life on land

Making a Sustainable Difference, with Sasha Kramer, SOIL

SOIL is working in Haiti to design, test, and implement social business models to increase access to sanitation services.

Sasha Kramer with SOIL Compost Director, Jean Marie Noel

Sasha Kramer with SOIL Compost Director, Jean Marie Noel

When the business model is right, anything can be a valuable asset, even human waste. SOIL uses a business model that provides sanitation services, improves soil fertility, and creates livelihoods in Haiti. SOIL collects human waste and transforms it into compost that can be safely used in agriculture.

Ecologist Sasha Kramer of SOIL describes her work this way. “We are taking human waste, something that is one of the largest factors in public health issues in the world. And, we are transforming it into something that I, as ecologist thinks is valuable in the world, which is soil, for rebuilding soil fertility and improving agriculture and reforestation.” And, by using social business models, they are creating livelihoods for Haitians. This business model could be a way to provide sanitation services to some of the 2.6 billion people worldwide who lack access to a toilet.

SOIL seeks to prove that it’s possible to sustainably provide affordable and dignified household sanitation services even in the world’s most under-resourced communities. In SOIL’s simple social business design, wastes from SOIL in-home toilets – locally branded as “EkoLakay” – are collected weekly and transported to a composting waste treatment facility to be safely treated and transformed into rich, agricultural-grade compost. This compost is then sold for agricultural application, improving both the fertility and water retention of the soil. Revenue from monthly toilet user fees and compost sales are collected to support ongoing project costs and to showcase the potential for private sector involvement in the provision of affordable and sustainable sanitation services in the world’s most impoverished and water-scarce communities.

An Early Start

Sasha Kramer is an ecologist and human rights advocate who has been living and working in Haiti since 2004. But her journey started much earlier. “I grew up in an isolated rural community in upstate NY, but I was lucky that my parents worked hard to expose me to the inequalities in the world through books and movies,” Sasha explains. “I especially remember being influenced by a book called ‘The Best of Life Magazine,’ which had incredible photos from heroic times in history.

“I was always aware that I was lucky to grow up in safety and comfort and it made me want to find a way to balance my undeserved luck through finding a career where I could challenge the systems that create the conditions where not everyone can experience the same luck that I did.”

Sasha first came to Haiti in 2004 as a human rights observer in the wake of a coup. She spent the next two years traveling in and out of Haiti. “I fell in love with the country,” she says. “It became very clear to me that the most pervasive of human rights abuses in Haiti is poverty.”

A Misstep

In her goal to create a sustainable difference, Sasha says she did not always get it right. “Our initial misstep was one that is not at all uncommon,” she explains. “It’s the idea that providing the infrastructure is going to solve the problem. It’s relatively easy to come in and build a bunch of toilets, give them to people, step out, take the photos and say the project is completed. I think that has been the issue with development projects worldwide.

“Over the years, I’ve come to recognize how naive that really was to assume that, where the level of need was greatest, that people’s willingness to volunteer would be higher. In fact, it’s just the opposite. People who are struggling just to live don’t have time to clean up someone else’s waste and not making a living doing so.”

After three years of giving away toilets, SOIL realized that their model was not working. “We knew that we needed to find a way for people to have a sanitation service that people would want so much that they would be willing to pay something for it.”

Then came the devastating earthquake of 2010. SOIL sent half of their team to Port-au-Prince to see how they could be helpful. For four years, SOIL provided emergency services. Through that emergency response experience, SOIL designed a toilet that uses a replaceable container.

“We took what we had learned from the earthquake in terms of toilet design and waste treatment and brought them back to Cap-Haitien. That’s how we ended up designing our social business for household sanitation.”

SOIL’s Impact

SOIL’s EkoLakay household sanitation social business pilot is providing over 1,000 households in the greater Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince regions with dignified, in-home sanitation. And SOIL’s EcoSan waste treatment facilities treat and transform more than 500 tons of human waste annually, providing a powerful example of how to affordably and effectively increase access to sustainable sanitation services worldwide.

