The year was marked by major new efforts to support farmers to adapt to increasing financial and environment shocks, as well as to innovate new channels to improve One Acre Fund's own financial sustainability.
This annual report provides an overview of our 2022 work and results, including notable highlights, updated key metrics by country, and deep dives on our Nigeria program, impact performance, how our new climate commitments are affecting farmers, and how we are expanding into new impact channels with a path towards financial breakeven.
Welcome from our CEO
I am happy to share our 2022 Annual Report, which takes stock of our work in growing farmer impact, building resilience, and delivering sustainable livelihood changes.
2022 was the first full year of our Impact Challenge, in which we committed to generating more income and assets for farmers using roughly the same level of donor resources. We innovated to deliver more impact to more farmers more efficiently – by reducing our cost of doing business and prioritizing projects that build farmers’ resilience to financial and environmental challenges.
Cost efficiency is central to our mission and business model. Over the last few years, we have doubled down on this effort – for example, using metrics like Social Return on Investment (SROI) to guide where and how to deploy resources for the best farmer impact. As part of this push, we explored and scaled several impact channels that have the potential to become self-sustaining over time, to allow us to create and grow impact without needing external funding.
We also enable farmers to grow more food with more certainty each season, earn more money, and build resilience to financial and environmental shocks, by continuing to refine our services to better meet the needs of farmers in each market. In our efforts to ensure an environmentally sustainable farming future, we also adopted a 10-year climate strategy committed to building the resilience of smallholder farmers in the face of a changing climate.
Looking inward, we made strides in improving the daily experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for our staff. We revised our pay policies to make them more equitable, and extended core benefits to all staff at all levels. We created more accessible channels for staff to share feedback and report bias, in addition to existing formal legal channels. We reviewed how we define strong performance and support career growth to create a more consistent and objective experience for all staff. We took steps to ensure all teams have sufficient representation in org-wide DEI initiatives, including access to core staff support.
We exist to make farmers and their families more prosperous, and we are on track to serve more than 10 million farmers by 2030, representing 10% of all families living in “$1 a day” extreme poverty worldwide. I am grateful for your continued support of our teams and the farmers we serve. Thank you.
Executive Director, One Acre Fund
One Acre Fund is deeply grateful for the support and guidance of our board members and advisors throughout 2022. A complete list of these leaders can be found here.
Scale and Sustainability
For the past several years, we’ve supported farm families through weather challenges and uncertainty associated with COVID, climate change, and agricultural productivity-threatening inflation. Despite these challenges, we also succeeded in launching impact initiatives ranging from expanded agroforestry offerings to new nutritious and commercial crops. All of this has remained in the effort to build diverse pathways for smallholders to improve food security and their livelihoods.
In 2022, we shifted our focus to sustainable growth – finding ways to enable farmers to grow more food with more certainty each season, earn more money, and build resilience to financial and climate shocks. We found and continue to refine new ways to better meet the needs of farmers in each unique market.
To build financial sustainability, we prioritized several strategies to reach more farmers and achieve more impact. For example, some countries began integrating rural retail shops with the full-service program to make it easier than ever for farmers to work with us by giving them more flexibility in product selection, purchasing channels, and financing options. In our newer programs, we continue to explore innovations that can lead to higher investment returns for farmers.
We exist to make farmers and their families more prosperous. By creating efficiencies and innovating to grow resilience, we are making a meaningful difference in rural communities, delivering sustainable and meaningful livelihood changes.
Nigeria: Our Newest Full Country Program
We are thrilled to announce Nigeria as our newest full-scale country program, following five years of pilot operations culminating in an exceptionally impactful 2022 season.
Nigeria is home to one of Africa’s largest populations of smallholder farmers, a majority of whom live under the national poverty line. Since 2018, our Nigeria pilot program has tested our model’s adaptability to a very different context from East Africa – including new farmer perspectives and preferences, distinct crops and weather patterns, and much larger average land sizes. Despite these differences, we have found that Nigerian farmers face familiar challenges, including high levels of unmet demand for high-quality inputs, credit, and tree seedlings, which our model is custom-built to address.
