BLOG Tags: Maize
Kija Katemana hadn’t ever owned much. The 36-year-old single mother of four rented both her house and a small plot of land in rural Tanzania. The little income she earned from farming and selling baked samosas in town went entirely toward food and trying to pay her children’s school fees. She always felt as if she didn’t have much to show for her years of hard work.
Each year, Kija hoped to harvest enough maize to do more than pay the rent on her land again the following year. However, her three-acre farm plot rarely produced more than 10 sacks of maize – not enough to feed her family or generate extra money to change her status quo.
“Life was a real challenge then,” Kija says. “Sometimes we’d go the night without a meal. There were even times when I would have a little money from work that day, but I couldn’t find food to buy.”
In late 2013, Kija learned One Acre Fund was operating in her village. She heard they would provide agricultural training to help farmers improve their yields. So, she took a gamble and enrolled.
“I had only ever used local seed, and I had no idea how to space anything when I planted,” Kija says. “I sometimes would use a little fertilizer as well, but I didn’t know how much was correct to use.”
It turned out that One Acre Fund’s training would be the key she had been missing to improving her yields. When harvest time rolled around in 2014, she produced 20 sacks of maize from one acre of land. Kija was in disbelief.
Since then, she’s continued to plant with One Acre Fund year after year, and slowly she has started to alter her finances.
“My family can eat as many times a day as we like now,” Kija says. “My kids now are joyful knowing they’ll always come home to a meal. Before One Acre Fund, meat at our house was unheard of, but now we can have it any time we want.”
Not only has Kija been able to provide food for her family year-round, but she’s also made investments. In 2014, she sold a portion of her harvest and bought her own quarter acre of farm land. The next year, she built her own house. Between the two purchases, she’s now saving roughly $12 each month that she used to spend on rent.
“With that money, I’ve now been able to take all four of my children to school,” Kija says.
She also has grown her samosa-baking operation. She produces roughly double what she could before because she can afford to buy more ingredients upfront.
“Before I thought my life would be one of hardship, but thanks to One Acre Fund, I feel free of that life now,” Kija says. “I feel very confident that I am able to take care of my children, unlike before. The future I see ahead is now bright.”
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
“Millet is my bank. When I have millet in the house, I don’t worry about money. I can cash it in anytime I want,” says Beatrice Sangula, beaming.
Beatrice, a smallholder farmer in Nakhwana village in western Kenya, has farmed millet all her life. She learned how to farm from her parents, and now she’s doing it herself. One of the most important things she learned from her parents was timing. Planting millet early, before the onset of the rains in mid to late February, increased her chances of a better harvest.
“Millet is not like maize or other crops. I’ve realized millet germination is not all that dependent on rain. I expect to harvest every time I plant millet, even in the seasons when my village receives little rainfall,” Beatrice explains.
In early 2014, the Kenyan government announced an impending drought. Maize, the primary staple crop grown by many Kenyan smallholder farmers, requires adequate rainfall in order to thrive. Facing insufficient rainfall, an estimated 1.6 million people were facing prolonged periods of hunger and meal-skipping.
Making farmers more resilient to changing weather conditions is a critical part of fighting hunger. With rainfall becoming less and less consistent, One Acre Fund is encouraging farmers to plant drought-resistant crops, including millet and sorghum. This year, in honor of World Day to Combat Drought and Desertification, we’d like to feature Beatrice Sangula and her success with millet.
Beatrice knew she should plant millet early. Even so, for many years she didn’t. The problem was that millet prices were sky high around planting season in February, when demand was high. Beatrice could not afford to buy seed. So she would wait until April or May when the prices had dropped. But by that time the heavy rains had already started, often destroying most of her crop. A 50-pounds harvest was all she could count on for her quarter-acre plot.
For many years, Beatrice was not too worried by her poor millet harvests. After all, millet wasn’t her main crop. The maize she grew on the rest of her farm would satisfy most of her family’s food needs. However, in 2012 Beatrice noticed a change in her maize field. Before she knew it, most of her crop had been infected by the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) that was sweeping Kenya. Within the year, Beatrice lost her entire field.
