BLOG Tags: 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.
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.
Scaling resuable sanitary pads in Kenya is just one of the exciting projects our program associates work on. If you want a meaningful job that takes you to the field, apply to be a One Acre Fund program associate today!
When One Acre Fund’s field officers in Webuye, Kenya met with farmer groups in January 2015, they had more than the usual planting trainings to deliver. All 49 field officers (both men and women) in the district were on a mission. Their goal? To explain the benefits of AFRIpads reusable sanitary pads, which were selected after in-depth evaluation by our product innovations team as a product farmers could choose to purchase on top of the standard One Acre Fund package.
Webuye district was the site of our first farmer trials for reusable sanitary pads. The So Sure Pads, made by AFRIpads, have a lot to offer: at only $6 USD, they come in a pack of 4 pads, can be used for 12+ months, are highly absorbent, are easy to wash, and dry quickly. They offer women and girls a more sanitary option than cloth materials, and for those who can afford to purchase disposable pads, AFRIpads also wind up being more cost effective than purchasing expensive disposable pads every month.
A field officer demonstrates the absorbency of the reusable pads at a farmer group meeting.
After hearing their One Acre Fund field officer explain the benefits of reusable sanitary pads, Pamela and Francesca, two female farmers in Webuye District, immediately signed up to purchase them. Both women are experienced One Acre Fund farmers with extensive practice using the improved planting techniques learned in One Acre Fund trainings and strong track records of improved harvests and increased incomes. Yet this was the very first time either woman had stopped to consider how reusable sanitary pads could also improve their productivity and incomes.
Pamela lives close to a main road in Webuye. Until now, she had relied on disposable pads, spending 200-220 Kenyan shillings ($2-2.25 USD) each month. “I dreaded my periods would start at a time in the month when I didn’t have money to purchase pads,” she recalls.
For Francesca, disposable sanitary pads were a luxury she often couldn’t afford. “During the hunger season, I had to make a choice between either buying food or sanitary pads. In most cases I could not allow my children to go hungry, so I would buy food and then cut pieces from old clothes and blankets to use as pads,” Francesca explains. “Sometimes, I would not join other people or visit my friends because I worried that I smelled or might leak. I stayed in the house alone the whole day.”
Lack of access to adequate menstrual hygiene education and products is a barrier to the health and freedom of women and girls. In our research, 62 percent of One Acre Fund farmers report using ‘traditional materials’ during their menstrual cycles, such as cloth, pieces of blankets, mattresses, or cotton wool. Many women go through their day fearing that these materials may leak, or worse, fall out, while they’re in a meeting or working in their fields. On average, One Acre Fund farmers can afford disposable pads 43 percent of the time. But during the hunger season, disposable pads represent a big expense; many choose to spend their extra cash on food or on school fees for their children.
The issue affects the potential and productivity of girls in school as well. Farmers’ daughters will often skip school if they don’t have pads to use, or sit in class distracted and unable to focus because of embarrassment. One woman told a story of how, as a young girl, “one time I didn’t have money, so I used cotton. It distracted me and was uncomfortable. I was in class, anxious, and the teacher asked me to go to the front of the room. I was too afraid and I didn’t go. The teacher slapped me – it ruined my relationship with the teacher and it was hard to get anything from the class. I would make up stories to skip and school.”
When One Acre Fund set out to tackle this issue, we started with evaluating every option on the market. There are many terrific products out there, but what would be most comfortable, hygienic, affordable, and feasible to deliver to our farmers? We came up with a few ideas, and then used direct farmer testing – women are happy to try something new – to find out. We determined that reusable pads were recognizable because all women are already familiar with disposable pads, more hygienic than menstrual cups since many farmers do not have running water, and more affordable and efficient than a year’s supply of disposable pads, which generates a huge amount of waste in places without a waste disposal system. With AFRIpads selected as our best option, our goal was to offer reusable sanitary pads at full-scale, across all One Acre Fund districts in Kenya.
Farmers in Kenya were surprised to see One Acre Fund branch out into health products. Even though most One Acre Fund farmers had never heard of a reusable sanitary pad before, One Acre Fund sold a whopping 2,000 packets of pads in just two weeks! Unsurprisingly, female farmers were eager to purchase the pads, and male farmers also bought them for their wives and daughters.
