Almost three-quarters of Africans rely on smallholder farming for their livelihood, yet one-third of all Africans go hungry. To meet that need, those farmers must increase their production dramatically over the next 40 years—and most of the world’s uncultivated land is actually in Africa. Clearly, smallholder farming in Africa is a big deal. Want to know the major players in the development of African farming? Read on.
This is one of those organizations that has been working behind the scenes, primarily in Africa, for decades. Since the 1960’s, TechnoServe has been quietly targeting failing food markets, identifying unmet demand in those markets, finding the businesses that can meet that demand, and partnering with those businesses so that they grow and uplift their communities. Their emphasis is on partnership—they want to find the locals already doing great work and help them do it better. In 2011 alone, they helped their partners collectively earn $315 million in revenue and impacted over 2.5 million people’s lives in over 30 countries as a result.
2. One Acre Fund
This is the organization that claims to, within three years, represent the largest network of African smallholder farmers. How? They predicate their entire model on one simple idea: when a farmer increases their harvest, they lifts themselves and their community out of hunger and poverty. Toward that end, the organization offers a comprehensive “market-in-a-box” that lends farmers crucial agricultural inputs (seed and fertilizer), trains them how to use it, and connects them with markets to sell their yield. Their simple model has already reached over 60,000 farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi, and they project that they will reach 1.4 million farmers by 2020.
3. Farm Africa
One of the leading African agricultural development organizations, Farm Africa does it all: bringing farmers better tools, showing them how to double or triple their harvest, and training them how to navigate the market. What makes them different? They say it is their unique, compound approach of agricultural innovation and marketing savvy. Because they are highly specialized in farming, they have a wide inroad into the development of Africa’s unfarmed land and untrained famers. In 2012 alone, they increased coffee crop revenue for farmers in Ethiopia by 600% and helped 30,000 people in Tanzania double their crop yields.
4. Self-Help Africa
If you really want to know what’s going on in the African farming world, you need to know about Self-Help. For over 25 years, this organization has been supporting farming entrepreneurs in Africa with microcredit programs, enterprise development, community cooperatives, access to inputs, and policy advocacy. Because the success of smallholder farmers lies at the heart of so many poverty-related issues in Africa, their mission is to empower Africa’s rural population. They work in nine countries across Africa and have reached millions of Africans with their services.
5. Practical Action
Yes, the name is broad—but so is the organization. Although Practical Action is one of the great champions of agro-economic development in Africa, it works all over the world. Its focus is “technology justice”, which is the equitable application of technology for positive social impact. So what are they doing in African agriculture? The answer: radical community development, policy advocacy focused on food rights, and over a dozen groundbreaking agricultural innovations, to say the least.
– John Mahon