Through five years of rapid expansion, Nigeria has emerged as our highest-impact and fastest-growing country of operations. We have scaled from 150 clients in 2018 to more than 24,000 in 2022; our full-service program enabled these 24,000 client families to earn an average of $338 in new farm profits in 2022, more than double our organization-wide average. We have also launched several other impact channels to complement our full-service model, such as equipping 54,000 farmers to plant 680,000 trees and establishing two “rural retail” agro shops that together generated over $1 million in sales.
This program is now poised for rapid growth. Guided by our experienced Nigerian leadership team and hard-working field staff, and fueled by donor support, we will continue expanding our full-service program, while continuing to build up our other impact channels, like agroforestry and rural retail. High transaction sizes also mean that the Nigeria program has a clear pathway to financial sustainability, supporting a faster growth trajectory.
Our full program launch in Nigeria advances One Acre Fund’s vision of empowering smallholders across the entire African continent to improve farmers’ food security and climate resilience.
One Acre Fund envisions a future in which every farm family has the knowledge and means to achieve big harvests, support healthy families, and cultivate rich soil.
In 2022, we increased our average “dollar impact” per farmer compared to prior recent years, despite ongoing challenges in our operating context.
Rainfed smallholder agriculture is inherently volatile and vulnerable to external factors. Over the past few years, farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa have keenly felt the effects of global events – in particular, COVID-19 and the Ukraine conflict have contributed to widespread supply disruptions and increases in input prices. In 2022, these events led to grain shortages across East Africa; however, smallholders were partially insulated by an accompanying rise in the market prices and value of their grain harvests.
One Acre Fund’s full-service program helps farmers ensure strong income despite external factors, and in 2022 we enabled our average client to achieve $123 in additional profits and assets.2 This is equivalent to a 34% increase in income on supported land.3 Across all 1.6 million farm families reached in 2022 through our full-service program, this represents about $200 million in new income for some of the hardest-working people on the planet.
This result is a material improvement from our last several years of operations. Our average dollar impact from 2019-2021 was $99, including a low of $83 during 2020 due to pandemic-driven disruptions. In addition to the higher harvest prices highlighted above, this impact improvement was due to several factors:
- We continued to focus specifically on maximizing farmer adherence to our planting best practices – for example, in Kenya, we rolled out tailored guidance delivered throughout the season via SMS messaging. This led to meaningful harvest improvements, especially for maize.
- As input prices rose due to supply disruptions, One Acre Fund continued to offer flexible and reliable credit, ensuring inputs remained affordable while other sellers and lenders succumbed to inflation. This led to significant increases in farmer demand across several markets.
- Our credit offerings also enabled client farmers to plant more land than unenrolled farmers, leading to bigger harvests and better opportunities to capitalize on higher grain prices.
Relative to the donor resources required to provide our services — or what we call Social Return on Investment (SROI) — farmers generated $3.93 of additional profit for every $1 invested in our full-service program, representing strong impact efficiency.
2. This represents bottom-line profits, even after repaying program fees and controlling for what farmers would have earned without participating in the program. As described here, we measure client impact against a demographically similar group of neighboring control farmers using propensity score matching. <<
3. Notably, although our absolute ($) impact increased from 2021, our proportional (%) impact fell slightly. This reflects the fact that unenrolled control farmers also achieved higher profits in 2022 compared to 2021. <<
In 2022, One Acre Fund clients increased their maize harvests by 25% on average compared to nonparticipating farmers. The improvements differ across countries – ranging from 57% in Nigeria to 15% in Tanzania – depending on weather patterns, soil conditions, and baseline yield conditions. Across all markets, this level of harvest increase represents a noteworthy improvement in food security, as described below.
In addition to improving staple grain harvests, One Acre Fund is increasingly equipping farmers to diversify their harvests with new crops and income streams, with the dual goals of generating higher profits and building greater resilience to climate change. Two notable examples are our mass-scale tree-planting campaigns and our work connecting farmers to inputs and markets for higher-value commercial crops, as described later in this report.