Francesca Nasambu, from Webuye district, Kenya, holding her reusable sanitary pads.
We visited Francesca and Pamela in June, several months after they received the reusable pads they’d purchased. Happily, their plentiful harvests were getting them successfully through the period of the year they used to refer to as the hunger season.
“I love these pads. They feel dry and comfortable, and sometimes I forget that I’m even wearing them because they are very light,” Pamela told us. In just two months of not purchasing disposable pads, she was able to save 400 Kenyan shillings (about $4 USD), which she put towards the purchase a chicken. She hopes investing in poultry will generate more income for her family.
Francesca is also very happy. She feels comfortable in the pads and no longer feels confined to her home for days out of every month. She has told the women she knows about the benefits of reusable pads and hopes they’ll purchase them from One Acre Fund as well.
Pamela and Francesca weren’t the only farmers who felt AFRIpads had made an improvement in their lives. A farmer survey we conducted found that 97 percent of women felt the pads were better than what they had used previously, and 88 percent would ‘definitely recommend’ them to friends. One Acre fund is still finalizing a randomized control trial to better understand the economic and quality-of-life impact of reusable sanitary pads, but we know this product is popular with farmers.
One Acre Fund Kenya will be offering reusable pads to all farmers and staff (who have been asking for them!) in 2016. We're eager to hear more stories about the positive impact these pads will have for females farmers and their daughters.
Scaling resuable sanitary pads in Kenya is just one of the exciting projects our program associates work on. If you want a meaningful job that takes you to the field, apply to be a One Acre Fund program associate today!
Since joining One Acre Fund Kenya's human resources team in 2011, Beatrice Macksallah has seen her scope of care grow from less than 500 staff members to more than 1,450 staff members serving more than 135,000 farmers. We say "scope of care" because as the current head of human resources in Kenya, Beatrice brings an enormous level of caring and passion to her work. Supporting such a large, diverse, and widely spread team is no mean feat, but Beatrice proves herself more than equal to the task.
Beatrice’s calm, poised demeanor belies her incredible energy. This energy is what allows her to consider the needs of so many while simultaneously bringing a high level of focus to each individual task. Fortunately for One Acre Fund, Beatrice looks forward to continuing to grow her team's number and skills, all the while increasing the quality of care and service that is offered to One Acre Fund’s most valuable resource - our staff.
How did you decide on a career in human resources (HR), and why did you choose to work for One Acre Fund?
My last role, which lasted five years, was with another NGO. I was working in the HR department there, and I was doing administration. I have always been interested in HR because I have always loved working and interacting with people. In the HR department I get to interact with different people and get to learn a lot from them.
I appreciated what One Acre Fund is doing, how they are touching farmers’ lives and having real impact on the ground. I wanted to be part of that change and work to impact people’s lives. I like how One Acre Fund operates: it’s not a “boardroom” culture where decisions are made high up. Rather, it is a collaborative and interactive atmosphere.
What do you feel has been your greatest moment or achievement at work? Why do you feel it was so important to you?
The greatest moment for me always is when we have a successful hire. I love when new staff members are able to fit well within their departments, and when we get feedback from their department heads that they are doing a great job.
For an achievement, I’d say being able to decentralize HR functions and ensuring that all staff welfare is taken care of is something that makes me feel very proud. I feel I have been able to serve One Acre Fund staff well.
What is one of the most challenging things about your role? How do you overcome it?
We are a diverse organization— we have new hires, and new managers, and everyone comes in with different ways of doing things! And of course, everyone has different expectations and wants different policies in place. It can be difficult to incorporate all these ideas into one operation, but we always make sure that the policies of the organization are well communicated to new staff to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Who is your role model in life?
Internationally I look up to Graca Machel, and locally my role model is Wangari Maathai. Though she [Wangari Maathai] is dead, her policies and impact still remain with us. She was focused. I also love reaching out to other organization members and friends who are in the same profession to try and share ideas and encourage each other; they are also my role models.
What is the one thing that you would not change about yourself?
I would not change my character and how I relate to other members of this organization. I believe in being myself and always try to put my best foot forward. For example, my personal motto is “Offering and Serving.” I believe in offering and serving with the expectation that someone will emulate what I do and, in the long run, be better than me.
