Ensuring that millions of smallholder farming families around the world have the tools they need to be successful is a big job — requiring the support of a wide variety of stakeholders. The U.S. in particular has an important role to play, as the world’s single-biggest funder of global food security programs. We know from experience that foreign assistance for hunger and poverty alleviation can create big changes. Farmers represent 70 percent of the world’s people living in poverty. The single-most efficient way to eradicate poverty today is to direct funding toward rural communities.
Recently, One Acre Fund staffers Moses Ariong and David Hong brought this message to Capitol Hill in a meeting with U.S. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. Fortenberry is a champion for farmers everywhere and supported the Global Food Security Act, which authorized Feed the Future, a U.S. program that helps millions of smallholder farmers access support and training. Moses and David spoke with Congressman Fortenberry about One Acre Fund’s vision for how best to leverage foreign aid, including the following key ideas:
- Agriculture is the best way to make a difference. One Acre Fund believes that foreign assistance programs ought to prioritize farmers, because they represent the majority of people living in poverty around the world. Providing smallholders with simple solutions, such as high-quality seeds, fertilizer, and training, can create dramatic changes in farm productivity and income. When farm families are more prosperous, they can afford to educate their children, pay for better healthcare, and build businesses in their communities, which in turn can stimulate local economies.
- Social enterprises make donor dollars go further. One Acre Fund is a nonprofit social enterprise — we generate revenue through farmer loan repayments and use outside donor dollars to subsidize the cost of our services to farmers. By operating like a business, we are able to maximize donor funding to reach more and more farming families every year. This market-based approach also means that farmers are our customers, which drives us to listen to their feedback and design our services to meet their specific needs.
- Impact is key. The best way to ensure that aid dollars are spent efficiently is to direct funding toward programs that create real, permanent impact. At One Acre Fund, we take a thorough approach to measuring our impact by surveying our clients and their non-program neighbors across a wide variety of areas, including harvest size and incomes, family health and nutrition, and education. Keeping a laser-sharp focus on impact means that we use our resources efficiently and emphasize projects with clear, tangible results.
Moses, who grew up in a smallholder family in Uganda and continues to farm himself, explained to Congressman Fortenberry that the key to building sustained prosperity lies in stimulating agricultural economies through increasing crop production and incomes. That way, farmers can translate new market opportunities into higher educational achievements and skills development for their children and grandchildren. (You can read more about Moses here).
Congressman Fortenberry was interested to hear about demographic trends and youth employment in Uganda, where the average age of the population is 15 years old. He explained how agricultural development in his home state of Nebraska has created job opportunities in a variety of sectors, and expressed hope that One Acre Fund could help catalyze increased productivity in Africa. As Congress considers reauthorization of the Global Food Security Act this year, we hope that other lawmakers will take Congressman Fortenberry’s lead and commit to ending global poverty by supporting the world’s hard-working smallholder farmers.