In 2018, Bayer launched ‘Better Life Farming’ in India, an initiative to provide smallholder farmers with access to modern agri-inputs, farming advisory and training on good agricultural practices. Participant farmers achieved doubling of crop yields, tripling of farm incomes and got an opportunity to practice agri-entrepreneurship and earn additional incomes via the Better Life Farming centers. After the successful implementation of this initiative in Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, Bayer has expanded the initiative to West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
Better Life Farming (BLF) is a global multi-stakeholder alliance that works with partners across the agri-value chain to support smallholder farmers in developing economies to increase crop yields and farm incomes. The alliance has global partners that include Bayer with its expertise in seeds, crop protection, and agronomy; IFC, the development finance institution for impact assessment; and Netafim for drip irrigation technologies. In India, the alliance works with additional local partners: Yara Fertilisers for soil and nutrient management; DeHaat, AgriBazaar, and Big Basket as off-takers; Tata Trusts for improving rural livelihoods and promoting self-reliant agri-entrepreneurship; and Axis Bank for financing.
West Bengal’s first BLF center has been set up in Bankura district in collaboration with Shamayita Math, a social organization that has been working with smallholder farmers since the last ten years to facilitate modern agriculture through new technologies. They are also engaged in a seed production program through the participation of registered farmers under the government’s seed certification department). Bayer plans to set up 20 BLF centers in West Bengal with an aim to support 10,000+ farmers.
“The Better Life Farming initiative has helped smallholder farmers enhance crop yields and earn sustainable incomes. By 2025, we aim to empower 5,000 rural agri-entrepreneurs to serve 2.5 million smallholder farmers in India,” said Rohit Maini, Grower Engagement Lead, Bayer Crop Science, India.
Speaking about the partnership, Mother Rishi Riddha Anahata, Secretary, Shamayita Math, said, “At Shamayita Math, one of our missions is ‘Helping farmers to win in all areas of their life’. By joining forces with Bayer, we aim to improve rural livelihoods through market-oriented interventions that focus on self-reliant agri-entrepreneurship and facilitate modern agriculture through new technologies. This partnership intends to support over 10,000 farming families and unleash tremendous value for marginalized farmers and empower women smallholders in the state as producers and entrepreneurs.”
Bhagirath Pal, an agri-graduate from Bankura district and an agri-entrepreneur of a BLF center said, “Better Life Farming has offered farmers in West Bengal with access to high-quality inputs and crop advisory. It has helped me gain confidence as an agri-entrepreneur and I am now supporting over 4,000 other vegetable & cereal farmers on disease management and post-harvest management.
Bayer’s Better Life Farming initiative has promoted clusters of rural agri-entrepreneurs running their own Better Life Farming centers. Each center caters to ~500 farmers from five to six villages nearby with access to agri-inputs, crop advisory, irrigation best practices and new technologies. The centers also support aggregation & sale of farm produce and operate Better Life farms to train farmers on good agricultural practices. Further, the centers provide employment opportunities for local youth. Another key objective for Bayer is integrating women smallholders into mainstream farming, by economically and socially empowering them as farmers and entrepreneurs running their own Better Life Farming centers.