Tomas Zaborowski

Empowering Smallholder Farmers to Safeguard the Future

Great things often come in small packages. Seeds are one example. Smallholder farmers are another. Collectively smallholder farmers cultivate around three-quarters of the world’s farmland. To make this more real – smallholder farmers grow four-fifths of the food consumed in developing countries.

They do so against tough odds. Worldwide, around 450 million smallholder farmers are designated ‘vulnerable’ to pests, crop disease, water scarcity as well as fluctuating prices, lack of finance, limited access to markets and lack farming knowledge.

At Bayer, we believe it is crucial that smallholder farmers can access the latest farming advances – and in an understandable, affordable and sustainable way. Our rice and millet seed businesses (rice, cotton, millet and mustard) in Asia reach 2.5 million smallholder farmers. However we are determined to expand our support to even more smallholder farmers around the world.

We do this in three ways: Commitments, Accessibility, Choice.

Commitments

We are committed to providing seed varieties that are tailored for smallholder farmers using their insights and our expertise. This encompasses key activities and learnings such as plant breeding, seed distribution and adoption and intellectual property management.

We are determined to give smallholder farmers more tools to help them build a brighter future – enabling them to overcome many challenges.

Tomas Zaborowski, Global Seeds Sustainability Manager
Tomas Zaborowski, Global Seeds Sustainability Manager
Tomas Zaborowski,
Global Seeds Sustainability Manager at Bayer Crop Science Division

Accessibility

It is vital that better seeds are available and suited for smallholder farmers. Our ‘Product Advancement Process’ tests hybrids and varieties in different seasons, and geographies as part of their development cycle, long before launch. Numerous protocols ensure our seeds meet international standards when it comes to biosafety, local suitability and quality. This means we create the best possible seeds designed for smallholder farmers’ conditions – but how do we ensure they end up in the right hands and the fields for which they were created?

We have numerous programs to explain the benefits of hybrids and share best practice with smallholder farmers so they can access and use the seeds to their full potential.

For example, smallholder farmers in the desert states of Rajasthan and Haryana, India, have struggled for many years to farm their near-barren land. We created millet hybrid PA9072 which is capable of yielding 25-30% bigger harvests than the local products and farm-saved seed previously used. To help farmers understand how effective the hybrid seed is we planted 500 demonstration fields so 9,000 farmers can see the results themselves.

Providing seeds is only one step in our help – the same project also delivered numerous other benefits for smallholder farmers – for example sharing crop knowledge and introducing farmers to new methods and technology. This all requires smallholder farmers to trust us of course.

Supporting smallholder farmers
Supporting smallholder farmers
Our rice and millet businesses reach 1.7 million smallholder farmers. We keep looking to expand our support to even more smallholder farmers around the world.

Choice

A key part of creating trust is respecting that smallholder farmers are the experts when it comes to their own businesses. We are there to provide knowledge and offer the best possible solutions – but they know their land and conditions better than anyone. So whilst our seeds are extensively tested to ensure they are fit for purpose, the final decision on what to use rests with the farmer.

To help us communicate and inform smallholder farmers about what we’re doing, we tailor our marketing activities, often using traditional and local media. This includes advertisements, local-language brochures and demonstration sites so smallholder farmers can see how the seeds can be used and the results. We have established dedicated distribution channels and agro-dealer networks to make sure that seeds are accessible to everyone, even those farmers in remote areas.

Our seeds are also sold in quantities most appropriate for different locations. For instance, smallholder farmers in rice in the northern provinces of Vietnam have landholdings on average of 1.2 ha and transplanting remains the dominant method of cultivation – so we offer smaller 800-gram seed packs. In India, we produce larger seed packs, weighing from 1kg to 5kg, to meet the different needs of farmers. The seed packaging is written in local languages and includes clear explanations on Directions of Use such as, soil analysis, land preparation, seedbed preparation, soaking, etc.

Providing seed insurance linked to cumulative rainfall is another way we help smallholder farmers. In India, for example, we helped design insurance policies to protect farmers against the impact of monsoon rains failure on yields.

A big part to play

smallholder farmer standing in a field
smallholder farmer standing in a field
Smallholder farmers are the experts when it comes to their own businesses, they know their land better than anyone.

By working closely with smallholder farmers we can help harness the collective value of their small parcels of land in ways which can make a huge difference locally and globally. By helping them get the most out of their land we are securing a better future for their families and communities. We are also contributing to sustainable approaches, caring for the environment, economics and communities enabling the next generations of smallholder farmers to keep producing the food they enjoy.

Empowering the current generation of smallholder farmers helps secure the future of the next generations.

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Thriving for Change - Championing Agriculture for a New Generation