Our Research Stations
One Acre Fund’s crop research stations are where we test out new ideas in a controlled environment. They are the starting point for most of the larger-scale agricultural trials that we conduct with farmers. We hope that the ideas we test on our research stations will one day translate into significant impact for all the farmers we work with.
The trials we conduct vary widely. We test new crop types, crop varieties, planting methods, fertilizers, disease management, and other ideas for improving farmers’ yields. Trials that are successful and show a lot of potential in the research station typically move on be tested in “trial districts,” where we work with actual One Acre Fund farmers and get additional feedback on how the intervention could work at a larger scale.
Our first research station in Kenya was initially opened in 2007 and was just one acre in size. However, over the last several years, we have been working to significantly increase the capacity and scientific rigor of our research stations. In Kenya, we now operate four agricultural research stations in three different agro-ecological zones totaling about 26 acres. This is in addition to our livestock research station and a station focused primarily on tree research. This increased capacity allows us to carry out almost 100 different trial configurations every season.
Trials at the Research Stations
We also have a highly trained and professional staff that is dedicated to doing great science and ensuring high data quality in service to our farmers. We’ve begun collaborating with experts to raise our trial methods to the highest standards used by international agricultural research institutes.
We’ve tested some great ideas in our research stations, and we hope that some will be successful enough to be rolled out across our entire program. Some examples of our trials are:
- Intercropping legumes. We believe intercrops are a way for farmers to get more out of their land, diversify their crops, and grow legumes that are both nutritious and good for soil health. These include beans, soybeans, groundnuts, and cowpeas.
- Bean disease. We are testing new varieties of bean that are more resistant to disease as well as disease management methods.
- Maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND). At our station near Kisii, we continue to test new maize varieties in search of a highly MLND-tolerant seed.
- Vegetables. We have been working on vegetable crops that farmers could grow in small quantities, such as in homestead gardens. Crops such as red onions and carrots, as well as local vegetables like managu and saga, improve nutrition and also fetch a good price at the market.
- Low rainfall crops. At our station near Homa Bay, we are testing different types of crops and planting methods that could help farmers in low and variable rainfall zones. These include pigeon peas, green grams, and sorghum.
While our research stations are most commonly used to test new innovations, they’ve also come in handy in times of crisis. For example, they played an important role in One Acre Fund’s response to maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND), a deadly crop disease which swept Kenya a few years ago. We were able to use our research stations to test methods and inputs for new crops like millet and sorghum, which allowed farmers to diversify their farms and protect against the risks associated with planting maize.
Moving forward, we are excited to continue to use our research stations to generate new ideas for potential agricultural products that could greatly improve our farmers’ harvests and livelihoods.