Planting Seeds of Hope for African Farmers: A Mercy Investment Services Story
By Sarah Smith, director of Mercy Partnership Fund
This story is fourth in a series highlighting how the Sisters of Mercy are addressing the seven goals of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”(Laudato Si’, paragraph #139)
Rebecca Chituyi, a 27-year-old farmer in Kenya’s Bungoma District, and her husband Richard worked hard to support their family on just a half-acre of land, but didn’t see much success. “The harvest used to depress me,” says Rebecca. “I would only get two bags of maize (corn), and this only lasted us for a few months.”
In 2018, One Acre Fund came to Rebecca’s village. The nonprofit organization, which the Sisters of Mercy have invested in through the Mercy Partnership Fund, the global community investing program of Mercy Investment Services, provides seeds, fertilizer, education and post-harvest support to more than 1.4 million smallholder farmers across Africa. Many of these farmers live on less than $1 per day and support from One Acre Fund helps them grow their way out of poverty.
Farmers have flexible repayments and can repay their loans when they’ve sold their crops at market; they’ve historically seen an increase in profits by 40 percent within the first year. One Acre Fund also offers participating farmers solar lights, cook stoves, trees and reusable sanitary pads.
With One Acre Fund’s support, Rebecca harvested six bags of maize on just a quarter-acre of land. She has continued to enroll with One Acre Fund every season, and now plants beans and vegetables in addition to maize. She has also received childcare training and, while pregnant, nutritional supplements and other health products. The extra income she earns enables her to buy fresh fruit and other nutritious foods for her family.
“I have been able to eliminate hunger from my home,” Rebecca says gratefully, noting that her family also drinks water that they have purified. “We don’t fall sick as often.”
When COVID-19 arrived in Kenya, Rebecca worried about both her business and her family’s safety. During a one-on-one visit, a One Acre Fund field officer provided her with sanitation and hygiene education, including information on good handwashing practices, and delivered soap, disinfectants and face masks.
“I did not know how the virus was transmitted; it was good to learn that I could not get it from my farm,” Rebecca says. “I also love that the field officer took the time to come and teach me at my home. We farmers are the ones producing food for the country. If this disease affects farmers—if we can’t farm—then we are going to have an issue with food [production].”
In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls on the human family to care for our common home of Earth and to recognize the “complex crisis that is both social and environmental.” One way Mercy Investment Services responds to Laudato Si’ is through its Mercy Partnership Fund, which invests in 64 mission-focused organizations worldwide, including One Acre Fund.
Each investment aligns with one or more of the Sisters of Mercy’s Critical Concerns and promotes ecological economics that advance human well-being, sustainability and justice. These investments affect environmental sustainability, sustainable agriculture, financial inclusion, affordable housing, education, business, cooperative and nonprofit financing, community facilities, health care and healthy food. Since 1995, Mercy Partnership Fund has deployed more than $100 million and reached people in 65 countries. Learn more about how this ministry continues the Sisters of Mercy’s 40-plus-year legacy of providing low-interest loans to community organizations.