We’ve all seen those sad commercials on TV of malnourished children in Africa. There’s sad music playing, it’s tugging at our heart strings, and the goal is to get us to donate money (which will go towards food, water, etc.). And there’s nothing wrong with that, it definitely has its place! But what’s more sustainable than simply giving someone these things is solving the root of the problem, so they can pull themselves out of poverty and end the cycle once and for all.

If you don’t already know, I recently started working for a non-profit, myAgro, that works to lift smallholder farmers out of poverty in a way that I believe is very sustainable. This organization is unique because the founder actually took time with her feet on the ground to observe and interview farmers on what they actually wanted. She found out that the reason farmers are in poverty isn’t because they don’t have money, they do! But they don’t have a way to save their money. So they harvest their crops, get some money, but then spend it throughout the year so by the time planting season comes, they don’t have enough money for the fertilizer and seeds they need (this is when we would look at them and say “these poor farmers just need money”).

You might be thinking “can’t they just go to a bank or micro-finance institution?” but the reality is that only 3% of smallholder farmers have access to these resources. So that’s where myAgro comes in. They let farmers save up for high-quality fertilizer and seeds by purchasing on layaway using a mobile platform, so that whenever they have a little money to put aside, they put it towards saving up for their planting package. And it works! Farmers who use myAgro end up with much bigger harvests and much larger incomes. You can look at all the stats here.

Contrary to the belief that poor people just need money, myAgro treats farmers with dignity by believing that they can finance themselves. These farmers are feeding the world, so it’s about time we help them out of poverty in a sustainable way. And, of course, remember the quote: “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

It’s time to change how we tackle poverty.