It All Starts With a Seed
However, often there’s nothing ‘simple’ about the seeds which farmers sow. They’re the result of thousands of hours of work by plant breeders to create seeds which are able to survive in our changing climate, our depleted, salty or flooded soils and nourish our hungry communities.
Unified in pursuit of better seeds and higher yields, specialists in seed improvement, seed production, seed quality, agricultural chemistry and biologics, collaborate for years. Their work is truly meaningful when the seeds they produce end up in the hands of the farmers most in need of them: farmers who want quality seeds to improve and secure their yields and feed their families and others around the world.
Seeds for smallholder farmers
The importance of access to seeds for smallholder farmers is undeniable. They grow four-fifths of the food eaten in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where around 5.5 billion people live.
These farmers carry a heavy responsibility for their family and community. Yet their farms are, on average, only 20 per cent as productive as other farmers around the world. There can be many reasons for this – poor soil, weather extremes such as drought or flooding, are some of the environmental ones. Because smallholder farmers often lack resources, they cannot access the capital or the latest technologies necessary to increase their yields and thereby improve their livelihoods. They are caught up in in a cycle which is hard to break free from.
Improving access to quality seeds – and helping smallholders increase their yields and productivity – is a great place to start. Using improved, high quality seeds which offer better protection against pests and diseases and are tailored to the environmental demands of a particular climate or region can make a huge difference.
Global Seeds Sustainability Manager at Bayer Crop Science Division
It All Starts With a Seed
Listening to smallholders
Bayer is involved in multiple initiatives that focus on constructing strong relationships with smallholder farmers through capacity building and collaboration. By listening to their local needs and introducing them to approaches that will enable them to reach their farm yield potential we are helping them to protect their food security.
In order to feed its growing population, India needs to boost rice yields by nearly a third by 2025. Under the umbrella of the ‘Arize’ brand we have developed 20 rice hybrids especially tailored for the Indian market. Keen to do more, we started Project Sahyog. In the East Champaran district, in the state of Bihar, rice is the main source of income for the farming community. However awareness of improved cultivation practices, new technologies and the importance of good quality seed are very low.
To address this, Bayer is working with around 600 farming families in more than 100 villages. We’ve donated free packs of Arize 6444 hybrid rice seed to the farmers along with technical support and training on the best rice cultivation practices, such as soil nutrient and weed management. Field and harvest days, tiller shows and field visits were also carried out by specially trained field officers. Altogether we aim to reach out to 8,000 farmers in the district by 2019.
Collaborating and confidence building
Communicating with smallholder farmers has made us realize how vital it is to help them develop skills, but also safeguard local seed varieties and other genetic resources for use by future generations. Collaborating with local research institutes, gene banks and community seed initiatives, as well as farmers ensures we retain the foundations that have already been built, before constructing a future that benefits from new technology and expertise.
Bayer has a long-standing partnership with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which began in 2008 and is a flagship project. Over the past few years we have also played a key role in other global partnerships such as with The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Our partnership with ICRISAT supports the livelihood of farm families in many ways. New hybrid millet seeds deliver more yield and resistance against disease and harsh conditions. But away from the field we also prioritize trustful relationships and confidence building with the communities we’re working with.
Our relationships all start with a seed. But they blossom into much more than that.