The following ten months were among the hardest she’d experienced. She was out of food at home, and had to spend her small savings to buy food to keep her family afloat. But unfortunately that didn’t buy her much. Like Beatrice, most of her neighbors also lost their harvest to the disease. Everyone wanted maize, and nobody was producing it. Prices at her local market jumped, and soon a kilogram of maize was going for $0.77 USD. She needed a kilo per day to feed her family, so she sold all the vegetables her farm had produced and also cut and sold the trees she had been growing on her farm for years.
Beatrice knew she had to plant something different next season. She was hesitant to rely on millet because it had always produced poor harvests, but she had to try something. Planting maize last season had been a disaster.
“Every day I wished I could provide enough food for my family, but I was powerless to do it. When I looked at my children, I imagined their disappointment in me. I was very sad,” Beatrice says.
At the start of the 2013, Beatrice learned about One Acre Fund, an organization that offered fertilizer and millet seed on credit. One Acre Fund also offered trainings as part of their loan package, so Beatrice and other farmers in her village would be able to learn new planting techniques.
Beatrice decided to take the plunge. She enrolled with One Acre Fund, and by mid-February her millet seed and fertilizer had been delivered to a spot in her village only 50 meters from her home. Beatrice attended One Acre Fund trainings, using the planting techniques she learned when she planted her half-acre of millet later that month.
“I enjoyed the trainings because I learned new farming techniques. I also learned how to use fertilizer for the first time,” Beatrice recalls.
One of the things Beatrice learned was how to plant in rows. She realized she could use a small amount of seed to plant a large plot of land. Planting in rows also made it easy for her to weed. In June, Beatrice harvested a massive 793 pounds of millet. Not only was the size of the harvest amazing, but harvesting this early was a huge help as well. When she plants maize she has to wait until late July or August for it to mature.
In just one season, Beatrice had gone just scraping by to having more than enough to feed her family. At first, Beatrice’s children were surprised at the sight of millet ugali. They had only ever known maize ugali, which is white in color, and felt the millet ugali, brown in color, looked like mud. However, after trying the millet, they were surprised to find they really liked it.
“I like feeding my family millet because it fills them for a long time and gives them energy for the whole day. My children look strong and healthy and they are performing well in school,” Beatrice says proudly.
Millet is not only a source of food for Beatrice; it also provides a constant supply of cash. When she needs money, she can sell some of it. A two-kilogram tin fetches $1.84 USD at the market.
Invigorated by her newfound success, Beatrice continues to work hard to produce even more food for her family. In the current season, she has planted a half-acre of millet and a half-acre of maize. She now looks forward to a brighter future where her family won’t ever go hungry again.
Sitting under two woven tapestries of tropical palm trees that hang in her living room, Leunisia says her days of despair now feel far away. She sits tall and relaxed, taking shelter from the hot midday sun in the living room of her small brick home. She now wears clean clothes and her house is fully furnished,which she could not have afforded just a few years before.
For years after her husband’s death, Leunisia struggled to provide for her family. In one of the most difficult years, she was unable to pay the required tuition for her son Ebrahim’s high school, and he was forced to drop out.
By 2013, Leunisia had four other children in school and was determined to keep them there. She needed money and food, but she didn’t see an easy way to get either.
Then Leunisia heard about an organization that provided smallholder farmers like her with farm microfinancing that would enable her to pay for her planting supplies over the course of a year instead of having to come up with the money upfront. This meant she could put her existing money toward school tuition and then pay for her farming supplies after harvest time, when she would have food readily available for her family. Leunisia decided she would give it a try.
Remembering her initial shock after her first harvest with One Acre Fund, Leunisia smiles. The quality seed and planting techniques One Acre Fund had provided helped improve her yields—by 200 percent. For the first time, she not only had enough food to feed her family for the entire year, she had a surplus.
“I felt so good,” she says reminiscing.
Harvest: Leunisia with some of the maize she harvested in 2014.
With the surplus income from maize she sold at the market, Leunisia was able to purchase a motorbike. Not only would the bike save her time and money getting to and from her farm, it would enable her son Ebrahim to make money by taxiing people and goods around their village.
“Since Ebrahim was not able to continue his education, I wanted to help provide a business for him, and the motorbike makes that possible,” Leunisia says.
