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Greetings from One Acre Fund! I’m happy to share our 2018 annual report, where we take stock of the last year and our impact for hard-working farmers.

In 2018, we served more farm families than ever before: over 800,000 farmers and an estimated 3.2 million children. We’re now within striking distance of serving 1 million clients by 2020. We're also continuing to deliver impact as we grow: clients in almost all countries achieved substantially higher yields than similar farmers not working with One Acre Fund.

This year also underscored the challenges of smallholder agriculture, an inherently risky profession. In several countries, our customers faced leaner harvests due to erratic rainfall and pests. In Kenya and Rwanda, where harvests were strong, surplus maize and export restrictions lowered maize prices and farmer profits.

While we cannot control the weather, we can build farmers' resilience to these shocks. Coming out of this year, we’re deepening our commitment to crop diversification. We’ll continue to invest in maize, as it remains the top crop our customers want. At the same time, we’ll also offer a broader range of crops to help farmers spread their bets. Crop diversification makes both environmental and economic sense.

Building farmer resilience to changing weather is just one example of how we’re thinking more broadly about farmer quality of life and prosperity in the long-term. We know that delivering monetary impact—the market value of what a farm produces each season—will remain critical. At the same time, we’re asking how we can equip farmers to accumulate assets like trees and livestock, diversify their families' diets, and enrich their soil for future generations. This is not the work of one year, but of consistent innovation and quality execution, year after year after year.

There is incredible power in taking a long-term view of impact. We have an important responsibility to more than 800,000 families, and we care deeply about their success for multiple decades.

In farming, there are always going to be some lean years mixed in with the good ones. But by building for the long term we can eventually help millions of farm families manage risks, plan for the future, and build enduring paths to prosperity.

Together in service,

Andrew Youn
Executive Director, One Acre Fund

2018 Highlights

In 2018, we expanded our impact through both the reach of new products, and by launching two new pilot operations in Nigeria and India.

Farmer Group, Tanzania
Scale and Sustainability – Farmers

809,800 Farmers Served

We served more than 800,000 farmers across seven countries in 2018, and we’re on our way to serving over 1 million farmers by 2020.

Scale and Sustainability – Globe

2 New Pilots

Our Nigeria and India pilots delivered inputs to clients for the first time. Both countries are home to some of the largest populations of smallholders in the world.

Scale and Sustainability – Solar

190,000 Solar Lights Distributed

Solar lights bring renewable energy to our clients’ homes and provide a healthy alternative to kerosene lamps.

Scale and Sustainability – Chicken Drawing

110,000 Chickens Delivered

We distributed chickens to clients across Kenya and Rwanda, helping to boost their incomes (through the sale of eggs and birds) and improve household nutrition.

Scale and Sustainability – Trees

10,000,000 Trees Planted

Our clients planted over 10 million surviving trees last year, allowing them to invest in their futures while helping mitigate the effects of climate change.

Scale and Sustainability – Seed

300 Tons of Seed

Working with the government of Rwanda, we laid the groundwork to boost domestic seed production, and plan to produce at least 300 tons of hybrid maize seed by 2019.

Scale and Sustainability

809800
Total Farmers Served
72%
Financial Sustainability
97%
Farmer Repayment
364000
Farmers Served
56% More Farmers
We made a big bet on radical growth in Kenya—and it paid off.
Delivering Nutrition
Delivered nutrition trainings, key supplements, and vegetable seeds.
275000
Farmers Served
Transformative Scale
Our core model impacted an estimated 13% of Rwandans.
3 Million Trees
With help of the Rwandan government, our clients planted millions of trees.
83000
Farmers Served
83,000 Farmers Served
Delivered inputs despite operational challenges in the country.
99% Loan Repayment
Clients demonstrated continued demand for our services and strong customer loyalty.
50000
Farmers Served
28% Client Growth
Doubled down on best practices and grew our client base.
Crop Insurance
Offered crop insurance to protect farmers from weather and disease risks.
15500
Farmers Served
Reinvested in Impact
Slowed our growth rate to better tailor operations to existing clients.
199 clients per Field Officer
Increased the number of farmers our field officers can each support by 70%.
10700
Farmers Served
150% Yield Improvement
One Acre Fund clients harvested more than comparison farmers.
Custom Fertilizer Blends
Trialed custom blends to ensure farmers’ fields get the nutrients needed for strong harvests.
11600
Farmers Served
$400 Avg. Loan Size
Farmers took an average of $400 worth of inputs each due to their relatively larger land sizes.
3.5 Avg. Acres Planted
The average client planted more than 3 acres with our product offerings.

One Acre Fund continues to grow, taking advantage of economies of scale in order to drive down our operating costs. We’re doubling down on radical growth in Kenya, and we’re maintaining our ambitious scale targets in Rwanda. Together, both countries represent almost 80% of our clients and continue to deliver strong dollar impact to farm families. In our growth countries like Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia*, we’re pursuing more modest growth in order to strengthen our impact proposition to farmers in each market.

