Monday I headed to Kamuli, a district northeast of Kampala to visit the One Acre Fund office and research farms. One Acre Fund is a nongovernmental organization working with East African smallholder farmers to improve yields and eradicate poverty and hunger in their communities. One Acre Fund uses a holistic, business-oriented approach to development. They work with farmers at every step of the agricultural process from financing farm inputs to marketing their product. They begin by offering farmers financing for a market bundle that includes improved seed, fertilizer, and rain and funeral insurance. They are able to offer these products at a low cost loan because they aggregate farmers to increase their purchasing power. This loan has a flexible repayment plan that can be paid off over the course of six to nine months. They ensure the timely delivery of these inputs to a location that can be easily accessed by the farmer. Once the farmer has signed up for the One Acre Fund program, they are provided with training on proper land preparation, planting and harvesting techniques. Finally they assist farmers in market facilitation to help them receive the highest prices for their crops.
Currently they are running a pilot program here in Uganda. They have about 2,200 farmers in the program and are looking to bring Uganda on as a full-scale project country. They have two research plots looking at different varieties of maize and beans that perform well in the area. These tests help determine which varieties they will offer to farmers. Once they prove to grow well at the One Acre Fund test plot, they set up farmer-led trials to see how well they work for a farmer in the community. Ideally after three seasons they will be able to determine if the variety is good enough to be included in one of their input packages.
Some of the local children at a farmer run test plot
There is also a parasitic plant that is devastating the maize crops in this district known as Striga sp. One Acre Fund is working with university researchers to replicate research trials in order to find a regional solution to this pest. To date they have not found an effective means of control, but they have looked at hormones and intercropping with plants that stimulate suicidal germination of the plant before it has a host plant to feed off of.
Intercropping Striga sp. trials
I really enjoyed the opportunity to see the research farms and meet some of the One Acre farmers. One Acre Fund truly believes in putting farmers first and finding practical solutions to the issues farmers face.
One Acre Fund logo
Jennifer Bryant is a 2015 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Bryant is from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and is in her first year of the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on international agriculture development and sustainability.