What One Acre Fund can teach us about supporting African small-scale farmers



BY Kate Douglas | 23 May 2014

One Acre Fund is a non-profit organisation serving smallholder farmers (typically living on one acre of land) in the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. However, what makes it unique is that its model operates like a business.

One Acre Fund supports small-scale farmers across East Africa. Photo courtesy of One Acre Fund

“Instead of giving handouts, we invest in farmers to generate a permanent gain in income,” explained Jenny Best, spokeswoman for One Acre Fund, adding that the organisation is moving towards financial sustainability with 73% of its field operating costs covered by farmer repayments, while the remainder comes from donations and grants.

Co-founded by Andrew Youn in 2006, One Acre Fund provides loans in the form of seeds and fertilisers and currently serves roughly 180,000 small-scale farmers. The organisation’s aim is to reduce poverty and improve food security in areas where agricultural potential is severely untapped.

“Seventy percent of the global poor…

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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2 Responses to What One Acre Fund can teach us about supporting African small-scale farmers

  1. Seth says:

    One Acre Fund” sounds so humanitarian, working with farmers who have almost no land. It claims to double and sometimes nearly treble farmer profits. The problem is, trying to live from farming one acre is deep poverty, and even if you treble a very small number, that’s still fairly profound poverty. What is left un-addressed is the fact that any family with only one acre of land needs some other source of income to survive, and most if not all are already branching out into migrant labour, petty commerce, etc. That one acre of land becomes less and less important to their economic survival – and that’s a good thing.

    What is really needed for poor families with tiny farms is other employment options. Donors need to be switching part of their focus to industrial and service-sector job creation, so that subsistence farmers have somewhere to go and some way to live when they inevitably leave the land. That way, the farmers left behind can farm larger parcels of 5-10 ha from which it is possible to generate a decent standard of living.

    These efforts to make tiny farms support entire families are misguided. I would wager that not one of the people contributing to or working for the One Acre Fund would be willing to live the way they are advocating that others do on tiny farms.

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