An Eagle Scout, junior national water polo player and Information Systems graduate who worked with smallholder paddy farmers full-time before taking on a second job heading Digital Inclusion and Sustainability at an ICT company connected to half the population of my country. Developed an agriculture advisory service that serves 20% to 33% of the country's farmers (depending on your stats) - or 366,000 at last count, charging 1 LKR ($0.0065) a day - the holy grail, an agriculture advisory service farmers are willing to pay for. 90% of Power Users make on-farm changes according to the advice.
Thanks for the kind comment and interest Corina Murafa . In my experience all farmers have a decent idea of where they would start spending their next dollar if they were able to move beyond basic expenses and income insecurity. With our very first group of farmers I saw this happening much sooner than I expected. I was preparing an ambitious proposal where the farmer society itself would have a chance to own "sweat equity" in a joint venture to process our rice, thus extending ourselves further down the value chain. Even despite the short time we had been working together at the time, the farmers quickly grasped what I was proposing, and handed me a letter of support for the application, in which they went so far as to propose an up-front investment in the project, despite their humble means.
More generally I have seen families first invest in education for their kids; then in diversifying their income streams be it with other crops, livestock, or other businesses; or investing in machinery or expanding their cultivation extents with hired labour.
One major aim when starting out was to prove that there was a viable business working with these farmers, attracting more competition at the farm gate so that they could capture more of the profit. That certainly did happen, as we saw several new entrants who gave us too reasons to focus on raising our game in aspects other than just funneling the maximum value back to farmers, pushing us to improve our packaging, focus more on our (very loyal) customers, etc. Therefore in one sense we can declare "mission accomplished" in fostering more competition at the farm gate, and choice for customers, with competitors whose product mixes and approaches cater to different segments.