Stories tagged: syngenta

“Growing Together” to Support Smallholders in Meeting SDG2.3

Doubling smallholder productivity & incomes – the theme of the #SDG2countdown this week – is at the core of Sygenta’s “Good Growth Plan“. Juan Gonzalez-Valero, Head of Public Policy and Sustainability at Syngenta tell us more. 

In Bangladesh, nearly half the population works in farming and roughly 70% of the land is used for agriculture. Smallholder farmers are critical to food security, but crop yields and family incomes are staggeringly low – roughly 40% of the country’s population lives on less than $1.25 a day and 41% of children under five are chronically undernourished. But without access to training, technology and markets, smallholders struggle to meet the demands of the country`s fast-growing population.

Developing thriving rural communities is critical if we aim to double agricultural productivity of smallholders, a major aim of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger by 2030. It’s also one of the six targets of Syngenta`s Good Growth Plan. Our commitment is to reach 20 million smallholders by 2020 and enable them to increase agricultural productivity by 50%.

It’s in this context that we co-created a smallholder outreach program called Growing Together with Voluntary Services Organization (VSO), a leading international development NGO. The program brings together Syngenta`s global agriculture expertise with local know-how to help improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and support their communities. Our partnership with VSO is proving to be very successful with measurable benefits for rural communities and our volunteering employees.

In Bangladesh, nearly half the population works in farming. Photo courtesy of VSO & Syngenta.

In Bangladesh, nearly half the population works in farming. Photo courtesy of VSO & Syngenta.

The Growing Together program has already delivered impressive results. Since 2014, we`ve helped triple the net income of 10,000 smallholder farmers. We`ve done this by establishing 230 farmer groups where smallholder farmers and landless labourers meet monthly to discuss the social and agricultural issues, and input some of their profits into saving accounts, which to date have accrued over US$180,000. These farmer groups have also made progress on shared social issues in areas such as child marriage, water and sanitation and access to education.

An aspect of the program is the placement of Syngenta employees from across the world into the heart of poor rural Bangladeshi communities. They share modern agricultural techniques with smallholders and help them gain access to financial services such as savings accounts and loans as well as sell their crops in national and international markets. In return, volunteers gain valuable insights into the needs, challenges and aspirations of smallholder farming communities.

The project framework is based on the following three pillars:
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Pillar one: Community development

The formation of community groups plays an important role for developing smallholder capabilities. Members share a common vision, meet regularly, own a group savings account for collective investments and resilience and have defined roles and responsibilities.

The most marginalized people in the groups are ultra-poor farmers, many of whom are women and do not own land. Specific grants for the ultra-poor are provided to support and include them alongside ongoing group activities. Each group has at least 30% female membership.

Community groups meet monthly to discuss the social and agronomic issues that are affecting them. This year groups have shared social issues in areas such as child marriage, water and sanitation and access to education. The groups discuss these challenges and work together to find solutions.

Achievements to date:

  • 230 farmer groups and 45 youth groups have been formed
  • Combined, the savings of all groups within the program now totals $181,250 USD
  • 91% meeting attendance rate throughout the year
  • 91% of participating women have higher confidence in modern farming practices
  • 32% of participating women say they have increased decision making power and influence within their families.

Pillar two: Farmer training on good agriculture practice

At the beginning of the program, only 7% of farmers in the target communities had access to agricultural advice services. So we developed a training framework that includes ‘learning from peers’ approach achieved through demonstration plots in which nominated lead farmers share new farming techniques learned from agronomic experts.

Demonstration plots allowed farmers to test new techniques in a risk free environment and directly compare progress with their own fields.

Achievements to date:

  • 230 demonstration plots had been set up by January 2017
  • 7,000 farmers (2,240 female) have received agronomy training in rice, vegetable and potato cultivation since the start of the project
    • 96% of farmers report that they are now proactively practicing the new farming techniques, including correct and safe use of agro-inputs
  • Farmers from the Mithapukur region now cropping a mix of rice, potato and vegetable recorded an average increase in net income of 50% from 2015 (average US$912 in 2016 versus US$613 in 2015) and a tripling of net income since 2014

Pillar three: Value chain development and Farmer Centers

The third pillar of the project is to ensure that market systems are conducive to smallholders earning a sustainable income from their crops. Six Farmer Centers have now been established providing a physical space for farmer groups to aggregate their crops. The centers provide access to a broad range of services including rental of machinery, access to inputs (such as seeds) and finance, trading support and access to affordable storage so that farmers can sell their crops when the price is best.

The Farmer Centers also offer support and training on how best to engage with agricultural supply chains and negotiate mutually favorable terms.

