BLOG Tags: Smallholder

How This Village In Kenya Is Planning To Survive The Hunger Season

Sep 14, 2016 Category: Farmer Profile Tags: kenya one campaign smallholder

In a new partnership with ONE campaign, we’ll be following a small community called Luucho in Western Kenya through the agricultural season. From planting to harvest, we will check in with the villagers of Luucho every month to learn about the choices and decisions their families must make as they seek to suvive the hunger season in rural Kenya. To view the original post, click here.

About 250 miles northwest of Nairobi, Kenya, the sun rises over Luucho, a quiet village nestled between large granite boulders. At the centre of the village, there is an outdoor market where three orange, dusty roads intersect, bordered by thick and thorny vegetation.

In the morning, the market begins to stir as the first of the vendors arrive to unlock their booths and restock their shelves. Later in the day, the vendors will be busy counting change and wrapping items in recycled newspapers. Until then, they work quickly to prepare for their customers and try to stay out of the sun’s increasingly punishing heat.

Residents of Luucho gather at a water pump to collect water to take to their homes, most of which do not have running water.

Residents of Luucho gather at a water pump to collect water to take to their homes, most of which do not have running water.

On the outskirts of the market lives 66-year-old David Wanangeiye, one of the village elders responsible for solving minor disputes in the community. Also trying to escape the sun’s wrath, David takes refuge under a lone tree outside his mud-walled home.

“This has been an extraordinary year. I’ve never experienced a year as hot as this in my whole life,” David says, his eyes gazing up toward the sky. “But I can see signs of the coming rain everywhere now.”

A woman farms her rocky field in Luucho, Kenya.

A woman farms her rocky field in Luucho, Kenya.

Like many smallholder farmers in Luucho, David depends solely on the rain to water his crops. In an ordinary season, the rains start somewhere between late February and early March with most farmers planting seeds by mid-March. This year, the fields sit empty, waiting, while farmers anxiously await the return of the rains. It’s now late March.

“My grandfather taught me that if the rain pours heavily at night, then it’s time to start planting. Every night before bed I walk outside and look to the sky searching for dark clouds,” David says. “I pray the rains start soon because if not, then this whole village will lack food in a few months.”

Signs around Luucho village.

Signs around Luucho village.

Ironically, lack of food is a common struggle for farmers in western Kenya. The majority of farmers run out of food three to four months after harvesting, leading to a period of food insecurity that lasts until the next year’s harvest is mature. This period is commonly referred to as wanjala in Bukusu, the local dialect; it means “hunger season.” During this time, farmers and their families will rely on a cup of tea or porridge in place of a meal.

Wanjala is still vivid in Shalene Simiyu’s mind. Shalene lives about 300 feet east of David’s home and could never grow enough food to make it through the entire year. Usually, Shalene managed to harvest just one bag of maize from her half-acre farm, and this single sack of food would only last her family of six for two months. For the rest of the year, her family would be limited to one meal a day.

“When we had no food in the evening, I would give my children a cup of water and then ask them to go to sleep. But they could not sleep because their stomachs were hungry, so I had to stay awake the whole night trying to calm them down,” Shalene says.

One Acre Fund field officer Salate Oteba hands out planting trainings to Shalene (far left) and her neighbors as part of a One Acre Fund crop training.

One Acre Fund field officer Salate Oteba hands out planting trainings to Shalene (far left) and her neighbors as part of a One Acre Fund crop training.

In 2009, Shalene bought seed and fertiliser from One Acre Fund, a nonprofit social enterprise that delivers farm inputs on credit to farmers in remote areas of East Africa and trains them on how to increase farm productivity and income.

Armed with new agricultural knowledge and supplies, Shalene increased her harvest that season to an astounding eight bags of maize. With this food, she was able to defeat the hunger season and feed her family for the full year. Since then, she has continued to improve her crop yields, and says she even has a surplus that she can share with her neighbours.

Shalene Simiyu and her daughter Lenise Nafulasit together in their house in Luucho.

Shalene Simiyu and her daughter Lenise Nafulasit together in their house in Luucho.

“All I wanted was to give my children a good life. I’m now happy when I see them smiling and happy because I’m able to provide them with at least three meals in a day,” Shalene says. “I pray for rains so that I’m able to continue producing enough food for my family.”

At half past noon, a distant gong signals lunchtime at Luucho primary school. As her children arrive home, Shalene quickly moves to the kitchen and starts serving a meal of rice and beans. She is soon joined by Christine Nanjala, her immediate neighbour and friend. The two friends chat happily as they arrange the plates on the table.

Residents of Luucho travel primarily by foot or bicycle.

Residents of Luucho travel primarily by foot or bicycle.

According to Christine, a meal of rice and beans is common for this time of year in many Luucho households. Since onset of the dry season three months ago, green vegetables have become scarce and expensive. Villagers now depend on other foods that can be dried and stored, and beans fit the bill.

“During the dry season, all the farms in this village are empty, so our options become limited. I’m looking forward to the start of the rains because then there will be plenty of fresh vegetables in the farm for us to choose from,” Christine says, Shalene nodding in agreement.

Shalene’s children (from left) Laban Wanyonyi, Mark Wekesa, and Getrine Nasimiyu eat a lunch of rice and beans at home in Luucho.

Shalene’s children (from left) Laban Wanyonyi, Mark Wekesa, and Getrine Nasimiyu eat a lunch of rice and beans at home in Luucho.

Shalene and Christine clear the table after the children finish lunch, and the two women prepare to head out in the heat to the market where Shalene sells clothes, fish, and mangoes.

Unlike the morning, the market is now abuzz with activity. Sellers and their customers bargain to get the best price. Music booms from several shops, and a growing line forms at the cereals mill, where parents wait their turn to grind grains into flour for porridge. Unexpectedly, a cool breeze sweeps through and the whole market pauses for a moment. Everyone looks to the sky, hoping—perhaps today will be the day when the rain finally returns.

Want to know if the rain finally falls over Luucho? Check back next month for part two of this year’s harvest series.


Sophia’s Best Bet For Success

May 02, 2016 Category: Tags: entrepreneurship mobile smallholder uganda

"I felt farming was a punishment. It was work for the poor people, those without any other alternative in life." Sofia Katende says.

For most of her life, Sofia Katende felt she had no choice. Her one-acre farm in Kasambira, Uganda was her sole source of income, but produced very little because she could never afford quality seed and fertilizer at the time of year when she needed to plant.  Come harvest time, she faced the same dilemma every year: store her maize for several months to later sell it at a higher price—but risk major harvest losses from pests and rodents—or sell her maize immediately after harvest at a throw-away price.

“My life had stagnated. Nothing I tried worked.” Sofia says.

As a mother of four children, Sofia depended on income from her harvest to pay for her children’s education. Her eldest son, George, was in his final years of high school and Sofia couldn’t bear to watch him stay at home.

“I worried about my son’s performance at school. He had to miss so many days,” Sofia says.

