myAgro: Catalyzing Farmer Incomes and Food Security in Tanzania
myAgro’s belief is that those who feed us should not go hungry themselves.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Large NGO (over 50 employees)
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
The Lindi and Mtwara regions of Tanzania.
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
We have a strong and enduring relationship with the region, attributing our ability to grow and flourish to both internal and external factors. The principal external factor was the region had a real need yet no real solution, allowing a holistic initiative like myAgro’s to take off. From an internal lens, our leader, Anushka Ratnayake, is passionate about the region, having grown with it over the last twelve years. Her three-pronged model is addresses the three main obstacles to successful farming: a lack of financial inclusion, a lack of access to high quality inputs and a lack of continuous, reliable training.
Anushka has lived in Sub Saharan Africa, working with farmers since 2008. While working in microfinance and speaking directly to smallholder farmers about their specific needs, Ms. Ratnayake realized that there were no financial services that provided farmers an opportunity to save their money little by little. Furthermore, farmers in rural areas had little to no access to the agricultural tools and training needed to grow their harvests and incomes.
In response, in 2011 Anushka worked smallholder farmers to build a comprehensive savings-based payment model for seeds, fertilizer and training in Mali. Fast forward 8 years and now myAgro works in three countries - Mali, Senegal and most recently Tanzania. In 2019 myAgro successfully launched and completed its Tanzania pilot partnering with the Aga Khan Foundation. Our Food System Vision will focus on Tanzania where we are currently replicating myAgro’s proven model.
Our relationship to the place we selected - Tanzania - is challenging. Over 75% of myAgro clients live in remote areas with fewer than 75 people per square kilometer, so providing services to this population has traditionally been a challenge for government, NGOs, banks and companies.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Because myAgro is built on a foundation of human-centered design, where people and place are our focus, the Food System Vision Prize activities fit squarely within our existing product design philosophy. myAgro treats the people with whom it works as customers, asking about their problems and needs and designing solutions that address them. In our newest region and where we are focusing for the Vision Prize, namely Tanzania, we are extending this ethos by tailoring our offerings specifically to their issues.
Smallholders are feeding the world, yet the vast majority struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table. In Tanzania, myAgro has deployed its scalable model in the southern Lindi and Mtwara regions (LMR). In LMR, 87% of the population depends on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods. Most of these households are food insecure, and lack access to financial services. The average per capita income in Lindi, Tanzania is $1.22 per day and in Mtwara, $1.16 per day. In 2019, reportedly only 6.5% of populations accessed credit services. (World Bank, 2019)
Farmers in LMR are some of the poorest and most poorly-served in Tanzania, due in part to economic and infrastructural isolation in the region that historically has kept private industry and public services from reaching the population sustainably. Agricultural input suppliers have still not entered LMR significantly, with few major agro-dealers having established warehouse capacities in the region.
myAgro currently works with smallholder farmers in Tanzania who typically cultivate fewer than four acres of land. They lack tools, training, and are vulnerable to climatechange. With myAgro, we have improved their income by $1.50/day per farmer and we have provided them climate resilient crops that can increase yields an estimated 50-100%. Further demographics include:
-67% of Tanzania’s population of 52 million is employed in agriculture and 80% depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
-The top 4 crops that smallholder farmers produce in Tanzania are maize, rice, sorghum and millet.
-Only 30% of smallholder farmers in Tanzania use fertilizer or improved seed, as such yields are about 75% lower than potential. Access to buy inputs for their farms or find effective information on climate resilient strategies is limited.
-Over 75% percent of clients in Tanzania are women farmers. Women farmers face the worst repercussions from climate change, reports the UN. They often do not own the land they cultivate, and lack the farming tools and training needed to grow their farms. Giving women farmers the same access to tools and training as men leads to an estimated 20 to 30% yield increase in crops.
-On average, myAgro farmers are around 36 years old, and have six children. The income generated from farming provides the household’s primary income.
-Tanzania has a low population density - over 75% of clients live in remote areas with fewer than 75 people per square kilometer.
-Majority of this population owns or has access to a mobile phone, using apps like YouTube, Whatsapp, etc and is also using mobile money.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
If unaddressed, the challenges we are facing today in 2020 in Tanzania will be greatly augmented by 2050. With the Vision Prize, we intend to set up holistic systems that build the infrastructure necessary to stifle current problems as well as mitigate future ones.
