Follow Kenyan farmer Anne from planting to harvest

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 at home in Kisiwa, Kenya. Photo credit: 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.

Anne with her husband Isaac and youngest son Steve outside their home in Kisiwa, Kenya. Photo credit: Hailey Tucker

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.

Anne with some of the crops on her farm. Photo credit: Hailey Tucker

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.

Anne with 3-year old son Steve at home in Kisiwa, Kenya. Photo credit: Hailey Tucker

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 fertilizer, 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.