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Today we decided to interview Kiette Tucker who works for One Acre Fund in Kenya: a great organization that helps farmers from East Africa in becoming autonomous.
Kiette, how did you discover One Acre Fund? What makes you want to work there? And what are you doing in the organization?
I’ve been interested in development work since I began University. I moved to Somaliland in fall of 2009 to help open a secondary boarding school there. As I wrapped up two years living in Somaliland, I began to look for new interesting, entrepreneurial opportunities that were actually making an impact (surprisingly rare in development work). I found One Acre Fund (OAF) listed on idealist.org, identified deeply with the organizational values and decided to apply. Now, here I am.
I was hired as a Program Associate – this is a general project based role and is how most of the ex-pat team enters into the organization. Each PA at One Acre Fund has a unique role that is centered around assigned projects. My projects include partnering with Kenyan staff to run the One Village Project (a modified version of OAF’s normal maize loan program – it uses higher client density to reach scale and financial sustainability faster than the core program), our collard greens product, trialing beans as a possible future product and our tree product which this year aims to plant 5 million trees in Kenya this year!
What is the main mission of this agricultural organization and how does it work?
The main mission is to decrease poverty through food security working with subsistence level farmers. Despite living in a very fertile part of Kenya with consistent rainfall, where almost everyone farms, there are two months out of the year called, the ‘Hunger Season’ when families do not have enough to eat. One Acre Fund works to improve this food security issue by providing high quality farming inputs and training on loan to small holder farmers who do not have access to credit, modern farming techniques or guaranteed quality inputs.
We work through a field based service delivery model. Farmers enroll in OAF with a group of 8 – 15 of their neighbors. The groups all receive trainings together, receive inputs together, plant together, harvest together and have shared responsibility for paying off credit at the end of the season. In my district, I partner with an Assistant Field Director, Meshak Mocho, who manages our district of 6,000 farmers. Rainy season in Western Kenya starts in two weeks, at which point we’ll be sending all our inputs to the field!
What are the results?
The results are that the average OAF farmer is able to double their maize harvest. OAF also provides proper storage materials so that farmers can store their maize until hunger season and either provide food for their family or sell surplus maize at a time when the market price is very high.
In addition to maize inputs, the OAF loan bundle includes collard seeds (a nutritious Kenyan staple crop that can be consumed and sold), grevillea tree seeds (fast growing trees that farmers sell as timber for extra income), a year’s worth of chlorine for safe drinking water and insurance that include crop failure, farmer death and family member funerals.
OAF farmers are economically better off than non-OAF farmers and the group structure provides leadership and empowerment opportunities to motivated participants (especially women). Many OAF farmers are eventually hired as field staff to work for the organization. If you want to learn more about our impact on small holder farmers’ lives, I highly recommend visiting the ‘Farmer Stories’ on the OAF website.
Where are you located?
OAF was founded and is based out of Western Kenya in a small town called Bungoma. Headquarter is located here close to field, close to our farmers, close to our work.
OAF is rare in the size of its US based staff. There are only three full time US based employees, and even those who work full time from the US receive an annual trip to spend time visiting in-field operations.
Are you planning to extend this initiative to other countries? If yes, which ones?
Already, OAF works in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and has pilot projects in Ghana, Tanzania and India. The aim of the organization is to double in size every year in order to reach smallholder farmers all over the world.
How can we help this organization?
The best way to help One Acre Fund is to come and work here! In order to keep up with growth targets, we are constantly recruiting talented and dedicated applicants. If you have any interest in living in abroad, working to make a measurable impact and gaining interesting experience (good for you, good for your resume), send me an email at email@example.com and I would be happy to talk with you about the application process.
A sentence/a word/ some thoughts you want to share:
If you are interested in social entrepreneurship and development, take the time to research the projects that you put your time and money into. There are fabulous projects out there and projects that waste a lot of time, resources and talent. Make sure you know which you are working with.
For more information, please check the webpage: http://www.oneacrefund.org/
Thank you very much Kiette!