Breaking the Cycle:
A New Season for Smallholders
COVID-19 has made it more difficult than ever for smallholder farmers to invest in their futures. Now, an unprecedented initiative is underway to better equip them for this growing season, and with any luck, set them up even better for the next.
Man working in a field with a hat on

This story is an update from our COVID-19 and Smallholders news series.

For a smallholder farmer, every season’s harvest is critical to the next.

For a smallholder farmer, every season’s harvest is critical to the next. Income from this year’s crops—if there’s any left over—is quickly reinvested in the next growing season.


If they’re forced to spend what little cash they’ve got on inferior supplies, they’ll be left with a weaker harvest and a lower income for next year. 


Even if they do have income to invest, they’re understandably prone to a psychological barrier. Because they’ve always shouldered 100% of the risk, they’re reluctant to invest in growth. They end up falling back on the old practices that have kept them from getting ahead in the first place. 


It’s a vicious cycle and a tenuous balance. And COVID-19 has knocked everything out of balance—dramatically—imperiling not only farmers’ livelihoods, but also food security for the regions where they farm. 



Customized Solutions


In the wake of this crisis, however, some Bayer team members have seen an opportunity to change course. 


“Things were happening that were going to change the way we looked at agriculture,” says Arnab Das, Head of Smallholder Farming for Bayer APAC. “We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do at this point in time to help these growers sustain themselves?’” 



That’s the inspiration behind Better Life Farming Care Packages. 


Coordinating amongst partners all over the globe, Bayer is leading an effort to provide farming care packages for up to 2 million smallholders across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.


The packages are highly customized to specific needs in target areas. Some kits contain quality seeds, primarily for staple crops like rice and corn. Some consist of crop protection products. And some have both seeds and crop protection. Personal protective equipment is also included in some of the packages. 

Shield outline with hands coming through it holding kernels



Some kits contain quality seeds, primarily for staple crops like rice and corn.

Distribution began in June and will run for several months based on country growing seasons. Key partners are making sure these kits reach farmers in areas of greatest need. In India alone, more than 30 NGOs are part of the effort. 



Changing the Story

The care package initiative isn’t a standalone stop-gap measure or a hands-off gift. Without a doubt, the immediate goal is to keep farmers up and running through a potentially ruinous season. But it’s much more than that.


It’s a chance to disrupt the cycle. 


Most kits contain supplies for roughly half an acre of farming, which might not sound like much until you realize that's the equivalent of the average landholding in many regions. Intervention at the planting and growing stages with seeds and crop protection affords farmers the possibility of exponential growth at harvest time. 


Bayer’s goal is to help farmers access not only quality supplies, but also key resources in three areas: 

  1. Knowledge and training with new products and sustainable practices.
  2. Connections with markets to ensure they receive a fair price for their yields.
  3. Financing to facilitate provide access to cash at key times of the year. 

With these kinds of resources, there’s a real chance that farmers will be able to turn their trajectories around. A care package could bear the financial risk it would typically take to buy better seeds and crop protection, which might just close the loop on psychological barriers that limit farmers year-to-year. 

Lino Dias Headshot
Our aim is to help smallholder farmers become more resilient, thereby improving livelihoods, spurring economic development for their families and communities, and helping them become stronger contributors to feeding their nations.
Lino Dias
Bayer Vice President of Smallholder Farming

If by reaching out to a new customer base, Bayer can seize this moment of disruption to build in holistic support models, it might jumpstart a system that will continue to be reliable for smallholders when business returns to a more normal state. That’s a scenario that would constitute a truly sustainable livelihood for smallholders.



Better Farms, Better Lives


Care packages are only one part of Bayer’s COVID-19 response plan, “Better Farms, Better Lives,” which encompasses all of these long-term goals and more. 


This project is making a point to focus on women, who make up no less than 40% of smallholder farmers—and that number is growing. Women have historically had lower access to resources. As they play an increasingly important role in global food security, gender equity is paramount to the overall project of empowering smallholders for the future. 


The kind of wraparound support Bayer envisions isn’t possible for one company to pull off on its own. Above and beyond providing supplies, what Bayer can do is facilitate the partnerships necessary for this global effort. 

Arnab Das
There’s satisfaction in doing something that helps farmers restart their lives at a time when everything has come to a standstill. That’s what I think drives not only me but everyone who’s a part of this initiative.
Arnab Das
Head of Smallholder Farming for Bayer APAC

Through this initiative, Bayer is helping up to 2 million smallholder farmers who provide food security to tens of millions of families in vulnerable communities, at a time when they need it most. And hopefully, that’s just the beginning. 




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