Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2024

Title:Partnering with small farmers

Author: Karen Doss Bowman
Date Published: April 8, 2024
people stand with packages that say "Tubura"
Eric Pohlman and team members visit one of One Acre Fund’s farming supply distribution points in Rwanda. One Acre Fund is known as “Tubura” in Rwanda, which means “to grow exponentially” in Kinyarwanda. In 2023, One Acre Fund’s service to farmers was boosted by $2.5 million in funding via The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, who awarded their 2023 Humanitarian Prize to the organization. Photo: Courtesy of One Acre Fund

When Eric Pohlman (SFS’04) started at Georgetown, he was excited to move to the nation’s capital and prepare for a career in public service. However, studying abroad at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar during the fall of his junior year inspired him to follow another path.

When he returned to the Hilltop for the spring semester, Pohlman changed his course of study from U.S. politics to Science, Technology, and International Affairs program, focusing on rural economies and agricultural technologies.

“I fell in love with Senegal, and it changed my worldview,” says Pohlman, who joined the Peace Corps after graduation, working as an agroforestry volunteer in a small farming village in Tourou, Cameroon. “I was lucky to have two Georgetown advisors at the time, Professor Charles Weiss and Professor Nathan Hultman, who really encouraged my new passion.”

Pohlman has since dedicated his career to supporting the 50 million families living and working on small farms in Sub-Saharan Africa. They produce 80 percent of the continent’s food. In 2006, he co-founded One Acre Fund, a social enterprise that delivers tools and training to make smallholder farmers more prosperous. The organization offers a full array of services farmers need to succeed, including supplies within walking distance of their farms, financing, training, and market access.

Since its inception, One Acre Fund has grown from serving 40 farm families to more than four million across nine countries. In 2023, One Acre Fund programs created $316 million dollars in impact for the farmers it serves.

The farmers who partner with the organization are seeing larger, more profitable harvests. For example, Pohlman recently met a Rwandan farmer who joined One Acre Fund’s program five years ago. At that time, this farmer was renting the fields where he raised maize and beans. By working with One Acre Fund, the farmer increased his yield and earnings, allowing him to invest in his own parcel of farmland.

“This farmer went from a farm renter to a farm owner,” says Pohlman, who became the organization’s CEO in March. “We’re proud he is on a path to prosperity.

“We believe farmers have the most important jobs in our communities, growing the food we all need. Farmers are the solution to poverty in our rural economies. And farmers are the stewards of the land our children will inherit. When farmers succeed, whole communities prosper.”

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