Rayuwa: Translating John Deere’s Purpose into Practice

“We work with, fund, and have seen lots of other programs. We have never seen anything like Rayuwa. It is truly integrated.  The progress the Rayuwa team has made in just a few months and the level of engagement by the community is incredible.
This is the standard.”  

— JACQUES TAYLOR, Managing Director, John Deere Sub-Saharan Africa 

John Deere, PYXERA Global, the Government of Nigeria, and rural Nigerian communities share a vision—to achieve a food secure and prosperous Nigeria. To translate purpose into practice, John Deere and PYXERA Global created the Rayuwa program.

Rayuwa’s mission is to improve the livelihoods and resilience of Nigerian smallholder farmers—by investing in the farmers of “today and tomorrow.” Its pillars—resilient agriculture, quality education, and leveraged talent from John Deere—are grounded in seven years of partnership, collaboration, learning, and adaptation between John Deere and PYXERA Global on the JIVA project in Rajasthan, India.

Rayuwa’s mission is to improve the livelihoods and resilience of Nigerian smallholder farmers—by investing in the farmers of ‘today and tomorrow.’

In Africa’s most populous country, Rayuwa’s resilient agriculture initiative targets the capability of current farmers—expanding the application of agricultural best practices and increasing their ability to farm as a high-performing business. Its accountable education initiative is rooted in the evidence that educated farmers are more productive and more capable of weathering shocks. Therefore, the program aims to enhance learning outcomes in schools to maximize the potential earnings of the next generation of farmers. Finally, Rayuwa leverages the talent and innovative spirit of John Deere employees to further its mission, while providing experiences that support the professional development of John Deere employees.

In October 2019, together with the participating communities, the partners celebrated the launch of Rayuwa and its commitment to those linked to the land. Rayuwa, meaning “life” in the local Hausa language, now begins a multi-generational journey toward resilience for Nigeria’s agriculture and human capital systems.

Strategic Investment

In the past 50 years, more than US$1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. From the absence of improvement in Africa’s human development indicators has sprouted mounting evidence that strategic investments in human capital and enterprise development—rather than traditional aid—is the answer.

Now more than ever before, the private sector is waking up to the power and responsibility of its role in society. As outlined by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, corporations are being called to embrace the link between their purpose and profits. The latest commitment by members of the Business Roundtable illustrates how forward-thinking companies are embarking on a journey to align their bottom lines with their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. In doing so successfully, corporations can plough the path to development in the communities and sectors where they operate.

While the path is uncharted for many, John Deere’s embrace of ESG reporting and its approach to corporate citizenship offer critical examples of how companies can effectively and authentically translate their purpose into practice. John Deere’s higher purpose is an unfailing commitment to those linked to the land. Embedded in this 182-year-old tractor company’s foundational success factors is civic and environmental stewardship and extraordinary global talent. Through its corporate citizenship strategy, Deere & Co. drives solutions to world hunger, education, and development in the communities where the company operates—all supported by employees volunteering their time to enhance these initiatives. Rayuwa is a world class example of how foresight and progressive commitment from the business units of John Deere can tangibly break the cycle of poverty, hunger, and vulnerability that stifles opportunity for a better life in rural farming communities.

John Deere’s embrace of ESG reporting and its approach to corporate citizenship offer critical examples of how companies can effectively and authentically translate their purpose into practice.

As the Financial Times recently highlighted, in the face of mounting uncertainty for business—the latest inverted yield curve and lumpy headwinds in the forecast—there is significant work to be done to create an enabling environment that incentivizes companies to unleash their talent and their purpose for the benefit of society. Yet as companies begin to tangibly invest in tightening the link between their purpose and profit, they too will help loosen the grip of hunger, disease, violence, and inequity. For those looking for guidance—look to Rayuwa.

A Standard for Creating Business and Social Value


“What’s remarkable is that Rayuwa doesn’t impose external methods, it takes the local model of farming and improves on it.”

         — JACQUES TAYLOR, Managing Director, John Deere Sub-Saharan Africa

Since 2012, John Deere has partnered with PYXERA Global to improve the livelihoods and resiliency of smallholder farmers and the communities in which they live, by investing in the farmers of today and tomorrow. The partners focus on smallholder farmers because over 5 billion people—2/3 of the global population—live in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where smallholder farmers manage 80 percent of the farmland. Their success is essential to feeding the world, which is projected to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050. However, smallholder farmers are the most vulnerable to climate change, market fluctuations, and bio-ecological shocks. They frequently lack access to affordable, quality education, which is essential to human capital development. Such uncertainty nourishes a dangerous global trend, where farmers and their families leave their communities for a chance at a “better life” in the city.

The partners focus on smallholder farmers because of over 5 billion people—2/3 of the global population—live in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where smallholder farmers manage 80 percent of the farmland.

Rayuwa is a strategic investment in Nigeria because in Sub-Saharan Africa there is no greater challenge, need, or opportunity to enhance the capability of smallholder farmers than that presented in Nigeria. Ninety percent of all food produced in Africa’s largest economy, for Africa’s largest population, is grown by smallholder farmers. However, while agriculture is a critical component of the economy and the primary source of livelihood for most Nigerians, the sector operates well below its potential. Approximately 45 percent of people living in rural communities live below the poverty line and 3.7 million people in the country’s north and west are food insecure. As Nigeria assumes an increasingly important position in the world, enhancing the livelihoods and resilience of smallholder farmers has never been more critical. For John Deere, a company whose very purpose is to serve those linked to the land, investing in enhancing the lives of these farmers is both purpose-driven and aligned to broader business goals.

Beginning with the Joint Initiative for Village Advancement (JIVA) in India and now Rayuwa, John Deere and PYXERA Global aim to reverse the tide of desiccated rural communities. The partners understand that farmers are often born into farming families and, where many programs focus only on the “farmers of today,” there is no guarantee that the knowledge sown by a parent will be reaped by their children. Therefore, in addition to working with farmers to improve agricultural practices and ultimately profitability, savings, and reinvestment back into the farm, JIVA and Rayuwa also strategically invest in the potential of the next generation of farmers by ensuring sustainable, quality education is available and accessible. The multigenerational and integrated nature of Rayuwa, combined with its authentic commitment to partnering with the farming communities and leveraging John Deere’s extraordinary global talent to enhance the initiative, elevates the vision and results of Rayuwa into a class of its own.

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