Mar 26th, 2013 11:48 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
In partnership with One Acre Fund, we’ll be following Anne, a smallholder farmer from Kenya, for a whole growing season. From planting to harvest, we will check in every month to see what life is really like for a farmer in rural Kenya. Written by Hailey Tucker.
Anne Wafula wrings her dirt-caked hands as she sits in her living room. She has been tilling soil in a half-acre plot of land to prepare to plant millet, groundnuts, sweet potatoes and cassava; and she is admittedly a little worried about the season ahead.
“As a mother, I am worried about what will happen when harvest time comes,” Anne says. “It is my hope that I should not lack food at this home.”
Anne is a smallholder farmer in Kisiwa, a village in western Kenya. Like most of the world’s poorest people, her main livelihood is farming. For the last few years, she has enjoyed strong harvests.
Anne is a member of One Acre Fund, which provides farmers with fertilizer and seed on credit, teaches the farmers how to more effectively plant their crops, and then allows them to pay back their loans at times of the year when money is easier to come by.
Since joining One Acre Fund in 2010, Anne has been harvesting 10 bags of maize a year, more than double her previous harvests of four bags.
Anne, whose stoic demeanor softens after a while, is the mother of seven children, two of which she and her husband Isaac adopted. Like many farmers, Anne faces the competing challenges of providing enough food for her family, keeping everyone healthy, and making sure all her children are receiving an education.
Her increased harvests since joining One Acre Fund have helped her grow enough to feed her family and make real life improvements, but as she increases her income, she also has increased her expectations of what she should be able to provide for her children.
Briston Nangesa is their eldest and is studying engineering a local technical college. This is possible because Anne’s improved harvest pays the fees. Many farmers in her village are unable to send their children to secondary school, let alone a technical college. Anne is proud of Briston but she wants to give all her children the same opportunity, and the thought of all those future school fees is daunting.
This season Anne is trying something different. A maize disease appeared in Kenya last year and infected fields had a heavy loss of crops. As a result, One Acre Fund is encouraging its farmers to diversify their crops and reduce the risk of losing everything.
Anne has decided to plant only a small amount of maize and focus most of her energy on growing alternatives: sweet potatoes and cassava for food security, sorghum and millet for income, and beans for nutrition. If the harvest goes well this season, she also hopes to have enough money to start a business selling clothes.
As a mother, my biggest concern is that I would like my children to learn, so if they are not able to go to school, that is not good for me. My hopes are that we will harvest well and get the highest yield”.
We’ll be back in a month with the latest news from Anne and her family.
ONE has just launched a new report that looks at investment in African agriculture. Find out which countries are getting it right, and where both donors and African governments need to improve.
One Acre Fund serves 125,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi, helping them to increase their harvests and incomes. It provides farmers with a service bundle that includes seed and fertiliser, credit, training, and market facilitation, and enables farmers to double their income per planted acre. To learn more about their work, you can read Roger Thurow’s The Last Hunger Season.
Mar 8th, 2013 9:14 AM UTC
By Helen Hector
To celebrate International Women’s Day we’ve picked some of our favourite images and matched them up with facts to show why investing in women and girls is so important here at ONE.
Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day by sharing this post with your friends and family.
And make sure you tell the women and girls in your life that they are awesome.
Education: United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990; UNESCO Education Statistics; UNICEF, Millennium Development Goals: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Agriculture: IFAD (2001) Assessment of Rural Poverty: Western and Central Africa; The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies; USAID, Women in Development: Country Snapshot: Kenya and Agriculture & Micro-enterprise
Employment: Phil Borges (2007) Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World. New York; World Bank (2008) Doing Business: Women in Africa; United Nations Development Programme
Politics: D. Dollar, R. Fisman and R. Gatti, Are Women Really the ‘Fairer’ Sex? Corruption and Women in Government, Policy Research Report on Gender and Development Working Paper Series No. 4; Africa Progress Report (2012) Jobs, Justice and Equity – Seizing Opportunities in Times of Global Change
Dec 17th, 2012 9:00 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Tonya Rawe, Senior Policy Advocate, CARE USA, calls on leaders to integrate climate change into our “comprehensive approach” to global food security.
Manik Lal Lahere of Banahil, Chhattigarh, India and Maria Mathayo of Bangalala, Tanzania may live thousands of miles apart. But they are facing one challenge together: changing rainfall patterns.
It’s hard to grow food when rain is scarce. Photo credit: Aurélie Ceinos
“When there is no water, nothing will grow on that land. As a result, one has to migrate,” said Lahere.
