SMS Layaway to Help Small-Scale Farmers Increase Yields and Income

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SMS Layaway to Help Small-Scale Farmers Increase Yields and Income

Dialakoroba and Bougoula Communes, MaliBamako, Mali
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

myAgro is helping small-scale farmers grow more via mobile layaway in Mali!

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Small-scale farmers make up the majority of the world’s poorest 2 billion people yet there are few diverse financial options for them to increase their harvests and get out poverty. As such, they stay at a subsistence-farming level every year. The challenges to reach this population are many: they not only require financial investments but also access to quality seed and fertilizer, technical trainings and market opportunities for their harvests. Of the few financial options available to small-scale farmers, the principle one is credit but often this comes in the form of expensive loans and inflexible repayment terms.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

SMS LAYAWAY Farmers choose fertilizer and certified seed packages (maize, peanut) and make flexible layaway payments via SMS by buying myAgro cards, similar to the way they buy an airtime cards to add minutes to their phone. LOCAL NETWORK We partner with existing local stores that have an existing customer base to sell our planting cards. This lowers our costs to reach customers effectively in rural, hard to reach areas. IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY We support farmers to plant more land by providing them with a labor loan to buy a local seeding machine to make their labor more efficient. We also train farmers on modern planting techniques to increase their harvests. BETTER MARKETS We negotiate with large-scale buyers to connect farmers to the growing urban market.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Farmers’ income peaks at harvest time, but fertilizer and seed are usually not available then. myAgro enables farmers to pay, via SMS layaway, for the fertilizer and seed they need for next year at anytime they have money. People living on < $4/day tend to buy items in incremental amounts. Buying fertilizer and seed via myAgro’s SMS layaway program fits into the way households think of and manage their money. Cards are sold at the same store where farmers do their daily shopping so the process is convenient, trustworthy and by using SMS mobile payments, it is transparent. Farmers go to their local store to buy a myAgro card ($1 - $25) and by sending an SMS with the card’s secret code, they update their layaway account with their purchase. Before planting time, we deliver the fertilizer and seed farmers have paid for and train farmers to help improve yields. We also find markets for their harvests. The myAgro program includes the fundamental components that farmers need to be successful: quality inputs, training, financing and market access. By leveraging an SMS layaway program via a local network, we can work with a large number of farmers in remote, rural areas.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The government’s cotton program provides fertilizer, training and loans. Our advantages are: - Better staff to farmer ratios - Reliable delivery of inputs - Harvests belong to the farmer Microfinance /Informal lending-associations: They are usually limited to specific crops (usually cotton) and have repayment terms that are not always farmer friendly. They also are selective to pick credit-worthy clients whereas we can work with anyone who pays. Faso Kaba is a local seed company that produces seeds for the local market. myAgro is providing new markets for FK by enabling small-scale farmers to access their seed for the first time.
Team

Founding Story

I have lived in Africa and worked in agricultural finance since 2008. I came up with the idea in 2010 after spending time with a rural village vendor in Rwanda. Impressed by her business acumen, I began thinking of a way for her to sell fertilizer and seed to improve village access to quality inputs. A network of stores like hers, supported by the SMS technology I saw in Kenya, could reach thousands of farmers in remote areas. By enabling local stores to collect savings payments for fertilizer and seed, we skip over major hurdles in agricultural finance and increase profits for both vendors and farmers.
About You
Organization:
myAgro | We help farmers save up for fertilizer, seed and training using SMS mobile payments to increase yields and income.
About You
First Name

Anushka

Last Name

Ratnayake

About Your Organization
Organization Name

myAgro | We help farmers save up for fertilizer, seed and training using SMS mobile payments to increase yields and income.

Organization Country

, CD, Bamako

Country where this project is creating social impact

, KL, Dialakoroba and Bougoula Communes

How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

2011 Rainer Arnhold Fellowship
2011 Mulago Foundation Catalyst Grant
2012 Echoing Green Fellowship

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Innovation
How long have you been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Cost.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

myAgro’s long-term vision is to move millions of small-scale farmers beyond subsistence farming and out of poverty by 2022 by creating a savings-led model in Mali that other companies around the world can integrate into their own program offerings.

Which barrier(s) to financial inclusion does your solution seek to address? (select all applicable)

Physical and other accessibility obstacles that prevent communities from reaching financial services, The lack of affordable financial products tailored to the needs of underserved and excluded communities,.

If you selected 'other' above, please specify which other barriers to financial inclusion you solution seeks to address:

N/A

For which underserved or excluded communities will your solution create access to valuable, affordable, secure and comprehensive financial services?

Our focus is on small-scale farmers: 10% of the world’s poorest 2.6 billion people have access to financial institutions and that figure is even lower for small-scale farmers and women. Of the few agricultural financing options available, the focus is on access to credit, which is expensive to scale, selective and often intimidating to small-scale farmers who already risk their income and livelihood each rainy season. Informal savings groups do not help farmers reach large enough savings goals to invest in their farm. Despite this demonstrated customer desire to save, there are few existing models in the world that use a pay-in-advance model for inputs. By using a local network and SMS technology myAgro makes it possible for farmers to do exactly that.