Achievements to date:

  • 100% of participating farmers are now using services provided by the Farmer Centers
  • 65% of project farmers are engaged in national and international contract farming through the Farmer Centre aggregation service
  • In 2016 Growing Together rice farmers in Birampur district increased net incomes by an average close to 20%, while potato farmers in Mithapukur more than doubled their average net incomes.

Growing Together has proved to be a successful development model and the program now aims to scale the approach to reach over 100,000 smallholder farmers by mid-2018. More information about the program can be found at: http://story.vsointernational.org/Growing-Together/

Visit www.farmingfirst.org/SDGs for quizzes, videos, infographics & more on SDG 2.3. Share your stories on doubling productivity & incomes using #Ag4SDGs and join the campaign!

With a billion people hungry, how can we feed the world?

The world’s population has now surpassed the seven billion mark and is predicted to reach nine billion by 2050. With a billion people already hungry, this raises the question– how can we feed them and the billions still to come?

This was the question being addressed last week at Economist Conferences “Feeding the World” summit in Geneva on 8th February. The day saw some of the most respected names from agribusiness, Government, international agencies and the scientific community come together to generate fresh solutions to critical food security challenges.

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Some of the key discussions at the summit centered around the role of public-private partnerships as a key mechanism for advancing agriculture to meet global challenges in food security. Developing new crops and increasing crop yields through innovative research and technology will also play a crucial role in increasing agricultural productivity.

Not only is the rising global population putting a strain on our world’s resources, climate change is threatening farmers’ ability to produce enough food to meet this growing demand. The food price hikes of 2008, hundreds of millions of people were pushed into poverty, sparking riots across much of the world. Governments became alerted to what might lie ahead and rich nations, including China, South Korea and Japan began buying and leasing huge quantities of foreign land for the production of food whilst some countries either banned or limited food exports to safeguard their own supplies. Then at the start of 2011, world food prices reached a new historic peak, leaving millions more people hungry.

The problem is not going to go away and these issues need to be addressed now. As José Graziano da Silva, the newly appointed Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said in his opening speech, “To build a food secure 2050 we need to start now”. He then went on to say, “With regard to the question we are asking today, it is HOW and not IF we can feed the world in 2050”.

The morning moved on to speech given by Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestlé, who emphasised how the private sector can have an important role to play in addressing the global food crisis. He discussed how his company is working with approximately 600,000 farmers in innovative partnerships worldwide to provide technical assistance and financial support. This theme was repeated later in the day in a panel debate, which included Jim Borel of DuPont, Juan Ferreira of Monsanto and Ellen Gustafson of The 30 Project. Ferreira spoke about a public-private partnership called Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), which is using advanced plant breeding and biotechnology to develop more drought tolerant maize varieties. Borel also highlighted the importance of technology, but said, “We must strike the right balance between new technology and better practices using existing technologies”.

Speaking at the conference, Kavita Prakash-Mani of Syngenta said that companies from many different sectors can all play their part in helping to ensure food security by “providing more training, better inputs, access to finance, access to better storage and transport and better prices for crops”.

Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Oragnisation (WTO) later gave a speech on open trade and food security. Speaking about international trade and the important role it plays in global food security, Lamy said, “By fostering greater competition, trade allows food to be produced where this can be most efficiently done”. Referring to the export restrictions during the 2008 food price crisis, Lamy described these as “starve-thy-neighbour” policies, which he argued brought “importing countries to their knees to plead for food security”. His final remarks urged us to get our policy mix right on food production and on trade to help address food security challenges.

In the afternoon, there was another panel debate, this time on the role of science and technology in increasing agricultural productivity. The panel consisted of Nina Fedorofff of Pennsylvania State University, Thomas Lumpkin of CIMMYT and Howard Shapiro of Mars Inc who discussed how technology can help increase crop yields by 1.5% over the next 40 years to feed mankind adequately. “Science does hold the solution” said Fedoroff, “but the question is whether we use it”.

China– the world’s most populous nation and the second largest economy – has become heavily dependent on food imports from countries such as the US, Brazil and Argentina to help meet the consumption demands of its newly-rich citizens. Despite this, China has enough arable land and water to feed its projected population of 1.34 billion in 2050, even with current available technologies. Jikun Huang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences talked us through how China’s agriculture trading patterns are evolving as its agricultural sector modernizes and becomes more productive, urging that “China will be 99% self-sufficient for food by 2020”.

During the “Feeding the World” summit, Farming First filmed a number of interviews with speakers, including Jim Borel of DuPont, Nina Fedoroff of Pennsylvania State University and KavitaPrakash Mani of Syngenta. Video highlights can be seen on The Economist Conference website and longer versions of the interviews will soon be available on Farming First TV.

