Bayer is supporting myAgro, an innovative startup company which assists smallholder farmers in West Africa by enabling them to save small amounts for seed and fertilizer via cellphone even if they don’t have a bank account. Combined with nutrition and hygiene seminars and deworming programs for children, this initiative enables families to lastingly improve their standard of living. The 2018 half-yearly report features some impressive numbers.
In Mali alone – currently the main focus of myAgro – a total of 31,000 children in 488 villages were treated through a joint deworming initiative between May and the end of June. This program is crucial as many families are impacted by epidemic-like worm infections, which affect children particularly hard and hold them back in their development. “The medicines are expensive, and farmers often can’t afford them,” explains Monika Lessl, Head of Corporate Innovation at Bayer.
The most important factor here is a more bountiful harvest. “But high-quality seed and fertilizer are relatively expensive, and the families have little opportunity to save money and take out loans,” says Liam Condon, member of the Board of Management and Head of the Crop Science Division. MyAgro changes this situation through an innovative pre-paid model: as soon as the farmers have saved up a little money in the short term, they can purchase a myAgro card in their village. Each card has a special code on the back that is sent to the farmer’s myAgro account via text message. The farmer 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 seed and fertilizer to the farmers in their village. Explains myAgro founder Anushka Ratnayake, “In many cases, families can also pay later so that a cashflow problem doesn’t prevent them from improving their harvests right from the beginning. Our employees also advise the farmers on site and give them helpful tips on how to boost their yields.”
The third important cornerstone of the strategy involves special on-site seminars for women – who represent 70 percent of smallholder farmers – to improve their knowledge about nutrition, hygiene and crops. Overall, five different modules provide direct assistance with practical tips:
- A healthy meal
- Cooking hygiene
- How to cook healthy porridge
- Why okra and peanuts are so nutritious
More than 16,000 women have taken part in the seminars so far.
In April 2018, myAgro won the renowned Skoll Award – the US$1.25 million “Nobel Prize” of social entrepreneurship – for its innovative approach. Each year the Skoll Foundation awards this prize to entrepreneurs whose ideas have a significant and positive impact on the most pressing global problems.