Moto: Leunisia and her son Ebrahim with the motorbike she bought with her surplus 2013 maize harvest.
In 2014, Leunisia purchased a larger quantity of seed and fertilizer to expand her One Acre Fund practices to a second acre of land. We’re pleased to report that she harvested more than 25 bags of maize between the two acres.
“Even though I am still facing the challenges of being a single mother, many of the challenges I used to know are gone. I have enough food to feed my family for the whole year and I also get money from selling my surplus maize, and from the motorbike. The challenges remaining are much smaller,” Leunisia says.
Field: Leunisia and the maize that has germinated in her farm for the 2015 season.
In 2014, one of Leunisia’s older children, who had finished high school, was also able to go to a technical college with Leunisia’s financial suppport. She is studying to be a teacher and will graduate in 2016.
As 2014 draws to a close, we at One Acre Fund have much to be thankful for.
2013 was a challenging year for us operationally. In Kenya we had to develop and distribute an entirely new crop package after a blight called Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) devastated the maize harvest across the country. At the same time, we expanded our operations in other countries, and launched a brand new program in Tanzania.
We learned a lot from the challenges of 2013. Those experiences allowed us to make 2014 our best year to-date, with major successes serving farmers across all countries and programs:
In March we delivered 50,558 solar lamps to farmers across Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. This was our first year offering solar lamps at scale in all the countries where we operate!
A One Acre Fund farmer hangs his Sunking Pro 2 solar lamp on the roof to light his house.
By May, we calculated our grevillea tree program had helped farmers plant an average of 50 trees per client in Kenya. The sale of these trees will help farmers pay for large expenses like their children’s school fees or new livestock.
A One Acre Fund staffer looks at a young grevillea tree in Teso, Kenya.
June saw One Acre Fund farmers in Burundi repay 100 percent of their loans for both growing seasons. In the second season, we doubled the amount that our farmers earn in increased profit as the result of joining our program, to $67 per farmer per year.
A One Acre Fund field officer collects farmer payments at a meeting in Burundi.
In August, 4,300 One Acre Fund farmers harvested crops in Tanzania. This was a 300 percent increase from the year before, and only our second year of operation in Tanzania.
After more than three years of researching and trialing bananas, in September we successfully delivered 35,480 banana plantlets to 7,096 farmers at over 400 rural distribution points across Rwanda.
Smallholder farmer Agnes Mukakabano is happy about the five FHIA 17 bananas trees she received.
In Tanzania this October, we purchased over 100 tons of maize from clients in order to help them get the best possible prices for their crops. Since we were able to buy and sell in bulk, we could pay farmers nearly 25 percent more than they would have received from other buyers.
Smallholder farmer Angel Mbasi harvests maize in Negabihi area, Tanzania.
By October, enrollment figures for the 2015 season were in. Over 200,000 clients had signed on to work with us this coming year, making it our biggest year to date.
From our humble beginnings in 2006, to our efforts to help farmers thrive in spite of setbacks in 2013, to our highest enrollment numbers to-date in 2014, One Acre Fund has a strong history of growth and adaptation. This isn’t an accident. Our commitment to humble service and constant improvement means we will always test new crops, products, and operational innovations in order to ensure we’re offering the most impactful products and services to farmers.
2015 isn’t even here yet, but it’s already shaping up to be a milestone year for One Acre Fund: through our work with over 200,000 smallholder farm families, our services will reach one million men, women, and children. With the UN declaring 2015 the International Year of Soils, it is also shaping up to be a milestone year for our planet.
For One Acre Fund, working with over 200,000 clients could be our biggest challenge yet. But our rapid growth moves us ever closer to our goal of achieving transformative impact on a truly transformative scale. We’re excited to roll up our sleeves and serve more smallholder farmers than ever before.
Gloriose works hard. At 35, she’s a mother to six. She and her husband Donacien rely solely on the food they produce, farming just over an acre of land in Masango Hill, Burundi. To provide for her family all year round, all she has in her arsenal of tools is a machete, a hand hoe and a few bags of seed.
Gloriose used to mix a variety of different crops together on her small plot of land. She’d plant maize, beans, cassava, and other vegetables without paying any attention to what went where, or how close one seed sat to another.
