Today, we’re starting a series of interviews with these charities, to give insights and let them tell their story.
One of these first charities was One Acre Fund, which supplies smallholder farmers with the financing and training they need to grow their way out of hunger and poverty. Instead of giving handouts, they invest in farmers to generate a gain in farm income.
We sat down with Robert Amelung, the charity’s Relationship Manager, to get an interview. Let’s hear him out!
How did the story of One Acre Fund begin? Is there anyone or anything that inspired you?
One Acre fund was founded by Andrew Youn in 2006 when he was doing an internship as part of his business studies. He was traveling in Kenya where he met two Kenyan farmers that inspired Andrew to start One Acre Fund.
First he met Christine, a mother of four, and desperately poor. She had lost a child. Her children were the first kids he met who were visibly, obviously hungry. He already knew the statistics in Sub-Saharan Africa: today, 1 in 13 children dies before age five. 34% of children are stunted from a lifetime of insufficient food. Yet meeting this “statistic” was a blow to the gut to Andrew. He felt a deep, life-altering sense of moral outrage that despite working incredibly hard, Christine’s family’s future was defined by poverty.
The next person Andrew met was Christine’s neighbor Betty, who was harvesting four times as much food. Her children had enough food, were full of energy and could go to school uninterrupted. Betty was doing three things differently:
- planting 100% natural locally-produced seed
- using a tiny micro-dose of fertilizer
- spacing her seeds
And her family’s life was completely different.
Helping Christine become like Betty was what inspired Andrew.
He got his $4000 savings from the US and decided to help 40 farmers. After 6 months, all these farmers had the same good harvest, same as Betty! He decided to stay in Africa, where he has lived ever since, and started One Acre Fund.
That’s a really inspiring story. Is there a specific project that you’re most proud of so far, or a story that stood out to you?
We are most proud that we have such a dedicated team and are able to serve and help so many farmers improve their quality of life. Especially in these times, during the pandemic, our work is more important than ever for farmers. We are glad we are here to help them today.
Some people are worried about where their money is actually going when donating to charities. How do you respond to them?
We serve the poorest of farmers, a group that very few other organizations focus on. With our help, these farmers can escape poverty. The interesting thing for the donor is that farmers pay for our services. This covers 75% of the field costs, the remaining 25% is provided by donors. So this is very efficient.
Our organisation is almost fully based in Africa, we have limited overhead and are very focused to make sure your donations are spent for the farmer. We have only two offices outside Africa, one small office in the USA with around 15 people and one in the Netherlands with about 3 people. Almost all our senior leaders live and work in Africa near the farmers.
Thanks for clearing that up! What do you do to grow and move forward every day?
When we provide a good service, our farmers will be happy and we will be able to grow and serve more farmers. At the same time we are continually evolving our services. For example, the impact of climate change is coming through heavily in Sub Saharan Africa. What we have seen is that the weather is more volatile. We often have long periods of drought and then short and intense rains. We are helping our farmers by providing them with seeds that are drought tolerant and help farmers become less dependent on one crop.
But our real motivation is coming from the experiences farmers share with us. When we hear what impact our program has we are motivated to double up.
What’s next for One Acre Fund?
We would like to serve even more farmers as their problems are serious and we are only scratching the surface. Over the past 14 years we built a model that can scale and serve farmers efficiently. Now we are also expanding to new countries like Malawi, Burundi, Uganda.
Do you have a message for encouraging people to give back to others?
In the global North we have a relatively good life. Of course we complain and things can be better, but if you compare that with the farmers in Africa, for example, there is so much we can do with small donations. With around 30€ we can help one farmer improve their harvest and get food security for their family. For these farmers, this is life changing. A small amount for such a big impact.
Thanks for sharing this with us Robert!
We hope you enjoyed learning more about One Acre Fund.