Sofia Ketende and One Acre Fund

Sofia with a One Acre Fund field officer

Sofia desperately needed a change. She planted a small plot with One Acre Fund. Together with her neighbors, she learned new planting techniques, including seed spacing and how to microdose fertilizer. The results were clear: from two pounds of seed, Sofia harvested 770 pounds of maize, more than three times her normal harvest. In 2015, Sofia learned how to reduce her post-harvest losses with improved storage techniques to ward off pests. Five months later, the price for maize at the market had increased 75% as maize became harder to come by. Sofia took advantage of the demand and sold her surplus.

Sofia Ketende and George Walangaire

Sofia and her son George

With the money she earned from selling her surplus, Sofia was finally able to pay George’s school fees. She also had enough money left over to open a shop at her market, where she transacts mobile money and earns a profit through the transaction fees. And recently, Sofia bought a refrigerator and placed it in her shop so she could sell cold water and passion fruit juice to thirsty customers.

Sofia Ketende in her shop with her new fridge

Sofia with her new refrigerator in her shop

For Sofia, it feels like a new beginning.

“I want to be the best farmer in my village and provide the best for my children. When my children grow up, I want them to remember me as a hard-working mother,” Sofia says with a smile. Her plan is to send George who is going for his final high school examinations this year, to university next year. 

Thinking about her success last season and what she hopes to accomplish next season, Sofia has realized that she doesn’t need any other alternative. Farming is no longer a punishment: it is her best bet to achieve her full potential.


Hope After Dark


This blog was written by Evariste Bagambiki, and was originally published by FoodTank. To view the original blog, click here.

In Kabuga, Rwanda, as twilight settles in, farmers return home from their fields. While others go to the nearby evening market, Vital Mucyo Irasubiza, a 16-year-old student and son of a smallholder farmer, arrives home from school. Still wearing his school uniform, Vital immediately sits down in the living room and opens his notebook to study for the Rwandan national exams.

Vital studies after dark with his solar light

Vital studies at home with his solar lamp after dark.

Studying after sunset was not always part of Vital’s routine. He started secondary school in 2012, and quickly realized that studying after school was going to be a major challenge.

“Teachers would often give more than two tests per day, and the probability was that I would only succeed on one of them, since there was just not enough light to review my lessons each day,” Vital says.

Each day, Vital had to make a tough choice. His classes would last until dusk, until there was barely enough remaining daylight to complete his hour-long walk home. Torn between reviewing his lessons and getting home safely, Vital would stay at school and study for as long as he could before it became too dark.  But he never had enough time to fully review his lessons, and wasn’t doing well as a result.

Part of the problem lay in the fact that Vital often couldn’t find light to study by at home. To light their home, his mother, Josephine Nyinawumuntu, would use either candles or a kerosene lamp. Purchasing candles and kerosene for a week would cost her the equivalent of one U.S. dollar, which is enough to buy both lunch and dinner for most Rwandan smallholder farmers.

Vital and his mother Josephine

Vital and his mother, Josephine Nyinawumuntu.

“Sometimes my mother would not be able to find the money for the fuel, so we would pass the whole week without light because we had to choose eating instead of lighting. Also, because my mother had to pay school fees for me, most of the time there was no light at home in the first days of the trimester, after fees were due,” Vital says.

In 2013, Josephine happened to meet a One Acre Fund field officer. She learned that if she enrolled with One Acre Fund, she would have access to agriculture trainings and high-quality fertilizer and seed on credit. She also learned that she would have the option to purchase additional add-on products on credit, and that solar lamps were one of the available add-on products.

Josephine enrolled with One Acre Fund that same year, purchasing her first solar lamp just as Vital began his second year of secondary school.

“I started that academic year full of joy. My target was to make great improvements at school since I would have light to study at home. My mother had to make sure the lamp was fully charged during the day, and then it was up to me to decide how long I needed to take for reviewing,” Vital says.

That year, Vital performed well at school and graduated to the next class in 2015.  Buoyed by her son’s success, Josephine bought a second solar lamp.

November of 2015 proved a special time for Vital. Like all Rwandan students his age, he had to take national exams to qualify for continued study in his field of choice. His plan was to study mechanical engineering, but he needed high scores to qualify.

Vital was confident going into the test. “The solar lamps helped us a lot. I can review my lessons whenever it is dark, and my mother no longer buys kerosene or candles. The money that she would use for fuel is now saved for buying seed,” Vital says.

Vital with his school book

Having a solar lamp at home allowed Vital to study after dark and achieve high marks on his exam.

When the results came in, Vital’s score was high enough to do mechanical engineering, but he was instead selected to study carpentry at a Technical Secondary School.

"I felt happy with the results, and I am so proud. I wouldn't have gotten this higher score if I hadn't had a chance to review my lessons at night," Vital says.

With a solar lamp at home, studying is no longer a problem, but school fees are another matter. Vital is worried about his parents being able to afford the school fees to keep three children in secondary school.  In spite of his worries, he’s focusing hard on his studies and staying hopeful, even after dark.

Investing in farmers pays dividends for future generations. Visit our jobs page to learn about new career opportunities with One Acre Fund, and help us invest in more smallholder farmers.
 


3 Ways One Acre Fund Learns from Farmers


Click here to learn more about the book Harnessing the Power of Collective Learning: Feedback, accountability and constituent voice in rural development.

One Acre Fund was recently asked to contribute to a book on constituent voice. The idea behind constituent voice is that people who are meant to benefit from socially-minded projects should play an active role in implementing and evaluating those projects. The new book presents eleven case studies of organizations trying to embed the perspectives and preferences of smallholder farmers into their work.

Participating in this effort got us thinking: what are the key mechanisms One Acre Fund has in place to ensure that we’re constantly learning from the farmers we serve?

Method 1: Farmers as staff

Famer perspectives are embedded into our program structure by virtue of the fact that farmers make up the majority of our staff. Farmers comprise roughly 90 percent of our 3,000 field operations staff. We also rely on a large volunteer network of 20,000+ farmer ‘group leaders’ to help arrange farmer meetings and lead groups in activities like planting and harvest. Field officers and group leaders spend their days in the fields of the farmers they serve gathering both formal and informal feedback. Input is then communicated upwards through weekly meetings with their managers. This staffing model forms a powerful feedback mechanism: farmers make up a majority of our staff, which boosts their influence on how One Acre Fund operates. 

Field staff, many of whom are farmers themselves, offer instruction to One Acre Fund farmers about planting techniques.

Method 2: Farmers as paying clients

Finally, we believe that treating farmers as clients and asking them for partial payment for our services is a useful tool for strengthening their say in how we operate. If the quality of our service in a particular area drops, we immediately see a drop in repayment levels, which sends a clear signal to us that something needs to be fixed. And the next season, farmers can “vote with their feet” and choose not to enroll if they find that One Acre Fund’s offerings are not worth their cost.

Repayment at one acre fund

Farmers purchase seed, fertilizer, and other add-on products on credit from One Acre Fund. Because farmers take out loans with us, we refer to them as clients.

Method 3: Farmers as co-innovators

We also try to ensure that farmers play an active role in our product R&D process. We experienced some early failures with products like passion fruit and mushrooms, which, although quite appealing on paper, were not actually attractive to our farmer network. This taught us a vital lesson: we needed to include farmers in every stage of our innovation process. Now, after some initial research, we quickly move to the field, where farmers test new products through hands-on trials. We ask farmers at each stage of the process for their feedback on what worked and what didn’t. Incorporating farmer opinions in our innovations process has led us to think about the adoptability and simplicity of products, rather than just their theoretical impact.

