By Robert Grupp

building a social movement: the year of a million farmers

By Robert Grupp

One Acre Fund is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides smallholder farmers in Central and East Africa with financing, seed and fertilizer, training, and market facilitiation they need to significantly increase their agriculture productivity and incomes. For thousands of farm families served, these services are the difference between hunger and plenty.

Five questions with Yael Hartmann, Government Relations Lead, Burundi Program, and Strategic Communications Unit Lead, Rwanda Program, One Acre Fund

1. What is the business case for one acre fund in rwanda and burundi?

We bring simple solutions to a complex problem. There are more than 50 million smallholder farmer families in Africa who do not grow enough food to feed their families, let alone send their children to school or electrify their home.

We serve farmers by focusing on three pillars:

  • Delivering high quality agricultural supplies to farmers’ doorsteps so that they don’t have to walk long distances to get them.
  • We give farmers access to credit and up to a year to repay it. This way, they repay according to the harvest cycles.
  • We provide training on correct planting practices and storage techniques after the harvest so farmers can not only grow their crops but store and sell the surpus.

We are on track to serve one million farmers in Africa by the end of this year.

2. What steps do you take to make sure you are acting as a responsible member of local society?

We go into the field often to make sure we understand the needs of the farmers we serve and match our services to their objectives. We always try to listen carefully to our clients’ needs. Farmers tell us they want to pay for their children’s school fees, buy chickens to start selling eggs, or buy a bicycle to start a transport business. 

We also extend credit to farmers for the input and supplies we provide – improved seed and fertilizer as well as quality-of-life products like solar lighting and cookstoves. We ask farmers to repay within a year because we understand their cycles and know it’s easiest for them to repay when they sell their harvests.

Finally, we act to carefully align with the host government’s objectives in each of our countries of operation. We work together with government agencies to create initiatives that address the biggest government priorities: food security, nutrition, cooperatives, quality standards for seed and fertilizer, etc.


Through targeted engagement at the local and national level, NGOs and multi-national companies are collaborating on everything from technology to climate change, despite geopolitical tensions. At StratCommWorld 2020, Yael Hartmann will share strategies to create Africa’s largest network of small farmers, enabling them to move from hunger to plenty.

Monday, June 1, 2020, National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
Complete agenda and registration:

3. What technology tools do you rely on for your job?

I use a lot of different apps and tools! Here are my favorites:

Twitter and TweetDeck to promote our programs externally to the public and specifically to our government stakeholders.  I launched Twitter accounts specifically for One Acre Fund’s Rwanda and Burundi country programs because Twitter is a way governments communicate with and receive feedback from the population. Twitter is where news is heard first; it’s an essential communication tool in Africa.

Slack and Google Suite. These two apps are perfect for my project management needs; Slack keeps me in touch with my teams across countries, and Google sheets, docs and hangouts allow me to share and edit documents, organize events and hold conference calls.

Greenhouse is what we use to keep track of our hiring process—it’s easy to use and has a million features, most of which are useful, such as storage of take-home tests, scorecards and CVs.

You can’t live without WhatsApp in this part of the world. It’s free. The sound and video are impressively high quality on calls. You can use if for conference calls, and I can reach my team members and managers quickly and easily. UberConference is another free conferencing tool that can be used when WhatsApp is acting up.

InDesign is our go-to for creating sophisticated promotional materials—glossy pamphlets, giant posters for events, quarterly reports for government officials, etc.

4. You’ve led communications in companies, for the military, in an agency and now an NGO. Although the context for the work must be very different, are the communication strategies similar? What strategies are common to all those sectors?

All these sectors need positive coverage, and all three can be difficult clients, in that we can’t always reveal all the information that makes a story juicy—especially in the case of the military.

All three benefit from strategic partnerships that can enhance their reputations. The military can partner with nonprofits such as an organization that rehabilitates wounded or traumatized soldiers, or with a watchdog organization to increase transparency in the military by co-producing studies.

In the private sector, telecom companies could be ideal partners; the client launches a Twitter and Facebook campaign with a telecom company with millions of followers to promote a joint corporate social responsibility initiative.

An NGO partners with a government agency to deliver a new and highly effective service to constituents. One Acre Fund partnered with the Rwandan Government to produce locally grown hybrid maize seed for the country’s farmers.

5. What can delegates at StratCommWorld expect to learn from you?

 I’m really looking forward to engaging with this audience in Washington, D.C. in June. There are several strategies I want to talk about.

  • Project Management tools are your best friend when operating under duress – if you stay organized, it’s easier to keep an eye on your long term objectives, even if it feels like all you are doing is fighting fires; this is because you can refer back to your project milestones and know where you stand.
  • Learn to delegate – often, our instinct is to try to take on more than we can possibly handle; this sets you up for failure. You must learn to delegate well. This means preparing the materials and then preparing the person taking over the responsibilities so that they also are set up for success.
  • Know your client – Go into ‘the field’ as often as you can so that you understand your client’s motives, dreams and future plans. It’s much easier to sell a product or service to the public, a government or the media if you truly understand what you’re selling.
  • When it comes to social media, less is usually more – fewer tweets with superior content will make you more popular than a flurry of daily tweets with inferior content.


Yael Hartmann

Yael Hartmann currently works in Africa at One Acre Fund, a non-profit social enterprise that supplies financing and training to help smallholder farmers grow their way out of hunger and build lasting pathways to prosperity. Formerly, she was a strategic communications specialist at an intelligence firm in Washington, DC, where she designed and directed reputation management campaigns on behalf of sovereign governments, intelligence officials and private sector clients. Earlier, Hartmann headed the financial team at a boutique public relations firm in New York. She also has served as spokesperson for the North American media division of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Currently she is adjunct instructor in the Global Strategic Communications online master’s degree program in the College of Journalism and Communications for the University of Florida.


Robert Grupp

Robert Grupp is Director of StratCommWorld, and Adjunct Instructor and Director of a Global Strategic Communication Master’s Degree Program in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.

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