A donation of $600,000 USD by Bayer is extending a social innovation in Africa.
Pilot projects in Mali and Senegal by the start-up company myAgro allow smallholder farmers to save money for fertilizer and seed without a bank account or access to a loan. Instead they rely on their cellphone, which is widely used in rural areas of Africa. The model works in a similar way as a pre-paid card for cellphones. As soon as a farmer has a little money left over, she or he can buy a myAgro scratch card that has an associated code at the back of the card, which is being sent to their myAgro account through SMS. The farmers - up to 70% women - can pay in even the smallest amounts, for example one U.S. dollar. Well in time for the start of the planting season, myAgro delivers high-quality seed and fertilizer to the farmers in their village.
Increased prosperity for smallholder farmers
"Through our model, we are changing access to the financial system in a way that suits smallholder farmers. That’s because their needs often are not compatible with conventional capital flows. In this way we help them to achieve increased prosperity," says Anushka Ratnayake, founder and CEO of the start-up. Thanks to myAgro’s savings program, high-quality products and on-time delivery, small farms that are usually cultivated by the families themselves increase their yields by 50% to 100% on average and raise their net farming income by about USD $150 to $300 per year.
Fighting worm infections
In addition to expanding the pre-paid model, Bayer and myAgro also want to fight a key cause of poverty: many families in rural regions are affected by epidemic worm infections, which affect children particularly hard and hinder their development. The medicines are expensive and are frequently unaffordable for the farmers. Bayer and myAgro therefore support a worm control initiative that will provide free medication to smallholder farmer’s children, which will help strengthen families so that they can further develop their farms and escape poverty.
"Food from smallholder farmers feed a large segment of the world’s population," says Liam Condon, member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and Head of the Crop Science Division. "Yet many of these farmers live in severe poverty. That’s why we support myAgro, which can make a big difference with its innovative social business model and has the potential to enable a better life for more than 50,000 smallholder farmers, their families and the communities they help feed."
Social innovations improve living conditions in the long term
Bayer supports innovative ideas and business models that help to improve living conditions in developing countries through the Aspirin Social Award, the alliance with the Global Impact Accelerator of the start-up fair Slush, as well as through targeted partnerships.
"Social innovation is part of our holistic approach to innovation," explains Dr. Monika Lessl, Head of Corporate Innovation & R&D at Bayer AG and initiator of the collaboration. “By collaborating with social entrepreneurs we strive to reshape global systems and catalyze future advancements in health and nutrition."