Even as a small grassroots effort, SOIL’s initiative is now one of the most promising tests globally of the paradigm-shifting hypothesis that sanitation no longer needs to focus on waste disposal, but rather on the ecologically beneficial and economically viable nutrient recapture and agricultural reuse of human waste.

SOIL’s model is also one of the few interventions globally that have shown progress towards creating a working social business model for providing sustainable sanitation services to informal urban settlements.

However, Sasha reminds us, “SOIL’s technology and service have been specifically designed for Haiti’s cultural and environmental context. Although most components of the sanitation service we provide are relevant for growing urban areas around the world, replication of our approach would require thoughtful adaptation to the local context in which it was being applied.”

Social Entrepreneur Quotes by Sasha Kramer:

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I think about it from the perspective of an ecologist.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We’re transforming a public health risk into an environmental solution.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“2.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to a toilet.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Globally, soil fertility is declining.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We learned that lesson the hard way.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I was very curious to understand these two different perspectives.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“By being forced to start slowly, it gives you a chance to establish the relationships.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We designed a system that is not heavily reliant on heavy infrastructure.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You’re going to fall on your face so many times along the way.” Sasha Kramer, @SOILHaiti”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

Create a Better World through…Paperwork? Rachel Armstrong, Farm Commons

Farm Commons empowers farmers to rewrite farm law by and for themselves.

Rachel Armstrong, Farm Commons

Rachel Armstrong, Farm Commons

Rachel Armstrong knew exactly what she wanted to do when she grew up. She wanted to be a farmer, just like her father and her grandfather. “Respecting where food comes from was part and parcel to my childhood, Rachel explains. But she received some important advice. “I changed my mind a little bit when my mother said, ‘That’s a terrible idea.’” Rachel knew the realities of agriculture. “The farming life is very difficult…Rural people are disadvantaged in so many ways.” So, she did as so many farm kids did. She went away to college.

But a funny thing happened at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She found an incredible farming community. “There were folks selling directly to consumers,” Rachel says. “Folks farming in a way that respected the environment. And they were making money. That, to me, was everything I had hoped for.”

Rachel became deeply involved in the sustainable agricultural community. She managed a community garden. She worked on farms. She started a catering company that used local foods. “I’m very much a self-motivated person,” she says with a laugh.

Though she was involved in many aspects of sustainable farming, Rachel was still looking for her niche. She wondered, “How was I going to foster this community that I love so much?” It did not take long for Rachel to realize that the community needed legal information. “There were sneaky problems creeping up in our community that we didn’t know how to deal with. There were questions we didn’t know how to answer. So, I figured, how hard can it be? I better go to law school,” she says with a laugh.

During her three years at law school, Rachel formed the business plan for what would become Farm Commons. In 2012, Rachel applied for and became an Echoing Green fellow. This provided her with the working capital, mentoring and support she needed to launch Farm Commons.

The Problem Farm Commons is Solving

Sustainable farmers grow food in a way that respects the environment and the communities in which they live. But that means that their business models don’t fit the legal mold which was developed for the conventional, commodity-style farm. Farm Commons creates educational forums and cultivates the leadership of individual farmers.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Rachel Armstrong

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It isn’t necessarily about the rules and regulations. It’s about our relationships.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“When farmers write good paperwork, they’re creating solutions that help them go forward.”

“Paperwork can be revolutionary.”

“Those leases matter.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Sustainable farmers need to protect themselves.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“Education is not enough.”

“We need farmers to go beyond knowing things, to doing things.”

“We want sustainable farm law to be written by and for sustainable farmers.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be an attorney.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“Respecting where food comes from was part and parcel to my childhood.”

“I changed my mind a little bit when my mother said, ‘That’s a terrible idea.’”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The farming life is very difficult.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Rural people are disadvantaged in so many ways.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“In Madison, Wisconsin I found an incredible farming community.”

“I dove right into the sustainable agriculture community.”

