Now, I don’t buy kerosene anymore because my solar lamp provides us with full light at night. Also, my phone battery is always full since I charge it from my solar panel anytime the battery goes down.”
Dafroza appreciates her mother’s decision to join One Acre Fund. “I thank my mother so much for joining this program. I would not have been able to complete my studies if she didn’t pay my tuition for this last term. Her maize harvest gave us the resources we needed.”
Dafroza’s older sister, Jestina, 30, is also appreciative. After seeing Regina’s strong harvest, she chose to follow in her mother’s footsteps and enroll with One Acre Fund as well.
This season, Regina plans to increase the acreage she plants with One Acre Fund. She wants to double her harvest in order to increase her surplus. She also plans to invest in livestock, productive assets that will pay dividends for years to come. With the extra incomes she earns, Regina’s goal is to see the rest of her children and grandchildren complete their schooling.
“I love One Acre Fund because it is so helpful.” Regina says. “With what I produced from just a half-acre of maize, I was able to educate my children. With One Acre Fund, I feel I can achieve my goals for the future.”
Want to learn more One Acre Fund's work in Tanzania? Check out these inspirational blogs!
Turning Sunflowers into Sauce in Tanzania
A Father Passes on His Love of Farming
10 Farmers Show Off Their Sunflower Fields in Tanzania
This blog was originally published by Care2. By Hailey Tucker.
“This is their time,” Jimmy Nziku says, his voice striking a note of urgency.
Jimmy lives in rural Tanzania, with his wife Suzana and their four children. As we talk, Suzana sits next to Jimmy, wearing a traditional Tanzanian “mama-style” dress. The two-inch-tall capped sleeves rest on her shoulders, and a river of batik beige shapes tumble from her neckline to the floor. She nods in agreement.
“This is their chance to study.” Jimmy pauses, then continues. “For a while I was keeping pigs. I would sell them to help pay the school fees… at the time, the children were just in primary school.”
Still sweating slightly after hand-tilling a portion of his land for maize planting, Jimmy says that if he can accomplish nothing else in his life, it will be to educate his children well. “Education is important because it can help you later—you can’t get a job without it.”
Jimmy and Suzana are farmers by trade. They rely on the food they grow in one season to feed their family for an entire year. Though the couple farms five acres of land, for many years their harvests averaged just over 1,500 pounds of maize.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the average American eats nearly 2,000 pounds of food per year. At most, the Nziku family would have 250 pounds per family member per year. Often times the amount was less, since Jimmy and Suzana would wind up selling part of their harvest to pay for clothing, livestock feed, personal items—and school fees.
1,500 pounds of maize was simply not enough to sustain the Nziku family. “I was able to pay school fees, but it was very difficult for me,” Jimmy says. “I was getting so little from our farming.”
A New Day
The couple sits together on stylized varnished wooden chairs, in a large house with polished cement floors. No longer sweating, Jimmy appears relaxed. Looking at them now, it’s hard to believe they used to live hand-to-mouth.
In 2013, Suzana and Jimmy both decided to take out a loan with One Acre Fund, a social enterprise that supplies smallholder farmers in East Africa with the financing and training they need to increase their productivity and incomes.
That year, they chose to plant two acres with One Acre Fund, receiving quality seed, fertilizer, and agricultural trainings. At the end of the season, Jimmy and Suzana harvested more than 3,000 pounds of maize from those two acres alone.
“I was happy because I had enough money to send my kids to school and to start building this house,” Jimmy says, smiling.
The couple says the combination of higher quality seed and fertilizer, a flexible loan repayment schedule, and planting and fertilizer application trainings helped them break free of the annual cycle of harvest and hunger they’d grown so accustomed to.
“I especially value the trainings because after leaving, I can keep the knowledge forever. Even without One Acre Fund—I can manage myself without a loan if I must. I could now afford the good seed and fertilizer, and I know how to use them,” Jimmy says.
In 2014, the couple increased their loan size to receive four-acres-worth of planting supplies on credit. They also chose to purchase a solar lamp to help their children study at night. They were so pleased with the first lamp that this year, they purchased a second.
