This is the first of two articles on the One Acre Fund in Kenya. Read part two here.
Shimanyiro, Kenya – Not planting maize sounded like a crazy idea to Elium Kangayia last year.
- Elium Kangayia, 42, with his sorghum crops.
Kangayia’s crop had been devastated by a maize disease but growing something else was not something he had considered. As member of the One Acre Fund, he was surprised to see that maize was not offered for the 2013 growing season.
The One Acre Fund is a celebrated initiative in East Africa that seeks to assist smallholder farmers by working with them on all aspects of the supply chain as opposed to focusing on a single intervention such as improving irrigation or planting techniques.
In the same region with Kangayia were some 200 One Acre Fund member farmers. When the program announced it would no longer support maize farming, 127 of the farmers quit their memberships. Kangayia decided to stay on and grow the recommended sorghum and millet.
“I was not initially happy,” he said. “But I was very happy after the harvest.”
Despite the warnings and a poor harvest, he still persisted by growing maize on one of his three acres. The maize yield was terrible. He only filled eight bags, roughly as well as he did before joining the One Acre Fund in 2009. In 2010 and 2011, before the disease (known as maize lethal necrosis, or MLN) appeared, he was able to harvest 44 bags of maize on two acres and 63 bags on one and a half acres. Continue reading
In the debate over how best to help poor farmers in Africa, the tendency is often to pit the interests of smallholder farmers as necessarily opposed to the interests of large or multi-national corporations.
One fellow in Zimbabwe, who recently spoke in Seattle at the invitation of the Initiative For Global Development, thinks that ain’t necessarily so.
Pat Devenish is CEO of AICO Africa, a sort of corporate-cooperative of farmers in Zimbabwe.
As this story today by Interpress notes:
The presence of an agro-industrial company with headquarters in Zimbabwe on a list of sub-Saharan Africa’s 30 best-performing companies might surprise some, but not AICO Africa CEO Pat Devenish.
AICO Africa has taken advantage of favourable agriculture policy across Southern Africa to expand its business, in the process strengthening some 200,000 small scale producers in the region.
As Devenish said in Seattle, in late July, during an event held at the Rainier Club:
“Agriculture is the key to Africa’s success because we have so many resources in place. We have excellent land in many African countries and vast water resources. We have a large small-scale farming sector, who require agriculture as a way of making a living, and are very good at it.”
The majority of Africans depend on agriculture as a primary source of income and investments that benefit smallholder farmers have a direct impact on poverty reduction. AICO’s cotton business has achieved regional success through a “bottom of the pyramid” business model that provides financing, advisory services, and access to markets for over 100,000 smallholder farmers. Mr. Devenish explains to business people that smallholder farmers are “a hugely underrated resource and will contribute tremendously to the growth of the African economy.”