This Simple Mobile Layaway Plan For Poor Farmers Just Won $1.25 Million
By Ben Schiller
Smallholder farmers in Africa often have a cashflow problem. They have money at the end of the growing season when they sell their crops, but they’re short of money at the beginning of the year when they need to buy seeds and fertilizer.
Recognizing this, Anushka Ratnayake came up with a new type of financial product: a system whereby farmers could layaway some money throughout the year against a large purchase in the spring. That way, farmers can spread out their income, invest in inputs that let them increase yields, and put their families on a firmer financial footing, she says.
Today her social enterprise, MyAgro, was named as one of six winners of this year’s Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. She plans to spend the $1.25 million in prize money toward growing the business further in rural Mali and Senegal. In 2012, just 240 farmers had signed up. This year, MyAgro is on track to enroll up to 50,000. By 2020, she hopes to reach 200,000.
The concept is like layaway where you put down a deposit on an expensive item, such as a piece of furniture, then pay off the balance as you can afford it. Farmers using MyAgro sign up for packages of seeds and fertilizer nine months before they need them, then pay off the balance by buying scratch cards at a local store. They register their payments with the company by revealing codes on the back of the cards and sending in the numbers via an SMS message.
Photo courtesy of P. Casier.