“Our children use the solar lamps every night to complete their homework,” Jimmy says. “All of our children’s grades have improved since we received them!”
For 2015, the couple purchased seed and fertilizer on credit from One Acre Fund for every inch of their land. They have high hopes for their harvest.
“If we’re able to harvest 50 sacks of maize, as we hope to, we will try to improve things in our house. We have so many things to do, especially for our children. School fees are costly. We were thinking of opening bank accounts for the children and saving money for them there. Savings can help later on as school fees will continue to increase as they move to higher levels of education,” Jimmy says.
Higher education is hugely important to the Nziku family. Suzana and Jimmy both completed high school, but neither was able to complete a post-secondary degree. Judith, their oldest daughter, will be finishing high school at the end of this year, and Jimmy and Suzana desperately want her to continue her education.
After a mostly silent afternoon, Suzana finally chimes in. “I’m looking forward to the future,” she says. “I’ll watch as my children get a good education. They will never lack food to eat or struggle with other needs. When this day comes, I can relax.”
Looking out over the hills and fields of Iringa, Tanzania last March, it was as though everything was covered in warm gold. The brilliant yellow hues could only mean one thing: sunflower harvesting season had arrived!
Many farmers in the Iringa region of Tanzania grow sunflowers in addition to staple crops such as maize and beans. Last year, One Acre Fund offered sunflower seed and planting trainings as part of our loan package.
Sunflower blossoms are beautiful, but their main value is their seeds. Sunflower seed oil is useful for cooking, and farmers will also grind the seeds and use the flour (called “husee wa kuhata mmboga” in Kihehe, the local language) to thicken sauces and stews.
After we shared our last sunflower photo essay, one of the most common questions we received from readers was, “How do farmers make food and oil from their sunflowers?”
In this two-part series, we’ve asked two sunflower farmers in Tanzania to show us how they use their sunflower seeds in cooking.
One of the primary ways farmers use sunflower seeds is for sauce-making. We asked Flora Chambogo, a One Acre Fund farmer from Malagosi, to show us how she turns her seeds into a sauce for lunch for her family.
The process starts by letting the flowers dry on their stalks. After the flower heads dry out, Flora cuts them and lays them in the sun to dry further. Later, Flora beats the flowers to knock the seeds loose. The individual seeds are then laid in the sun to dry.
Once the seeds are dried out, Flora decides how much she wants to grind into flour. After choosing her quantity, Flora puts the seeds into a winnowing basket to separate them from the chaff.
For lunch, Flora chooses to use a small quanity of her sunflower seeds.
Flora winnows her sunflower seeds
Next Flora hand crushes the seeds into flour.
To hand crush the seeds Flora uses a large mortar and pestle.
The sunflower seeds in the mortar and pestle.
Once Flora achieves a fine dust, she puts the smashed sunflower seeds into a sieve and begins to separate the flour from the shell casings.
Flora using a sieve to separate out the flour.
The sieved flour, ready for making into sauce.
Once the flour is ready, Flora boils water and mixes flour with the boiled water for a few minutes. Then she chops up onions and tomatoes to mix with the sauce. Later she will also stir in some local greens.
Flora puts the sunflower seed flour into a pot of boiling water.
Flora cooking the sunflower seed sauce.
Flora leaves the saucepan on the fire, letting it simmer until the sauce is thick and ready to be eaten.
Want to learn more about traditional cooking in East Africa? Check out one farmer's recipe for ugali, a staple food commonly eaten in Kenya.
Yovita owns two acres of land and had grown maize on them for years, hoping to produce enough food to provide for Rehema and herself each season. Farming her land sunrise to sunset, Yovita worked hard every day but says the harvest was never enough.
Yovita in front of her home in Mlanda, Tanzania.
As Rehema reached the age for schooling, Yovita began to take out small loans with a handful of organizations, hoping the loans would alleviate her financial burdens. But she said she continued to struggle, primarily due to inflexible repayment systems.
"I took loans from an organization that had been providing agricultural services to smallholder farmers in my village a while ago. But they were not so caring for the farmers. We had to pay a fixed amount of money at the end of every month. If you failed to bring the full fixed amount, then you had to sell anything you owned to pay back the loan, or they would come and collect whatever a farmer had in compensation," Yovita explains.