A great example of this process in action is our rollout of trees throughout the One Acre Fund program. We first learned that grevillea trees could be a great product addition because farmers told us so. And as we developed a tree product, participation by farmers ultimately pointed us to an affordable and simple method for planting trees on a large scale. Farmer feedback was critical in scaling our grevillea tree offering to where it is today.

Before new products ever make their way to farmers for purchase during enrollment, we ask farmers to test them and solicit farmer feedback.

Conclusions

One Acre Fund’s mission is to generate meaningful, long-term impact for the smallholder farmers we serve. Genuinely listening to and learning from farmers is a key ingredient in fulfilling that mission. We have found time and again that listening to farmers pays dividends in terms of driving overall impact.  

At a more basic level, seeking farmer input is simply the right thing to do. Farmers have the right to weigh in on products and services targeted to them. The mechanisms One Acre Fund has established for seeking and incorporating farmer feedback into our program have transformed farmers from passive beneficiaries to engaged participants who are actively shaping solutions to end hunger and poverty in their homes and communities.

One Acre Fund is hiring for 50+ new positions. Apply today and help more smallholder farmers improve their productivity, increase their incomes, and grow their way out of hunger and poverty.


One Acre Fund Testifies Before House Foreign Affairs Committee

Feb 19, 2016 Category: Policy Tags: global food security policy smallholder

Written statement of David Hong, Global Senior Policy Analyst, One Acre Fund
Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations
Hearing: Subcommittee Hearing: Food Security and Nutrition Programs in Africa October 7, 2015

 

Feeding a population of nine billion people by 2050 is one of the greatest – if not the greatest – challenge facing humanity. We will need to produce at least 60 percent more food than we do today. Most of that increased production will need to come from the 2.5 billion people that work on small farms around the world. Today, these smallholder farmers are the single largest group of the world’s population living in poverty. They live in remote areas, and do not have access to basic agricultural tools and trainings. As a result, they struggle to grow enough to feed their families and face an annual “hunger season” of meal skipping and meal substitution.

In the future, these hungry farmers have the potential to dramatically increase their yields, not just to feed themselves and their families, but to feed the world. Agriculture yields in Africa for most staple food crops could be 2-4 times what they are today. And best of all, we know exactly what we need to do to help smallholder farmers achieve these yield increases.

One Acre Fund is an agriculture organization that has developed an operating model to help smallholder farmers run profitable businesses. We are unique in several ways. First, we only serve smallholder farmers – primarily in East Africa – who typically farm on one acre of land or less. Second, we’re technically a nonprofit, but we operate like a business. Farmers pay for our products and services. Third, we’ve intentionally built a scalable model and we’re growing fast. We serve over 300,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania – and we plan to serve one million farmers by 2020.

We offer farmers a simple four-part operating model:

  • First, we offer financing for farm inputs such as hybrid seed and fertilizer. We only finance productive assets. Farmers organize themselves into groups and are jointly liable to repay their loans, similar to microfinance.
  • Second, we distribute seed, fertilizer, and other products such as tree seeds and solar lights within walking distance. Smallholder farmers live in remote and isolated areas, so getting products and services close to where they live is critical.
  • Third, we offer training on modern agricultural techniques. Many farmers don’t know how to apply fertilizer, or how to plant in rows with the correct spacing. We offer interactive, in-person trainings throughout the agriculture season.
  • Fourth, we offer market facilitation to help farmers maximize their profits from harvest sales. Just after harvest, the market is flooded with crop surpluses, driving prices down.


With proper training on safe storage, farmers can wait to sell their crops until market prices increase.

This operating model has proven impact. On average, farmers working with One Acre Fund increase their profits on supported activities by 57 percent, or about $128. For a farmer living on less than USD $2 a day, this is a significant amount of money. According to our data, farmers invest their income gains in new businesses, productive assets for the farm such as livestock, and school fees for their children.

An important aspect of our model is our flexible repayment system. Farmers can repay their loan, at any time, in any amount throughout the entire growing season, as long as they repay in full by harvest. In 2014, I’m pleased to report that the average repayment rate was 99 percent – and in two countries, 100 percent of clients repaid their loans.

Farmer repayment enables us to move toward financial sustainability in our field operations. 74 percent of our field expenses were covered by farmer repayment in 2014 and the nature of our business model stretches donor dollars to achieve more impact. Every dollar in grant funding that we receive generates approximately USD $3 in additional farmer income.

In a constrained budget environment, it’s even more critical for development organizations to maximize efficiency and impact. We’re working hard to achieve financial sustainability in our field operations so that we can use donor resources to leverage even greater impact at a global scale. For example, in 2012 USAID Kenya awarded One Acre Fund with USD $3.5 million to significantly scale up our Kenya operations. Over a three-year period we delivered agriculture loans to nearly 277,000 farm families, the majority of whom were women. We achieved repayment rates of 99 percent.

One Acre Fund has demonstrated that it’s possible to help hungry farmers become successful businesspeople, with surplus production that they can bring to local markets. Smallholder farmers are the answer to our global food security challenge. When they have access to basic tools and technologies, they thrive.

Thank you Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Bass, and subcommittee members for the opportunity to discuss our work and for putting global food security high on the development agenda. As you know, making progress on agriculture, food security, and nutrition is imperative to the health and wellbeing of future generations – may we not let them down.

One Acre Fund believes in partnering with African governments on strategic projects to help smallholder farmers grow their way out of hunger and poverty. Help us operationalize these partnerships by applying for our government services associate/manager role today!


The Case for Farm Finance

Feb 04, 2016 Category: Microfinance Tags: microfinance smallholder sustainability

Maximize your potential and help farmers just like Wilbroda access the tools they need to grow their way out of hunger and poverty. Apply today to join our family of leaders!

When you enter Wilbroda Nafula’s living room in rural western Kenya, you might be surprised to see three solar lamps, all charging cell phones. Wilbroda, a Kenyan farmer and mother of three, doesn’t advertise her business with a sign outside her home. She doesn’t even live close to other shops or at the village center. But word has spread among her neighbors that she has a cell phone charging business, and there is plenty of demand for her services.

“I tell you, in this mobile phone business, I eat well!” says Wilbroda, laughing aloud.

Just four years ago, Wilbroda wasn’t eating well, and neither was her family. Her only source of income was the maize she harvested from a half acre of land, and she was never able to harvest enough maize to feed the family through to the next harvest.

In 2011, she decided to take a seed-and-fertilizer loan to try to improve the production on her land. Along with the loan, she received training on correct agriculture practices, including food storage and market price fluctuations. That year, she produced an excellent harvest, stored enough food to feed her family, and started saving money to replace the roof on her house. By 2013, she had replaced her roof, invested in chickens, and purchased her first solar light. By 2014, she had a calf, a second solar light, and enough money to put her children in private primary school. This year she purchased her third solar light, and she’s planning to expand her poultry business.