One Acre Fund seeks to empower farmers to eradicate generations of hunger within their lifetime. Recent research shows that food insecurity has risen sharply in Sub-Saharan Africa during the COVID-19 era; our own surveys of our areas of operations indicate that about 50% of farmers experience moderate-to-severe hunger at some point in the year.4 Our program helps clients combat this trend in communities facing economic disadvantages – for example, in 2022, One Acre Fund clients in Burundi were 33% less likely to experience hunger than unenrolled farmers. Organization-wide, in 2022 our program supported clients in reducing the incidence of moderate-to- severe hunger in their homes by 9% and severe hunger by 15%.5
We have seen firsthand how higher profits translate into increased asset accumulation – a good indicator of higher living standards and healthier families. In 2022, our average client increased her overall value of assets by 16% compared to control farmers, and her diversity of agricultural assets by 11%. These results also compound over time, demonstrating the flywheel effect of farmers productively reinvesting their income gains. In our mature programs, veteran farmers enrolled for 3+ years report 28% higher value of assets than newly enrolled farmers.
4. One Acre Fund assesses hunger severity (both baseline levels and our impact on clients) using the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Insecurity Experience Scale, or FIES. <<
5. We have found that in most cases our program generates enough new profit to fully eliminate seasonal hunger if a client family chooses to do so, but that ultra-poor families often choose to endure some level of hunger in the interest of making other investments, such as children’s school fees. <<
Land is a farmer’s most valuable asset, and One Acre Fund supports farmers in maintaining and improving the productivity of their soil. This is all the more important as the reality of climate change grows more apparent. We continue our work to help farmers build their resilience by training them on soil health-improving practices, such as intercropping, crop diversification, agroforestry, and lime application, and offering tailored agronomic guidance on input choice, planting timing, and farming techniques.
Soil health improvement is a long-term process, but early indicators of our impact are promising. For example, we determined through soil testing that many of our clients live in areas with acidic soil (pH <5.5), prompting us to launch trainings on how the application of agricultural lime can significantly boost long-term crop yields. As a result, One Acre Fund clients in these areas applied 73% more lime than control farmers in 2022. We are also seeing early but statistically significant increases in other soil health indicators for client fields, including application of organic carbon (such as compost and manure), nitrogen use efficiency, and overall agro-biodiversity.
Full-Service Program Graphs
Beyond our full-service program, One Acre Fund also impacted an additional 2.4 million farmers through partnerships in 2022. Whereas our full-service program provides farmers with a full suite of support (including high-quality inputs, offered as a loan, delivered locally, accompanied by agronomic trainings and other services), our partnerships typically offer a single element of our full-service program (such as inputs or trainings) to scaled farmer networks by working with governmental or private-sector actors. We currently run 27 active partnerships across all nine of the countries we serve.
In 2022, One Acre Fund partnerships enabled an average impact of $48.50 in additional profits and assets per unique farm family reached.6 Across all partnerships, this represents $119 million in new profits and assets. Although partnerships drive lower impact than our full-service program, they are also more efficient, with an average SROI of $9.31 in farmer profit generated from each $1 invested by donors.
Notably, in addition to improving short-term farmer profits, our partnerships work is designed to achieve long-term systems change – shifting broader agricultural systems to work for, not against, smallholders. For example, our seed production initiative in Rwanda (in partnership with a private company and a governmental agency) now fulfills an estimated 50%+ of Rwanda’s total current demand for hybrid maize seed. It has also helped attract new market entrants (such as Tri-Seeds Co) by validating Rwandan smallholders as a customer base. This competition will help push down prices and incentivize new innovation, benefiting smallholders countrywide.
6. We have found that in most cases our program generates enough new profit to fully eliminate seasonal hunger if a client family chooses to do so, but that ultra-poor families often choose to endure some level of hunger in the interest of making other investments, such as children’s school fees. <<
A look at how we equip farmers for greater climate resilience
A look at how we have been using existing channels to scale revenue opportunities for farmers.
Although our work over the past several years has mainly focused on supporting rural farm families to weather the challenges and uncertainty associated with COVID, climate change, and attendant economic shocks, we have also succeeded in launching impact initiatives to build diverse income pathways for smallholders and to improve food security and their livelihoods.
Our work in 2022 underlined the need to embed sustainability in how we work and deliver impact to farmers: in summary, the more we can do with every dollar, the more impact farmers can achieve. In particular, we made progress in embedding adaptability in how we work and delivering impact to farmers by streamlining our services and operations to ensure bigger profits from the same level of investment while pushing for greater environmental gains. We are establishing resilient systems and business models that serve more farmers more efficiently, impactfully, and consistently.
Our work delivered more value for farmers and set the pace for how we will innovate to serve farmers even better in the years ahead. Thank you for continuing to help us put Farmers First.