Traveling Many Acres to Learn From One Acre
Last week, Sanergy had the privilege to visit the One Acre Fund in Bungoma – in the far west of Kenya (near where Obama’s family is from). We were able to do this thanks to the generosity of Echoing Green, which offers a stipend for Fellows to travel to learn from one another.
Most importantly, One Acre Fund helps us think big. In the last few years, they have served over 100,000 farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. They employ over 800 people to do so. We literally took photos of everything that OAF did – from welcome guides for visitors to the agendas of weekly meetings. We took away so much, but here are a few key points:
- Keep listening to your customer.When we met one of OAF’s clients, a farmer named Caroline, Andrew interviewed her as if she were the first farmer he had ever spoken to, even though he has interviewed 100s. Understanding her challenges and her ideas is as important as raising the capital to support her.
- Systems, systems, systems. OAF has built an elaborate yet comprehensible system to track the progress of each of their farmers. There are several checks along the way to make sure that the information is correct. Every person we met – field officers, field managers, bookkeepers – could explain with ease how to use the system.
- Go cashless. One Acre Fund is now a cashless organization, relying on M-PESA for all transactions. In doing so, the opportunities for fraud and corruption are diminished and accounting becomes much more straightforward.