Expanding into New Opportunities
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 50 million hungry smallholder farm families who we believe could immediately benefit from our model, the majority of whom live in countries we do not yet serve. Our new country expansion team is tasked with determining where to launch operations next, unlocking our organization’s pathway to continent-wide scale nation by nation. After studying and visiting high-potential countries, the third phase of this team’s scouting process is a local pilot, through which we test how our model functions before investing in a full-scale operation. We are currently running pilots in three countries: Zambia, initiated last year, and Malawi and Uganda, where we plan to launch full-scale country programs in 2016.
Our pilot in Uganda’s Eastern Region concluded a strong Year 2 in late 2015. Key accomplishments included successfully trialing new bean and soybean products, doubling our staffing efficiency, and collecting 100 percent of loan repayments. On average, our clients’ raw harvests were over 200 percent larger than those of control farmers, yielding $41 USD in new income.1 These results represent a decrease from our previous season, primarily due to the effects of a parasitic weed known as striga; in response, we have invested deeply in systems for mitigating striga for 2016. This pilot is on a strong trajectory for 2016. The scale of our Ugandan operations more than tripled between 2015 and 2016, and following our deployment of anti-striga measures we expect our average impact to increase in the current season
One Acre Fund farmers in Malawi’s Southern Region also achieved positive results in Year 2 in the face of extremely challenging circumstances. In 2015, severe flooding across Malawi caused widespread crop damage and loss. One Acre Fund was able to protect our clients in several ways, such as by replacing rain-damaged seed and distributing a modest weather insurance payout. As a result, One Acre Fund farmers harvested 71 percent more maize than control farmers, but due to the effects of flooding still achieved just $21 USD in average new income per family—far less than our 2014 impact of $56 USD. Our steadfast service during this difficult period, spearheaded by a talented team of field leaders, led to significant increase in scale in 2016. In the absence of abnormal weather, we can expect a resurgence of impact.
One Acre Fund successfully launched our newest pilot in Zambia’s Central Province in late 2015. Zambia represents a unique national context for One Acre Fund in that its population density is much lower than anywhere else we work. Since farmers in Zambia live further apart, their farm sizes tend to be larger, creating both operational challenges and opportunities for significant impact. Although harvest is still months away, this new pilot is off to a promising start. We have already greatly exceeded our initial enrollment target of 100 farmers, and now expect to supply 500 farmers with $300+ USD in supplies for one hectare of land—the largest loans we have ever offered. If we can successfully adapt our model to serve Zambia’s low-density smallholder population, we will open an entirely new farmer demographic throughout Africa to our further expansion in the coming years.