Welcome to Malawi, one of One Acre Fund’s newest pilot countries. We arrived here in 2013, and in our first pilot season we had just 71 farmers working with us in the southern district of Zomba.
Malawi represents a brand new agricultural context for One Acre Fund. Like in our other countries, maize is the dominant crop. But in addition to maize, farmers here plant different crops (such as pigeon peas) and use different practices (such as ridge planting) than we have encountered elsewhere. As such, we’ve had a lot to learn! Much of our effort over the last year has focused on conducting rigorous agriculture trials to figure out how we can maximize harvests for Malawian farmers.
Now in our second growing season, the Malawi pilot has expanded quickly to 939 farm families. Last year a full 100 percent of farmers repaid their loans – an amazing accomplishment, and an indication of how much farmers value the program. Here, two One Acre Fund farmers from Malawi tell us their stories.
Linley is a proud mother and a caring wife who resides in Mandota, Malawi. She is a strong woman, and puts immense effort into the farming that sustains her family. She turned 52 years old this year.
Linley grows maize for a living. With the food she harvests at the end of the season, Linley has to feed her entire family and support her five children. She needs to sell part of the harvest in order to buy other varieties of food, additional clothing, and other essential day-to-day items.
Before joining One Acre Fund, Linley’s harvests were too small. They left her family hungry and lacking basic necessities. “I spent a lot of money buying expensive seed and fertilizer from local stores, but what I harvested at the end of the season still wasn’t enough,” Linley says. She was investing all her time and money, but had very little to show for it.
Linley heard about One Acre Fund from her village chief. When she heard the details of the program, she was convinced that this might be the change she needed.
Soon after, Linley joined a group and registered with One Acre Fund with the hopes of improving her yields and reducing her farming expenses. She also saw One Acre Fund’s loan – made in the form of seeds and fertilizer – as an opportunity to mitigate her cash flow problems. For the first time, she would have cash on hand when her family needed it, and be able to pay back the loan bit by bit.
In her first year with One Acre Fund, Linley planted a quarter-acre with the maize seed and fertilizer she received as part of her loan package. She received trainings on how to space her seeds and carefully apply small amounts of fertilizer (called micro dosing), and she applied them conscientiously. At the end of the year, she couldn’t believe her eyes – her little quarter-acre of land had produced a harvest of 11 bags of maize. Up until that point, her very best year had been only 6 bags.
This year, Linley has enrolled a half-acre with the One Acre Fund program, and hopes to increase her loan size again next year. Linley is a very happy woman now. “As long as One Acre Fund is here to assist me with my farming, I will always be wearing a smile,” Linley says.
Hanko Libanga lives in Bongwe Village in Malawi. He is a father to two daughters and has two grandchildren who he also cares for. Though he is 80 years old, Hanko is still farming. He farms year round, as he always has.
Hanko grows maize and pigeon peas, and occasionally tests out other crops, like sunflowers.
Though Hanko works hard, for most of his life he has struggled to find a sustainable source of food for himself and his grandchildren. He had two major problems. First, for much of his life he couldn’t access critical services like improved seeds, quality fertilizer and agricultural trainings. Second, even when he could access them, he often couldn’t afford them. With low yields year after year, Hanko was unable to feed himself and his family.
Hanko first heard about One Acre Fund from a field officer who was doing community outreach. He was quite taken with One Acre Fund’s program model and felt it might help him overcome the hurdles he had been facing.
Hanko enrolled a quarter-acre of his land in his first year of joining One Acre Fund. To his delight, he managed to harvest nine bags maize, which was larger than any of his previous harvests.
Buoyed by his strong harvest from last season, Hanko increased his loan to cover a half-acre of land. “I can now happily take care of my grandchildren with all the maize I am harvesting these days, and with the money I am saving with One Acre Fund!” Hanko says.