myAgro: Helping Smallholder Farmers in Mali Save via SMS

myAgro is a social enterprise helping smallholder farmers in rural Mali break the cycle of poverty by aiding them to plan, save for, and purchase inputs to make their farms more profitable. myAgro staff work with farmers to set a goal for the upcoming season, offer them tools to encourage incremental savings, and deliver products, like seeds or farming equipment, to them on a periodic basis. Farmers complete these incremental savings through purchasing vouchers from local vendors. myAgro was receiving hundreds of SMS messages that contained a farmer ID and a voucher code, both of which myAgro staff needed to validate by hand, before the amount of the voucher could credited to the farmer’s account.

myAgro was already using an SMS platform, Telerivet, to manage these incoming SMS’s. Each time an SMS would come in, however, a myAgro employee would have to manually look up the voucher code and the client code on an Excel spreadsheet before crediting the purchase to the farmer’s account. Additionally, there was no quick and easy way for myAgro to estimate how much of each product it needed to purchase for its deliveries.

Vera built a Force.com application that fully automates this process that previously required full-time staff to perform manually. myAgro can now access data concerning each SMS, voucher, and farmer in one centralized location. This means the validation and update to a farmer’s account happens automatically, without requiring manual lookup in an excel file by a myAgro staff member, saving them time and allowing myAgro staff to immediately see the farmer’s progress. The system generates immediate confirmation or error messages that are sent to a farmer after they send in an SMS. If the farmer or voucher does not exist or the voucher has already been used, they are prompted to correct and re-send, ensuring accuracy. myAgro staff can now dynamically view how close each farmer is to his or her savings goal, or perform analytics that allow them to see such information as the most popular items or average purchases per month. myAgro’s system also functions as their database of farmers, products, and sales, allowing them to track not only each farmers’ savings, but easily look up the local prices for a variety of products.

myAgro’s Force.com system enables the organization to complete more complex reporting and more effective program management. myAgro staff can chart the progress of each farmer in real-time, including viewing the remaining balance of their next goal item and the date that their last voucher was purchased. Their system lets them target which farmers or villages are struggling most to meet their savings goals, helping the myAgro team focus their efforts to support them.

When calculating how much of each product to buy for an upcoming delivery, they can use this information to estimate for on-the-spot purchases and determine how to most effectively pack the delivery truck. Additionally, myAgro can now run complex analyses on their programs, allowing them to see what kinds of farmers are most successful in meeting their savings goals and what elements are key to driving the success of their programs.

It is these learnings that myAgro hopes to use to not only improve their programs in Mali but to drive their pilot program in Senegal. Vera is excited to continue to work with myAgro to grow their capacity and to support them as they expand their successful program to Senegal.

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