The world’s 1.6 billion rural smallholder farmers are among its poorest and most marginalized people. Annually, these farmers need $200 billion in financing to grow the productivity and income from their farms, but today only 25% of this need is met. This inaccessibility keeps smallholders trapped in a cycle of intractable poverty. myAgro was founded in 2011 to solve this problem with a pioneering a new financial tool: mobile layaway. Farmers use their mobile phones to pay little by little for the seeds, fertilizer, tools, and training they need to improve yields and exit poverty. In 2019, myAgro served more than 62,000 farmers across Senegal, Mali, and Tanzania, increasing their yields by 50 to 100 percent and incomes by more than 50 percent. With additional support, myAgro is poised to successfully reach 2 million farmers across six countries over the next five years.
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The 1.6 billion smallholder farmers in the world today are responsible for growing over 80% of the world’s food supply. Unfortunately, governments, donors and the private sector have often struggled to find mechanisms to provide effective and sustainable assistance to this vast population. As a result, hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers continue to live in extreme poverty, with rural areas accounting for 79% of the world’s total poor. The root cause of this entrenched poverty is that many of these households lack affordable access to quality fertilizer, improved seeds and basic training they need to increase their harvests and incomes. The situation for female farmers is even more challenging. Women are the backbone of many rural economies (especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where they comprise 50% of the agricultural workforce), yet they have less access to financial resources, improved inputs, and agricultural information than men, resulting in 20-30% lower yields. Without access to banks or formal financial institutions, farmers are unable to put away money or take out loans. When planting season comes, they often do not have enough cash on hand to afford the quality inputs that would ensure a better harvest. Instead, they plant with ancient seeds, little to no fertilizer, and out-dated tools and methods, resulting in low yields, food insecure communities and generational poverty. With the right support, family farmers could become critical actors in promoting global food security, environmental sustainability, and economic growth in the developing world.
myAgro’s solution is a simple yet revolutionary financial tool: mobile layaway. By purchasing myAgro scratch cards—similar to buying prepaid mobile phone credit—farmers pay little by little, in advance for myAgro-supplied inputs and training. Each payment accumulates in the farmer’s myAgro account, allowing households to finance their seeds and fertilizer, in increments as small as $1. Before planting time, myAgro delivers each farmer’s package of high-quality seeds and fertilizer to a distribution point in their village. Finally, myAgro agents provide on-farm follow up and basic agricultural training to help farmers best use the new inputs. myAgro’s 3-tiered approach of mobile layaway, input delivery, and training has proven effective in increasing harvests. myAgro knows its solution is making progress. In just seven years, myAgro has scaled its approach from 240 farmers in 2012 to 62,000 farmers in 2019 in Senegal, Mali and Tanzania. These farmers increased their yields by 50 to 100 percent and incomes by more than 50 percent. With additional support, myAgro will serve 2 million farmers across six countries in the next five years, increasing their incomes by $1.50 per day, to move them out of poverty. To support these 2 million farmers, myAgro will grow our team significantly, providing valuable opportunities for rural employment and developing the human capital of the countries where we work in the process.