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One Acre Fund inputs credit scheme mitigates poor farmers’ plight

August 08, 2022 / Joseph Mizimbe
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A beneficiary of One Acre Fund project

One of the profound hiccups that prevent local farmers from realizing their dream of creating for themselves heaven on earth through farming is their inability to access high-quality farm inputs. Financial and cash flow constraints exacerbate the situation and for local farmers, getting such inputs on credit has tremendous potential to boost their activities. One Acre Fund is working in Malawi to bridge this very gap.

One Acre Fund has been operational in Africa since 2006 and came to Malawi in 2013. The organization is passionate about alleviating local farmers’ plight and therefore allows them to access farm inputs on credit to ease the hurdles they experience. Currently, One Acre Fund is operating in the southern region of Malawi: Zomba, Machinga, Mulanje, Blantyre, Chiradzulu, and Thyolo districts, serving over 62,000 farmers and is planning to expand to other parts of the country as well so that more farmers can benefit from its credit schemes.

One Acre Fund Client Acquisition Lead, Nandi Bwanali said in order to ensure that farmers benefit from their activities, the organization closely follows up with its clients throughout the year with pieces of trainings. According to her, through One Acre Fund’s service, maize farmers are able to improve their yields by up to 50 percent.

Over and above the provision of farm inputs to farmers on credit, One Acre Fund strives to provide farmers with access to alternative profitable markets through its commercialization program. Bwanali elaborated that One Acre Fund facilitates the sale of harvests from farmers at premium prices: providing them with a cut and dry market.

“We ran a trial where we partnered with private buyers to buy eight (8) metric tons of groundnuts and 136 metric tons of paddy rice in 2021, mostly from Zomba and Machinga rice schemes,” Bwanali said.

In a ploy to serve the marginalized, underserved, and rural-based farmers, One Acre Fund concentrates its credit program only on people in rural areas.

“We welcome competition from other organisations that provide credit to farmers because it means that our farmers get the best, most pocket-friendly product and ever-improving service. We try to set ourselves apart by going a step further to provide training and additional extension advice after we provide the inputs on credit,” she mentioned.

The organisation does not only offer inputs on credit but also delivers them to farmers; thereby making their products easily accessible and affordable. She explained that taking the product to the farmers’ doorstep reduces the time that they invest to acquire the inputs as well as ensures timely access to the high-quality inputs.

On guaranteeing that farmers get genuine fertilizer, One Acre Fund only buys from reputed companies, ensuring that each lot or batch of fertilizer comes with the right quality certificates and lab reports. The organization does not have its own brands of products but procures fertilizers which it sells to farmers from national and global suppliers. The organization abides by the relevant standards set by the Malawi Bureau of Standards in order to ensure that there is good stock management and quality checks so that farmers get the best and most cost-effective products.

“We track each lot down to the site so that we know that no ‘outside’ fertilizer has suddenly entered our supply. One Acre Fund stores all fertilizer centrally and then delivers it directly to farmers, meaning that the fertilizer does not pass through many hands – we maintain the chain of custody very tightly, essentially reducing the chances that any counterfeit fertilizer could enter our chain,” she elaborated.

Bwanali added that the organization has a very engaged client base that is supported by its field officers, all of whom are empowered to call ‘Customer Engagement,’ toll-free number immediately if there are any issues.

“We are proud to say that in eight years of operating in Malawi, we have had almost no cases of fertilizer quality problems. This is also a testament to the established manufacturers and suppliers in the Malawi market, most of whom are Fertiliser Association of Malawi (FAM) members,” Bwanali said.

The organization is thankful to its customers for choosing to buy farm inputs from them, out of the other available players on the market. They plan to reach more farmers and bring more impactful products and services to farmers.

One Acre Fund is a non-governmental organization that aims to serve smallholder farmers through the provision of inputs on credit, agricultural training services, market access services, and the provision of high-value trees. Its sole purpose is to help reduce hunger and poverty in the lives of those it serves and to ensure higher levels of resilience among farmers.

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