With access to microfinance, Wilbroda can support her family through agriculture and her solar lamp business.

Wilbroda is like hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers all over the world, with one critical difference: the agriculture loan she received in 2011 changed the trajectory of her life. She is now part of the tiny percentage of smallholder farmers who have access to finance.

Smallholder farmers are the largest group of people living in poverty, and they are also the most financially excluded. Roughly 70 percent of the world’s poor are farmers, and the majority of them are unbanked. These 500 million farmers are in turn supporting as many as 2.5 billion people. Although most smallholder farmers are struggling to produce enough food, they have the potential to produce dramatically more. The Global Yield Gap and Productivity Atlas, developed by the Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, estimates that crop yields in Sub-Saharan Africa are 70–90 percent below their potential, the largest yield gap in the world.

Reducing the yield gap in Africa will boost global food production, but it will also have a dramatic effect on the continent’s poverty levels. Agriculture growth has been demonstrated to be as much as 3.2 times more effective than non agriculture growth at reducing extreme poverty in low-income countries.When farmers increase their incomes, they spend it locally. Agrodealers, seamstresses, furniture makers, motorbike drivers, and health workers all benefit. These individuals then spend their increased incomes, perpetuating a cycle of consumption that benefits all actors in the rural economy.

If we seek to end hunger by 2030, as articulated in the Sustainable Development Goals, if we seek to reach global financial inclusion by 2020, or if we seek to make significant gains in economic growth in developing countries, we must target smallholder farmers. They sit at the intersection of our ambitious global food security, financial inclusion, and economic growth targets. If smallholder farmers are able to unlock their potential, they will be a “triple threat,” collectively driving progress on global food security, financial inclusion, and economic growth. If they remain neglected, progress will stall. Given the strategic importance of smallholder farmers, the world should be laser-focused on how to provide them with the tools they need to move from subsistence farming to sustainable livelihoods. Therefore, the single most important tool we can offer them is farm finance.

This blog is an excerpt from The Case for Farm Finance, an article written by Stephanie Hanson for the MIT Innovations Journal's issue on financial inclusion. Click here to read the full piece.


3 Nutritious Farm-to-Table Recipes from East Africa

Jan 25, 2016 Category: Farmer Profile Tags: farm-to-table recipe smallholder

A version of this blog was originally published on FoodTank. To view the original piece, click here.

Imvange

Imvange, a Rwandan dish containing beans, maize and cassava.

Food insecurity remains a reality for many smallholder farmers in East Africa. Seventy percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. These farmers and their families lack access to the right tools and techniques to improve their harvests, and are highly susceptible to environmental shocks. They can suffer months of hunger and meal-skipping if their harvest is poor.

When you depend entirely on what you grow to sustain your family, the phrase "farm-to-table" takes on a whole new significance. Here, three smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania tell us in their own words what it’s like to grapple with food insecurity, and share their favorite nutritious farm-to-table dishes.

Imelda Nyongesa from Kenya

Imelda Nyongesa, Kenya

“My grandmother always told me that the best way to make my family happy and strong is by providing them with delicious meals every day,” Imelda says.

Now a mother of seven, Imelda Nyongesa frequently prepares pumpkin leaves, a family favorite and a traditional dish in Kenya. Pumpkins are nutritious, cheap, and easy to grow, so Imelda has pumpkin patches scattered throughout her land.

“I make sure I cook a lot before they arrive home for lunch during the school day.” Imelda says. In the evenings, Imelda often serves pumpkin leaves alongside ugali, a maize porridge dish that is firmly rooted in Kenyan culture.

Before enrolling with One Acre Fund in 2012, “I had given up on farming.” Imelda says. “I saw no need to waste my time and energy every season only to come out empty handed.” Since enrolling with One Acre Fund, Imelda has consistently harvested enough to feed her children for the whole year, and even purchase three solar lamps that allow her children to continue studying at night.

Imelda’s special recipe for pumpkin leaves:

1. Peel the leaves to remove the outer string-like layer.

2. Wash and cut the peeled leaves into small pieces.

3. Boil the pumpkin leaves for about seven minutes.

4. Fry the boiled leaves with onions, tomatoes, or any other ingredient of your choice.

5. Add fresh or fermented milk to improve the taste (optional).

6. Add salt to taste.

Emerithe Mukabaruta in Rwanda

Emerithe Mukabaruta, Rwanda

Like other farmers in her village, Emerithe’s family largely eats what she grows, which includes beans, maize, cassava, and sweet potatoes. She says that providing her four children with nutritious meals is one of her primary responsibilities. “I cook for my children’s health!” she says.

Several times a week, Emerithe makes a mixture of beans, maize, and cassava. This traditional combination, or imvange in Kinyarwanda, is her absolute favorite meal because it reminds her of childhood. “When I was ten years old, I used to sit around the fire and watch while my mother was cooking.” Emerithe says.  “Then, when I was twelve, I started cooking by myself, imitating my mother.”

Emerithe has been farming with One Acre Fund since 2012. Before joining One Acre Fund, her bean harvest would feed her family for only a month or two. Now, Emerithe’s improved harvests provide food year-round and she’s even been able to purchase medical insurance for her children.  In the future, Emerithe plans to educate all of her children.

“To cook beans, maize, and cassava, it’s a process,” says Emerithe. Preparation can take over four hours, but Emerithe says it’s worth it.  “It’s a delicious food!"

Emerithe’s recipe for imvange:

1. Put water and maize in a pot, then bring to a boil.

2. After 30 minutes, add the beans and boil for 90 minutes.

3. Add salt and wait ten minutes.

4. Peel cassava and add to pot.  Boil together for an additional 90 minutes.

5. Drain the water and serve, adding salt to taste.

Farm Family eating ugali in Tanzania

Jerida Kikoti, Tanzania

As Jerida’s children return home from school at midday, they crowd the table in anticipation of their ugali lunch.  Ugali is a maize-based porridge that is a staple in East Africa. “When my children eat ugali at lunch, they can stay strong until late in the evening,” she explains.

Providing her children with the sustenance they need to focus in school is part of Jerida’s long-term plan to give her children the education they deserve. However, Jerida wasn’t always able to plan for the future. Before enrolling with One Acre Fund in 2012, her harvest would not last through the year, and having ugali at every meal was not a guarantee.

Having learned to make ugali with her mother as a young girl, the process is very special to her. “My mother used to tell me to watch when she was cooking,” she says. “Ugali is the food that touches my heart.”

Jerida’s ugali recipe:

1. Heat half a liter of water until the water boils.

2. Add a handful of maize flour to the boiling water.

3. After the water reaches a boil again, add more maize flour, stirring slowly.

4. Pause the stirring for 10-20 seconds to allow the ugali to cook.

5. Repeat stirring and pausing until a thick consistent mixture is formed.

6. Let the ugali rest on fire for about three minutes—or until the smell of baking ugali fills the air.

7. Turn the ugali onto a serving plate.

8. Serve the ugali while hot. Ugali is commonly eaten with stews of vegetables, fish, beef, or chicken.

If these recipes inspired you, imagine what a career in the field would do! Apply today to become a One Acre Fund program associate!


