PRESS RELEASE: Pershing Square Foundation Makes $611,000 Grant To myAgro To Support Small-Scale West African Farmers
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
NEW YORK, Nov. 4, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Pershing Square Foundation has announced a grant of $611,000 to myAgro – an organization that helps small-scale West African farmers save their way out of poverty through a unique mobile layaway lending program, allowing them to increase harvests by an estimated 75%. The grant will help double myAgro’s operations in 2015, reaching approximately 12,000 farmers using an SMS-based platform and a network of local village vendors. The grant comes at a crucial time for farmers in the region who are facing increased challenges with the Ebola epidemic and a delayed and disappointing rainy season which extended the hunger period for smallholder farmers who are just now starting to harvest.
Smallholder farmers in Mali, Senegal and other West African nations – among the poorest countries in the world – are usually expected to buy fertilizer and seed packages at one time, with one large payment. This is a nearly impossible task for these farmers, who live on less than $2 a day and make up 60% of the population. With cash flows that are not aligned with the availability of fertilizer and seed for purchase, these farmers are unable to increase their harvests and move themselves and their families out of poverty.
Adapting a model familiar to people in most developing countries, where “scratch cards” are used to purchase pre-paid cell phone minutes, myAgro provides a flexible, convenient savings mechanism for farmers to purchase fertilizer and seeds. At harvest time, farmers purchase myAgro scratch cards via a network of local, rural stores, which are the center of the community and eliminate the need for banks, often too far and expensive for farmers to access. Farmers can save easily by updating, or “topping off,” their accounts whenever they have extra money. At planting time, myAgro delivers the seed and fertilizer directly to the farmers’ villages, and provides technical training in modern farming methods, as well as advice and on-field support.
To date, myAgro, which is being recognized next month by The Tech Awards for its innovative platform, has successfully piloted its program in Mali and Senegal and to date has received over 25,000 mobile layaway payments with nearly 6,000 active farmers. The Pershing Square Foundation grant will enable the organization to scale its operations to expand into four new districts and grow to serve 12,000 farmers in 2015, as well as build systems to expand to 30,000 farmers by 2016. The grant will support efforts to enroll, train and serve farmers, hire and train additional field team members, and further develop its financial capacity and mobile layaway platform.
Paul Bernstein, CEO of The Pershing Square Foundation, said, “myAgro has already demonstrated its capability to make a real impact on the income and lives of the poorest people in West Africa. The organization’s strong leadership and its simple, innovative technology platform mean it is well placed to scale and The Pershing Square Foundation is delighted to support myAgro’s expansion.”
Anushka Ratnayake, Executive Director, myAgro said, “We are extremely grateful to The Pershing Square Foundation for this philanthropic investment, which will help myAgro accelerate its scale up of innovative farming and financing practices to farmers in West Africa. myAgro uses mobile technology and a network strong local relationships to help broaden financial access for some of the world’s poorest people, with the goal of creating positive change and opportunities for the farm families we serve.”