In 2012, Yovita heard about One Acre Fund. She says the flexible repayment system has made a big difference in her ability to prosper.
"We can pay our One Acre Fund loan in small installments, in a way which is not pressuring, and we pay any amount that we can afford, any day, throughout the year until the full loan is cleared," Yovita says.
Since joining One Acre Fund, Yovita has not only been able to grow enough maize to feed her daughter and pay her school tuition, she's also taken in her niece and younger sister and begun to provide for them too.
Yovita with her daughter, Rehema, her niece, Karolina, and younger sister, Jerida.
"Joining One Acre Fund has turned my distresses into great happiness, as I am now able to run my life without begging for help from my relatives," Yovita says. "I am now the one giving help to my relatives! All this has been possible because I harvest more."
Since joining One Acre Fund in 2012, Yovita had begun saving what money she could for a special project she had in mind: lighting for her home without the use of kerosene, which is expensive and emits dangerous fumes. By early this year, she had enough to move forward.
"I had been spending money every week to refill my lamps with kerosene in order to have light at night because my village is not electrified," Yovita says. "So I invested the income from my previous harvests into self-generating funds, like buying ingredients to bake goods I can sell for a profit, and these eventually produced enough. It is from these funds I was able to electrify my house in February this year with a solar-powered setup. I am so excited that I have full electricity!"
Yovita flips the switch to turn on the solar powered lights in her home.
This year, Yovita's maize is looking as strong as she is. She is hoping to harvest more maize than she ever has harvested before because this year, for the first time, she planted all of her two acres with the improved seed and planting methods from One Acre Fund. If she harvests well, she will invest in livestock and start a business selling clothing for additional income.
Yovita and her maize, which she grew with One Acre Fund planting techniques.
"I want to end hunger and poverty in my entire family and community. But also, I have a desire to stand as an example to other single women for what they can accomplish," Yovita says.
This post originally appeared as part of a series on the ONE blog. To view the original post, click here.
In our second partnership with ONE, we’ll be following David and Zipporah, smallholder farmers from Kenya, for a whole growing season. From planting to harvest, we will check in every month to see what life is really like for a family making a living from agriculture in rural Kenya. Written by Hailey Tucker.
“I can see a difference in how the children are interacting,” David remarks, sitting back in his chair. “Since they are full after eating, they can play more. And now, they are not getting infected with diseases because they are strong.”
David and his wife are visibly relieved. Zipporah no longer wrings her hands while talking about what her children have eaten in the last 24 hours, and David’s handshake has a revived vigor to its squeeze.
After a year that started with a minimal harvest and later brought unanticipated expenses, David and Zipporah say their anxiety is finally over. In July and August, the family’s crops matured and the food they had been waiting for was finally ready to harvest—and consume.
Zipporah and David stand with the maize they’ve harvested and stored in their house. The couple keeps the sacks in their bedroom, raised off the ground and with space for good airflow to help best preserve the kernels. Photo: Hailey Tucker
David and Zipporah harvested 716 kg of maize from their field and had weekly harvests of collard greens after that.
“We feel this will be enough to sustain us through this year,” Zipporah says.
Along with their vegetable yields, the one cow the couple was able to keep over the year gave birth in August, which means the family now has fresh milk to drink and sell.
“We are excited to have milk again,” David says. “After giving birth, the cow is like our bank account. We are able to withdraw money from it everyday when we sell its milk.”
The cow that David and Zipporah own also produces manure, which they can use to make organic compost to enrich their soil.
David and Zipporah with their new calf. Photo: Hailey Tucker
With the combination of the increased harvest and new calf this year, the couple will have enough food to last them through the next wanjala (hunger season), the time when the previous year’s food supply runs out and new crops are still too immature to eat.
Not only does the couple think they will have enough food for the year to come, they hope to start a small business selling household goods in 2015.
“We’ve been farmers for many years now. And while we’ve benefitted from it, we feel we can do more to uplift ourselves,” David says. “So we are planning to open a small shop that will bring more income to the family.”