If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?
If I had a superpower, I would wish for the power to make people do the right thing. I believe people know that they are supposed to do the right thing, but in most cases they don’t do it!
Has working for One Acre Fund met your expectations?
The experience has been great! Joining One Acre Fund at first was a shock to me. The culture and way of doing things here was different compared to other organizations. Other organizations do things in a formal and procedural way, but at One Acre Fund it was informal. I mean, even the dress code was not strict! But the environment was still very professional, which I liked.
I have to say I love what I do. I love applying my skills to support others in their work. I want to ensure that all the people I work with reach the same level of professional satisfaction that I have. I have grown to love HR because of the experience I have had when dealing with people. I will always do HR for the rest of my life. If I have to change, then I would just want to move to a higher level, like Strategic Management.
What do you hope One Acre Fund looks like 10 years from now?
One Acre Fund will be a household name, will have a greater impact in tenfold, and will expand to other counties and countries in the region—the Rift Valley and even the coast! We will have a capacity of 3,000 staff!
Interested in joining the One Acre Fund team? Visit our jobs page and apply today!
What is your name and position with One Acre Fund?
My name is Gerardine Niyitegeka, I’m currently a field manager in Gitsei, Rwanda.
What did you do before you started working for One Acre Fund?
Before I joined One Acre Fund in 2010, I would buy and sell beans and different fruits. I was also a very successful farmer in my village. Other farmers used to come to learn my farming practices, and I think that’s part of the reason that the One Acre Fund staff recommended me as a field staff candidate.
Why did you decide to apply to work for One Acre Fund?
I knew about the good work that One Acre Fund was doing, and when I heard from one of One Acre Fund’s field directors that they were looking for passionate people to help farmers improve their harvests, I decided right away to apply. Since I was known as a very successful farmer throughout the village, I was chosen to be one of the candidates. I remember I was the only woman of nine candidates. I passed three levels of interviews and was then hired as the field officer for Munanira. Now, in my current role as field manager, I manage six other field officers.
How has your work at One Acre Fund changed over time?
For one thing, I was promoted very quickly. After only one planting season as a field officer, I was asked to become a field manager. This was because I was very active, and I really liked to share ideas that contributed to the development of smallholder farmers during our weekly meetings. In additional to this, I was pretty successful in encouraging farmers to repay their loans on time – another key responsibility of a field officer.
What does your job as a field manager entail?
I always put farmers first. As a field manager, I have to plan my time carefully so that I can be as effective as possible. Sometimes, there is a field officer who I think is struggling, so I focus on helping him/her so we can achieve our monthly targets. I also spend a lot of time interacting with farmers, both our clients and non-One Acre Fund farmers. Because our clients are successful, they can be good models for attracting other farmers to join the program.
What is your favorite part of your work?
I really like to interact with farmers! When I talk to them, I can help them find ways to improve their lives. My favorite time of the year is when we deliver fertilizer to our clients, and I’ve had some great experiences talking to farmers who are receiving their fertilizer. I also feel very proud when the number of our clients increases and we expand into new areas. This encourages me. I can imagine someday that One Acre Fund will be working with farmers in every district in Rwanda!
How has working for One Acre Fund impacted your life?
Leadership is the main thing I feel I have learned from working at One Acre Fund. In my life, I had never thought that I could be a leader. Now I manage six field officers! The planting methods that I teach farmers are also important to my life. I too use these methods in my fields, and they have allowed me to harvest much more than I did before.
I have six children, and providing for all of them isn’t easy. School fees alone costs me 100,000 Rwandan Francs ($144 USD) every term, so my salary has been invaluable.
What are your hopes for the future?
I want to go beyond field manager. Why not field director?! I also am planning to increase my land and become a professional farmer. Never before have I felt that my future looks so bright.
If you're interested in learning more about One Acre Fund field staffing and recruitment, read this blog.
In 2008, Pauline Wanjala took an entry-level position with One Acre Fund as a field officer. Since then, she has risen to the top ranks of the organization. She is now serving as the first-ever female senior field director.
