The official inauguration of the multi-stakeholder Better Life Farming (BLF) alliance in Bangladesh on 24 November 2020 signaled BLF’s entry into the second South Asian country after India. This initiative is already opening up new opportunities for Bangladeshi smallholder farmers to boost their farming income.
Alliance supporting smallholders
The official BLF inauguration on 24 November 2020 was a virtual event featuring various distinguished speakers, including a senior representative of the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture. The BLF alliance is bringing together powerful partners in Bangladesh: Bayer with its expertise in seeds, crop protection, and agronomy; the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the global development finance institution for impact assessment; and ACI to create awareness about balanced crop nutrition, soil health and precision irrigation. The overall objective is to support Bangladeshi smallholder farmers to increase crop yields and their farm incomes.
Key role of agri-entrepreneurs
On the ground, the alliance’s agri-entrepreneurship model functions through Better Life Farming Centers run by local agri-entrepreneurs. The BLF Centers open up economic opportunities for smallholders by enabling knowledge and technology transfer on good agricultural practices (GAP) and delivering services such as market linkages, access to agri-inputs, and crop advice.
Free high-yielding rice seed kits
Between June and November 2020, 100,000 smallholder rice farmers in Bangladesh had already benefitted from Bayer’s ‘Better Farms, Better Lives’ initiative, as Zahidul Islam, Managing Director, Bayer CropScience Bangladesh, explains: “We’ve helped Bangladeshi smallholders hit by the COVID-19 pandemic by giving them free kits of high-yielding hybrid rice seeds. This has not only improved their livelihoods but also contributed to the economy of our country."
Expansion plans in Bangladesh
By the end of 2020, 56 BLF Centers had been set up in Bangladesh serving up to 15,000 farmers in rural areas. And the BLF team continues to work hard to top that number in 2021, offering more rural development opportunities to additional communities. To ensure the long-term economic viability of the agri-entrepreneurship model, Bayer is working closely with IFC to promote financial literacy among smallholder farmers aspiring to be agri-entrepreneurs. At the end of a difficult year for smallholder farmers in Bangladesh, the official launch of the BLF initiative is a ray of hope that in coming years, smallholders will benefit from the economic opportunities the BLF Centers are opening up.