“While David would be running the business, I hope to start keeping more livestock to add to the income he’s making,” Zipporah adds. “We have all these plans to make sure we can provide for our children and get them a good education. We don’t want to see our children live a hard life like we did.”
Zipporah and David also want to host a wedding celebration, which they never had when they married 15 years ago. They couldn’t afford to have one then but they think this might be the year that they could.
“Life is like mathematics,” David says. “It’s all about calculating and trying to balance here and there. In the end, what you get is what you survive with.”
This blog was originally published by FoodTank. To view the original post, click here.
Viola looks out over the two acres of land she and her husband, Deo, inherited from her father. The fields are thick with bushy, yellow-green vines. The beans are ready to be harvested.
Viola harvests her climbing beans.
Two and a half years ago, Viola’s fields were nearly bare. Even though she and Deo had land, they could not afford the seed and fertilizer needed to plant on all of it. Harvests were low, with just enough to feed the family. There was no surplus to sell for income.
“Before One Acre Fund, we would just manage to have enough to eat. We couldn’t sell anything we grew,” Viola says. “I would go to purchase fertilizer, but I would not be able to buy enough.”
After their first year of farming with One Acre Fund, Viola and Deo nearly doubled their harvest and sold some of their surplus to purchase three goats. The following year, they invested even more, purchasing 60 chicks. If Viola could raise the chicks to mature chickens, she would be able sell them for more than double the initial buying price.
Viola also used her additional income to start a banana business where she buys unripe bananas from her neighbors and then, once ripe, sells the bananas at the market when they can command a higher price.
Viola Nsengiyumva joined One Acre Fund in 2012.
While some of her chicks fell ill before they could be sold, Viola and Deo still managed to turn a profit from the grown chickens and have invested 250,000 Burundian Francs ($160 USD) into their banana business this year—double the investment they made the year before.
With the money they’ve made from their new businesses, they’ve been able to enroll one of their daughters in nursery school and open their first savings account at a bank, where it is safe from thieves and can be allocated to educating their three daughters.
“One Acre Fund has played a very important role in my life,” Viola says. “We hope our children can study through university and get good jobs. Any job will do: a minister, a lawyer, a teacher—that is up to God—but getting them there—that is up to us.”
Viola and Deo sit with their daughters in front of their home.
This blog was written by Kelvin Owino and originally published on the Care2 Causes Blog, in honor of World Food Day. To read the original blog, click here.
“It was enough. I knew it was time to make a change.”
When you ask Tabitha Ngutuku, a smallholder farmer from Sikusi village in western Kenya, she’ll tell you her most valuable asset is her three-quarters-of-an-acre farm. But it wasn’t always this way. For a long time, Tabitha’s farm couldn’t even sustain her family.
In the weeks following a harvest, things were usually all right: Tabitha could afford to provide her family with at least two meals a day. But as a mother of six children, cultivating a small amount of land with outdated methods and poor-quality inputs, her meager harvests only lasted so long. For a significant portion of each year – the time in Kenya known as the hunger season – she was reduced to feeding her children a single small meal per day.
Once her harvest ran out, Tabitha would work odd jobs from dawn to dusk, trying to feed her family. She fetched water, cleaned laundry, and even worked on other villagers’ farms. Constantly struggling to make ends meet, Tabitha always ended up planting her own field too late in the season. After planting, she would barely have time to tend her own crops. Worse still, Tabitha could not afford to buy quality seed and fertilizer. Planting with poor quality seeds year after year, Tabitha grew to expect small yields.
Tabitha was caught in an unending cycle of failed harvests, hunger, and poverty. Many smallholder farmers living in East Africa are caught in this same cycle. Over seventy percent of the world’s poor are farmers, many of whom are women. Just like Tabitha, they farm less than one acre of land, and have limited access to farm inputs, training, and financial services. The chronic hunger these families experience is most damaging to children: in rural East Africa, one in 10 children dies before they reach the age of five, mostly from hunger-related deaths. Of those who survive, forty percent are physically and mentally stunted from a lifetime of not eating enough. Helping smallholder farmers grow themselves out of poverty is essential to bringing an end to global hunger.