“I didn’t know how to space seeds or rotate my crops,” she says. “Very often, I didn’t use fertilizer because it was too expensive. Sometimes I would have to sell a goat just so that I could afford it.”
In 2012, One Acre Fund began operating in the village where Gloriose lives. As soon as she heard that One Acre Fund was offering planting trainings and fertilizer on credit, Gloriose decided to join.
“I was very excited to hear the fertilizer would be delivered close to my house,” she exclaims. “I used to walk more than 6 miles to reach the shops where I could buy it!”
In her first harvest after joining One Acre Fund, Gloriose’s beans doubled from 220 pounds to 440 pounds. Her maize crop also improved drastically. For the first time ever, she harvested more than 260 pounds of maize. Previously she had not harvested more than 110 pounds in her best year.
“440 pounds of beans and 260 pounds of maize were the result of changing my planting methods,” Gloriose says. “The One Acre Fund field officer taught me how to plant in lines and how to apply the same small-dose of fertilizer to each crop. It’s not easy to take care of children in Burundi, but One Acre Fund is making it possible. I am now feeding my children, buying them clothes, and paying their school fees.”
Gloriose was also able to sell her surplus harvest to buy two goats and one pig.
“The goats and the pig will both produce manure that can be used to mix with the fertilizer, which One Acre Fund has taught us how to do. This year, I’ve set my goals even higher. I don’t think I’ll harvest less than 600 pounds of maize!” she says excitedly.
If Gloriose succeeds in increasing her harvest this year, she plans to invest in more land to farm.
“My plan for next year is to sell my additional harvest and my two goats to buy more land. Then, I can continue to harvest even more over the next five years,” Gloriose says, smiling at the thought of bountiful harvests to come.
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.
To learn more about topics in food security and agricultural development, join our #feedingdev twitter chat "Putting Farmers First in the Fight to End Hunger." Click here for more information.
For years, farmers Deonata and Expedito Mahavile of the Kalenga Ward in Iringa District, Tanzania, did everything they could to ensure they had a good harvest. The results were always disappointing.
“From the 4.5 acres of maize we planted,” Expedito recalls, “we only harvested 10 bags. It was not enough to feed our family.”
Expedito also owned a small shop. But with bad harvests year after year, combined with the strain of paying school fees for their four children, he wasn’t able to keep it afloat. He also had to sell most of his chickens and pigs. “I began selling our chickens one by one, until I sold them all. I was of course hesitant to sell the pigs, but eventually I had to.”
Desperate to turn things around, Deonata and Expedito decided to enroll one of their 4.5 acres with One Acre Fund in 2013. That year, they harvested a whopping 25 bags of maize on that one acre alone.
“I had never harvested such a large amount of maize on just one acre,” Expedito exclaims, “It was just unbelievable.” In 2014, Deonata and Expedito decided to double the amount of land they enrolled with One Acre Fund.
To read about another smallholder farm family in Tanzania, click here.
Farming with One Acre Fund has meant true food security. “Before One Acre Fund, we used to harvest very little. We would sell what we harvested for school fees and there would be nothing left,” Deonata recalls. “Our family used to face hunger every year. With One Acre Fund, hunger has become a thing of the past. With our abundant harvests, we can sell enough to pay school fees and still have enough food to live on until the next harvest.”
Not only did farming with One Acre Fund allow them to feed their family, it also allowed Deonata and Expedito to choose how to allocate their resources. For example, in the past they would carry their meager harvest home on foot. Now they hire a truck to cart it all back.
Even One Acre Fund’s farming practices have made things easier for the family. The group of farmers that they were organized into helped to support them at every stage of the maize season. “Working in groups helped us to complete tasks such as planting, fertilizer application, weeding and harvesting, efficiently and on time,” Deonata says, “Previously we had to pay people to help us, so this was a huge help.”
This year, Deonata and Expedito expect their harvest to be even greater than last year’s harvest. “We hope to have enough both for food and for our children’s school fees,” Deonata says.
In addition to paying for school fees, Expedito believes that with a strong harvest, he will be able to gradually revive his business and start buying and raising pigs and chickens again. Expedito and Deonata also hope to start building a new house to be able to accommodate their extended family.
