Beatrice Band

Smallholder Effect: Realizing the Dream of Zero Hunger

In my role at Bayer, I have had the opportunity to visit growers in Africa, India and the Philippines and saw first-hand what it means to be a smallholder farmer in a developing country. The farmers’ dedication to optimizing such a small piece of land – using it to feed not only their families but their communities – is really inspiring. In challenging environments, I’ve seen farmers turn their land into successful businesses that provide a stable income and enable them to afford things like food, water, motorized vehicles, healthcare and education for their children.

I recently sat together with Jesus Madrazo, Head of Agricultural Affairs and Sustainability for Bayer, to talk with him about the power of the Smallholder Effect – the exponential social impact smallholder farmers can have in not only achieving zero hunger but also reducing poverty, improving health and spurring economic development in ways that respect communities and the environment. We talked about Bayer´s commitment to increasing access to tailored solutions, responsible sustainability practices and transformative digital tools to empower 100 million smallholder farmers by 2030.

Interview with Jesus Madrazo

Beatrice Band: What role do smallholder farmers play in shaping food security?

Jesus Madrazo: Many of us have heard the stats about how the majority of the world’s food is produced by smallholders. Simply put: they're vital to feeding a growing population. But when I think of smallholders, I think about the rural communities that they support. Often these areas are stuck in cycles of poverty that can be difficult to break, which contributes a great deal to food insecurity for millions of people.

When we partner with and empower smallholders to overcome challenges, we aren’t just benefiting that farmer or that family. We are helping make rural communities around the world stronger. We are helping develop economic opportunities in areas that really need it. And we are helping protect and renew vital natural resources in those regions.

BB: The net sum of which is...

JM: All these things combine into a foundation for stronger, healthier communities that can break out of the cycle of poverty and overcome food security issues. This is why smallholder farmers play such a critical role and why ensuring they succeed and thrive has such a multiplier effect.

BB: Bayer recently announced a commitment to empowering 100 million smallholder farmers by 2030. Tell us more about what this commitment looks like in practice.

JM: I am excited about the goal of empowering 100 million smallholders because it is so bold and because it reflects Bayer’s recognition of how important it is that we make a difference with this important group.

In practice, we must recognize that no one company can achieve a goal as big as empowering 100 million farmers alone. We must rely on partnerships and collaboration, both at the global and the hyper-local level, with others who share our vision and commitment. This is the only way to truly deliver the type of impactful solutions that will benefit smallholder farmers well into the future.

Beatrice Band, Strategic Communications Lead Bayer AG, Crop Science Division
Beatrice Band, Strategic Communications Lead Bayer AG, Crop Science Division
Beatrice Band,
Strategic Communications Lead Bayer AG, Crop Science Division

Jesus Madrazo, Head of Agricultural Affairs & Sustainability, Bayer Crop Science
Jesus Madrazo, Head of Agricultural Affairs & Sustainability, Bayer Crop Science
Jesus Madrazo,
Head of Agricultural Affairs & Sustainability, Bayer Crop Science

BB: Does that mean a shift in strategy for Bayer?

JM: Reaching this commitment requires Bayer to re-think our business at strategic and operational levels. For example, we must ensure that our industry-leading innovation engine is built to provide the types of solutions that smallholders need. We also have to think about how the expertise of our field teams, including trainings, can be transferred into an up-scaling process to reach and support such a high number of farmers. And we must leverage our position within the food value chain to ensure smallholder farmers have access to markets to sell their crops.

BB: How will Bayer deliver the type of tailored solutions needed to address the unique challenges facing smallholder farmers?

JM: The incredible diversity of the world’s smallholder community means that there can be no one-size-fits all solution. This highlights one way that our digital transformation initiative is so critical. Of course, digital farming solutions offer great promise to help each farmer at the field level. These tools can help smallholder farmers become more efficient and productive in the same way that they can help larger farmers, and I’m excited to see our FarmRise digital farming platform grow and develop.

Transforming Bayer into a cutting-edge digital organization also means making sure we have the right tools to be more responsive to our customers’ individual needs. By combining various digital platforms, monitoring tools and capabilities like machine learning, we can better understand farmers’ individual needs and challenges and work to address them in real-time through the development of new solutions.

When we partner with and empower smallholders to overcome challenges, we aren’t just benefiting that farm or that family. We are helping make rural communities around the world stronger.

Jesus Madrazo, Bayer

BB: When you think about the future of smallholder farmers, what makes you optimistic?

JM: I am optimistic for two main reasons:

One, there is a lot of momentum globally from many different people and organizations focused on helping smallholder farmers succeed. The discussion is not around whether attention should be paid to smallholders, but rather how we can best empower them to grow and thrive. This means that we can build collaborations and partnerships with other groups who share our values and bring different strengths to the table. This diverse expertise can only serve to make efforts to empower smallholders even stronger.

Second, I’m optimistic because smallholders stand to benefit most from new technologies and learnings. Larger farmers tend to already have access to agronomic knowledge, new technologies and robust markets to sell their crops. Making these things available to smallholders in the form of higher-yielding seeds, more effective crop protection, or sustainable agronomic training provides the opportunity for step-changes in their productivity, sustainability and profitability.

That’s the power of the #SmallholderEffect.

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