In 2014, Tabitha heard about One Acre Fund, a non-profit social enterprise that supplied some of her neighbors with farm inputs and training on credit, delivered within walking distance of their homes. She decided to enroll. Through the program, she took a loan in the form of high-quality seeds and fertilizer, and started attending regular trainings. She prepared her farm early, planting at the onset of the rain instead of later in the season.
Tabitha’s goal all along was to improve her harvest in order to feed her family. Her hopes were buoyed by the successes of several of her neighbors who had farmed with One Acre Fund the previous season. But even with high hopes, Tabitha was left speechless after weighing her harvest: she had harvested 3,571 pounds of maize from her little farm. Previously, the most she had ever harvested was 595 pounds.
“I suspected my harvest would improve once I enrolled with One Acre Fund, but the thought of harvesting this much never even occurred to me!” Tabitha smiles widely as she holds up a large cob of maize. “This is the best harvest I’ve ever achieved!”
Tabitha’s harvest this year was so big that she didn’t have enough space in her house to store it. For the first time ever, she needed a way to store her maize long-term. She had to build a wooden granary to accommodate her harvest.
“I never needed a granary before because I was harvesting so little. But this year’s harvest made me realize I need a place to store my harvest and keep it safe from insects and rodents,” Tabitha explains. To avoid losing her crops to pests and fungus, Tabitha made sure to store her maize using methods she learned from One Acre Fund trainings.
With such a large harvest, Tabitha had plenty to feed her family for the entire year, and then some. She used the surplus to buy a cow, whose daily milk will provide additional revenue for the family.
“I’m a happy mother now. I sleep well knowing my children are not hungry and I can provide enough food for them all year round,” Tabitha says.
Next year, Tabitha plans to store a big portion of her harvest. That way she can sell it later in the year when the market price for maize is highest. She says she’s going to use the money to lease an additional half-acre of land so she can plant and harvest even more.
Tabitha went from struggling to feed her family to making big plans for investing her harvest surplus. Serving over 180,000 families like Tabitha’s, One Acre Fund is working to make hunger a thing of the past. This World Food Day, we’re honoring farmers like Tabitha, and calling on world leaders and policy makers to put farmers first in the fight to end global hunger.
Earlier this year, farmer Everline Wepukhulu fell ill and was not able to keep up with her planting activities. Stuck in bed, she worried about the impact her absence would have on her harvest and feared she would not be able to repay her One Acre Fund loan. Here we catch up with Everline to talk about the season, and how she overcame the challenges that confronted her.
When Everline Wepukhulu joined One Acre Fund in 2012, she saw changes to her life that she says she had never expected.
Everline and her children in front of the granary where she stores her harvests.
"I finally have enough food to last me the whole year. Even in the month of May. When I go to the mill with my maize in May, they know I'm a One Acre Fund farmer because only One Acre Fund farmers have maize in May."
With the surplus of her first harvest with One Acre Fund in 2012, Everline was able to purchase a cow, and later, in 2013, a plough. Together, these investments have enabled her and her husband to increase their income by renting the cow and plough out to their neighbors, who use them to till the land before planting.
"I never thought I'd own a cow or a plough, but now I own both!" Everline says. "When I look around at the benefits I've gotten from joining One Acre Fund, I am very happy."
Everline with the cow and plough she bought in 2013.
This past May, however, Everline wasn't in the field or at the mill. She fell ill and spent weeks, bedridden, in the hospital and at home, paying medical bills all the while.
"While I was sick, I couldn't pay my loan because I was using all the money on medical bills and medicine. But while I was away, One Acre Fund still provided me with top dress fertilizer, and I asked myself, 'If not for One Acre Fund, where would I have found money to pay for both medical bills and fertilizer?'," Everline says.
Despite having used up a significant portion of her annual income to pay the hospital, Everline was determined not to default on her One Acre Fund loan.
"When I got back, I thought to myself, 'One Acre Fund is good because while I was away, One Acre Fund still came and delivered inputs to me.' I even went to walk around my farm, and I was happy because while I was away, my One Acre Fund group had already applied top dress fertilizer to all of my maize and my crops looked good. I knew that if I paid the loan, I would continue to benefit."