For Mathayo, the challenge of unpredictable rainfall is similar.
“If the rains stop, there is nothing we can do. Only God can help us then. We have nowhere to go,” she said.
The reality for Manik Lal Lahere and Maria Mathayo and their families resembles a reality for countless other smallholder farmers in poor communities around the world. Their ability to feed their families – and their very survival – depend directly on the climate and the environment around them. With too much, too little, or increasingly unpredictable rain, they cannot grow food and are left with few options. There is often little choice but for these families to move. Yet as the impacts of climate change increase, even moving may not help.
Migrating is not always the best option for families looking for better resources. Photo credit: Aurélie Ceinos
“I moved from the mountain to find water here in the Ruvu Valley. But now that water has gone too,” said Leonard Rabieti of Ruvu Mferejini, Tanzania. “It has dried up.”
Around the world, poor communities live on the edge of crisis without resources and support systems to enable them to adapt or to serve as a safety net in times of crisis. As a result, in the context of climate change, poor communities experience more hunger and face greater challenges to “graduate” out of poverty.
At the recently concluded climate change negotiations in Doha, Qatar, CARE & United Nations University released an 8-country study, Where the Rain Falls, that examines the relationship among rainfall changes, hunger, and human mobility or migration. The study aims to increase understanding of how families manage in these uncertain circumstances and how they use the option to move as a way of adapting to a changing climate. The research reveals that the decision to move (generally within a country’s borders) is not always a bad decision. At the same time, it isn’t always a good one.
Agriculture is a major source of income for many families in the developing world. Photo credit: Aurélie Ceinos
For some families, when one person moves for education or better job opportunities, the whole family can benefit. For others who move because of food shortage or because their agriculture-based livelihood doesn’t provide enough food or income, migration is a last resort that merely enables them to maintain the status quo.
For others, like Manik Lal Lahere and his family, migrating can actually have a negative effect. The entire Lahere family migrates together rather than split up, but as a result, their children are pulled out of school, harming their chances for advancement as adults.
Or migration can make the family members left behind more vulnerable: in Bangladesh where 97 percent of migrants in the research communities are men, women who are left behind when husbands migrate not only have an increased burden to care for their families, households, and agricultural activities but also face sexual harassment. When fathers migrate, some families decide to marry off their daughters early so they don’t experience sexual harassment, which can carry a stigma, while the father is away.
Where the Rain Falls reveals that poor families need better choices in the face of hunger and a changing climate. Climate change poses a real threat to global efforts to address hunger, threatening to decrease agriculture yields and water availability – and increase hunger. One study shows that climate change could leave 25 million more children malnourished by 2050.
Where the Rain Falls and the climate crisis also signal the need for a new, holistic approach to tackling global hunger. Climate change requires that policymakers and practitioners take climate change – impacts, vulnerability and projections – into account when designing food security programs. Programs must engage communities to prepare for impacts like the floods we witnessed during our research in Vietnam – floods that can wipe out an entire harvest. Food security programs must ensure farmers (women and men) have access to weather and climate projections so they can plan for farming and for their future.
Food security programs also should integrate efforts to build the capacity of poor communities to engage in local, regional, and national planning processes to ensure that their needs are recognized and prioritized. And we must address social inequalities that drive vulnerability to climate change: when women have less access to resources or decision-making power, they are less able to plan for their families, yet they are often left responsible for tasks that are sensitive to climate change, like fetching water or growing food.
Climate change demands more than business as usual. In the lives of poor smallholder farmers, the only silos are those in their dreams to store vast amounts of grain. There’s no separation between water, soil health, food, fuel, or health. When families struggle – when water is scarcer and further away, when food runs short, when poor soil leads to small yields – hunger, malnutrition, and poor health result.
So when we talk about the need for a “comprehensive approach” to food and nutrition security, “comprehensive” must mean integration of natural resource management and of climate change. An integrated world that looks at the environment and climate is the world in which smallholder farmers live and the foundation on which their survival depends.
To learn more about Where the Rain Falls, or hear more of the Lahere and Mathayo families’ story, visit www.wheretherainfalls.org where the global report and a 12-minute policy film are available.
Nov 22nd, 2012 12:52 PM UTC
By Isabelle De Lichtervelde
In 2008, when food prices soared, donors looked for smart ideas to help vulnerable communities cope by boosting local food production and enabling them to earn enough money to buy food and save for when times are tight.