The root cause of poverty and food insecurity in Tanzania in 2020 is that farmers lack a holistic system that tackles all three of their principal problems: limited or burdensome financing mechanisms, limited or unreliable access to high-quality inputs (like fertilizer and improved seeds), and lack of climate-resilient agricultural trainings necessary to maximize harvests and incomes. Another barrier to serving smallholder farmers is that they live in rural, remote areas that are very expensive to access and manage with traditional extension or financial services.
myAgro is a unique approach that addresses these problems in one interconnected and holistic offering, making sure that farmers can sustainably finance their purchases (without going into debt) and then receive climate-resilient products accompanied by climate-resilient trainings. With technology, myAgro has been able to reach over 60,000 farmers without needing thousands of staff members. Our layaway model runs through SMS and data networks on cell phones. And components of our training are on online video platforms that can be viewed on a phone.
Future challenges 2050:
Environment and Diet: Climate change continues to heighten the risk of food insecurity for farmers — already, as many as 100 million people of the world’s total are hungry because of climate shocks. The regions where myAgro works in Tanzania are some of the most affected by rising temperatures and climate volatility, which create and perpetuate food insecurity for farmers by decreasing average farmer yields, reducing community economic output, and reducing dietary diversity for families.
Gender and Culture: Women make up as much as 80% of the agricultural labor force, yet they do not have access to financing and training that men farmers do. Meanwhile, in Africa, 60% of the population is under the age of 25—yet the average farmer is 60 years old. Rural women and youth are marginalized from the rural economy. These disparities have impacts for the future of climate and food given that the youth of today are the farmers of tomorrow and the world will rely on them to produce and increasing quantities of food in a hotter and more unpredictable climate.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
We are addressing smallholder inequalities by focusing on three pillars - financial exclusion, low productivity, and climate change. The myAgro model, which was piloted in Tanzania in 2019, is comprised of three simple components:
1. Mobile layaway: enables farmers to pre-pay for inputs. Under myAgro’s model, by using their mobile phones, farmers spend in the months before planting season laying away funds to purchase climate resilient input packages.
2. Agricultural inputs delivered on time: certified seeds, treatment, fertilizer(s), vegetable garden kit and yield-index insurance.
3. Climate Smart agricultural training: delivered in person at the village or group level with field follow up. In the last year, we have made significant progress with our YouTube and Whatsapp available video library, allowing farmers to access our curated instruction anytime they want.
Not one element of this trifecta in isolation will offset the challenges in 2020 but rather all three of them together are necessary to make corrections in today’s market and allow for success in 2050. Additional impacts of myAgro’s model include:
Diet: Vegetables and fruits are an increasingly important area of focus for myAgro’s climate resilience and food security programming. By producing higher-value, nutrient-rich crops such as okra, farmers are able to provide a diversified daily diet for their families and supply local and national market with more diverse, micro-nutrient rich foods. Because vegetables and fruits require less water than cereal crops, farmers can cultivate them even during periods of erratic rainfall.
Direct benefit for women – The majority of myAgro farmers are women and women in Sub-Saharan Africa are responsible for supplying 80% of its food. Their yields, however, are usually 20-30% lower than those of men.
Technology helps us to connect to farmers and provide services at a much lower cost per farmer than ever before. myAgro focuses on technology and innovation at every angle of the business: technology for the financing (mobile layaway), technology for payment (payment by phone), technology for the crops (data-based R&D), innovation for climate protection (insurance packages for everyone), technology for sales and customer service (data based sales platforms), and innovation for agricultural training (mobile distributed YouTube videos).
Surveys found that farmers participating in myAgro’s Tanzania pilot increased harvests an average 114 percent over control farmers. myAgro farmers earned an additional $17 of income from their maize packages, generating $6,740 in total impact across myAgro’s program area.
Lessons learned to date support moving forward from the pilot phase to scale-up from 1,000 farmers in 2020 to 200,000 farmers in Tanzania by 2025 and millions of farmers by 2050.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
myAgro’s vision is a world where hard-working farmers break the cycle of poverty and grow enough food to eat each year. Every farmer, regardless of gender, will have access to the financial tools, inputs and training they need to succeed. Farmers will earn enough to provide for their families and contribute meaningfully to the development, health and education of their family and the progress of their countries. As we both collaborate with farmers, local, regional and national governments and other established partners in the region (Aga Khan, Stromme, Catholic Relief Services, etc) as well as employ local villagers to be our “boots on the ground” salespeople, namely our ‘Village Entrepreneurs’, we are buoying up local, regional and ultimately national economies. We see the interconnectedness of our work and that our impact is going far beyond the field.
myAgro aims to reach 200,0000 farmers in Tanzania by 2025. myAgro’s impact per farmer from $100 per farmer per year to $140 per farmer per year in 2020 and $550 per farmer per year in 2025.
