Empowerment and self-determination are themes at the heart of what drew Sidley to its work this year with One Acre Fund, a nonprofit that seeks to help the poorest farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in eight children dies before age five due to the country’s unprecedented food crisis.
The concept for One Acre, founded in Kenya in 2006, was borne out of compassion, though its modus operandi is more akin to a franchise business model than of a typical non-profit. The organization offers small-scale farmers a package of good-quality seeds and fertilizer, as well as crop insurance, at a reasonable price. In exchange, these farmers—as customers—are responsible for paying for the package after harvest time.
“The idea is that the farmers are making an economical decision to be more successful and are turning to One Acre to advise them,” said Jung-ui. “The organization doesn't give out food—it is working with farmers to create a more successful model for their farming using commercial principles.”
At the moment, lawyers from Sidley’s offices in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago are helping One Acre register their trademark in the U.S., which will also help the nonprofit with fundraising for expanding work. In London, a Sidley team is helping One Acre register as a charity in the United Kingdom, which will also enable it to expand its efforts in more countries.
Lawyers in our Chicago, New York and London offices are assisting the organization in its efforts to secure a multi-million loan from a major U.S. fund for on-lending to small-scale farmers in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi. In the firm’s Geneva and Brussels offices, a Sidley team is assisting One Acre with Burundi seed registration.
These various efforts will surely pay in dividends for the thousands of farmers wishing to earn a way out of poverty. Since its founding, One Acre has expanded to serve over 130,000 families in 19 districts in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi.
Jung-ui is impressed by the nonprofit’s efficiency and forward thinking. “They’re an excellent example of an enterprise that makes commercial sense,” she said, adding, “The farmers can potentially double their yield, in turn, affording them vital opportunities, including being able to send their children to school.”