One such smart idea was in Kenya, where a EU and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization funded radio show promoted better farming techniques amongst a dispersed rural population. The results simply changed lives.
Piloted across 14 districts in the Rift Valley Province in Kenya, a region with high potential for dairy farming, the four-month radio series shared techniques for improving dairy farming with as wide an audience as possible, including women with children and young people. The long term goal was to improve household incomes and living standards.
Mr. Isaac Ngetich, a farmer from Koibatek District explains, “Our region has a high potential for dairy farming which is not being fully exploited. The radio programmes have helped us.” He continues, “Through the programme I won a prize for best farmer as I moved from getting 3 litres of milk to 4, 5, 7 and 10. I have established 2 acres of pasture and have learnt the value of keeping good records to monitor performance and identify areas for improvement in animal management.”
The programmes also offered practical tips such as how to produce silage to feed livestock. After listening to the radio programme and later seeing a demonstration of a chaff cutter (a device for cutting straw and hay), Isaac decided to make his own. “Now I am able to cut enough grass for my animals and sell what is left.”
The series was a great success, with up to 1.2 million listeners each week. “When the radio programme started, I bought a radio and followed the programmes wherever I was. I would take notes and try to follow the guidelines given on the radio. My milk production moved from 15 litres to 36 litres,” Isaac Rotich, Chairperson of Muserechi Young Farmers says. “I am not employed anywhere else but I am able to pay fees for my children comfortably.”
Paul Cheruiyot, Chairperson of Torongo Farmers’ Cooperative (Dairy) observes, “Since our establishment, our main challenge has been how to reduce milk rejection which has been rising over the years and in 2009 peaked at 2000 litres per day. Through the programme, our members now engage in clean milk production and at long last have reduced rejection from 2000 litres to 100 litres.”
In the internet age, the programme shows how radio still has the power to change lives on a huge scale. “The radio programme can reach the owner, the workers and the family all at the same time,” says Cheruiyot. “As a result of this reduction in rejected milk, our members are better off.”
The improved levels of dairy production and reduced levels of rejection have meant more money in the pockets of rural farmers including women. This has led to the establishment of a Savings and Credit Society which will help rural farmers put money aside and protects themselves better from future food price hikes.
With this pilot being such a success, another radio programme has been set up and is now running in 10 other districts across Kenya . Similar types of radio programmes are also currently being set up in arid and semi-arid areas under the EU-funded Kenya Rural Development Programme and the Kenyan government is supporting similar initiatives.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Achieving food security for all is at the heart of the FAO’s efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Visit the FAO website.
Nov 14th, 2012 4:57 PM UTC
By Saira O'Mallie
Yesterday I delivered over 150,000 signatures to Stephen O’Brien MP, the Prime Minister’s Envoy & Special Representative to the Sahel.
12 million people are still at risk in the Sahel region of West Africa due to the worst droughts for 60 years, so we wanted the UK government to hear our call to end the cycle of crisis and expand the New Alliance.
The New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security will “increase responsible domestic and foreign private investments in African agriculture, take innovations that can enhance agricultural productivity to scale, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities.”
It’s an ambitious commitment, and although the petition is now out of our hands, we’ll be sure to hold the UK government and New Alliance partners to account.
150,000 people are watching, while 12 million wait for these words to become actions.
Oct 17th, 2012 5:41 PM UTC
By Saira O'Mallie
This job certainly throws up a few unexpected opportunities, but turning my hand to pop-up restaurant organiser has to be the biggest challenge yet.
I had to get permission from four different offices, find talented chefs to give up their time, recruit volunteers to help man the stand and get the whole thing set up, running and dismantled again in about 5 hours. Phew!
But we couldn’t let World Food Day pass without a bit of a celebration, and it was a great opportunity to engage the public and MPs with our work on nutrition, particularly the humble (and delicious) sweet potato.
ONE’s Saira O’Mallie with David Miliband MP
If you’ve missed it, here’s why it’s important:
Being just across the road from the House of Commons it was easy for MPs to pop across and say hi, and while they tucked into sweet potato cakes and soup we told them more about the campaign. Many wished that our pop-up food van would become a regular feature!
In fact, as I packed up I chatted to a policeman who asked if we’d be coming back every day. Not sure my nerves could take it! But hopefully we’ll be back on World Food Day 2013.
Oct 16th, 2012 7:13 PM UTC
By Roger Thurow
Today is World Food Day. But, I wonder, do the farmers of Africa know it?
