Most of the world's poor are smallholder farmers in developing countries. Living in remote areas with a lack of access to markets, training and agricultural services, their crop yields are often not enough to feed their own families, with malnutrition, hunger and high infant mortality a common occurrence for many. But this non-profit enterprise has been changing the face of small farming in Africa, equipping farmers with the tools they need to combat poverty and become self-sustaining.
Due to smallholder farmers' lack of access to finance, small farms are estimated to produce well below their crop yields potential, which has implications on combating hunger. Farm yields in Sub-Saharan Africa alone are found to be 70-90 percent below their potential.
Funded in 2006 in Kenya, One Acre Fund is a non-profit with a field team of 75 staff, most of whom are regular farmers themselves. The organisation provides smallholder farmers with a range of agricultural services on credit, including staple crops' seeds and fertilisers, training on agricultural techniques, distribution of farm inputs and market facilitation to help farmers maximise harvests' profits.
The initiative helps farmers learn about crop diversification, micro-dose fertiliser, composting, and gives them access to a variety of seeds, solar lights, as well as droughts and funeral insurance. With climate change mitigation and sustainability key concerns, the initiative also supports tree planting, and through helping farmers to manage existing farmland, it reduces the need for them to clear the surrounding Savannah in search of better soils.
According to its website, thanks to greater crop yields, farmers on the One Acre Fund program typically increase their incomes by at least 50 percent per year, and achieve a 100 percent return on investment. More cash in their pockets means that their family can afford to eat, and their children go to school. With more disposable income available for further investments and enhancements - you can read some success stories here - farmers not only make further progress towards greater economic stability and self-sufficiency, but also provide surpluses to feed neighbouring communities.
And with 99 percent of farmers on the program repaying their loans on time and in full, the scheme is certainly delivering on its aims.
In 2015, One Acre Fund served around 300,000 families per year between Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania; it plans, and is on course, to reach over one million small farmers, impacting some five million people, by 2020. Big plans indeed for smallholder farmers.