Like many in Sadani village in Iringa District, Tanzania, Martha Mbwilo, 48, and her husband, Jeremiah Wisa, 54, had spent much of their lives farming. And like many farmers in their village, they never seemed to grow enough food to feed their family, no matter how hard they worked.
Martha and Jeremiah cultivated 4 acres of land, but were only able to harvest 15 sacks of maize. Although they were registered for subsidized fertilizer inputs, they we’re not able to receive fertilizer.
"In order to obtain subsidized inputs, you need to pay 50 percent of the cost up front,” Jeremiah explains. “We could not pay and so we could not even get the input subsidies."
Without fertilizer, Martha and Jeremiah could not produce enough food to feed themselves and their eight children. During the hunger season, they reduced their consumption to only one type of grain per day. Often, the entire family would go without food in the mornings.
Hoping for better maize harvests, Martha and Jeremiah decided to enroll with One Acre Fund in 2013. As One Acre Fund members, they attending group meetings and trainings where they learned basic agriculture techniques. Martha was chosen as the group leader for the Twitange farming group. Jeremiah and Martha say working in groups has benefitted them greatly, reducing the workload and allowing them to complete tasks on time.
Martha is also appreciative of the flexibility of One Acre Fund loans. "We have enjoyed One Acre Fund’s system because it enables each person to get a loan even if you do not have much money at one time." One Acre Fund requires a small pre-payment upon enrollment, and farmers enjoy a flexible repayment system.
Martha and Jeremiah are thrilled to have their seed and fertilizer delivered close to their home. Martha says, “Our village is far from town, and there’s big problem of transport, so if you buy inputs from town, it costs a lot. This year I have received inputs at home, which is better.”
Jeremiah and Martha have also enjoyed receiving a solar lamp from One Acre Fund. Jeremiah says, “We do not have electricity here in Sadani. Solar lamps provide us with bright light, which is especially useful for the children when they read at night. It also reduces the cost of buying kerosene.”
Since they received trainings from One Acre Fund on planting and how to micro-dose fertilizer, Martha and Jeremiah say they can see differences in their land’s performance. "Before, if we managed to buy fertilizer, we used six bags of planting fertilizer for two acres,” Martha recalls. “Now, by using measuring scoops, we have used only two bags of fertilizer per two acres."
Next season, Martha and Jeremiah plan to increase the number of acres they enroll with One Acre Fund. They also expect to be able to pay their children’s school fees in full after this harvest. They have high hopes for the next season, and so do we.
Rogers Okumu walks through his neighbor's maize field in Kenya while helping apply the last round of fertilizer. Photo by Hailey Tucker
Milcah Nabukangwa Wasike, age 34, lives with her husband, Japhet, and their six children in Miendo, Kenya. The family has been with One Acre Fund since 2011.
Milcah starts her morning by making tea for her family. She boils milk, water, and tealeaves in a pot. Then she strains the leaves out and stores the tea in a plastic thermos to keep it hot.
After preparing tea, she washes the dishes and sets them out in the sun to dry. Then she takes a break to enjoy tea with her children.
“When I take tea—I know the tea will give me strength, so I like to sit and feel the strength going into my body,” Milcah says. “Taking tea is my relaxing moment when I can stop and think of the day ahead.”
Throughout the morning, neighbors stop by to purchase beans and cereals from Milcah.
“People know I still have food, so they come to my home to purchase some from me,” she says.
Since joining One Acre Fund, Milcah has seen her crop yields more than double.
“Before, I was convinced that my farm had been bewitched and was no longer fruitful. Achieving a good harvest was only something I imagined— I never thought it would happen,” Milcah says. “Since I joined One Acre Fund, my life has become easier because I am not experiencing hunger. I now have enough food to last the year.”
Once they finish chores around the house, Milcah and her children walk to visit her in-laws' farm before heading to their own farm. The children, usually in school, are on holiday this month, so they help Milcah do some light weeding in her maize, millet and sweet potato plots.
“I am happy. All of my crops germinated well,” Milcah says, “ but I am a bit worried about the pattern of the rain right now. If we don’t receive more rain, I am worried my crops won’t survive.”
