One Acre Fund: Applying management skills in rural developing markets

Barret Prinz, the Global Human Resources and Legal Manager of the international development organization One Acre Fund, visited Yale’s MacMillan Center. Students from SOM, the Divinity School, and the International Relations program attended the presentation, which also highlighted career opportunities at this up-and-coming non-profit.

Yale College alumnus Andrew Youn ’00 founded One Acre Fund during his time as an MBA student at Kellogg in 2006. The thinking behind One Acre Fund was simple: to provide basic tools, especially training and capital, to farmers in eastern Africa, with the end goal of their doubling their income. Approximately 75% of the world’s poor are farmers, using agricultural techniques that are often thousands of years old and increasingly antiquated as arable land space shrinks and populations grow.

The pilot initiative of 40 families in Kenya, financed by Youn in 2006, has vastly expanded. Today, One Acre Fund reaches over 70,000 farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi, with plans to expand to India. “At our core, we are an agricultural microfinance organization. Our program can work anywhere there are small-scale subsistence farmers,” said Prinz. “We want to spread it everywhere.”

One Acre Fund’s strategy is marked by its commitment to grassroots partnerships and sustainability. Its reputation for maintaining program quality with scale has garnered it global praise, including the prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship and a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.

One Acre Fund’s trademark distribution system delivers high quality seed and fertilizers to producer groups of five to 15 families. The organization purchases inputs from the international market and provides them on account to the farmers, who are collectively responsible for repaying the loan at the market rate. Payments are made with cash or in-kind crops. The organization employs several hundred people in-country, many of them farmers, who oversee the distribution, training, and repayment processes.