October 06, 2023

Sharing knowledge, growing confidence and expanding farmer connections

In Uttar Pradesh, India, the Yara Leadership Academy supported 250 agricultural input retailers in leveling up their business skills to reach more farmers and help grow their businesses. Through the Plus-One program, retailers nominated female family members to join them in completing the program, empowering more women to join in growing successful businesses and prosperous farming communities.

Yara Leadership Academy participant -  Satpal Singh
Yara Leadership Academy participant -  Satpal Singh

“I want to keep serving the farmers and take care of them and their needs,” says Satpal Singh, an agro-retailer in Uttar Pradesh, India. “Sometimes they might lack farm and crop knowledge, so we help guide them with the right information.”  



Satpal gathers with farmers to share agronomic knowledge and provide inputs to help them make the most of their land. To support the network of retailers known as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) succeed in reaching more farmers while growing their businesses, Yara has launched the Yara Leadership Academy (YLA). Managed through the Yara Africa and Asia Social Impact program, YLA aims to address the Prosperity pillar of Yara’s ambition of Growing a Nature-Positive Food Future.  

The Social Impact initiative as a whole is focused on digitizing farming communities, advancing equity and inclusion in farmer groups by introducing more youth and women to farming, and aiding in local agronomic development and food security. 

“Our MSME channel is what’s keeping the farming community alive,” says Charles Midamba, a Yara Social Impact Officer in Nairobi, Kenya. “Both through continuous provision of product, and through sharing knowledge to support for the farming communities.” 


Empowering retailers leads to prosperous farm communities 

Yara chose to launch the YLA program for MSMEs because it leverages Yara’s existing network and resources, creating swift and enduring impact. Empowering retailers is highly effective, as these retail businesses are the key point of trust and contact for farmers. MSMEs are also important ambassadors for Yara, who can help improve efficiency and sustainability of food production while growing prosperity among farmers and their communities.  


Yara Leadership Academy participant -  Satpal Singh


YLA launched its first pilot in 2022. The 15-week, MBA-style course is conducted online, with a series of learning modules, videos, and networking opportunities built into the program. Once established, the model developed for YLA is highly scalable and flexible. Yara hopes to expand the YLA program to reach 100,000 MSMEs by 2030 by taking advantage of existing digital channels with these partners.  

In the Kenya and India pilot programs, 972 graduates gained valuable skills in budgeting, working capital, inventory management, digital marketing, and staff and customer relations. The YLA pilot has been a success in meeting the program’s goals - but it took some innovative choices along the way to make the program as inclusive as intended. 


Plus-One: Designing a program for everyone  

“We realized that less than 1% of the applicants were women, yet we had targeted that in India we’d have at least 20% of the retailers be female,” says Frida Wathome, Yara’s Social Impact Monitoring and Evaluation Manager. “Designing for participation of women would be ground-shifting in a place where they were not visible at all in the local economic space.” 

To enhance participation of girls and women in YLA, male retailers were encouraged to nominate a female family member to accompany them as their “Plus-One.” Through the Plus-One program, 226 girls and women were able to graduate from the program. Satpal Singh nominated his 14 year-old daughter, Shivani. 


Yara Leadership Academy participant -  Shivani


“I felt very proud and honored that my father considers me capable enough that he wants to take me into his business as a 'plus-one,'” says Shivani. “Through this program a lot of things changed in my life. I feel my confidence level has increased. I can make a difference in my family business and do whatever I want in this world.” 

“When I connected my daughter with Yara Leadership Academy, I had high hopes. Now I can feel and see that she has changed to a great extent.” 

Satpal Singh


Yara Leadership Academy participants -  Satpal and Shivani



Growing a Nature-Positive Food Future by Growing Networks and Growing Markets 

YLA’s impact extends beyond the inclusion of more women in businesses. It has had measurable benefits for Satpal’s business bottom line, too. 

“I really enjoyed and learned from the Yara Leadership Academy,” he says. He names inventory management and money management as key business skills that he has improved since the program. But most importantly, he has learned to grow better relationships with other retailers and with the farmers he serves. 

“We continuously keep talking to our farmers. This makes a farmer feel connected to us through thick or thin. And we keep associating them with our programs and they keep associating us with theirs. When you're continuously in touch with the farmers they trust you more.” 


Yara Leadership Academy participant -  Satpal Singh


That relationship building has already paid off. By improving his use of digital media, Satpal is able to reach more farmers and provide them with hyperlocal crop solutions. For example, Satpal explains, “Before YLA we had around 10-15 potato farmers. Today we have 35-40 farmers only for potatoes. Similarly for sugarcane, earlier we had 40-50. Today this number is around 150.” 

Satpal and Shivani see great potential for the growth of YLA across more regions of India. They recognize the importance of keeping everyone connected to make the greatest impact in their community and advance the use of more sustainable practices to produce food. “We would like Yara Leadership Academy to grow as much as possible and provide more and more info to shopkeepers,” says Satpal. 

“Like we have a pulse, our Earth has one too,” says Shivani. “And it is our responsibility to protect and save our Earth. Earlier what I saw as a challenge I started seeing as an opportunity. There is nothing in this world that is not possible for me to do.”