Transparently sharing the reasons for staff reduction in Kenya
Today, I must share some difficult news. To ensure the long-term health of One Acre Fund in Kenya (which is known as “Tupande”), we are restructuring farmer-facing operations in Kenya, and are proposing layoffs in some Tupande program teams.
Out of 3,750 roles in Tupande, we expect to make approximately 1,752 roles redundant (representing 47% of Tupande workforce). Following Kenyan law, this proposal will open a one-month consultation period with affected staff. The proposed cuts are felt most in our farmer-facing roles, which have the most staff.
These redundancies are entirely based on a changing business environment in Kenya, and are not a reflection on individual or team performance. Tupande serves more than 600,000 farm families, and we feel a deep sense of responsibility to ensure that Tupande is financially stable and able to serve Kenya’s farmers into the future.
This is a very difficult time for colleagues and friends who have made significant contributions to the Tupande team for many years. We are fully committed to a fair and transparent process, and we will show the greatest possible care to affected staff. While I cannot make this news any less painful, I can share openly why we are proposing redundancies and what this means for both our team and farmers.
WHY ARE WE PROPOSING THESE CHANGES IN KENYA
One Acre Fund spends resources on services that farm families want in order to help farmers achieve prosperity. In Kenya, what farmers want has very quickly changed in the past five years; the overall market environment has also changed. We must respond to farmer needs in order to maintain financial health.
- In Kenya, farmer preferences are growing increasingly sophisticated. For example, we have seen lessening farmer interest in staff-intensive services, such as group loans and in-person training.
- At the same time, we are seeing growing demand for more flexible services, digital solutions, and more export-oriented commercial opportunities.
- In addition, both the Kenyan private sector and government are stepping up to meet demand for fertilizer, so we must decrease our investment there.
- We have evaluated many possible alternatives to redundancies, which we see as a last resort, but, fundamentally, the Kenyan market has changed dramatically, unlike in many of our other countries of operation.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR FARMERS
Tupande will serve Kenyan farmers as usual during this restructure, and we will do our best to minimize disruptions for customers. Farmers can still purchase products for planting, and sell their harvest of select commercial crops (like avocado and macadamia) for export to global markets. We will continue to offer farm services like training, delivery, and flexible payment options.
Restructuring our team will ensure we remain financially healthy while delivering the best customer experience to farmers. In the past year, we have introduced new ways for farmers to shop with Tupande: farmers can now buy directly from our agents, at their local duka (retail shop), or on the Tupande online app. In the proposed restructure, all these teams would be streamlined, so a customer has a single point of contact.
While our support for farmers is evolving, our goal remains the same: We measure success in our ability to make more farmers more prosperous. We believe that these changes, as difficult as they are, will ensure Tupande’s financial health. By acting now, we can keep Tupande financially sound into the future. One Acre Fund and Tupande remain open for business and will serve farmers for years to come.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR TEAM
We have done everything we can to find savings and preserve jobs. We cut all possible non-staff costs. Our teams worked hard to support farmers and increase sales of quality farm products during the last planting season. Finally, as a last resort, we used consistent principles to identify potential roles to restructure. But even with these changes, we were still operating at unsustainable loss levels.
We are doing our best to treat all staff with care and transparency. While these decisions are necessary, they are deeply challenging because they have real impact on real people. We must do our utmost to treat every single person with care, and offer them the clarity they deserve. All affected staff will receive the strongest possible support and care from Tupande, including a robust severance package and transition support.
In alignment with Kenyan labor laws, we will hold a staff consultation period within Kenya, from May 8 to June 8 on the proposed redundancies. Until June 8th, no decisions are final. This provides a genuine opportunity for staff to learn about our proposal, ask questions, and offer suggestions. We have begun consulting with affected staff in Kenya this week.
As difficult as this proposal may be, I believe it is the right decision to ensure financial stability for the Tupande team, so they may serve farmers for years to come. It is also the right decision in order to provide the most appropriate services in Kenya that farmers require on their path to prosperity. We will continue to work closely with all affected staff to ensure they receive appropriate care and support throughout this transition.
In farming, there are always some lean years mixed in with the good ones. But we have stood by farmers for 16 years, and will continue standing alongside them – now and in the decades to come.
Andrew Youn, CEO
One Acre Fund