Pauline is one of a growing number of women who are advancing to senior leadership roles, and helping to shape the future of One Acre Fund. Recently, she helped to launch our Kenya National Women’s Leadership Council. With Pauline’s help, the Council will support, mentor, and enable female staff to reach their full professional potential at One Acre Fund while ensuring good work-life balance.
“The Women’s Leadership Council was welcomed by women at all levels in One Acre Fund,” Pauline says. “Personally, it has helped me to grow in my position, and to be confident while working and competing with my male colleagues.”
Like many women across the globe, the female staff at One Acre Fund aren’t just full-time employees—they’re also mothers. These women work incredibly hard to strike a balance between growing their families and growing their careers.
The Women’s Leadership Council provides women with a forum to mentor each other and share their experiences striking this balance. One way it does this is by pairing senior female leadership with emerging managers.
According to Pauline, this exchange leads to a special camaraderie. “The Council has brought unity to our female staff in more than three districts. The exchange of ideas is leading to an improvement in our work, as well as in our lives outside of work.”
The Women’s Leadership Council also provides women-specific trainings on topics like organization, work planning, communication, and self-confidence. The goal is to reduce barriers facing women in these areas, and help them develop their skills and confidence.
“I think women are very happy with the Council— it makes us feel like One Acre Fund is where we belong.” Pauline says. “I am pleased to see more and more women performing strongly in their work, thanks to the trainings and monthly meetings that we have.”
The Women’s Leadership Council works with One Acre Fund’s human resources team to create a workplace where both men and women can succeed equally. The Council hosts monthly “key stakeholder meetings,” in which departments ranging from Training to Field Operations come together and consider their work through the lens of gender. Each department also commits to tracking progress on creating more equitable, supportive structures internally.
While our Kenya team is pioneering this model, the Women’s Leadership Council is a part of the larger One Acre Fund International Women’s Advisory Council. It works with international and local staff to promote gender equality across all of our country operations.
The majority of smallholder farmers are women, many of whom have families to care for. As One Acre Fund works to provide them with the skills and training they need to succeed, so too do we believe in providing our female staff with dedicated professional development opportunities. It is our hope that this initiative will help cultivate strong female leadership at One Acre Fund for years to come.
The following post was written by Kelvin Owino, One Acre Fund communications associate in Bungoma, Kenya.
In Kenya, we love our mothers. From instilling discipline, to teaching us the rules of socialization, to giving us our key personality traits—mothers do it all. And most importantly, our mothers lay the yardstick by which we measure our successes.
Janet Kituyi, a farmer in western Kenya, is working hard to lay the groundwork for success in her family. As a mother of six, she has her work cut out for her.
Janet’s husband, Fredrick, used to work in construction. He provided for the family until a few years ago when he fell ill. He was sick for a long time, and even after recovering Fredrick was unable to hear or speak. The burden of providing for the family fell squarely on Janet’s shoulders.
To meet the family’s needs, Janet turned to the activity she knew best—farming. Achieving a strong harvest was not just a goal; it was a necessity. However, despite her best efforts, Janet only managed to yield three bags of maize from her ¾-acre farm. It was not enough.
Desperate to turn around her harvests, Janet enrolled with One Acre Fund in 2012. Since enrolling, she averages 18 bags of maize each year. Janet has never looked back.
“I can proudly say I’m one of the few people who have witnessed a miracle with my own eyes. My farm was transformed from producing almost nothing to producing in abundance,” Janet says. “I never thought this was possible.”
As she walks through her farm, Janet admires her maize crop. She kneels down and begins to pull out weeds between the rows.
“This is my family’s food basket,” Janet says. “I work tirelessly every day, tending to my crops to sustain my family.”
Apart from providing food for the whole family, Janet also pays school fees for her children. Each year, she sells a portion of her harvest to earn money just for this purpose. To get the most money for her harvest, Janet sells during the “hunger season,” when the price of maize is at its highest because food is scarce. In the six months following harvest time, the price of maize more than triples, from 35 Kenyan Shillings ($0.40) per 4.5 pounds at harvest, to 120 Kenyan Shillings ($1.37) during the hunger season.
“I’m not just a farmer, I’m a smart farmer,” Janet laughs. “I wait for the moment when the price is at its highest to sell and earn the maximum value from my harvest.”
Although Janet sells her harvest for the highest price in the market, the money she earns is still not enough to pay for all of her children’s school fees. She needs more.
