Seventy percent of Africans make their living from agriculture, yet most smallholder farmers don’t grow enough food to eat year-round, leaving them in an endless cycle of poverty. Substandard and expensive inputs—including seeds and fertilizer—in a limited supply chain and distribution network only exacerbate the problem. Microfinance, government-subsidized fertilizer, and agriculture extension efforts fail to reach 93 percent of smallholders. Financial tools are not designed to help them save money, and public support largely falls short.
myAgro pioneered a mobile layaway microsavings model in West Africa to help farmers save little by little for high-quality seeds, fertilizer, tools, and training to significantly increase their harvests and income. In Mali and Senegal in 2017, myAgro’s 34,000 customers saw a 60 percent average annual income increase.
Farmers pay for inputs and training in small increments throughout the year by purchasing prepaid scratch cards—much like the system by which they top up their minutes on a mobile phone account. After a few months of the farmer laying-away funds, myAgro delivers the fertilizer, seed, and training in time for planting season. This innovative approach to microsavings gives every farmer the ability to better provide for their families and break the cycle of poverty.
myAgro helps smallholder farmers with limited cash generate more income from their land while aggregating demand to stimulate the input market, incentivizing suppliers to produce sufficient quantity of high-quality fertilizers and seeds. In this way, myAgro drives significant value to the entire smallholder agricultural system.
Microfinance, government-subsidized fertilizer, and agriculture extension efforts fail to reach 93 percent of smallholders, trapping them in a cycle of poverty.
myAgro pioneered a mobile layaway microsavings model so farmers can save for high-quality seeds, fertilizer, tools, and training to significantly increase their harvests and income.
After working with One Acre Fund and Kiva, Anushka Ratnayake moved to Mali to test the myAgro model.
By 2025, myAgro plans to reach 1 million farmers annually, enabling farmers to double their annual income and move their families out of poverty.
With access to a mobile savings tool, farmers can self-finance the inputs and training they need to provide for their families and to break the cycle of poverty.
myAgro’s North Star is to reach 1 million smallholder farmers by 2025 and help them increase their income by $1.50 per farmer per day to move out of poverty. With a proven model, myAgro is scaling through NGO’s networks of weekly smallholder saving groups.
myAgro earns revenue through a modest product margin added to the sale of each package of inputs. Improving the trainings, materials, and systems that support the field operations have driven down service delivery cost by over 75 percent. myAgro aims for 100 percent field sustainability, which covers all direct field costs, by 2023, while philanthropic support will cover innovation, R&D, and expansion.
Anushka Ratnayake is the Founder and CEO of myAgro and has worked with and for farmers in rural sub-Saharan Africa since mid-2008. After college, while working at a poverty think tank in Sri Lanka, Anushka witnessed the tsunami that destroyed the country’s coastline. The image of coastal farmers and fishers sitting on their collapsed tin roofs remained seared in her memory. She became determined to work towards a world where rural people have the dignity of choice that comes from not living under extreme poverty. Anushka worked at two of the fastest growing and innovative social enterprises that empower people living in poverty: Kiva and One Acre Fund. At Kiva she became immersed in the rapid expansion of microfinance, learning how to take smart risks to test new ideas and design platforms to scale. For One Acre Fund, she created a flexible cash repayment system. She found that farmers asked for the option to pre-pay their loans for a few months—or even a year—before getting a loan, and she realized these farmers were actually describing their need for a savings model. In 2011, Anushka moved to Mali to test her mobile layaway savings model and remained there during a civil war from which nearly every other NGO fled. She launched myAgro to help smallholder farmers save money for high quality seeds, fertilizer, and training to lift themselves out of poverty. She is a Rainer Arnhold Fellow, an Echoing Green Fellow, and a Draper Richard Kaplan Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Fellow.