How Seed Systems Affect Smallholder Farmers


We are seeking exceptional professionals with experience in and a passion for procurement and supply chain. Apply to become a One Acre Fund regional procurement lead!

In East Africa, food insecurity remains high. The issue is complex, with many contributing factors across production and distribution.  For smallholder farmers living in the most remote regions of East Africa, the issue is often directly related to their lack of access to farming supplies or inefficient agricultural processes. 

Seed systems are critical to decreasing the prevalence of hunger within many East African farming communities. A “seed system” is the entire value chain of seed, from R&D all the way to planting. It means the breeding and release of new varieties, distribution and sale networks, and best planting practices for optimal yields. 

Increased access to seed leads to optimal yields of crops like maize. 

Seed systems work differently in the different places where One Acre Fund operates. For example, in Rwanda, seed is sold through a subsidy program. Each year, the Rwandan ministry of agriculture (MINAGRI) sets the subsidy level, then decides how much seed should be imported by agro-dealers and distributors like One Acre Fund. In contrast to Rwanda, private seed companies in Kenya and Tanzania play a much larger role seed production and sales. In all countries where we work, however, it takes at least 2-3 years for a new seed variety to be released for commercial sale.

Providing farmers with access to improved seed is a key aspect of One Acre Fund’s core program, and one of the best ways to increase farm yields.  The quality of the seed system directly affects smallholders’ ability to access improved seed. Some key seed system barriers include:

  • Inefficient distribution and quality assurance. For most smallholder farmers, purchasing seed means a multi-kilometer walk or drive to the nearest town center to visit an agro-dealer. If the agro-dealer doesn’t have the farmer’s preferred seed variety available on that day, the farmer will purchase the next best variety, which may be less suitable for her region. Most likely, the agro-dealer has not tested the seed, or stored it in a way that prevents quality degradation. This means that by the time the farmer purchases that seed, the high moisture content could result in significantly lower germination levels.
  • Seed production issues. Since most companies produce seed under natural environmental pressures, there are risks each season that seed production can be impacted by drought, flooding, or disease. For example, maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND) is a serious threat to maize seed production. MLND and other pathogens can wipe out an entire crop of seed and cause hunger and starvation throughout whole regions.
  • System bottlenecks. The extensive seed certification process, prolonged variety release process, and lack of clarity on the seed release process are all things which dis-incentivize seed companies to innovate and produce new, promising varieties since they know it will take more than 3 years before those new varieties become profitable. Additionally, seed regulatory bodies can be limited by their financial and personnel bandwidth to increase capacity and improve controls. 
  • Inadequate access to financing. Agro dealers do not typically sell seed on credit, which limits farmers’ purchasing decisions to the most affordable varieties. While this tends to be a bigger issue for fertilizer, which is more expensive, for the poorest farmers, price point across varieties can be a deciding factor rather than the suitability of the variety for their region.

One Acre Fund’s core program is designed to overcome many of these seed system barriers. Before offering seed to farmers, One Acre Fund’s KEPHIS-trained lab technicians test it in our very own lab to ensure quality. Once quality is proven, we deliver the seed to drop sites within walking distance of farmers’ homes, so they don’t have to incur high transport costs. We offer farmers access to credit, a flexible loan repayment schedule, and information about seed varieties that are optimal for the region and climate. This gives One Acre Fund farmers the tools, information and flexibility they need to choose the seed that is right for them.

Improved seed systems allow farmers to make important farming decisions including crop choice.

Beyond what we’re able to offer farmers through our core program, we’ve come to realize that good government regulations and policies can help address some of the barriers above. Very clear release processes, effective subsidies and promotion of improved hybrid varieties, effective demand forecasting, and seed company compliance with national regulators are all helpful ways to improve seed system functionality. Wherever we work, we’re always careful to follow all government regulations and policies for seed.

Seed security and food security are inextricably linked. Access to quality seed can mean the difference between hunger and plenty for people who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Improving seed systems, especially in agriculture-focused regions of Eastern and Sub-Saharan Africa, is key to ending global hunger.

We are seeking exceptional professionals with experience in and a passion for procurement and supply chain. Apply to become a One Acre Fund regional procurement lead!


A Smallholder Farmer’s Perspective on 10 Years with One Acre Fund

Dec 17, 2015 Category: Farmer Profile Tags: 10 year anniversary kenya smallholder

Robai Wanyonyi, One Acre Fund

In 2006, Robai Wanyonyi was one of 38 farmers to enroll with One Acre Fund in our very first season of operation. She recalls attending a meeting where a young man named Andrew Youn told her she could buy maize seed from him without paying in cash. She says she signed on immediately, and has not regretted it since.

Robai and her husband have five children of their own, and also care for her brother’s son. When Robai joined One Acre Fund, she and her husband relied solely on their land to provide for their family. Enrolling with One Acre Fund gave them the opportunity to vastly improve their farm’s productivity, invest in productive assets, and change the trajectory of their lives forever.

Why did you decide to join One Acre Fund?
I decided to join One Acre Fund because Andrew Youn and the people he was working with were doing trainings on new planting techniques. He was really nice, always greeting us and talking to us. He was very social and very involved with what we were doing. In fact, I remember that when we offered him a seat he did not sit on it, instead he opted to sit down on the ground with us. He became my friend, and he would ask me how I was doing, how my family was doing, and I could tell he cared.

What really interested me was the fact that they were providing us with maize and fertilizer, something that no other organization had ever done. Also, with One Acre Fund, we were able to get seeds and pay for them later. With a shop, you need money to buy something, but with One Acre Fund, you do not need to pay the full amount right away.

You’ve been farming with One Acre Fund for 10 years now. What kept you coming back all these years?
Before joining One Acre Fund, I was not able to feed or support my family. Now I am able to grow enough food, and I don’t have to worry about those struggles.

We had other NGOs here before One Acre Fund. They trained us on how to plant sukuma in sacks, but then they left without giving us seed or anything to start with. With One Acre Fund, we were trained on different planting methods, and at the same time they gave us seeds to start with. They really invested in us, and they stayed around.

Robai Wanyonyi prepares her land using a jembe

What has been the biggest change you’ve seen with One Acre Fund over the 10 years you’ve farmed with us?
I have seen so many changes since I joined One Acre Fund. Every year, there are new crops, new techniques, and new methods. Personally, I have really improved ever since I joined One Acre Fund. When I joined, I had a quarter-acre piece of land, but now I have a half-acre. My children do not go hungry, and they now have clothes to wear. I have also bought two cows—a dairy cow and a bull. I have been able to educate my brother’s son, who is now in college.

One Acre Fund has grown from just few members to more than 300,000 farmers. How do you feel about this growth? 
I’m very happy because I have grown with One Acre Fund since 2006. We have persevered together through the challenges. Our experience has been like growing a tree. It’s hard for it to grow at first, but when it’s fully grown you get to enjoy the fruits. I now enjoy the fruits of One Acre Fund! Someday, I see my children finishing school and joining One Acre Fund to work there and even going to other countries to help farmers there.

What do you hope One Acre Fund will be doing 10 years from now?
I know One Acre Fund is already a big organization, and that’s why I know it will be even bigger and better. They also have offered several improved versions of solar lamps—perhaps in ten years, they will be able to bring us electricity!

