Better Life Farming to Unlock Full Farming Potential of Asian Rice Smallholders
In Asia, Better Life Farming - an alliance of leading private-sector companies - will develop sustainable and scalable business models with global and local partners to improve rice smallholders' livelihoods and food security.
Singapore, October 15, 2018: Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world's population. By 2050, the demand for rice will be double from what the world is producing today. More than 90% of the world's rice supply is produced in Asia by predominantly smallholder farmers. For these smallholders, rice is not just food; it is also their main source of livelihood.
Smallholders are particularly vulnerable to many existential threats, including adverse climate impacts, pests and crop diseases, poor infrastructure, rural migration, fluctuating commodity prices, and regulatory barriers. They also have limited access to modern agricultural practices and technology and to finance and markets. Because of these challenges, they can often only realize a fraction of their potential productivity.
On October 15, 2018, Bayer, International Finance Corporation (IFC, a member of the World Bank Group), Netafim, and Swiss Re Corporate Solutions along with local partners launched Better Life Farming for rice-growers in Asia at the International Rice Congress in Singapore.
Better Life Farming is an alliance of leading private-sector companies providing holistic and innovative solutions in developing economies that enable smallholders to unlock their farming potential. By connecting global expertise with local insights and partners, Better Life Farming offers advanced agricultural practices, seeds, precision irrigation, crop protection, finance, insurance, digital technologies, and access to markets, each customized to fully address smallholders' needs at scale. Better Life Farming's strength lies in its long-term commitment to join smallholders on their journey to sustainably produce more food, grow resilient farm businesses, and improve their livelihood.
How does it work?
- High-quality input and technology: Farmers are provided with advanced technologies in the areas of seeds, crop protection, and fertilizers. We introduce machinery which solves the problem of labor shortages and also introduce a sustainable way of farming.
- Training and advice: Better Life Farming introduces many good agricultural practices to increase the production of rice, such as land preparation, integrated crop management, application technology, and safe input use. One unique part of the training is "Farming as a Business," which guides farmers to an entrepreneurial mind-set by managing their farming activities in a more professional way. Field officers are available as advisers to the farmers.
- Market access and fair prices: Better Life Farming collaborates with different partners to ensure transparency in the value chain, with the aim of offering fair prices for produce.
- Access to finance, insurance and risk transfer: Better Life Farming enables smallholder farmers through education to better access our partners' finance, insurance, and risk transfer products.
Since starting rice pilots in 2017, Better Life Farming in Asia has seen great results from its pilot programs in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, working in selected geographies with underserved smallholders. With all programs we were able to improve yield and net income for smallholder farmers in comparison to current farmer practices in the specific regions. In Bohol Philippines, productivity increases resulted in up to 57% more yield and 170% more income for farmers while in Banten, Indonesia 27.1% incremental yield and 73% increase of net income could be achieved.
Sharing his experiences, Henry Cambangay, a smallholder rice farmer from Philippines Bohol, says: "One challenge that I had in my field is the damage brought about by pests and the changing weather brought about by climate change. I would like to thank Better Life Farming who helped the small farmers here in Bohol."
In 2018, Better Life Farming provides access to advanced agricultural and farm business knowledge, practices, and technology, supported by dedicated field officers, and also accommodates access to sustainable and viable financing sources as well as to stable markets with fair price, through partnerships with offtakers and banks. The solutions are being offered to almost 9,000 farmers in 2018. Better Life Farming aims to increase its scale while continuing to create a meaningful impact on the smallholders' lives in the coming years.
Lino Dias, Global Head Smallholder Farming at Bayer, emphasizes the importance of partners and highlights the strength of the alliance: "We want to support smallholders because we truly believe that empowering them to unlock their farming potential is crucial to achieve food security. An ecosystem of strong partners working with the farmers with a transformational mind-set has proven to improve farmers' productivity and net income. Better Life Farming brings partners together to address farmers' needs holistically. We believe our approach contributes to a better life not only for farmers but also for their families and their communities."
Juerg Trueb, Head Environmental & Commodity Markets at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions says the Better Life Farming initiative offers unique possibilities: "By joining forces with our Better Life Farming partners, we can provide smallholder farmers with crop insurance, which in turn allows them to access finance and buy better seeds and fertilizer - key drivers for increased productivity. Therefore insurance not only gives farmers peace of mind against unseasonal weather but also enables prosperity for them and their families."