After working in the field, Milcah cuts some fodder grass that borders her land. Then she feeds the grass to her two cows. Milcah bought one cow in 2011, after her very first harvest with One Acre Fund.
“Cows are good for me. Owning cows means I don’t have to buy milk or manure,” she says.
Then it's time for lunch. After the children finish eating, Milcah walks a short distance to a small market stop, where she sets out the cereals she hopes to sell. She goes to the market to sell daily.
“During the hunger season, I sell cereals,” Milcah says. “When it is harvest time, I sell clothes because the market for cereals is low.”
Milcah waits patiently for customers to come to her shop. Throughout the afternoon, neighbors and friends stop by. Some buy maize or beans, and some just come by to chat.
Once the sun gets low, Milcah returns home to begin preparing dinner. In the evenings, she cooks and spends time with her family.
After dinner, Milcah and her family usually watch TV. The family has had a battery-powered TV for three years, but six months ago, the battery died, and Milcah hasn’t been able to afford a new one.
“I miss it a lot,” Milcah says. “I love watching music videos. Some days, I go to the neighbors and borrow a battery so we can watch a little, but then I take the battery back.”
Frank Kisaka helps his mother apply fertilizer in their maize field in Malaka, Kenya, during his school holiday. Frank uses a One Acre Fund measuring scoop to determine the correct amount of fertilizer to use. Photo by Hailey Tucker
The Mutua farmer group in Maraka, Kenya, plants maize using a pre-measured planting string to help properly space their maize seeds. Photo by Kelvin Owino
When Martin Ugiraneza married his wife, Bernadette Mukandori, 36 years ago, his father gave him just over one acre of land. For 32 of those 36 years, he could not afford enough fertilizer to farm all of it. Large portions just sat empty.
“Lack of fertilizer was really holding us back,” Martin says. “We even chose our main crop at the time – sweet potatoes – because it doesn’t require much fertilizer.”
Martin first heard about One Acre Fund in his home village of Rwamiko in western Rwanda. In 2010, Martin decided to enroll in the program, and for the first time ever he was able to plant on all of his land.
Through One Acre Fund, Martin became part of a small group of farmers. The group chose the name of “Abatuganda,” which means “no half-hearted people” in Kinyarwanda. Martin was elected as the group’s leader.
“Being elected as a group leader was a lot of responsibility,” Martin explained, “I needed to act as a role model for the other members of my group.”
In past years, Martin had never harvested enough maize to last his family of seven more than a week. In a normal season, he would harvest around 45 pounds of maize.
In his first year with One Acre Fund, Martin decided to plant the majority of his land with maize and beans. On the rest he planted bananas, sweet potatoes and cassava. When harvest time came, he couldn’t believe his eyes. When it was all counted, he had harvested a whopping 220 pounds of beans and 440 pounds of maize.
“I was overjoyed. Never before in my life of farming have I seen such yields,” Martin says. “My family had more than enough to eat, and we were even able to share with my neighbors.”
Since that first season with One Acre Fund, Martin says his harvests have continued to improve.
“My 2013 harvest has been of paramount importance to me because even up to now, it is what I am consuming,” Martin says. “I will not run out of sweet potatoes and cassava to feed my family all year. We always have them at home now.”
Every year since 2010, Martin has sold a portion of his harvest to invest in other goods. He was able to purchase a cow one year, which produced a calf in early 2014.
“I am drinking milk, and I think within the next two years, this calf will be able to produce another, so then I hope to purchase a hybrid cow,” Martin says.
In recent years, Martin has been able to repair portions of his house, afford school fees for his five children, purchase clothes for his family and buy spices and other household items he could not afford to buy before.
Along with the hope of buying a hybrid cow, Martin is planning another important milestone for his family: to bring electricity to his house within two years.
“I’m working slowly but surely toward the goal of getting electricity,” Martin says. “But in the mean time I’ll order a Sun King solar lamp through One Acre Fund.”
In the more immediate future, Martin hopes to buy his first cell phone.
One Acre Fund farmer Elias Ndinduyubwo of Kagabiro, Rwanda, shows off maize he has harvested with his family. Photo by Hailey Tucker
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