Agriculture has always depended on the weather, but climate change is making growing cycles more and more unpredictable.

In Africa alone there are over 50 million smallholder farmers who rely on rain-fed crops to feed their families, and it’s these farmers who are feeling climate changes first. For families who live season to season, a bad weather year can mean months of hunger until the next harvest.

One Acre Fund is a non-profit social enterprise working to help smallholders grow their way out of hunger. The fund is proudly supported by Virgin Unite and was one of the seven Big Ideas chosen for this year’s Audacious Project.

A main focus for One Acre Fund throughout 2018 has been the promotion of crop insurance - a proven tool to increase farmer resilience. Crop insurance helps farmers weather poor harvests and adapt to a changing climate, and as one of the largest purchasers of crop insurance in Africa, One Acre Fund have seen the benefits for farmers’ first-hand.

  • In the short term, crop insurance can help reduce hunger. When weather harms their crops, farmers get reimbursed for a portion of their upfront investment in seeds and fertiliser, easing the immediate financial pressure of a poor harvest.
  • In the long term, insurance can increase resilience. Farmers who purchase hybrid seeds suited to their local climate reliably harvest more food. When farmers are confident of crop insurance coverage, they are more willing to try modern farming methods—a key to bigger harvests.

Simply put, to ensure a steady food supply, governments need to secure the livelihoods of those growing the food. And whilst the idea is simple, scaling is the challenge. Insuring 50 farmers in a single village is risky, because they’re all likely to have similar harvests, but insuring 50,000 farmers in a bigger area means the risk is more evenly spread, making it a better bet for insurance companies and more affordable for farmers. According to One Acre Fund, governments’ support is essential - they must set the stage with smart policies and subsidies.

The Kenyan government have invested in a crop insurance subsidy, extending coverage to our 350,000 Kenyan clients and One Acre Fund is one of the first major players to take this up. But this is just a drop in the bucket for the millions of small-scale farmers in Kenya. For the sector to grow and benefit everyone, a lot more private sector players, agricultural firms, development organisations and insurance companies need to take up the subsidy scheme.

- One Acre Fund is a nonprofit organisation that supplies smallholder farmers in East Africa with asset-based financing and agriculture training services to reduce hunger and poverty.

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