“I’m very much a self-motivated person.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“How am I going to foster this community that I love so much?” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The very first money that I received was a fellowship from Echoing Green.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“We want to create a model for a legal commons that goes beyond just sustainable farming.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Everyone deserves the ability to shape their community’s legal destiny.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“89% of the farmers that we reach, make a change to their business within three months.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We reach about 2,000 farmers per year, and that’s growing.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Listen to the community that you serve.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The community knows what the community needs. We make it possible.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

“My job as the Director of Farm Commons is to figure out how to meet the need in a way that they prefer.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“You haven’t solved their problems, if you don’t listen to them.” Rachel Armstrong, @FarmCommons”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

Live Your Mission, with Tyler Gage, Co-Founder of Runa, and Author of Fully Alive

Tyler Gage, Co-Founder of Runa, has a new book, Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life.

 

Tyler Gage, Author of Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life

Tyler Gage, Author of Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life

Tyler Gage was first introduced to Guayusa in his college years, during a soul-searching trip to the Amazon.

“I was struggling with anxiety and depression,” he explains. Gage experienced “existential anxiety,” even after achieving his life-long goal of being recruited to play soccer at Brown University.

Feeling lost, out of place and like there were deeper parts of himself that he could not understand, Gage embarked on an adventure to the Peruvian forest. He spent time with indigenous elders. He participated in fasting rituals and studied their beliefs.

“I felt like it cracked me open – fully cracked me open – and fully gave me strength, insight, and courage that I never experienced in my life,” says Gage.

Gage says the “insight, strength and connection” he unearthed in his time spent with the indigenous people, ultimately empowered him with the emotional tools to be a successful entrepreneur.

“Hardship is very eminent in every facet of life. I think being a vulnerable, open human, you reach those edges,” says Gage. “The traditions of the Amazon, I feel like, value what can be learned, and power that can come from touching those edges.”

The indigenous community also introduced Gage to Guayusa tea.

“Every morning they get up and the whole tribe sits around the fire and drinks Guayusa, and it’s really the lifeblood of their people.”

After returning to the US, Gage participated in a class where he and a team wrote a business plan for utilizing Guayusa to create livelihoods for native peoples.

Shortly after graduating, Gage and co-founder Dan MacCombie went to Ecuador to pursue their Guayusa-inspired company.

Neither of the graduates had business experience. Consequently, they solely relied on exhaustive community research, the advice of mentors experienced in the industry and their ability to foster relationships with partners and farmers.

In the end, they created a beverage company that utilizes the caffeinated leaves of the Guayusa tree. The company is called Runa.

Today, almost a decade after Gage and MacCombie initiated their startup; the social enterprise supports over 3,000 indigenous Quichua farming families across Ecuador. The US-based company sources all its Guayusa directly from the native farmers at fair trade prices.

When brewed, Guayusa leaves make an organic tea that’s high in antioxidants and offers a steady and invigorating release of caffeine. By utilizing the energizing properties of Guayusa, Runa offers the US market a range of revitalizing teas and natural, clean alternatives to energy drinks.

As a need for Runa’s products increase, so does the need for a flourishing rainforest, as Guayusa trees naturally thrive under the Amazon’s canopy of hardwood trees.

“These communities really struggle with one foot in both worlds,” says Cage.

The name Runa means “fully alive” in the Quichua language. The word embodies the Quichua people’s connection to their forest and their ancestors; “an embracing of the fullness of how they can live as human beings.”

“When they see pictures of wholesale shelves with cans of Runa, it’s a very exciting opportunity for them to see part their culture being shared.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Tyler Gage:

[spp-tweet tweet=”“These communities really struggle with one foot in both worlds.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA ‏”]

“If you had a choice between cutting down a tree and not having to send your child to school, what kind of choice would you make?’”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“They don’t have many…means to interact with the globalized economy.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

“Every morning they get up, and the whole tribe sits around the fire and drinks Guayusa.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Runa in the indigenous Quichua language means ‘fully alive.’” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Drawing inspiration from themselves and the community really embodies the spirit of Runa.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I felt…transformed by the traditions in the rainforest.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Anyone who’s human…is going to experience some sort of anxiety and depression.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I think being a vulnerable, open human, you reach those edges.” Tyler Gage, @drinkRUNA”]

“The traditions of the Amazon I feel like, value what can be learned, and power that can come from touching those edges.”

