Bayer, IFC Led Alliance to Help Chilli, Tomato Growers

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Nearly 2,000 small-time chilli farmers around Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and tomato cultivators in and around Ranchi in Jharkhand can look forward to a better future with a consortium of Indian and global firms specialising in diverse aspects of agriculture value chain coming up with a novel initiative to help improve their returns from farming. Called “Better Life Farming (BLF)” alliance, the initiative put together among others by Bayer and International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, hopes to work with the subsistence farmers to help them with better agronomic practices so that their yield can improve substantially, even though the consortium has been working with a small band of farmers since 2016.  It started in 2016, as a small pilot involving 20 chilli farmers from 20 villages around Varanasi. The farmers received guidance from experts associated with the project on the use of best agricultural practices and the latest technologies to grow green chillies. As a result, the farmers were able to double their yields and triple their farm incomes, said Srinath Bala, Bayer’s head of marketing for South Asia region, said during a round table with media persons here. Unlike chilli farmers in Andhra Pradesh, their counterparts in UP have little access to technology and as a result, the productivity levels of their fields are very low, Bala said. According to him, the project officially launched in India on was part of the global BLF alliance opened in April this year to help small holder farmers in developing countries. Other partners involved in the initiative are Netafim, a firm specialising in micro-irrigation, and Yara Fertilisers, which specialises in speciality nutrients.

Last year, the project was commercially scaled up to include 250 farmers. To help the farmers get better price for their produce the alliance roped in DeHaat, an agri-tech start-up specialising in procurement of agricultural produce and Bigbasket, an e-tailer. In 2018, the handholding will be extended to more than 2,000 farmers — 1570 chilli farmers in 122 villages in Varanasi, Mirzapur and Sonbadra districts and 500 tomato farmers in in Jharkhand. The alliance also has plans to support small and marginal farmers growing corn in the near future. “For us, this is not a CSR project, but a commercial activity,” Bala said. At the same time, the farmers were not compelled to use the products and services of the alliance partners but were instructed to use that of comparable quality, he added.

According to Shashank Kumar, founder and CEO of DeHaat, as part of the project, DeHaat procured 196 tonnes of green chillies in 2017, a substantial portion of which was exported to Middle East and Bangladesh, fetching the farmers better returns. “This year, we plan to procure 10,000 tonnes of green chillies,” Kumar Said. “Many smallholder farmers reach less than 20 per cent of their potential productivity owing to limited access to inputs, credit and markets. The adverse effects of climate change further increases their risks,” said Rick Van der Kamp, a senior official with IFC. The role of Netafim’s in the alliance was to exactly address the issues associated with water availability. According to Randhir Chauhan, managing director of Netafim India, fertigation technologies, even in regions where water is abundantly available, reduce vulnerability to weather changes and bring about significant increase in yields, ensuring better returns, “We want to support smallholders because their empowerment is key to achieving food security, said Peter R Mueller, head of crop sciences at Bayer South Asia.

Source : Businessline

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