Be sure to check out Robai's picture featured on our homepage, and read her full story in our annual report!

Robai Wanyonyi with her two sons


Celebrating the Smallholder Farmer in 2015


It’s December, and the end of the year is fast approaching. But for One Acre Fund, December 2015 marks the beginning of our tenth year of humble service to smallholder farmers.  Watch this incredible video to hear the farmers we work with share their personal stories of hunger and food insecurity, and how One Acre Fund's program has forever changed their families and communities.

 

 

As 2015 draws to a close, we take a moment to reflect on some key milestones and accomplishments from this exciting year.

In February, operations in Kenya reached over 137,000 smallholder farmers, and 9,000 metric tons of life-changing products were delivered to our Kenyan clients.

This April, Skoll Innovations Investment Alliance provided us with a $2 million grant.  With this generous contribution, One Acre Fund continued to pursue an extension partnership with the Rwandan government.

In June, Burundi field operations collected 100 percent repayment for the fourth season in a row.  The New York Times also featured One Acre Fund’s operating model in an article by David Bornstein, sharing our mission of serving the poorest and most remote smallholder farmers.

July saw the doubling of operation enrollment in Tanzania, expanding its client base to serve 18,000 farmers.

October was a busy month in Rwanda with USAID matching Skoll Investment Alliance’s $2 million grant, further enabling extension partnership efforts with the Rwandan government.   Additionally, Eric Pohlman, Rwanda Country Director, was awarded the Norman Borlaug Field Award.

By November, 152,000 farmers across East Africa had made long-term financial investments by planting tree seedlings.

As we embark on our tenth year, we are pushing ourselves to think long-term. We don’t want to generate impact for just one generation; our goal is to generate impact for farmers that will pay dividends for their children and their children’s children.  We look forward to sharing our progress in many more blogs to come, so be sure to check back in 2016 to learn about the new ways we’re putting Farmers First.


Taking On Her Future With Energy and Purpose

Dec 08, 2015 Category: Farmer Profile Tags: kenya smallholder women

The One Acre Fund regional procurement lead will oversee efforts to source life-changing inputs and products for farmers like Hellen. Apply now and join our family of leaders.

Jutting southwest from Kenya’s Kisii town is Tabaka, a mountainous village known for producing soapstone carvings and sculptures. As the sun rises over Tabaka, the men of the village leave their homes to start a busy day of work in the quarries, while the women stay home to take care of the families.

Hellen Nyaboni

For many years, Hellen Nyabonyi’s family was part of this routine, but then things changed. After the passing of her husband, there was no one in Hellen’s family to work in the quarry to support their family. She turned to farming as a means to feed her eight children.

Hellen would labor on her farm from morning to evening every day, hoping to grow enough food for her family. Despite five months of hard work, Hellen’s harvest from her half-acre plot would only last the family for a month at best.

For the rest of the year, Hellen polished soapstone carvings at a local soapstone shop. She earned $1 USD for a day’s work, and always spent it immediately on food. With her family living hand-to-mouth, Hellen felt hopeless.

Hellen harvests sukuma from her small plot.

“I was desperate and tired of the life I lived,” Hellen says. “Every day I watched my children grow thinner, and I knew they were hungry. No matter how hard I tried, I could not provide enough food.”

In 2014, Hellen decided to take out a loan with One Acre Fund. The loan provided her with access to better quality seed, fertilizer, and agricultural trainings. Before One Acre Fund, Hellen was rarely able to afford seed and fertilizer. When she could, the fertilizer available at the local shop was low quality, and the seed was often expired after sitting too long on the shelves.

Last year, Hellen harvested 10 bags of maize from that same half-acre of land. She stored six bags, which fed her family until her next harvest, and then she sold the remaining four bags. With the money she earned, Hellen started a business of selling second-hand clothes for a few hours in the evening at her local market. On a good day she is able to make five times as much as she used to earn polishing soapstone.

“I love One Acre Fund,” Hellen says. “Every time I come back from a training session, I feel like a better farmer. Right now I’ve learned how to wait for the right time to plant, how to properly measure fertilizer, and even the best way to store my harvest.”

This year, Hellen harvested a total of 12 bags, and bought three goats with her surplus. She plans to sell more of her harvest next year in time to pay her children’s school fees.

Hellen with one of her older sons, Joel.

As she goes about her household chores, it is clear that Hellen possesses a newfound confidence. She feeds her goats, plucks some vegetables from her garden for lunch, and uses a basket to winnow her maize in preparation for grinding it into flour. She says she is no longer tired of her daily routine— she is a mother and a provider, ready to take on the future with energy and purpose.

Hellen tends to her goats.

Hellen holds a basket full of her vibrant maize.

"Even as a single parent, I will end hunger and poverty in my family. I will send my children to school, provide enough food, and dress them well. They will be proud of their mother,” Hellen says, a bright smile lighting up her face.

The One Acre Fund regional producement lead will oversee efforts to source life-changing inputs and products for farmers like Hellen. Apply now and join our family of leaders.


Catching Up With Anne, David, and Zipporah

Dec 07, 2015 Category: Farmer Profile Tags: education kenya one campaign smallholder

Help us deliver quality inputs and life-changing products to farmers like Anne, David and Zipporah! Apply today to become a One Acre Fund logistics associate in Kenya or Burundi!

For the last several seasons, One Acre Fund has partnered with the ONE Campaign to give the smallholder families we work with in Kenya the chance to share their stories of triumph over food insecurity. In 2013, we met Anne Wafula, and celebrated with her as she harvested enough to pay for her eldest child to study engineering at a local technical college.  In 2014, we followed David Simiyu and Zipporah Nafula through a season of ups and downs, which ultimately ended in a strong harvest and new beginnings for the family of four.

Every month, from planting through to harvest, we visited these farmers and their families, and reported on what daily life was like for people who depend on smallholder agriculture for their livelihoods.  Now, several seasons later, we re-visited Anne, David, and Zipporah, to get an update on how things are going with their families and their farms.

Anne Wafula, Kisiwa, Kenya

anne wafula smallholder farmer kenya

How was your harvest this year?
I have had a good harvest! I planted beans, vegetables and sweet potatoes for the short season. For the long season, I planted maize and beans. It started off very poorly because of the rains but later on it recovered and I got 10 bags of maize. I took 2 bags of maize to my church and kept 8 bags for my family.

The beans that I planted harvested very well! I got more than fifteen two-kilogram tins. I planted some and my family has eaten some, but I still have four tins left.

How is your family? And your son Briston, the engineering student?
My son is doing well. He finished his certificate course last year, although unfortunately he had to stop his diploma course temporarily because I have not been able to pay the school fees. He told me that he will start working to earn money to continue with his studies. He now does road construction.

The rest of my children are doing very well. My second-eldest daughter is at Kisiwa technical college. She joined this year, and is undergoing her first exams.  Another one is at Nalondo Secondary in form one, also doing exams now. Another one is in class five and the last one is in nursery.