Could your solution work in other geographies or regions? If so, where?

Yes! Part of our program plan is to partner with other existing vendor networks in West Africa and beyond – for example Drishtee is an amazing organization in India with 25,000 rural kiosks. They do not have an agricultural portfolio (yet) and could easily adopt the myAgro SMS layway system using their vendor network, warehouse and transport system along with our agricultural trainings. Mali is one of the poorest countries on earth, and if it can succeed here we’re confident that many other programs and countries can adopt our model.

If your solution is dramatically successful, how will things be different in 10 years?

By 2022, our goal is to reach 1 million farmers and increase individual farmer income by over $1000/year. This would push myAgro farmers past subsistence farming and they would be living on more than $4/day (our impact + their own work). myAgro farmers’ and their families would benefit in two key ways:

1. Increased Income – 1 million farmers (supporting millions more within their families) will have more flexible income to deal with economic shocks, take care of daily family needs and still invest in their farms.
2. Improved Nutrition – Through better harvests and storage techniques, myAgro farmers would help increase the nutrition for over 6 million people in their communities. That would be nearly ¼ of Mali’s projected population in 2022.

Increasing food security is important to Mali's and entire world’s future success. Small-scale farmers are the solution. We support small-scale farmers to use their OWN resources more effectively by using a savings-led approach.

What will have had to have changed to make this happen?

1. We'll have to make sure there are growing markets - locally or regionally - that can buy increased production from farmers and that the supporting networks (transport, roads, storage capabilities, processing factories) increase capacity to keep up with production.

2. We’ll have to ensure SMS mobile payments are recognized and protected, similar to how the Central Bank of Kenya supported M-Pesa’s growth by putting in place forward-thinking policies very early on.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

We are wrapping up our first year in two months. Once farmers harvest we will have a better sense of our impact on agricultural yields but we can project, from what we know about certified seed and microdose fertilizer (the technique we use) that farmers will increase their harvests by 50 – 100%. To date:
- We have enrolled 342 farmers, of which 240 farmers reached their planting goal (including 115 women) and
received fertilizer and seed.
- Farmers have sent 2000 SMS layaway payments from 4 village stores.
- We planted 87.8 hectares (210 acres) and delivered 17 metric tons of fertilizer to rural communities.
- 90% of our farmers used certified seed for the first time.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

In 2017, our goal is to:
- Partner with 400 vendors
- Serve 60,000 farmers (who collectively support 600,000+ family members)
- Plant on average 2.5 hectares per farmer
- Increase income by $600/farmer

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Internally, our biggest long-term hurdle will be raising the large amount of financing we’ll need to grow quickly. Our entire team is committed to building an organization that is sustainable within 5- 6 years to lower the amount of money we need to raise over time. I believe the partnership model – partnering with local vendors as well as partnering with other similar organizations that can adopt our program is key to reaching millions of farmers sustainably.

Externally, the Malian seed market is still nascent, so we will need to make sure we have regular, reliable access to quality seed via partners in Mali and within West Africa.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

1) Expand to 10 villages and select village vendor partners 2) Enroll 1000 farmers 3) Collect at least 25% layaway payments

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Hire a new business associate to manage expansion to new villages.

Task 2

Regularly track and adjust marketing/enrolment guides to ensure we reach target customers and payments.

Task 3

Develop vendor-based incentives and trainings to motivate a high level of farmer participation/ layaway payments.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

1. 100% of farmers plant correctly with modern planting techniques. 2. Measure harvests to see if we have increased yields.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Train staff, village leaders on modern farming techniques with a focus on convincing farmers to adopt more efficient methods.

Task 2

Hire and train M&E team.

Task 3

Evaluate planting and harvest indicators to improve program.

Sustainability
Tell us about your partnerships

- Faso Kaba, a local seed company that produces and markets certified seed specifically for the Malian environment. We partner with Faso Kaba for technical advice, seed procurement and to train farmers via our radio program and in-village meetings on the benefits of using certified seed.

- One Acre Fund supports myAgro by sharing best practices, materials and advice. Andrew Youn, OAF’s Founder and Anushka Ratnayake, myAgro’s Founder, share regular calls together to discuss and share our work.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your innovation? If so, where and why?

We're not currently in other countries but our plan is to definitely expand within West Africa and to other countries via local partners with existing vendor or sales networks. We can bring our agricultural and SMS layaway model to plug into their existing business to reach more farmers than either group could do alone. It's time to create a savings-led revolution for the world's small-scale farmers.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

We have a deep commitment to partnerships and transparency which is what leads our work with vendors, farmers and teams. Because of this, we are able to tailor our products and model closely to the needs of our customers.

Internally, both the office and the field team meet weekly to review indicators, reflect on problems, create strategies and learn from each other. This regular feedback loop, performance-based discussions and openness have helped us immensely.

Programmatically, our program is successful where farmers live in close knit villages as they do in West Africa, Uganda, India and I'm sure many other countries. This way, our vendor-based approach is able to reach a significant amount of farmers since they live close together.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We're happy to share our knowledge of implementing our SMS layaway program with others as well as discuss ideas that we've tried in marketing to rural communities.