Once she was well, Everline planted collard greens from seeds she had bought from One Acre Fund and started selling the vegetables as soon as they matured. She allocated the income from the greens to repay her loan, and was able to pay her balance in full by the closing repayment deadline in late September.
"Happy. I felt so happy," Everline says, describing how completing repayment felt. "I even received a text message from One Acre congratulating me, and that made me feel happy too."
Everline spreads her maize on a tarp in the sun to dry it for long-term storage.
"Tatu hadi tatu has changed my life," Anna Nyang'ao says.
In Kenya, our crop storage campaign is called "Tatu Hadi Tatu," meaning "three until three" in Kiswahili. This phrase is repeated to encourage farmers to save at least three sacks of grain from their August harvests until March, the third month of the following year. While much of our time is focused on training farmers on planting techniques to maximize crop productivity, it is equally important to educate them on storing and saving harvests.
In Kenya, the month of March marks the beginning of the hunger season, the time of year when farmers begin to run low on cereals saved from the previous year's harvest and a time when current crops have yet to mature. For many farmers, it’s the beginning of a long, six-month period of meal skipping and substitution.
Yet for those farmers who successfully stored and saved some of their harvests, March is also a time of opportunity: the price they can get for their maize is significantly higher.
In Igemo, Kenya, the village where Anna and her six children live, selling one 199-pound sack of maize in August (when the market is flush with maize) would fetch her 1,760 Kenyan shillings ($20 USD). However, if Anne stores that sack of maize and waits until March to sell it, she'll be able get three times the amount of money for it.
Anna with her 15-month-old baby, Duncan Mogaka
This year, Anna was able to save some maize from her August harvest – keeping it safe from pests and thieves – and recently sold a sack of maize for 6,600 Ksh ($76 USD). She also kept a portion of her "tatu hadi tatu" maize to be able to feed her family until August, when her next crop of maize will be ready to harvest.
"I've crossed a bridge. I crossed from a difficult past, where my family used to sleep hungry, to a new beginning where I can feed my family the whole year," Anna says. "It feels really good."
Before Anna began participating in "tatu hadi tatu," she says her family only ate one meal a day at most during the hunger season. Now, with food in her home year-round, Anna says she's seen changes in her family.
"Hunger is in the past now. My children are healthier because I can cook them breakfast, lunch, and supper. All members of my family are now more playful, happier, and close together than before," Anna says.
The increased income Anna now makes when she sells her harvests has allowed her to invest in other moneymaking ventures and to pay for her children's education.
Last month, Anna bought chickens and goats after selling some of her stored maize. She plans to breed and sell both as a source of additional income.
"One Acre Fund reversed a trend in my life," Anna says. "Instead of selling property from my home to buy food, I now have the income to buy food and things for my home."
To learn more about harvest time in Tanzania, click here and here.
Isaya Msilu and Elisi Ndanga of Kikombwe, Tanazania enrolled with One Acre Fund for the first time this year. They own four acres of land and decided to purchase hybrid maize seed and fertilizer on credit for one acre.
August 6th marked the day they would harvest their One Acre Fund acre. Isaya and Elisi were excited. They had watched as the maize on that one acre grew taller and stronger than the rest of their maize crop, and were eager to begin the harvest.
The couple had arranged with their neighbors to work in a group for all farming activities.
“Working in a group helps us to finish the work more quickly than if we do it ourselves,” Elisi says. “It would take a week if we harvested by ourselves. With our neighbors it will only take one day...in exchange, it is our culture that when people come to help you with any job, you should prepare food and drinks for them.”
The morning of their harvest, Elisi and Isaya woke before the sun rose and began to prepare.
Elisi crushes dried maize with a large wooden mallet to break loose a thin outer husk on the maize seeds. Without the husk, she says the maize tastes and cooks better.
After her morning routine, Elisi prepares a traditional Tanzanian dish known as “kande” to be shared with the group. Kande is a maize and bean porridge.
“It is a simple food, which can easily feed many people. It’s easy to prepare and will keep them full,” Elisi explains.
After crushing the maize, Elisi winnows the maize in a flat basket. She shakes the contents, tossing them up and swirling them round, as she lightly blows on the maize.