Have you enrolled in One Acre Fund for 2016?
I have enrolled for maize and a solar lamp. I will take the Sun King Pro 2. This is the fourth lamp I will be taking. I have taken maize for half an acre.

I also still have sweet potato vines, kept from what I planted last year. I hope to re-plant them when the rains reduce a bit. The vines do very well over here.

Do you have any big plans for next year?
We want to build a bigger, permanent house because we now have a big family, the children are growing, and we want a house that can last for a long time. The kitchen is old, so we want to build another one soon as well.


David Simiyu and Zipporah Nafula, Milani, Kenya

david and zipporah smallholder farmers one acre fund

How is your family doing?
David: My son just finished his primary school exams and I’m happy because now he can help me here with the house chores. When he wakes up in the morning now, his job is to take care of the cattle. Before, I would ask him every day how the exams were going, and he would just say “it’s going well.”  I’m very confident that he will pass though!

If your son passes his exams, will you be able to send him to secondary school?
David: We will try our level best to make sure that we send him to the best school possible. He has chosen Teremi High School, which is a national school. It was upgraded to a national school because it has been performing very well. Even if we cannot send him there, we will try our hardest to get him into another school with similar standards.

How do you feel about being able to educate your child to this level?
David: We are very happy that he has reached this far. God has been really good to us because when we took him to class one we never knew if we would get him here, to class 8. We are really thankful because when you invest in someone and then you see them succeed, you are very happy. We know that in future he will help us.

Are there any new additions around the farm?
Zipporah: Yes! We have a new calf. We sold our first calf because we needed money at that time, but our cow gave birth in August. Now we are getting milk in the same quantity we got when it gave birth to the first calf.

David: I am currently building a cowshed so that the cows are not rained on. I have started with the fencing first, but I will roof it later. I want to protect the new calf from infections by making sure it has a clean environment. That way, when I milk the cow I’m confident that the milk is good, and when I sell the milk to people, I know that I’m selling hygienic milk.

How is your harvest this year?
Zipporah: For the long season, we planted maize on a half-acre piece of land, but it did not do very well because there was less rain due to the drought. We just got five bags of maize, so unfortunately we did not have the best harvest this year. For the short season, we a planted groundnuts, beans, and sweet potatoes. We have already harvested the beans, and the rest are doing well.

What have you enrolled for next season?
David: We have enrolled for half an acre of maize. We decided not to take any more than this because our son will be starting secondary school next year so we did not want to have a big loan. We wanted to weigh our financial situation first. Also our other son Brian will be joining class eight soon and we are sure he will also pass his exams and enter secondary school.

What are your future plans?
David: Next year most of our plans will be about our children’s education and making sure we pay their school fees. We will plant sukuma (collard greens) to sell, and also save money from the sale of maize. We will just be doing our best to save more money to pay school fees.

One day soon, I do hope to cross breed the cow using artificial insemination and get a Friesian cow. Friesian cows are accustomed to staying in sheds, so I’m preparing for that now.

Help us deliver quality inputs and life-changing products to farmers like Anne, David and Zipporah! Apply today to become a One Acre Fund logistics associate in Kenya or Burundi!


One Acre Fund Endorsed by The Life You Can Save

Dec 01, 2015 Category: News Tags: agriculture development donors smallholder

Dec.  1st, 2015 — Peter Singer, Princeton University ethicist and founder of The Life You Can Save, released a statement of support for One Acre Fund. 

The Life You Can Save was founded as an advocacy and educational outreach organization to raise awareness for the more than one billion men, women, and children who live in extreme poverty. Each year, the organization publishes a list of the world’s best charities that aid the global poor. Each of their sixteen recommended charities has a demonstrated record of effectively combating the causes and the symptoms of global poverty. 

Read the full statement below.

 

the life you can save

One Acre Fund’s farm program offers donors one of the best giving opportunities to help reduce hunger and malnutrition in East Africa. A majority of those living in poverty rely on subsistence agriculture to support themselves and their families, and more than 60 percent of people living in the Horn of Africa participate in farming. But too often, family farmers don’t have the resources or tools to make their land profitable, or they might have support in one area but not in others.

What makes One Acre Fund unique among agricultural charities is its multi-faceted operations model. One Acre Fund helps small farmers maximize their farm productivity every step of the way, acre by acre. Participating farmers receive start up loans, which they can use toward the purchase of vital supplies such as seeds and fertilizer. Farmers also have opportunities to participate in up-to-date agricultural training, and One Acre Fund helps growers build relationships with local food traders. That means that farmers receive robust support from planting to harvest to market day.

One Acre Fund’s farm program brings us closer to realizing a world free of hunger, and farmers play a key role in helping us reduce food shortages and malnutrition. When farmers are empowered, they have the potential to bring surplus food to their communities and neighbors. One Acre Fund’s farm program model is designed to be scaled up, and the organization has the capacity to add one new region per year. By 2020, One Acre Fund farmers are expected to grow enough surplus food to feed an additional 5 million of their neighbors.

Supporting One Acre Fund is one of the best things a donor can do to help reduce global hunger and empower family farmers to nourish and sustain their families and communities.

- Peter Singer, Princeton ethicist and author, The Life You Can Save


Carving a Better Future

Nov 27, 2015 Category: Farmer Profile Tags: business harvest kenya smallholder

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.

carving soapstone in Kenya

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.

Kenyan farmer with his family

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!


The Access Challenge in Rural Kenya


Grace Khasoa insists she’s too old to wake up early. “I’m very old, so I wake up at seven in the morning now.” Grace, a widow, lives alone with her granddaughter, Gladwin. Her five children are all adults, with homes and families of their own.

Grace Khasoa kenyan farmer

Grace Khasoa.

At 67, Grace’s age means some things are more difficult for her. “Growing old means I’m no longer as strong as I used to be!” she says. “A place that would take me thirty minutes to reach now takes forty minutes or even one hour. Old age brings a lot of challenges.”

One thing that has gotten easier, though, is Grace’s ability to access farm inputs. That’s because in 2011, she enrolled with One Acre Fund, and has been receiving farm inputs delivered within walking distance of her farm in Mulimani village ever since.

It used to take Grace Khasoa one and half-hours by vehicle to get to the nearest town to buy farm inputs.

Before joining One Acre Fund, Grace would travel to Webuye to purchase seed and fertilizer. Webuye, the nearest town that sold the inputs she needed, was located one and half-hours away by car. Forced to spend precious time and money just to transport her inputs, Grace was barely able to make ends meet, let alone invest in her farm. 

Grace’s explanation of how challenging it is to access the goods and services she needs is deeply personal, but her experiences are not uncommon for smallholder farmers living in rural Kenya. In the following interview, Grace puts a human face on the access challenge in rural Kenya.

One Acre Fund delivers inputs to your village, within walking distance of your farm. How did you feel when you had to travel far to get inputs?

When I had to buy inputs in Webuye, I would waste a lot of time on the road. It was very far away, and sometimes I did not plant maize because I did not have money to go to Webuye.

When I could afford to go to Webuye, I always felt that I was supposed to be happy that I was getting inputs, but just the thought that I had to go very far to get them made me feel tired even before I started the journey.

