Our Development Model
The Foundation: 10-acre farms
Working Villages International gets rural people out of poverty using a scale of development that drastically and sustainably increases the quality of life.
Currently, there are two models of agricultural development that dominate farming in Africa, both of which leave the majority of the population impoverished.
The first type of farming you see in Africa accounts for the majority of agriculture in the continent today. This is the one-acre plot of land that is farmed by a single family. All the labor is done by hand, generally using a hoe to plant, weed, and harvest. It is extremely labor-intensive, and very vulnerable to fluctuations in weather, market prices, and crop blights. It often requires an entire family to produce just enough to survive on. This type of farming cannot produce enough surplus to last even one season, so there is very little opportunity for anyone to pursue education or do anything except work exhaustively.
The other common farm model in Africa today is the ex-patriot mega-farm. Mega-farms are owned and managed by non-Africans, and are factory farms that produce cash crops for export. They rely on genetically engineered seeds and chemical fertilizers which must be imported, and are farmed using expensive petroleum fuel-powered tractors. Very little of the profit from these farms ever goes back into the local community; the majority of the wealth goes to the single farm owner. The rest of the profit goes overseas during the transport and sale of the crop, and to international agribusiness corporations to purchase more engineered seeds and chemical fertilizer. Though this type of agriculture may increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it leads to little or no improvement in the quality of life for the majority of the population.
Neither type of farm will ever bring rural Africans out of poverty.
Our solution is the 10-acre farm.
A one-acre plot that is farmed by hand will produce, at the very best, $1-2,000 per year for the farmer. The average African laborer on a mega-farm can expect to make about $1 per day. A farmer working 10 acres, on the other hand, can generate $10-20,000 per year.
The key is ox power.
It is physically impossible to farm 10 acres of land by hand, which is why most African farmers are limited to a few acres or less. Petroleum-fueled equipment is prohibitively expensive and getting more so. Oxen were the engine of agricultural development in Europe, Asia, and North Africa for thousands of years, and are by far the most cost-effective means of farming.
This model of farm – the 10-acre, ox-powered farm – is the most efficient, sustainable and effective model of agricultural development. Once the 10-acre farm is the basis of an economy, it provides a foundation for development in all aspects of rural life. If 25% of the people in a village are farmers producing $10-20,000 per year, it raises the standard of living in the whole region. It also gives rise to an entire network of support industries for making tools, transporting crops, building infrastructure, processing food and more. This becomes the basis for a complete village economy, including healthcare, education, and cultural life, because it has at its core a solid means of production. The 10-acre farmer is the economic foundation of real village development.