Syngenta and CIMMYT Partner to Help Farmers Combat Crop Losses

As part of GCARD 2010, Farming First hosted a session entitled ‘Better Benefiting the Poor through Public-Private Partnerships for Innovation and Action.’ Within the discussions, our panel of experts addressed several case studies that present different ways that partnerships have helped to empower smallholder farmers around the world.

Marco Ferroni – Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) in 2009 developed a two-year public-private partnership between Syngenta and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to rapidly identify and map genetic markers for use in wheat resistance breeding against Ug99 stem rust, a fungal disease which can cause devastating crop losses.

The project, funded by the Foundation, will combine Syngenta’s plant genetic profiling expertise with the strengths of CIMMYT’s extensive field research to develop a genetic map of wheat stem rust resistance. This will culminate in the development of wheat varieties that can better resist the disease. The results from this project will contribute directly to the global efforts to combat stem rust, which are coordinated by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative coordinated by Cornell University. The marker data arising from the research will be published.

This important collaboration brings together complementary skills and addresses a pressing need of farmers in many developing countries.  Ug99 stem rust, which first emerged in Uganda in 1999, is caused by the fungus Puccinia graminis.  It is currently spreading across Africa, Asia and the Middle East with potential to spread further, posing a serious risk to wheat, the world’s third most important food crop.

Along with rice, wheat is a major food crop and is crucial for global food security – it provides 500 kilocalories of food energy per capita per day in China and India, and can provide up to 50 percent of daily calorie uptake in Central and West Asia or North African countries. Wheat yields need to rise 1.6 percent each year to reach required global production levels by 2020, yet investments in wheat technology have lagged far behind those for other cereals.

The scientific objectives of this project are:

1) To identify, characterize and map Durable Plant Resistance Quantitative Trait Loci conferring tolerance to stem rust resistance in wheat.

2) To identify molecular markers flanking the chromosomal regions containing these durable genes to be subsequently used in marker assisted trait selection.

3) To characterise the Sr2 gene complex and understand how this complex of gene(s) interacts with other important genes in wheat.

Operation Pollinator: Helping Farmers Preserve Biodiversity and Secure Food Supply in Europe

Pollinating insects are crucial for many natural habitats and the production of the majority of food crops. However, the number of pollinating insects has declined significantly across Europe, and the rest of the world, which exacerbates an already insecure food supply. According to a EU-funded research project, pollination services provided by insects are worth EUR 153 billion a year globally, accounting to 9.5% of the total value of the world’s entire agricultural food production.

Operation Pollinator is a 5-year EUR 1 million program, launched by Syngenta in July 2009, to provide essential habitat and food sources for pollinating insects across Europe. The project aims to boost the numbers of pollinating insects in order to protect biodiversity and improve crop yields and crop quality.

The programme is based on the success of Operation Bumblebee in the UK where, within three years, the project increased bee populations up to 600%, increased butterfly population 12-fold, increased other insects by more than 10-fold and helped contribute to the regeneration of rare species.

Operation Pollinator is currently being run in France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the UK.  The project uses scientific research findings to develop site-specific ways of creating habitats alongside the working farming environment. Additionally, careful site planning and management can significantly reduce soil erosion and help to protect valuable water resources from soil and nutrient degradation.

This initiative shows how farmers have an important role to play in maintaining natural habitats and other ecosystem services to protect biodiversity.

Kenyan Smallholder Farmers to be Offered Crop Insurance

Following a successful pilot phase for the new insurance scheme developed by UAP in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation, Kenyan farmers will be able to purchase insurance against the effects of drought and excessive rain.

The program is the first of its kind. Here are more details:

Under the novel system, farmers register their purchases by sending an SMS to a phone number provided by UAP. The weather stations then monitor the weather and inform the insurance company of impending crop failure and subsequent compensation. Each farmer is then informed via SMS about the payouts. Costs are kept down through the use of automated weather stations which avoid the need for expensive field visits to farms to ascertain risk and loss.   This makes the insurance feasible for both the farmer and the insurance company.

The first pay-out to farmers affected by drought happened in Nanyuki last week. UAP Head of Marketing and Distribution Joseph Kamiri said that the company had developed the product in response to a great need identified while developing agriculture insurance products for the Kenyan market in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation.

The early success of the programme has given it the go-ahead to be released across the country in 2010, said Rose Goslinga, insurance coordinator of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya:

Traditionally, smallholder farmers have been totally dependent on the vagaries of weather. In times of drought they lost their crops and their investment in seed and fertilizer.  To make matters worse, farmers then had to pay for a second lot of seed to enable them to replant. But because they had not obtained a crop, they had little money, if any, to repurchase the seed.

In recent months, Kenya has been hit by severe drought, so this new programme will likely go a long ways toward helping impacted farmers get back on their feet.