While American farmers talk about used equipment prices and input costs, to the poorest farmers in the world, the whole challenge of bringing in a harvest means something completely different.
That’s why Andrew Youn founded the One Acre Fund, an organization dedicated to helping 450,000 farmers in six African countries.
Youn said an African farmer who struggled with her own yields while her neighbor yielded four times as much food served as inspiration for the fund.
The next season, Youn used his own money to help 40 families buy hybrid seeds and fertilizer and teach them about plant husbandry. He said it paid off big.
“At the time, I knew very little about farming, but they all had the best harvest of their entire lives,” Youn said.
Howard Buffett and his foundation are supporting One Acre Fund’s work, which is why Buffett was recently honored for his support. Separately, his foundation recently committed $500 million worth of resources to Rwanda.
“We’re just excited to collaborate with him in the field, and to see a stronger Rwanda,” Youn said.
Part of Youn’s success is building a network of people and supplies. Farm inputs are imported from abroad and stored in 20 regional warehouses. Hundreds of trucks are loaded up and taken to more than 2,000 rural distribution points. At each distribution point, 200 farmers typically wait to receive the seed and fertilizer, then walk it home to a field.
“You’re starting at such a low bar,” Buffett said. “You’re starting with people with no resources, extremely limited access to anything, including credit or improved seeds. Those are things they need to be able to be successful.”
“If you take someone earning $200 or $300 a year and they’re earning $1,000 to $1,200 a year, that’s huge success,” Buffett added. “That changes everything around that community.”
By 2020, One Acre Fund hopes to serve at least 1 million farms. The fund says those farmers will produce enough surplus food to feed 5 million neighbors.