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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Farmer-Centered Design: Innovations in Sustainable Agriculture

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Session Description

As agricultural technologies constantly evolve, the production frontier extends. The needs of smallholder farmers are usually not central to these advances. This largest and fastest-growing segment of farmers see little benefit, and remain mired in poverty. To shift this unjust equilibrium and create impact at scale, smallholders must be central to the technological evolution in the fields, immersed in the creation of useful and appropriate products and services. Hear from the social entrepreneurs who design innovations in partnership with farmers to sow more sustainable local food systems for all.

When | Where

1:30 PM - 2:45 PM Wednesday, April 11 Rhodes Trust Lecture Theatre


Lightning Talks + Panel

Session leaders

  • Alloysius Attah Speaker
    Co-Founder/CEO, Farmerline
    Alloysius is the CEO + Co-Founder of Farmerline. In 2013, Alloysius launched Farmerline to transform millions of farmers into successful entrepreneurs. This mission was inspired by his 15 years experience on the farm. His time on the farm exposed him to some of the biggest challenges small-scale farmers go through to access information and services ​to​ produce and sell ​more ​food. Today, the company has reached over 200,000 farmers across ​11 ​countries. He leads the overall strategy and vision of Farmerline and also focuses his efforts on business development and product design. He has received numerous awards for his work including winning CBNC Africa Young Business Leader Award and as a laureate of King Baudoin African Development Prize in 2017.
  • Shalu Umapathy Moderator
    Managing Director,
    Shalu is a Managing Director of’s Economic Prosperity practice, which focuses on building economic resilience for low income people by enabling them to better earn, save and invest their resources. In this role, Shalu supports teams by scoping collaborations, diving deep with teams as they design solutions for our partners, and engaging partners as we seek to achieve impact at scale. Prior to, Shalu’s experience spanned the international development and business strategy sectors. She has worked at Bain & Company where she supported Fortune 500 businesses, and Digitas, where she used analytics to improve her clients’ marketing programs. She also worked across 6+ countries in Africa at Abt Associates, a USAID contractor, where she worked on global health projects. Shalu is a Clinton Fellow in India, holds an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and a bachelor’s in Business Administration from Boston University. In her free time, Shalu enjoys wrangling hugs and kisses from her two sons and holding impromptu music sessions at home.
  • Co-Founder, Proximity Designs
    Debbie Aung Din is Co-founder of Proximity Designs, a non-profit social business operating in Myanmar since 2004 and focused on the agriculture sector. Proximity has developed a unique platform composed of three businesses –financing, farm technologies and agronomic advice – that are delivering products and services designed for small farmers in their journey out of poverty. Proximity Designs’ operations serve over 500,000 people annually and have reached over 9,000 villages. Products and services have helped 2.7 million people increase their income by US$250 or more per year. Aung Din has lived and worked in Mississippi, Cambodia and Indonesia. She has worked for NGOs, USAID, the UN and the World Bank. Aung Din holds a MA from Harvard University in public policy and development economics. She received awards from the Schwab Foundation (World Economic Forum) and Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship. She has been engaged in design and economic research in Myanmar since 1995.
  • Jehiel Oliver Speaker
    Founder & CEO, Hello Tractor
    Jehiel Oliver is the founder and CEO of Hello Tractor, an agricultural technology company that connects tractor owners with smallholder farmers in need of tractor services. At Hello Tractor, Jehiel is responsible for overall management and strategy. He has been honored with numerous awards for his work in social entrepreneurship including being recognized by Foreign Policy Magazine as a Top 100 Global Thinker for 2016. He was appointed under the Obama Administration to serve two years as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, where he most recently chaired the technology subcommittee. Prior to Hello Tractor, Jehiel worked in consulting and investment banking. He currently lives with his wife and daughter in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Kola Masha Speaker
    Managing Director, Babban Gona
    Kola is the Managing Director of Babban Gona. Babban Gona is an award winning, high impact, financially sustainable and highly scalable social enterprise, part-owned by the farmers we serve. Babban Gona, was created to specifically attract youth to agriculture and away from the looming instability of extremist groups. We accomplish this by franchising thousands of mini maize and rice farmer cooperatives across Northern Nigeria, dramatically increasing the profitability of the smallholder members 2.8 to 3.5 times above the national average. This dramatic increase in net income is accomplished by delivering an integrated holistic package of training, farm inputs and marketing services, on credit. Babban Gona has been able to deliver this credit while maintaining a repayment rate of 99.99%, leveraging our comprehensive 8levels of risk mitigation. We developed the model with our partners that include His Highness Muhammad Sanusi II, the Sarkin (Emir) Kano, Nestle, IITA, DfID, USAID, GIZ, AGRA, BMGF, Skoll, Kiva, FMCB, Mulago, GIF and Rockefeller Foundation amongst others. Prior to Babban Gona, Kola was a Managing Director and CEO of a major subsidiary in the Notore Group, where he raised US$24 Million to develop an integrated agricultural trading, production and processing business. Furthermore, he led the development and execution of Notore’s commercial strategy across West and Central Africa. He led the effort to raise $130 million in equity and the restructuring of $360 Million in debt. Kola brings significant leadership experience across four continents with multiple global companies. In addition, Kola brings extensive public sector experience as Senior Advisor to the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture. He has received several global awards including the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship and appointed to the Board of the African Enterprise Challenge Fund. Kola holds an MBA (Honors) from Harvard and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from MIT.
  • Thomas Njeru Speaker
    Co-Founder: Actuary & CFO, Pula
    Thomas is a seasoned insurance professional with over 10 years’ experience working across Africa in both the insurance industry and consulting space. Thomas is currently a Co-Founder at Pula which is an insurance technology company that targets the uninsured in Africa & Asia, starting with small holder farmers. He plays the Chief Actuary and Chief Finance Officer role at Pula with a focus on designing and pricing insurance solutions and business model innovation. He also served as a Director at Deloitte Consulting as the Insurance Advisory lead in East Africa and a Consulting Actuary in Deloitte South Africa. Prior to joining Deloitte, Thomas was the Chief Actuary at UAP Insurance Group based in East Africa. Thomas is a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries (FIA), and holds a Masters’ in Business Administration (SBS Kenya) and a Bsc. Actuarial Science from the University of Nairobi. Besides solving the insurance related challenges in emerging markets, his other interests include running, philosophy and chess.