Thursday, March 1, 2012

Social Performance in Action: One Acre Fund and the power of listening to farmers

In addition to loans, many of our field partners go above and beyond by offering their clients additional services and support. To encourage these wraparound services, we established a Social Performance team here at Kiva and awarded these partners with badges corresponding to key areas of support. This series is designed to share stories from the field that demonstrate the amazing work our partners are doing to meet a range of client needs.

This week, we're spotlighting One Acre Fund (OAF) in Kenya. OAF is one of Kiva’s first partners that is not a conventional microfinance institution (MFI), allowing us to extend specialized loan products to our borrowers. One Acre Fund is a social enterprise that exclusively focuses on helping hard-working farmers in East Africa to increase their profits. To do this, OAF loans seeds and fertilizer to farmers, provides in-depth agriculture training, and opens access to markets during the harvest season.

OAF representatives bringing seeds and fertilizer directly to clients where they live.

One Acre Fund had previously earned four social performance badges for their amazing work providing innovative products to vulnerable farmers. This week, it was awarded a fifth badge for going above and beyond to listen to and act on Client Voice. OAF conducts extensive client surveys and pilot testing to understand how farmers respond to different products. It then adapts its delivery mechanisms accordingly. Having multiple channels to listen to client needs enables OAF to be supportive and effective.

One Acre Fund gives clients a say in how the organization operates by forming group loans with elected leaders. These leaders serve as facilitators and agents of OAF in the field. Farmers meet for many months leading up to the time they receive their seeds and fertilizer (otherwise known as farming inputs). During that time, OAF shares best practices, listens to clients' questions and concerns, and fosters a sense of community between farmers. These practices empower clients to make informed decisions for themselves, and increase productivity across entire regions.

One Acre Fund's adaptability and high level of community engagement makes it easy for the organization to retain clients, and kick-starts rapid growth through satisfied customers' word-of-mouth advertising.

Tool that helps farmers properly space and plant seeds using bottle caps on a string to measure.

Research shows that organizations that conduct client needs assessments are in a stronger position to understand how best to serve people. The end result, as in the case of One Acre Fund, may include finely-tuned products for specific populations. The big examples with OAF are loans with innovative repayment timelines for farmers who receive income on a seasonal and less consistent basis.

Kiva has made it part of its mission to recognize and encourage field partners that listen to the people they serve and act in their best interests. In all, 36 Kiva partners have received the Client Voice social performance badge for making these efforts and continuing to find new ways to communicate with and respond to their clients.

Curious about other social performance goals? Have questions? Comments? Send them to

Photos courtesy of JD Bergeron.