How can smallholder farmers help feed the world? Stephanie Hanson, director of policy and outreach for agriculture nonprofit One Acre Fund, shares some of the harvest stories of One Acre Fund’s clients in Kenya. One Acre Fund serves over 130,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi.
August is an incredibly busy month for smallholder farmers in Kenya. After four months of cultivating their maize fields, it’s time for the most labor-intensive part of the season: harvest. But everyone is jubilant, because harvest is when farmers determine how much surplus they’ve produced, and make plans for how to invest the income they will receive from that surplus.
Photo caption: Marion and her corn. Photo credit: Hailey Tucker/ One Acre Fund
“This year I’m expecting 16 bags of maize from one acre of land,” said Marion Odongo, a farmer in Ringa village in southwestern Kenya. “I’m going to pay for my daughter to attend teacher training college.”
One bag of maize can feed one adult for a year.
Carolyne Atieno Oluoch, also from Ringa village, was expecting about 35 bags of maize from her two-acre plot of land. “I’m going to buy a dairy cow, and finish my new house,” she said.
Marion and Carolyne have increased their maize harvests significantly in recent years since joining the agriculture organization that I work for, One Acre Fund. We work with about 78,000 smallholder farmers in western Kenya, offering them seed and fertilizer, financing, training, and market facilitation. Most of these farmers will double their farm income per planted acre, as compared to their previous harvests.
TAKE ACTION NOW: Make sure that world leaders support small farmers like these to help end the cycle of food crisis once and for all.
Farmers attribute their increased maize harvests to two things: access to quality seed and fertilizer, and the trainings they receive. One Acre Fund has a network of over 300 full-time staff, known as field officers, who deliver agriculture trainings to our clients. These trainings are delivered in small groups in the fields where our farmers work.
For example, Marion and Carolyne received training on maize harvesting and storage in their fields, with a group of about 30 other farmers. After the training, their field officer Roselyne followed up with individuals farmers to make sure they were using the correct harvesting technique.
Harvesting begins with cutting down the maize stalks from the field, and stacking them in piles that resemble tee-pees. This process, which is known as “stooking,” helps the maize cobs dry. After stooking, farmers shuck the maize cobs from the stalks. Then, the cobs are left out in the sun to dry further. Once the cobs are dry enough, farmers use a sheller to remove the kernels from the cob.
When I visited Marion, she was in the process of shelling her maize.
“I’m dirty!” she exclaimed, brushing bits of maize kernels from her red shirt. She invited me inside her home, a cheerfully painted four-room structure with a new tin roof.
“I improved my house last year with income from my maize harvest,” she said proudly. “And now I eat well.”
Just a five-minute walk away, another One Acre Fund farmer, Grace Atieno Alande, was making plans to shuck her maize the next morning. It would be her third harvest with One Acre Fund. From the first two harvests, she made enough money to construct a new kitchen building behind her house. She christened the structure “Farmer’s Kitchen.”
“I had a hard time learning news ways of planting maize, but I coped,” Grace said. “Now, I am planning to open a shop where I will sell groceries!”
-Stephanie Hanson, director of policy and outreach, One Acre Fund