Bernd Naaf

Building Better Livelihoods for
Smallholder Farmers

This week, against the backdrop of the 82nd International Green Week in Berlin, industry and political leaders from around the world are gathering to discuss one of the most crucial questions of our time: how can the private sector best support the future farmers of Africa? At Bayer, this is a topic that cuts right to the heart of our mission: Science For A Better Life.

There is certainly no shortage of agricultural conferences around the world. But what makes this week’s AGCO Africa Summit in Berlin special is its view that business – together with the international development agenda – holds a key to sustainable agricultural growth.

At Bayer, we could not agree more with this proposition. Indeed, it is impossible for us to look at any aspect of modern agriculture, without considering the indispensable role that smallholder farms play.

More than 80 percent of the food that sustains families in the developing world comes from farms that are 2 hectares in size or less. These smallholder farmers number more than 500 million worldwide, and represent the vast majority of the industry as a whole and in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular. But due to a wide range of challenges, these smallholder farmers enjoy on average only 20 percent of the productivity of their counterparts in the rest of the world.

Bernd Naaf
Bernd Naaf
Bernd Naaf,
Head of Business Affairs & Communications, Crop Science Division, Bayer

Sometimes smallholder farmers are caught in a vicious cycle: because they lack scale, they cannot access the capital or the latest technologies necessary to increase their yields and thereby improve their livelihoods. As an industry, it is our obligation to explore innovative business models and solutions that can break this cycle and help smallholders grow and thrive.

The future of agriculture – and billions of people around the world – depends on it.

This is why, in keeping with the philosophy of forums like the AGCO Africa Summit, Bayer is constantly working to develop innovative solutions designed to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. We do this through a range of programs designed to help improve access to technology, know-how and markets.

For example, we have been working with farmers in Kenya over the past year to design a customized business model that leverages local partnerships across the value chain with the aim of increasing the output of their potato harvest in February 2017. As we monitor and evaluate the outcomes of this pilot, we will scale the effort by adapting this model to other farms in other regions in Kenya and beyond.

In Ethiopia, we are pioneering efforts to make an impact through Public-Private Partnerships. With our Bridging the Seed Gap project, we are helping to provide smallholder farmers with seeds of high-quality vegetable varieties through a long-term technology transfer process established by our non-profit partner Fair Planet. The project not only gives farmers greater access to new seed varieties suitable to their needs, but it also trains them on how best to use these seeds with minimal changes to their traditional agricultural practices.

Bayer is also a partner of the Farm to Market Alliance, an approach initiated by the United Nations World Food Program, with the goal to build and establish long term relationships between smallholder farmers and purchasers in developing countries. The World Food Program aims at buying food of around 10% of its annual budget directly from smallholders, while the partners in the alliance assist them getting access to markets, high quality agricultural inputs, financing and know-how, helping farmers to increase their yields and income.

These three different approaches offer first-hand proof that it is possible to break the cycle that has trapped smallholder farmers in the developing world. We can see how training, knowledge and access to new seed varieties increase farmers’ prospects for growing and selling greater crop yields. And we can see how the growth of their businesses, in turn, leads to a better quality of life for themselves and their families.

These initiatives represent small but important steps in a larger journey that has us inspired, excited and absolutely convinced of the powerful role such solutions can play in unleashing the true potential of smallholder farmers around the world.

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