Actually, for them, every day is Food Day. Food – growing it, scraping together enough money to buy it – is their daily preoccupation, a primal obsession. Africa’s smallholder farmers – the most common occupation on the continent — rise every day to tend their plots, trying to squeeze enough out of the soil to feed their families throughout the year. Most of the time, they fail, which is why they endure an annual Hunger Season.
Farmer Astara Chango checks her corn crop in Southern Ethiopia
When their cupboards are bare, they scramble for income to purchase food on the market. There, prices march relentlessly higher as surpluses from the previous harvest dwindle. The farmers may have to save their earnings for a couple of days before there is enough to buy a meal for the family.
In the Hunger Season, far too many days are No Food Day.
I wonder if Tesfaye Ketema in the Ethiopian highlands knows it is World Food Day. I met him in during the famine of 2003; he was sitting on a flimsy mattress in an emergency feeding tent, praying that his emaciated little boy, Hagirso, would survive. The year before, Tesfaye had carried bags of surplus corn to the same village square; now he had carried his starving son. The markets failed before the weather did; the surplus production of the previous year overwhelmed the markets, triggering prices to collapse by 80% and sapping the farmers’ ability, and incentive, to sustain surplus production. Then the drought hit.
I wonder if Tesfahun Belachew in Ethiopia knows. He and I watched the water of a river flow right past his feet while his crops died in a drought. He couldn’t tap the water for irrigation, because the river flowed into Lake Tana, which fed the mighty Blue Nile, which in turn provides most of the water in the great Nile that runs through Sudan and Egypt. The international community had decided that the Nile water must flow unimpeded to irrigate a cornucopia of crops in the Egyptian desert while Ethiopia, the source of the water, begged for food aid in the drought.
I wonder if all the smallholder farmers who work the soil with their hands know. In our rich areas of the world, we make our toys with Space Age technology, but their rudimentary tools haven’t advanced since the Iron Age. It is one reason their yields are only one-fifth or one-tenth the yields of American farmers.
I wonder if Leonida Wanyama and the farmers of western Kenya who I write about in The Last Hunger Season know. They all have cellphones – Leonida’s ring tone was Flight of the Bumblebee — which give them the ability to punch a couple of numbers and find out the prices of their crops at local markets. But unless they have access to the essential elements of farming – seeds, soil nutrients, training, and credit to pay for it all – they are unable to produce a surplus to sell on the markets in the first place.
In the twelfth year of the 21st Century, we can do better than this.
For too long, these smallholder farmers have been dismissed by governments and the private sector as too poor, too remote and too insignificant to bother with. Little innovation was applied to their farming; policies that would help them conquer the Hunger Season were rarely considered.
But with our great global challenge of needing to nearly double food production in coming decades, these farmers are no longer too poor, too remote, too insignificant. They are central to our success. It is a grand irony: the neglected have now become the indispensable.
On World Food Day, let’s acknowledge – let’s raise the clamor — that we need all of the world’s farmers, big and small, to be producing as much nutritiously beneficial food as possible.
Oct 16th, 2012 7:06 PM UTC
By Dr Sipho Moyo
“Because this continent is not only going to feed itself, we have to feed the world”
As today is World Food Day, it is an appropriate time to recognise and appreciate the importance of Africa’s principals food producers; women farmers. Roughly 70% of small holder farmers in Africa are women, and therefore it is unsurprising that they are the principal food producers, yet Africa is a victim of substantial food insecurity.
60% of the world’s remaining arable land is in Africa, yet we are still facing major food insecurity issues. In order for Africa to feed itself, it needs to maximise its own food productivity, and women farmers are at the root of this issue. Women farmers have historically been neglected and disadvantaged in Africa, as they have struggled to get tenure to the land and gain access to security and finance. Therefore it is paramount that we invest in women farmers too push the food security agenda forward, and begin working towards the goal of feeding the world.
In this pursuit of a food secure Africa and world, we need a collective buy-in from all parties. We are beginning to see more of a focus on Public-Private Partnership as a way of moving the development agenda forward. These are partnerships between government and private sector, where both sets of parties collaborate in the pursuit of a unified goal. For these partnerships to be as effect as possible we need government to create a conducive environment where by it is attractive for private sector to engage. There is fourth P that is not often mentioned but it is extremely important, and that is ‘people’. We all need to do what is necessary to effect change. Public- Private- People Partnerships for a food secure world.
Oct 15th, 2012 10:07 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
My name is Agnes Kalya and I am a farmer in Mukono District, Uganda.