While pursuing our scale targets, we’ve also invested in opportunities to improve our efficiency. We make decisions that maximize our social return on investment (SROI), or dollar impact relative to cost. This helps us select the best products and services to offer our clients while ensuring our organization's financial health.

* We include Zambia in our organization-wide numbers because our pilot there has more than 10,000 clients.

Jenipher Khadi prepares dinner by solar light with her daughters Purity, Patroba, and Marion outside their home in Kenya.

Impact

* Refers to average farmer profit on supported activities.

** Percentage of farmers who reported hunger from not having enough food.

** Percentage of farmers who reported hunger from not having enough food.

Note: Burundi program impact was an estimate in 2018 due to operational challenges in the country. We based impact on current prices, average impact over the past 3 years, and an assumed reduction in impact due to reduced delivery of farmer trainings in 2018. ** Percentage of farmers who reported hunger from not having enough food.

** Percentage of farmers who reported hunger from not having enough food.

** Percentage of farmers who reported hunger from not having enough food.

** Percentage of farmers who reported hunger from not having enough food.

Note: Although only a pilot, we include Zambia in our organization-wide numbers because the pilot has more than 10,000 clients. Zambia is a unique operating environment for One Acre Fund because farmers there have significantly larger average land sizes, which means larger potential losses in challenging seasons. In 2018, our Zambia operations struggled to generate impact because of extreme maize price fluctuations. Due to the extremely challenging season, our asset products (e.g., trees, solar) actually detracted from our total average impact in Zambia last season. ** Percentage of Farmers who reported hunger from not having enough food.

As an organization, we aim to help our clients achieve big harvests, healthy families, and rich soils. In 2018, our clients continued to grow more food for their families, but had more modest profits from their harvests than in previous years. Our clients were challenged by external factors like erratic rainfall and low maize prices, which affected farmers across all of our operating countries.* These external challenges underscore the volatility of smallholder farming, and highlight the importance of serving this community in the long-term. Moving forward, we’re giving our clients more tools to safeguard their harvests and diversify their incomes, so they’re better protected from future weather and price shocks.

* Additionally, new surveys found improvements in control group ownership of solar lights and trees—a net positive for the market which led to lower reported impact for One Acre Fund.

3 Year Rolling Average

3 Year Additional Farmer Profit R2
Growth in Farmer Profit R3

Big Harvests

This year, our clients generated an average profit boost of $91 per client. While this sum is still enough to reduce household hunger and enable new productive investments, it is still lower than the $140 average generated in 2017. Low maize prices across the region, mostly caused by government import/export regulations, were the primary reason for this reduction. To put it in perspective, at 2017 prices, our profit boost this year would have been $120 per farmer. Difficult weather events were the secondary reason for lower numbers. In particular, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia struggled with erratic rainfall and pest issues.

Immediately following a particularly profitable season in 2017, we’re taking this decrease in impact very seriously, and making operational changes in response. We’re focusing on offering new crops (including cereals, legumes, and vegetables) and new income sources (like poultry and trees) to make sure clients have diversified ways to support their families. We are also offering crop insurance as part of our package in most operating countries, which helps alleviate the financial pressures that clients face during difficult seasons.

Despite these setbacks, our clients still made meaningful progress this year. Clients in almost all countries achieved substantially higher yields than similar farmers that did not work with One Acre Fund, and incomes on supported activities were 42% higher among client farmers. Our impact average this year ($91), while modest in comparison to other years, has still allowed many clients to reinvest in their farms, feed their families, and send their children to school. Overall, we're proud to report that our clients have more profit and more food than they did before they enrolled with us.

Healthy Families 

Beyond farmer profits, we are increasingly focused on promoting nutrition and improving quality of life for our clients. These efforts include:

  • Hunger reduction: As a direct outcome of our work, clients are growing more food for their families, eradicating household hunger. When we compare new One Acre Fund farmers to veteran client farmers, we see a 43 percent change in Kenya and a 30 percent change in Rwanda.

  • Improved nutrition: One Acre Fund is instituting regular nutrition trainings across our core countries and increasing our crop offerings to focus on nutritious foods like iron-rich beans. In Rwanda, when we compare newly enrolled One Acre Fund farmers to veteran clients, we see a 6 percent increase in dietary diversity.

  • Basic quality of life needs: We are also investing in basic quality-of-life products to improve our clients’ daily lives. These include solar lights, sanitary pads, and initial trials for health insurance, along with other products.

Rich Soils

In addition to big harvests and healthy families, we’re also investing in the long-term sustainability of our clients’ farms. Our interventions in this area include:

  • Crop diversification: We’re expanding our crop offerings in all countries, adding new varieties of cereals, legumes, and vegetables to our product lists. We’re also sharing planting recommendations, tailored to different hyper-local contexts, allowing farmers to properly care for their unique soil composition.