“I absolutely never would have started the business if it weren’t for the support and the tools that I learned down there.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

Katrina Klett: Elevating Honey in China

Elevated Honey Co is dedicated to preserving traditional Himalayan beekeeping methods to produce the world’s purest honey.

 

Katrina Klett, Elevated Honey Co

Katrina Klett, Elevated Honey Co

Katrina Klett moved to China nearly a decade ago to study languages. While there, she found her true calling there as a beekeeper. She’s now turning that vision into a business as a social entrepreneur.

Katrina is the CEO of Elevated Honey Co, a small honey company in southwest China that is passionate about helping farmers connect to better markets through supply chains.

The company works with a rare native Asian honeybee species that produces a smaller amount of honey than bees in the U.S. As such, the honey is rare and priced about eight times higher than honey that comes from bees in other parts of the world.

However, the honeybee farmers in China have a hard time cashing in on that profit because they do not have easy access to buyers. Farmers often live in remote mountain areas, where it’s difficult to connect with buyers, Katrina said.

Happy Farmers, Better Honey

According to Katrina, Elevated Honey Co has three main goals:

  1. Ensure that its beekeepers earn a living wage.
  2. Create opportunities for employment in remote areas of China that are not harmful to the environment.
  3. Combat the problem of fake and unsafe honey that exists throughout China and the rest of the world.

To achieve these goals, the company works with farmers to train them and provide equipment and eventually bring them in line with their philosophy. Beekeepers can either stick to their traditional methods or transition to more modern processes in line with what’s done in the U.S.

“What we find is that our young, innovative guys want to learn new management techniques, but our older gentlemen want to stick with log hives,” Katrina says. “We want both to be possible.”

While Elevated Honey Co. provides beekeeping best practices, Katrina is quick to point out that she does not offer training on how to become an entrepreneur. While she considers herself a social entrepreneur, she does not feel she’s an expert in helping others do the same.

Regardless of which beekeeping method a farmer uses, Elevated Honey Co. works to make sure they receive a fair price for the final product. Middlemen take advantage of inexperienced farmers by offering low prices and then cashing in by selling it at a much higher price.

Elevated Honey Co. buys honey at higher prices but requires higher standards as a result. The financial motivation is often enough to bring in line those who might have cut corners or skimped on quality when selling to other buyers.

“That’s how we bring a lot of these guys into the fold and get them to come along with us on some of our quality control issues,” Katrina said.

Honey is sold entirely online, mostly through WeChat, a Chinese social media site. The site also serves as a marketing platform for the company.

Moving to China

Working in China allows Klatt to combine her passion for beekeeping with her passion for language. Her parents are migratory beekeepers who produce honey in North Dakota and breed queen bees in Texas.

As she learned more about beekeeping, Katrina discovered that China has one of the most diverse bee populations in the world and offers opportunities that are not available in the U.S.

“It’s just a really fascinating place to be involved in bees and beekeeping. I wanted to come and understand that,” Katrina said.

Katrina moved to China in 2008 to study language at Beijing Foreign Studies University. While there, she began interning in a honeybee research lab and learned the ins and outs of Chinese beekeeping.

She also learned about a research project in need of a beekeeping technician. A residential area was converted to a national park in the 1980s, which was making it difficult for residents there to prosper economically.

The park’s leaders thought beekeeping might be a way to boost the area’s economy without damaging the environment. They were looking for someone to help get a beekeeping program off the ground, a role Katrina was happy to fulfill.

“Beekeeping doesn’t extract anything from the environment. In fact, having bees in a place improves the environment through pollination service,” Katrina said.

Katrina said she was blown away by the area’s beauty and knew that it would be perfect for honey production. In addition, the area had a long tradition of beekeeping and a population who was ready and willing to embrace new ideas.

“Every single person’s last name was honeybee in this village. It was a really fateful thing and I remember thinking ‘just go for it’,” Katrina said.

Katrina did not speak the region’s dialect when she first moved to the area and described the “crude” system of hand gestures and other nonverbal communication she used to fill the gap as she learned the language. Luckily, she said, beekeeping is very hands-on and has motions that are universally understood.