When I joined One Acre Fund, the delivery site was brought even closer to me. All I have to do is to walk to the place! This has saved me money and time.

For people who don't live in the village, can you explain to them why having inputs delivered near your home is so helpful?

When One Acre Fund brings the inputs to us, near our homes, they save us a lot of the energy and resources we would spend getting inputs from places that are very far away.

People who live in the village are poor people who depend on the little they have to survive. Being able to buy and transport something like maize seed to plant is not easy.

Also, the terrain is not like the terrain in urban areas. Here, a place that is one kilometer away takes a longer time to reach because one has to cross rivers and climb mountains, not just walk down a road.

What prompted you to join One Acre Fund?

In this land, we as Luhya people love ugali. When that is not available, we feel very bad. It’s like just taking tea— without tea, you don’t have energy to do anything.

Life before One Acre Fund was very hard because I did not have ready access to inputs like maize seed or fertilizer. I used to harvest two bags of maize on a half-acre of land, which was not enough to feed my granddaughter and me. I would go to the markets to buy sweet potatoes and other vegetables, but the market was far, and it was an additional expense.

After I joined One Acre Fund in 2011, life changed for the better. The first year that I planted with One Acre Fund, I harvested nine bags of maize. This year I have harvested my maize but have not shelled it yet, but I am confident. I now regularly grow enough maize to feed myself and also pay school fees for my granddaughter.

 

kenyan farmer on motorbike

Before One Acre Fund, Grace used to hire a taxi to take her to get inputs in Webuye.

How frequently do you travel to Webuye now?

When I’m ok, I can go there just once a month to do my monthly shopping. I also buy things that my granddaughter needs, like textbooks and school items. It’s very far and also expensive, but I can’t get that stuff in the village.

When I’m sick though, I have to go there every week to buy medicine and get seen by the doctor.

Tell us more about your granddaughter.

Gladwin is 15 years, in form 2 in High School. She wants to be an engineer. She is motivated to be a civil engineer because she wants to make the roads in our village better since they are in a bad state. She has a hard time getting to school sometimes, especially when it rains since the roads are not passable.

Do you ever find yourself asking for help to get what you need?

When I have money I sometimes pay people to come and help with chores, like going to the river and splitting firewood. I’m glad One Acre Fund has the group system— my group members help me with the digging on my farm.

Asking for help makes me feel good and bad at the same time. I feel good because I can rest and save on time, and bad because I have to spend money to get the help that I need.

 

farmers travel by foot

Many farmers living in remote areas of East Africa must travel long distances on foot for basic necessities such as medical care.

What is the number one thing you wish was closer to your home, and why?

We have an M-pesa around here, but it would be nice to also have a bank. But what I would really love is to have a better hospital and chemist where I buy my medicine closer to my home. The hospital here and the chemist don’t always have what I need, so I have to travel to Webuye to get medicine.

For an old woman like me, it can be scary at times. Imagine a situation where I fall sick at night or during the day and I’m all alone.  How will I get to the hospital? Once, one of my neighbor’s children almost died because she could not get medicine and proper medical care in time. As a mother, I felt so much pain on her behalf.

Help solve the access gap in rural Kenya. Apply to be a program associate on our Kenya team!


On World Food Day, Farmers Should Come First

Nov 19, 2015 Category: Policy Tags: agriculture development sdgs smallholder

This blog was written by David Hong, and published originally in The Christian Science Monitor. To view the original piece, click here.

Last month, world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly to agree on a set of lofty “global goals”—officially known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—which set measurable targets to solve the world’s biggest challenges. This isn’t the first time world leaders have set ambitious targets – the SDGs built on the Millennium Development Goals that were created 15 years ago.

While the global goals present a daunting task, we already know how to make progress on many of them simultaneously: invest in smallholder farmers.

smallholder farmer with maize cobs

Smallholder farmer Agnes Mukamana, with her healthy maize cobs.

End poverty (goal 1), and end hunger (goal 2) will only be achieved by supporting farmers. Smallholder farmers are the largest group of people in the world living in poverty. This presents a tremendous opportunity, because economic growth in agriculture is estimated to be two to four times more powerful at reducing poverty than growth in other sectors. As smallholders become more productive, they’re able to invest in new business opportunities, increase their purchasing power, build resilience, and save for the future.

To end hunger, the UN estimates that the world will need to produce 60 percent more food by 2050 than it does today. Smallholder farmers are perfectly positioned to meet that need – they already produce 70 percent of the food we consume. While yields are maximized in most regions, studies show that farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa only achieve 20-30 percent of possible yields. Africa is the “last frontier” for smallholder farmers to dramatically increase their productivity.

Smallholder farmers can also contribute to significant progress on other global goals, including ensure healthy lives (goal 3), ensure quality education (goal 4), and take care of the earth (goal 15). Research shows that increases in agriculture productivity improves nutrition for children and mothers, particularly in the critical 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. When farmers boost their incomes, they don’t have to clear additional land for agriculture use, and can keep their children in school.

smallholder farmer family after bean harvest

With access to the right tools and services, smallholder farmers can invest in their farms and their families.

In order for smallholder farmers to contribute to meaningful progress on the global goals, they need access to some basic tools and services. The solutions to unlocking greater productivity and incomes for farmers are known. But we need a significant investment of resources from governments, donors, and nonprofits to bring those solutions to the field where smallholder farmers live.

In 2003, all 54 heads of state in the African Union pledged to spend at least 10 percent of their budgets on agriculture and food security. However, over ten years later, most governments are still coming up short. For smallholder farmers to benefit, governments should move past rhetoric and deliver resources directed towards their needs.

Donors can build on that support as well. In the aftermath of the world food price crisis, donor governments stepped up at the L’Aquila G8 Summit and invested in agriculture development on a scale not seen for decades. Fortunately, food markets eventually stabilized, but unfortunately, donor interest waned, and overall funding has been gradually decreasing ever since. It shouldn’t take another crisis for smallholder farmers to get the support they need to make the business of farming productive. Donors need to increase their funding of agriculture development.

Nonprofit organizations play a key role in direct interaction with farmers in the field. My organization, One Acre Fund, supplies over 300,000 smallholder farmers in East Africa with financing, access to seed and fertilizer, village-level trainings, and market facilitation to help them grow their way out of hunger and poverty. Other organizations, such as BRAC and Opportunity International, are doing great work to link farmers to financial services adapted to their needs. HarvestPlus works to improve the nutrition of families living in poverty by ensuring they grow food fortified with key nutrients. These organizations need additional resources to scale up their work to reach millions of additional farmers.

 

farming village in rural rwanda

One Acre Fund makes necessary supplies, including seed and fertilizer, more accessible to smallholder farming villages.

Agriculture is the common thread running through nine of the 17 SDGs, from hunger and poverty to health, education, and the environment. Because smallholder farmers comprise the largest group of people living in poverty, no sector is more vital to achieving the global goals than agriculture. Without farm income, health interventions and access to education will fall flat. And increases in agricultural productivity are key to reducing water use, mitigating climate change, and growing rural economies. The resources available to invest in achieving the global goals are limited. To maximize the impact of our global efforts to achieve the SDGs, the world must prioritize investments in smallholder farmers.


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