In 2012, Janet sold 397 pounds of her maize and bought a cow. She named it “Nerima,” which means “farming” in Bukusu. One and a half years later, Janet now benefits from the two liters of milk the cow produces every day. With school fees on her mind, Janet made a deal with the school to give them one and half liters of milk every day in payment for her children’s tuition.
With Nerima’s milk, Janet chips away slowly at the fees.
“Nerima is a symbol of my success in farming. Her milk not only feeds my family, but it also educates my children,” Janet says. She pats Nerima’s calf on the head. Instinctively, it raises its head and starts licking Janet’s palms.
“It means a lot to me to see my children get educated. It is a fulfilling moment for me when I watch my children do their homework in the evening,” Janet says.
Like many other mothers in Kenya and across the globe, Janet works extremely hard to fulfill her family’s dreams. She is a source of strength and inspiration.
Burundi is emerging from a prolonged period of instability. As it transitions to a new era of economic development, one of its key challenges is going to be rapid demographic growth.
Burundi’s birth rate of 6.4 births per woman in 2010 is the sixth highest in the world. Since the country gained independence in 1962, the population has grown from 3 million to an estimated 9 million. It’s a young country too, with almost 50 percent under the age of 16, and the UN expects Burundi to grow to 13 million by 2050.
All this growth could have a major impact on rural livelihoods, putting more stress on under-developed agricultural systems. As the amount of fertile land per person shrinks, the choice for many farmers will simply be to grow more or eat less.
Family planning could slow the population growth. Properly designed programs, using education and promoting access to contraceptives, give couples the tools they need to choose the size of family that’s right for them. While the Burundian government and a variety of NGOs have committed to increasing family planning, progress has been hard won. A 2010 survey found rates of contraceptive use to be just 22 percent among women aged 15-49, even though contraceptives are provided free of charge at all government health centers and hospitals.
For One Acre Fund, family planning is a way to improve food security for Burundians. In November 2013, we launched our first-ever family planning assessment. A total of 1992 women between the ages of 19 and 49 and men aged 19 to 60 in Muramvya Province participated in the survey. Participants included One Acre Fund clients, non-clients living in areas where One Acre Fund works, and those living just outside One Acre Fund areas.
Among the key findings:
• The vast majority of individuals surveyed could define family planning, knew of multiple methods of modern contraception and knew where family planning services could be accessed.
• More than 95 percent reported having mostly positive views of family planning.
• 33 percent of couples reported practicing a method of family planning.
• 39 percent of women who said they wanted no more children currently practice family planning.
• Health concerns related to the side effects of contraceptive use were the most common reason cited by women for not practicing family planning.
The One Acre Fund team in Burundi is investigating ways it can promote access to family planning services among its farmers. We’re still in the early stages, but eventually we hope to collaborate with the Burundian government to improve the capacity of health centers and hospitals to deliver high-quality family planning services.
We met with field officer Pauline Otuuma at our field staff delivery of seed and fertilizer to learn a little more about her role at One Acre Fund.
What is your name and position in One Acre Fund? My name is Pauline Otuuma, and I’m a One Acre Fund field officer in Siritanyi, Kenya.
How long have you worked with One Acre Fund, and what were you doing before that? I have worked with One Acre Fund for one and a half years now. Previously, I worked for two years with the Bungoma Organization for Women Empowerment. All this time I wished for a chance to work with One Acre Fund because I have a passion for agriculture, and the idea of working with smallholder farmers was so irresistible. When the opportunity opened up to work at One Acre Fund, I grabbed it.
What do you like most about your job? My job offers a chance to interact with many people on a daily basis, and I like this a lot. I’ve learned to appreciate the different cultures, temperament and ideas that I encounter every day at work. I’ve become a better person as a result.
What activities do you carry out during a day in the field? I conduct training sessions with my farmers most mornings. I teach them how to plant, harvest and the best farming practices they can use to multiply their yields. I visit their farms to check on crops progress and give advice to farmers in case of a problem or encourage them when their work is good. I also collect repayments from group leaders that farmers pay toward their loans.
What do you enjoy most while at work? My best moment is when I visit a farmer’s farm and observe different crops growing beautifully. I like the fact that I can teach farmers and see results of my work on their farm. It is an amazing feeling when I see farmers staring proudly at their crops now, since I know that never used to happen before. I’m really glad to be part of this big structure, working hard to create a change in the lives of smallholder farmers.
What is the greatest achievement you’ve had at your work so far? Last year all my farmers improved the amount of harvest compared to other years. It was a great personal moment for me because I always dream of a village where every farmer is able to sustain their family from the harvest they achieve every year.
What benefits do you enjoy from your work at One Acre Fund? I’ve acquired important farming knowledge from my work at One Acre Fund, and my family benefits from it because I share every new thing I learn with them. My family has enough food now that lasts from one season to the next because the knowledge I share with them has led to an increased food production. My pay is beneficial to my family too. I’ve become an important breadwinner to them, and they look up to me when they are in need of anything.
Why is it important for One Acre Fund to supply its staff members with seeds and fertilizer too? The seed and fertilizer offer me an opportunity to experiment on my own farm using the trainings I teach farmers. I can experience the challenges that may arise on farmers’ farms by doing the same work on my farm. I can also experience results on my farm and confidently train farmers using first-hand information.
Who is your role model at your work? I have two role models. My first role model is my field manager called Consolata. She has molded me to what I am today. She is very patient and ensures I learn at my own pace. I want to be just like her in the future. My other role model is my field director Phoebe. She spends some time to visit me at my work, gives me feedback on my weak points and congratulates me when I excel. She is really concerned with my professional growth.
What challenges do you face in your work and how do you manage to overcome them? Training adults is a difficult task. It requires patience because they take more time to learn and forget more quickly. One Acre Fund has taught me good customer service values, and I apply them to overcome this challenge. I’m always prepared to repeat the same point over and over again until I’m sure they’ve understood.
What is your future plan for your work? I want to leave a lasting impression on the farmers I work with. I will be a happy person when I’m able to walk in my village and farmers say to me that, due to my hard work, they can now produce enough food for their families. I want to leave a mark so that hunger and poverty among farmers will be a thing of the past.
The following post was written by Hailey Tucker, One Acre Fund’s communications associate in Kenya.
As a photographer, I meet hundreds of people each year. Some I am lucky enough to spend weeks with—learning their routines and doing my best to document their lives as thoroughly as possible. Others I meet only once and for 30 minutes at an event. I take their names, photograph them participating in an activity, and then I may never see them again.
In the last year I’ve spent shooting for One Acre Fund, I have taken more than 30,000 photos documenting One Acre Fund’s activities and the farmers we work with. Somehow, despite the sheer volume of photos, there are still a few single images that catch our attention more than others. This past year, there was one in particular.
This photo of Anonciata Mbakirirehe always wins. If I submit 10 photos for use in internal materials, marketing, or external press, nine out of 10 times, Anonciata’s eyes-closed, irresistible grin stands out among the rest. Her photo is easily one of our most published images to date.
When I took this photograph, Anonciata was receiving the fertilizer she purchased on credit from One Acre Fund in Kayenzi, Rwanda. She was one of about 40 farmers present, and this was one of more than 300 photos I took that day.
I left Rwanda for our operations in Kenya shortly after that delivery, and even in my return visits to her village, I never bumped into Anonciata again.
As her face has continued to grace our blog, social media accounts, and presentations, I realized I didn’t know anything about the woman whose beaming smile was helping us to show the joy that access to farm inputs can bring to smallholder farmers.
So, in late October, One Acre Fund staffer Gaudy Aloyson and I tracked down Anonciata to tell her about the universal acclaim her photo has received, and to learn more about her.
Gaudy uses his phone to show Anonciata her photo on our Facebook account.
Gaudy and I found Anonciata at home, and after showing her why we had sought her out, her famous gummy grin quickly resurfaced. The ensuing yipping and cheering was enough to draw in curious and alarmed neighbors.
Anonciata is a widowed mother of six. She has farmed with One Acre Fund for the past three years, and she says joining the organization has turned her farming around.
“Before I joined One Acre Fund, I would have to send my children to ask the neighbors for maize because their harvests were much better than mine,” Anonciata says. “Now, with the lessons I am getting from the meetings, I farm like a professional. When I was harvesting my maize this past season, my neighbors came to watch, and everyone talks about how good my harvests are. They ask, ‘How does she do it? We have the same land and rain—how does she make her crops grow?’ Now they are all joining One Acre Fund, too.”