Technology and Business: Lessons Learned

Katrina is working on an extractor for log beehives that would bring technology a traditional method of beekeeping. This would allow older generations to continue the practices they know while making extraction easier.

The extractor is based on a model used in the U.S. Katrina developed it in collaboration with an engineer who worked with her pro bono. It’s made of bicycle parts and is very simple for people in the villages to make and install on the sides of mountains where the honey is collected.

“We shouldn’t focus on trying to move everyone away from this, we should create technology that works with them,” Katrina said.

On the business side of things, Katrina drew on her family’s experience from running a small business. She was familiar with concepts like risk but said she is still learning about marketing and building a brand.

One lesson she quickly learned was that, as a small business owner, it’s not wise to try and do everything yourself. She recalled buying design software and staying up all night before her first honey promotion show trying to make labels, only to end up with a product that looked like it was produced by an amateur.

“Slowly I figured out that if you hire a professional, they can do it in a couple of hours and the labels look great,” Katrina said.

Beyond Honey

Katrina’s goal is to turn Elevated Honey Co into a franchise model that will connect sparsely populated mountain communities across China while giving each office the freedom to adapt based on that area’s ecological and cultural environment.

She also hopes to expand into Laos and Vietnam — all while maintaining high standards of quality that will unite beekeepers across Asia.

Outside of earning revenue through honey sales, Elevated Honey Co is encouraging people around the world to contribute toward a healthy habitat for bees by planting things that encourage pollination in their area.

A list of plants is available from Xerces, along with recommendations on how to plant based on where you live. Katrina said everyone can join this effort regardless of where they live.

“You can do this if you live in a high-rise, if you’re in a small town, or if you’re in the countryside. The Xerces Society will help you figure out how to do this planting.”

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Katrina Klett

[spp-tweet tweet=””Want to give them a solid wage where they can do something that’s positive for the environment.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“There’s a problem of fake honey in China and throughout the world.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I don’t consider myself an expert in running a company.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We don’t have any stores. Our sales are all done throughout China online.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I don’t know that it’s a good idea to switch everyone to outside technology.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

[spp-tweet tweet=””You’re far better off partnering with like-minded experts.” @elevatedhoneyco”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources

 

A Bicycle-Based Beekeeping Business, with Kristy Lynn Allen, The Beez Kneez

The Beez Kneez is a Minneapolis-based honey production, education and advocacy organization.

Kristy Lynn Allen, The Beez Kneez

Kristy Lynn Allen, The Beez Kneez

When Kristy Lynn Allen was in high school, her family moved to a new school district during the school year. As a result, her grades suffered. She needed a boost to be ready for college. So, she enrolled in a college connection program. While there, she met a teacher who was planning a trip to China. As a 19-year-old, Kristy took out a loan and went to China with her teacher.

This wasn’t her last time to travel. She studied in England. She traveled to Mexico and Costa Rica. She traveled across Europe. She lived in Ecuador for a year.  “All the trips I took, all the exploring I did, shaped me into who I am,” she says.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Global Studies, she was left wondering what to do next. She explains, “I learned everything that was wrong with the world, but I didn’t know how to fix it.”

She signed up with AmeriCorps and traveled to Arkansas where she worked on a ranch that is associated with Heifer International. It was while working Heifer Ranch that she learned about colony collapse. She also discovered that she felt comfortable around agriculture. Kristy says “It seemed like a very simple, and yet impactful way to make a change. Bees are responsible for the pollination of our food and a third of everything we eat.”

After leaving AmeriCorps, Kristy returned to rural Minnesota where she worked on her uncle’s bee ranch. “The first time he opened a hive with me, I just fell in love with bees.” At the end of a harvest season, Kristy’s aunt asked her if she would like to sell honey in Minneapolis. “That’s when my entrepreneur idea lightbulb went off,” she recalls. Since it was October and Halloween was near, Kristy decided to paint her bike like a bee, put pipe cleaners and ping pong balls on her helmet. She handed out honey samples with business cards. “I didn’t have any training in marketing. It was like ‘Huh, this would be a good way to get the word out.’”