Winnowing helps separate the kernel casings from the kernels that Elisi will cook. Later, Isaya will feed the leftover casings to the chickens.
Elisi sorts through dried beans to measure out how much she would like to add to the kande.
Though she described kande as an easy-to-prepare dish, Elisi spends close to an hour preparing the kande before it even reaches the stove.
After the kande is ready to cook, Elisi calls her two children, Jonathan and Gifti, to the kitchen.
Elisi pours the children their morning tea.
Throughout the morning, Elisi tends to her children between other chores. Jonathan, now 7, has started elementary school, and will leave for classes in the afternoon. Until he goes, he entertains Gifti, 4, and prepares him for the day.
Jonathan and Gifti brush their teeth and play with a toy car with wheels made from bottle caps.
As Elisi finishes sweeping, cooking and preparing the children, Isaya returns from tending to their land. Now it’s time to head out to the field, meet the group, and begin the harvest.
Franciska Musisi and Elisi harvest maize from one of six tall piles on the farm.
“I have seen a difference,” Elisi says. “I expect to have a better harvest than other years. The One Acre Fund maize looks better than the others.”
The couple estimate that they will harvest 17 bags of maize from the acre they farmed with One Acre Fund. Their other acres produced an average of 7 bags of maize per acre.
“I feel better,” Isaya says. “I know I will have enough harvest. I know this year I have enough food, and I hope I may be able to get an oxen to help me with cultivating next year.”
The family poses for a portrait with their maize.
For 2015, the couple has re-enrolled with One Acre Fund. This time, they’re planning to receive seed and fertilizer for one and a half acres of maize.
Rwandan farmer Beatrice Musabyimana never dreamed that someday, she would be able to do more with her harvests than just consume them.
As a 49-year-old widow and caretaker of four, Beatrice knew her harvests were essential to her family’s wellbeing. She planted large plots of beans and maize with smaller sections of sweet potatoes, cassava, and bananas. But what she ended up with at harvest time was never enough to feed her family.
“I knew that something was wrong, particularly with my planting methods. All I had to show from a year’s work was 70 kilograms (154 pounds) of beans and 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of maize,” she says. “That’s why I joined One Acre Fund. I wanted to try new planting techniques, combined with hybrid seeds and fertilizer to see if I could improve my harvest.”
Beatrice joined One Acre Fund in 2010. “My harvest that first year with One Acre Fund was better than I ever could have imagined,” Beatrice says. “I was finally proud of my harvest.”
In 2010, Beatrice harvested 200 kilograms of beans (440 pounds) and 100 kilograms of maize (220 pounds). For the first time in her life, she was able to feed her family for the entire year and even sell off a portion of her harvest.
To view photos of bean harvesting in Rwanda and Burundi, click here.
In 2011, Beatrice sold some of her beans and purchased a young cow, which later gave birth to a calf. In 2013, Beatrice sold the older cow and used the money to buy a small portion of additional land. This land purchase represented a big step towards Beatrice’s long-term plan to expand her farming business.
After this year’s harvest, Beatrice sold one bag of beans and invested the money in a group-savings association with her neighbors. She and her neighbors agreed to contribute 5,000 Rwandan Francs each week, giving the total sum to one group member on a rotating basis. When it was her turn to receive the payout, she was given 80,000 Rwandan Francs ($115 USD), which she used to purchase a young bull.
Just last month, Beatrice sold two bags of beans for 55,000 Rwandan Francs ($79 USD) and purchased a second young bull. She has continued to enroll her remaining profits into the group-savings association.
Next April, Beatrice plans to sell both of her bulls. By then they will have grown older, stronger, and therefore more valuable. Around that same time it will be her turn to receive money from the group-savings association.
With all of the money from these exchanges, Beatrice then will purchase the rest of the land she’s had her eye on for 400,000 Rwandan Francs ($579 USD).
“I know it is not easy to purchase this land,” she says. “But with my two bulls, the group-savings association and my harvest, I know I will have the resources I need.”
With the land Beatrice buys, she hopes to increase her yields even further. Having achieved her objectives, she’ll soon have to set even more ambitious goals for herself.
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