In the coming years, Anonciata hopes to plant on a larger plot of land. She currently owns more land than she can afford to buy inputs for, but she believes after another season or two, she should be able to invest in enough seed to grow even more.
Although Anonciata didn’t seem to fully comprehend how much of an impact her photo has had on people around the world, she says she is excited to know that she is helping to educate others about One Acre Fund.
“I want to convince everyone—including my own kids—to join One Acre Fund,” Anonciata says. “In our culture, if you don’t own a cow and don’t have manure, we believe you cannot grow food. Now I’m saying that with One Acre Fund, you don’t need a cow to grow, you just need One Acre.”
One Acre Fund farmers Olivia Chimoli (right), Agnes Machalero (center) and Beatrice Likhutsu (left) from Shimanyiro, Kenya, enjoy eating their newly harvested sweet potatoes. Photo by Kelvin Owino
One Acre Fund farmers prepare their maize for storage by removing the kernels from the cob. Photo by Kelvin Owino
Farmers in Kayenzi, Rwanda, prepare their land for planting. Photo by Hailey Tucker
Razoa Wasike, a One Acre Fund farmer whose story is told in Roger Thurow's "The Last Hunger Season," sits atop sacks of maize from her harvest with her children. Razoa has not finished harvesting yet, but she already has more than nine sacks. Photo by Kelvin Owino.
It’s June in Burundi, and that means bean-harvesting time. Houses transform into furry creatures as their outer walls disappear behind hundreds of strands of hanging beans. Each strand is carefully draped to allow it to dry in the hot African sun.
Once the beans have dried completely, farmers will thresh the beans, beating them with a large stick to knock loose the beans from the pods. They then will keep the beans they’ve harvested in storage until they decide to either sell or eat them.
Clarisse Kwizera, a One Acre Fund farmer and mother of three, is in the process of drying her beans.
Sitting with her 2-year-old daughter, Any Delicia, on her lap as she surveys a portion of her drying beans, Clarisse says she is looking forward to seeing how much she will harvest.
Clarisse joined One Acre Fund in 2011 and alternates planting beans and maize during the two planting seasons in Burundi.
In her first season farming with One Acre Fund, her bean harvest doubled.
“It was a surprise for me,” Clarisse says. “I had never gotten such a large quantity of beans from my land in my farming history!”
The following year, Clarisse harvested 1,000 kgs (1 ton) of beans and was able to buy an additional small plot of land after selling half of her harvest.
Clarisse hands Any to her older brother, Alain Vilo, walks into a shed, and brings out a bundle of grass to feed her cow, continuing on with her morning routine.
She explains that she attributes the changes in both her bean and maize yields to the trainings she has learned since joining One Acre Fund.
“To plant maize, I was digging holes at random. I would put 4 grains of seeds in one hole, and although 2 of them would germinate, they would grow only one cob for each stalk,” Clarisse says. “Now, things have changed. I plant in rows with the correct distance between them and plant two seeds in each hole. This is really productive as each maize stalk produces 2 or 3 big cobs.”
After filling the trough for her cow, Clarisse scopes Any back up and perches her on her hip. She now calls for the children to wash up.
With her improved harvests, Clarisse now stores much more than she used to.
To keep her crops from being attacked by rats in storage, she chooses to store them in pots instead of cloth sacks. This helps to make her harvests last even longer.
In the future, Clarisse plans to continue buying land with whatever surplus harvest she has.
“I will keep extending my land and growing my improved harvests on it, so I will make more money to educate my children with,” Clarisse says.
In knowing the contribution she is making to her family and her family’s future, Clarisse finds pride.
“I am proud of my contribution in the family as a woman. Even my husband appreciates the way I am supporting him to provide for the family,” she says. “I expect to be a very happy woman in the future.”
The post below is courtesy of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs Food for Thought blog, and was written by Hon. Prof. Ruth K. Oniang’O Ph.D, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development. The original post is available here.
For more than three decades, I have advocated for the African woman smallholder farmer.