The Beez Kneez Pedal-Powered Honey Extraction

The Beez Kneez Pedal-Powered Honey Extraction

This publicity stunt led to a business delivering honey door-to-door. Instinctively, Kristy understood the importance of face-to-face connection. “I had this nostalgia for a time when I wasn’t alive when the milkman would come and bring you your milk, and you’d have a conversation.” The effect was immediate and profound. “I’d go to people’s door. I’m dressed like a bee. The kids got all excited. They’d take pictures. And then, it would immediately spark the question, ‘Hey, what’s going on with bees?’” This was the beginning of The Beez Kneez.

At The Beez Kneez, they keep bees and produce honey. They deliver the honey year-round in Minnesota on a bicycle. They provide beekeeper support, supplies, and training. They run a 14-week intensive training program for beekeepers called Camp Beez Kneez. And they advocate on behalf of pollinators.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Kristy Lynn Allen

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We have many species of native pollinators that are disappearing.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“Honeybee colonies are sending a signal to us.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“My role is telling the story.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I was a humble 30 year-old-woman dressing like a bee.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney”]

“We were concerned for the future of our business, but also the future of our environment.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I always felt like there was more out there.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I was kind of addicted to other kinds of cultures.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney”]

“It seemed like a very simple, and yet impactful way to make change.”

“That’s when my entrepreneur idea light bulb went off.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney

[spp-tweet tweet=”“We need to be connecting with people face-to-face.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“I would question myself, but never my motivation.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“It’s amazing how people react to your motivation, confidence, and passion.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”“The biggest power we have in this country is where we spend our money.” Kristy Lynn Allen, @BeezKneezHoney”]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

115, Anushka Ratnayake, myAgro | How to Move Smallholder Farmers out of Poverty

Anushka Ratnayake of myAgro uses a combination of savings, inputs and training to increase the income of smallholder farmers.

As a social entrepreneur, Anushka Ratnayake has seen startup challenges that are not common in other regions. For example, less than a year after launching myAgro, an armed conflict broke out in Mali. A group associated with Al-Qaeda set up a new state in Northern Mali. In response, the French military launched an operation and ousted the rebels.

Anushka Ratnayake, the founder of myAgro was an early employee with Kiva. There she learned about the power of microfinance to impact poverty. She also worked with One Acre Fund where her job was to develop a repayment process for smallholder farmers. She heard from the farmers that they wanted to prepay their loan, or in other words, they were asking for help in saving money for the future.

Seventy percent of the population of Mali are smallholder farmers, most living on less than two dollars per day. The farmers have seasonal income. They have the most cash at harvest time and less cash on hand when it is time to purchase seeds and fertilizer.

myAgro sells seeds and fertilizer on layaway via a mobile phone platform. They also provide training on well-established agricultural methods. This helps smallholder farmers grow more food and increase their income.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Anushka Ratnayake

“Smallholder farmers make up 80% of the two billion people living under two-dollars per day.”

“I saw this opportunity of low yields, lots of land and a fast growing population.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘I started hacking One Acre Fund from within.’ Anushka Ratnayake, @myAgro_”]

“When you’re working a startup, everyone’s time and resources are so valuable.”

“On the side, I started working with someone on a savings program for a cow.”

“There were all doing amazing work, but no one had a savings program specifically for farmers.”

“Solving the financing problem for farmers is a key to ending poverty in our lifetime.”

“One of the reasons it’s hard to serve smallholder farmers is that they tend to need many different support mechanisms.”

“It’s really convenient for farmers to put small amounts of money aside.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We bulk purchase seeds and fertilizer and deliver it to farmers.’ Anushka Ratnayake, @myAgro_“]

“It’s that combination of financing plus delivery of inputs plus training that really gets us that increase in harvest and the increase in income that we’re seeing.”

“Farmers are increasing their harvest from 50% – 100% over a control field.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘They’re increasing their income by an average of $150.’ Anushka Ratnayake, @myAgro_”]

“There was a twelve hour period when it was unclear whether Mali would continue to exist.”

“I think social enterprises sometimes under value the impact they have on their team.”

“Our favorite day across the organization is delivery day, when farmers get their inputs.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources: