May 2, 2023

One Acre Fund is Sowing Hope for Smallholder Farmers in Africa

Author Kathryn Kochanowicz, Content Specialist

Current data paints a challenging picture for the future of east and sub-Saharan Africa’s poorest families, with the region predicted to become the most impoverished in the world by 2030. But the nonprofit One Acre Fund believes the solution to relieving poverty in this region is already there on the ground—well, in it.

“There’s somewhere around 50 to 55 million smallholder farming households in Africa and around 9 out of 10 of the world’s poor by 2030 will be farming in Africa,” explains Matt Forti, Managing Director at One Acre Fund. “If we care as a planet about eliminating global hunger and global poverty, it’s the single most important population to make more prosperous.”

Founded in 2006 and headquarted in Kenya, One Acre Fund’s mission is to alleviate poverty and hunger in the region by helping Africa’s smallholder farmers become more productive and resilient to the effects of climate change.

The organization’s programming is multifaceted and emphasizes agricultural education and innovation. They work with east and sub-Saharan African smallholder farmers (those who farm around one acre to one hectare of land) to increase the profitability of their farms by implementing sustainable techniques, tools and products aimed at increasing annual crop yields.

The program includes the provision of farming products on credit (repaid by the farmers over the growing season) and training on effective agricultural practices and how to sell surplus. Additionally, most of One Acre Fund’s staff lives and works in close proximity to the farmers with whom they work, allowing for strong connections to be forged between the farmers and the nonprofit.

On average, the farmers served by One Acre Fund double the size of their harvests.

One Acre Fund is focused on balancing productivity with resilience, the latter of which has become increasingly important in recent years due to climate change.

In addition to staple crops like maize and beans, One Acre Fund promotes trees as a viable investment for smallholder farmers, preventing further conversion of savannah to cropland. Trees are often hardier than typical crops, making them less vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Planting trees complementary to neighboring crops can also help prevent soil erosion and nutrient depletion, while capturing carbon from the atmosphere.

Although most of the program expenses are covered by farmer revenues—thus cementing the organization’s farmer-focused ethos—donations fuel One Acre Fund’s innovation and growth. In recent years, grants recommended by DAF donors have proven to be especially valuable to One Acre Fund’s mission, “I would say probably close to a quarter of our donated revenue comes through DAFs now and it’s absolutely an important part of our revenue stream,” says Forti.

The generosity of DAF donors plays a part in the significant impact One Acre Fund is having on the lives of the smallholder farmers they work with and the figures speak for themselves. In 2021, One Acre Fund helped 1.44 million farmers earn an average of $104 in additional profit (which represents a profit increase of 45%). After joining OAF’s program, the number of farmers reporting severe hunger decreased by 21%.

Predictive data can paint a challenging picture for the tens of millions of smallholder farmers living in Africa, but hope for a brighter, more bountiful future is strong. The vision of stronger harvests and healthier families is becoming a reality thanks to the deeply rooted partnership between One Acre Fund and the farmers with which they collaborate.