For years, I struggled to grow enough food to provide for my family. Then one day I learned about a new crop of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, specifically bred to thrive here in Africa. Developed using natural, traditional plant breeding techniques, the sweet potato is loaded with nutrients such as Vitamin A, which help give children a healthier start in life.
Thanks to the training I received I am now able to sell my orange sweet potatoes and, for the first time, can help support my family and ensure my children attend school. As a mother this makes me so proud.
I haven’t looked back since.
Innovations like the vitamin A rich sweet potato can make a huge impact in fighting hunger, but we farmers need the support of world leaders to make these and other nutrient-rich crops more widespread.
Please join me and add your name to ONE’s petition.
The petition reads:
Dear world leaders,
Please make measurable commitments to reduce chronic malnutrition for 25 million kids by 2016 so they can reach their full potential.
I am now working myself out of poverty and helping others in my community with what I have learned. But we need your help. Ahead of World Food day on October 16th please join me and help us grow a better future.
Farmer and ONE member
Sep 10th, 2012 10:32 AM UTC
By Roger Thurow
Francis Mamati was gobsmacked by what he heard.
Why would they say that?, he wondered.
Sitting under a shade tree in front of his little house in western Kenya, Francis had just been told that there are people who think African smallholder farmers are better off planting seeds saved from previous harvests than planting newer, fresher seeds purchased every year. The rationale behind this thinking is that these saved seeds are cheaper; annual purchases would trap these very poor farmers in a cycle of higher expenses, leaving them beholden to seed companies.
“You mean they would rather we be trapped in a cycle of hunger?,” Francis asked incredulously.
For years, he and neighboring farmers had routinely used saved seeds or purchased cheap, tired varieties that have been in use for decades. And for years they have struggled through a hunger season, unable to grow enough food to feed their families throughout the year. Francis knew the misery of the hunger season all too well. In fact, his middle name, bestowed by his mother, is Wanjala, the local word for hunger. He was born during the hunger season of 1957.
Thus, Francis and tens of thousands of other farmers in his area jumped at the chance to purchase better-quality hybrid corn seed when a social enterprise organization called One Acre Fund presented the opportunity. Crucially, One Acre also provided the financing in the form of micro-credit to enable the farmers to afford the seed, as well as tiny amounts of fertilizer. We’re not talking about the new generation of seeds called GMOs, or genetically modified organisms –- they aren’t even available in Kenya or in most of Africa — but about seeds produced through conventional hybrid breeding techniques that adapt for disease or climate or soil conditions. The result can be harvests with double or triple yields.
RELATED: Excerpts from ‘The Last Hunger Season’: Francis’ Story
“We will all pay more for seeds if they give us much better harvests,” Francis explained. “Who wouldn’t? It doesn’t cost anything to be hungry. Starvation is cheap! You mean these people would rather we not spend money and be content with low yields?”
He continued: “We’ve come to discover that the seed you save in your house and use year after year doesn’t perform as well as the hybrid seed. One, it is too easily attacked by disease; no changes have been made to resist new disease. Two, the cobs are smaller than with hybrid seed.”
“Look,” he said, “Life is going on. There is new technology in the world. So you should follow the technology rather than hold on to old customs that are leaving you hungry. We look forward to our better harvests.”
I write about this conversation in my book The Last Hunger Season. And I repeat it here because as I speak about the horrible oxymoron of “hungry farmers”, of the need to end hunger through agricultural development, a frequently asked question is the very one that was put to Francis: are we somehow trapping farmers in the expense of buying seed every year?
My reply: Listen to the famers.
Listening should be the most cherished skill of anyone doing international development work. Ask and listen. Don’t assume. Don’t dictate. Don’t impose your notions of what is best.
I thought of Francis while watching former President Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democrats’ convention this week. “Arithmetic!,” Clinton shouted when revealing the secret of balancing the national budget.
Arithmetic was also key to Francis’ farming rationale. He acknowledged that hybrid seeds cost more than the traditional varieties, a couple of hundred shillings per half acre more. But he said it was well worth the cost if he could harvest an additional five or six bags of corn, each worth more than 1,000 shillings (and perhaps as much as 4,000 shillings, depending on the time of year and the market price). Who, he asked, wouldn’t make that transaction, particularly if their children were hungry?
Listen. There is wisdom in these voices.
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
The content of each post and each comment represents the views of that author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ONE. ONE does not support or oppose any candidate for elected office, and any post expressing support or opposition for a candidate is not endorsed by ONE.