When these short term goals are achieved, these farmers and their families will no longer be food insecure. They will have the savings necessary to invest in their farms and will have the inputs and skills needed to produce sufficient food for family consumption as well as to generate increased household income. Families will be able to afford medical care and necessary medicines. Families will be able to afford sending their children to schools as well as the added cost of books, school supplies and uniforms.
Farmers will have access to climate resistant seeds and will not be at the mercy of weather-related losses as farmers will also have crop insurance to mitigate risk. Women farmers will benefit from equal access to financing, training and quality inputs. Increased income and training for women will lead to a more equitable gender roles over time as women have more control over their own production and finances.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
We are so excited by the Food Systems Vision Prize because like the Vision Prize team, we are thinking big. While the Prize is for 2020, our Vision is fully focused on 2050. In other words, we are working in a world where what we do today is a conduit for moving the needle long-term, for redirecting capital globally and for shifting the way governments, other NGOs, impact investors, companies and the financial world as a whole think about smallholder farmers and farming.
myAgro expects to see the real income earned by Tanzanian farmers who plant with myAgro increase as they complete their savings goals, buy high-quality inputs and plant using better techniques. When myAgro can demonstrate the power of mobile layaway to serve farmers and the bottom of the pyramid, there will be a major disruption in traditional antipoverty strategies for the sector at large. When financing is self-directed from smallholder farmers themselves, it is, by definition, sustainable. The market will react to this unlocked capital by providing better and more useful services or products to small farmers and the agricultural sector as a whole.
In the long-term, myAgro envisions its model for change spurring structural shifts in two arenas: how governments and multilaterals fund the agricultural sector, and how the financial inclusion sector provides services to smallholder farmers.
Steps to achieving this long term vision include:
Farmers will save and invest their own money into making their farms more profitable, and growing more to eat and sell. Farmers plant on time (increasingly important with climate change), increasing harvests by 50–100%; and net farm income by 50%. Lower risk spurs farmers to invest time and money to cultivate more hectares using improved farm practices to further increase farm income and yields. Significantly more farmers will be able to access seeds and fertilizer by self-financing, particularly women.
Given higher production for wider subset of farmers, additional investments in infrastructure (transport, roads, electricity) are made by the private sector to get goods to market quicker. This benefits local villages by increasing schools, health care, sanitation and other forms of social inclusion.
The establishment of organized agro-dealer networks makes it easier for new and improved seed varieties or new technologies to reach rural communities because there is now a distribution channel to sell/market them. These agro-dealers are based in local villages and market and sell quality seeds, fertilizer and training packages close to farmers’ homes. Farmers are reliably self-financing, so local vendors can plan ahead and purchase quality wholesale inputs.
Vendors are knowledgeable and trained so improved follow-up services result in greater community farm production. These vendors are providing a high level of quality services: marketing, technical training and selling a variety of services/inputs to farmers.The reduced distance farmers in rural areas must travel to purchase inputs makes it convenient for farmers to invest in their farm.The vendor layer of the ecosystem is sustained by financial incentives – vendors increase their business revenue and client base year over year by providing and selling excellent service and quality inputs. Increased income for vendors further reduces poverty at the village level as vendors continue to invest locally.
Governments & NGOs: After demonstrating how myAgro scales and impacts women through leveraging mobile layaway to improve farm income and harvests, governments and NGOs will look to myAgro to scale or replicate its package of services to smallholder farmers. There will also be evidence from myAgro’s mobile platform and farmer data that demonstrate the important economic value of including women farmers in policies and programs to increase farm production.
When 1 million farmers have used their own savings to increase their income by an additional $1.50 per day, myAgro will have built evidence of impact and scale to support Ministries of Agriculture to integrate the key components of myAgro’s mobile layaway model into their agricultural framework for finance and extension services. African governments shift their 10% GDP commitments toward programs that are catalytic and prioritize women, who grow up to 80% of the food in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Governments will be redefined to ensure ongoing financial inclusion for women, e.g. savings invested by farmer by gender, # women who purchase improved seed, yield increase by gender along with crop. Finally, NGOs, governments, and aid agencies will see farmers as viable, long-term customers, not charity recipients. NGOs will be incentivized to direct donor funds toward catalytic programs that widen financial access beyond credit to digital payments, mobile layaway and savings.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?
Meeting with the Rockefeller Foundation