  • Increasing soil nutrients: We’ve undertaken a longitudinal soil study that's given us better information on our clients’ diverse soil types, and we’re tailoring our product offerings and trainings accordingly. We’ve started providing agricultural lime, at scale, in our Kenya program, which helps balance soil pH levels and improves uptake of key plant nutrients. We’ve also continued offering trees, which help sequester carbon in the soil, and prevent erosion. This year, we supported the planting of over 10 million surviving grevillea trees by more than 1.1 million smallholder farmers.

Elizabeth Batayitegera is worried. The mother of four is watching her farm in Rwariro, Rwanda, fill up with water, and the rains show no signs of stopping. A landslide has leveled her tea plants. She may save half her maize, but her potatoes have washed down the steep hillsides. Flooded rivers have swept away farm animals, depositing them in nearby villages.

Elizabeth has seen swings in weather in her 25 years of farming, but never like this. 

“The weather is becoming less predictable. When I was young, it would rain hard, but it did not cause calamities. Today, dry and rainy seasons are changing quickly.”

ELIZABETH BATAYITEGERA, RWANDA

Farmers like Elizabeth are experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand. In Rwanda, 7 in 10 people earn a living from farming. As the weather grows more erratic, so do their livelihoods. Changing rains, frequent droughts, and unusual pests and diseases are taking their toll on harvests. According to one estimate, global maize production could shrink by 24 percent by 2050 if we don’t adapt.

Yet, farmers like Elizabeth are also at the forefront of adopting solutions. At One Acre Fund, we’re equipping our clients with the tools they need to address the changing weather head-on.

In the short term, we help farmers protect their fields from the worst shocks. Thanks to trainings from One Acre Fund and the Government of Rwanda, Elizabeth now digs ditches to retain water for her fields, makes terraces to prevent erosion, and plants grevillea trees to absorb runoff. We also offer crop insurance to help farmers bounce back from poor harvests.

In the long term, we empower our clients to prevent the progress of climate change. We distribute millions of trees and thousands of solar lights each year, reducing greenhouse gasses. Thanks in part to farmers like Elizabeth, Rwanda is one of the only countries where more trees are planted each year than cut down.

With these practices, Elizabeth has become such a role model for climate-smart farming that her district named her “Most Exemplary Female Farmer” in 2015. "My field is taken as a case study for others to look at. I support my neighbors in preparing their fields because it is important to share farming tips," she says. 

Together, Elizabeth and her fellow farmers are leading the way in protecting their land for the next generation.

Investing in Technology

Why we're betting big on technology in 2019, and the years to come.

Field Officer, Ponsiano Odinga, shows farmer, Gaudience Oloo, a marketing video about One Acre Fund's offerings in Kenya.

At One Acre Fund, we dream big. We envision serving millions of farm families over the next decade, and we’re now laying the foundation to make our vision a reality. It’s clear to us that technology investments will be a critical driver to help us reach our targets, which is why we’re making a big bet on technology. 

We’re investing in hardware, like tablets, which allow us to seamlessly register clients and track their repayment. In Kenya, we’ll place a tablet in the hands of every field officer by the end of 2019, and we plan to start trials in three more countries by 2020. These tablets make the field officer’s job significantly more efficient—our Kenya trials show they reduce the time spent on repayment collection activities by 50%. Field officers can use this additional time to train farmers on best practices, and to enroll new clients.

We’re also investing in software, like SMS technology, that allows us to directly communicate with our clients across multiple countries. Our largest source of communication is mobile repayment, where clients can pay back their loans using their cell phones. Mobile repayment allows us to give clients real-time SMS updates on their loans, which increases transparency and improves customer service. These digital payments mean that our field staff no longer need to carry around hard currency, decreasing processing times from 16 days to just two to four days. 

We are also constantly testing new technologies as they emerge. We trial each solution through a rigorous, multi-phase trial process. If successful, we can then consider scaling it across our growing client network. Instead of devoting ourselves to specific systems, we're committed to the innovations process.

In the future, technology could help us track delivery of farm inputs as they happen, diagnose crop diseases with mobile phones, or even help clients map out healthy repayment paths. No matter which products we decide to adopt in the future, we’re confident that our big bet is going to pay off, especially for the farmers we serve.

Conclusion

Thank you for continuing to support our work at One Acre Fund!

It’s important to emphasize that our success is not our own—it is that of every farmer who takes a leap of faith with us—working hard through every planting season to improve their harvests and build a more prosperous future for their family.

As we’ve seen this year, this success is not a foregone conclusion. It is fragile and vulnerable to the smallest of external pressures. Even if the rains come late or pests descend, we will continue to work with our clients to build resilience to these shocks. 

We’re taking a long view on impact because we’re here for the long haul. We aim to not just support our clients of today, but smallholders for generations to come.

Thank you again, and as always, Farmers First.