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Sub-Saharan Africa

Supporting the world's smallest, poorest farmers: One Acre Fund

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Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Sector: Agriculture

Challenge: The majority of the world’s poor are farmers and many of them are food insecure, often maintaining just a single acre of land and struggling to produce enough food or earn enough income to feed their families. In East Africa, recent steep increases in the prices of food staples have exacerbated this challenge.

Solution: One Acre Fund was formed in 2006 to support these very small farmers, often based in hard-to-reach remote areas. One Acre Fund works with people in the community to provide and deliver seed and fertilizer on credit, together with training on best practices for growing food and drying and storing the farmers’ harvest. It supports thousands of farmers in multiple African countries and has found that their profiles are strikingly similar. One Acre seeks to look at the totality of the problem and one-by-one help lift individual farmers out of poverty.

One Acre Fund employs thousands of people in local African communities to sell and deliver farm inputs used to support more robust crops such as a variety of fast-growing maize (pictured). It offers simple techniques for enhanced growing and crop drying which are easy to learn but, due to poor transportation and infrastructure, have been hard to introduce. By providing seeds and fertilizers on credit, it is able to reach farmers who lack the resources to pay upfront for high quality farm inputs but can use these inputs to increase their yields and income. In 2015, OPIC committed a $10 million loan to One Acre Fund to help it reach more farmers in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Impact: One Acre Fund has already reached hundreds of thousands of farmers, an estimated 305,400 in 2015 alone. One Acre Fund’s support helped those farmers earn, on average, an additional $137 per year, a significant amount considering that many of these subsistence farmers live on less than $1 a day. In fact, the additional income earned represented a 55 percent increase over their prior earnings. By giving farmers the tools to help them grow and sell more food, One Acre Fund has also achieved a very high repayment rate of more than 99 percent. The OPIC loan will help bridge the gaps between the time it purchases the farm inputs and the time that farmers can repay. In addition to providing important working capital, One Acre Fund says that OPIC’s presence in the project will provide credibility to other lenders.

In addition to helping farmers produce more food, this project has created employment for thousands of Africans. One Acre Fund employs 4,000 people, 96% of whom are East African nationals. Many work as field staff, distributing seed and fertilizer to farmer clients, conducting trainings and collecting repayments. One Acre Fund is committed to career progression and has programs in place to train East African employees to take on greater responsibility in its organization. It is also on track to achieve its goal of hiring East African nationals for 30% of its Africa-based mid-level and senior roles in 2016.

This project was profiled in 2016