The farmers of the future may not be small, and are not necessarily only women. That is why starting early to mentor and empower young people with knowledge is important: they will be better prepared to take on food production and the whole food value chain in a different way, with the idea of making it a business, a money making venture.
I trained in food and nutritional sciences overseas at Washington State University (Pullman) in the U.S.A. and at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Whenever I was asked what I would do upon getting back to Kenya, I would respond “I want to work globally for the United Nations to try and rid the world of child hunger and malnutrition.” As I grew up, I saw children in my village with protruding tummies. This was not a good sight at all. Moreover, the mothers of such children would be shunned by the community. We did not have such a child in my household. I went back to Kenya with a Master’s degree in Food and Nutrition. Then for my Ph.D. at the University of Nairobi, I decided to work on weaning foods and associated challenges. My research comprised of both laboratory work and field research. After what I saw in the field, kwashiorkor and marasmic children, I decided not to go back to the laboratory. Most of our problems that resulted in malnutrition began in the field. As I spent more time in the field, I could see the burdens facing women when it came to child rearing and taking care of their homes, especially in the absence of their husbands, who might be working away from their homes and farms.
As I have traversed rural areas trying to understand the dynamics of livelihoods, it is not uncommon to find women and children who have not seen the man of the house for years. Such men would only appear in the case of the death of a close relative. But then as the scourge of HIV/AIDS became a reality, the man would suddenly appear and start to act as if all was well. There have been many cases where the man appears because he is ill and has come back to be nursed by the wife he had neglected for many years or to just die in the place of his birth. Clearly HIV/AIDS has added many burdens on women as they have to also serve as caregivers for sick members of the family, a situation which in some cases goes on for years.
So what do we have here? A rural woman has to produce food to feed the family, she has to ensure security and a fairly decent livelihood for her children and even extended family, she has to maintain self-esteem if she wants to survive, and many times she has to take care of both her own parents and those of her husband. When does she ever worry about her own health? In my culture, the family does not sit to eat together, even now. In many homes, the woman serves other people and eats last. These traditional practices die hard. We need not do much; the best way to affect positive change is to provide education. Education is the best game-changer. Educated women want and strive for better things for their families. Educated women in the rural areas try to emulate their urban counterparts, and often do not lose as many children to disease. They also try to make sure their children are well-fed, even if they have to use hired labor. Educated women have better chances of surviving childbirth, and educated women will be more inclined to use birth control methods. Educated women will better absorb extension messages within an agricultural setting.
It does not matter how educated we become, as women we always worry about food for our families. A Kenyan woman will always stop at nothing to make sure she gathers food for family, and many women spend hours on this task. She will clear her shamba (field), look for seeds to plant even if it means borrowing them, still weed, expecting the best even when her crop is bad, and then harvest and store her crops, only to sometimes find them spoilt. Regrettably, she will still feed her children the bad food because that may be all that she has.
As we try to rid the world of hunger, I still believe not enough is invested in women. Large sums of money go into agriculture. Huge sums have come to Africa, and yet we continue to have sad episodes of food shortages and malnutrition affecting both children and adults. Children and women continue to be the most vulnerable. As Gender in Agriculture begins to be taken seriously, and as nutrition too begins to be recognized as a key component of the equation by world leaders, including the G8, I am hopeful that we are headed in the right direction. Women farmers need extensive support more than ever before. Women need better information on how to increase the chances of child survival. Women need information on how to feed their families better, and they need credit to be able to progress in their small businesses. Women need support and services that can increase their chances of surviving childbirth; it is tragic for a mother to either lose a baby in childbirth or for she herself to die and leave her newborn, especially as the result of avoidable mistakes.
Finally, we need to invest in capacity-building at all levels. Human resource capacity in the agricultural sciences is quickly aging and being lost. This happens to be a worldwide phenomenon.
Governments and donors need to act urgently on these issues. Gender is a key consideration when it comes to agriculture and malnutrition. The adoption of proven technologies cannot be sustained in the absence of adequate investment in agricultural research and innovation. The private sector with its strength in innovation and marketing needs to be taken advantage of. And finally, the smallholder famer needs to be placed at the center of all this.
Claudine Sibobugingo prepares her land in Rwanda for the coming season 2014 season. Photo by Francoise Umarishavu
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