Smallholder farmers face significant challenges, including limited access to high-quality agricultural inputs and knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (G.A.P.). To effectively support smallholders in unlocking their full potential, a holistic ecosystem approach and the expertise and services of a variety of partners is required.
That’s the focus of Bayer’s Better Life Farming Alliance (BLF): to deliver tailored, local solutions and advisory tools at the village level to enable smallholders to not only increase their productivity, but to build commercially viable, sustainable farming businesses and improve their livelihoods.
Better Life Farming (BLF) was launched in 2016 in Uttar Pradesh, India, with 20 farmers in 20 villages and three global partners: Bayer, International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Netafim. By June 2023, BLF had reached over 1 million smallholder farmers through more than 2,500 BLF Centers in India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mexico, Honduras, and Tanzania. More than 30 local partners have joined the alliance, offering their products and expertise directly to farmers via BLF Centers.
BLF Centers are agri-shops located in rural villages. Farming solutions from the partner network are made accessible to smallholders through a “last mile delivery model.” The centers also provide access to agronomic education, customized agronomic solutions, financing (including financial literacy training), market access, and fair prices as well as partnerships. Bayer calls this holistic service scope the BLF ecosystem. BLF Centers are owned by agri-entrepreneurs, many of whom are women or those who also run model farms, from the community they are located in. Each BLF Center services around 500 farmers from five to ten villages.
A recent impact study conducted in May 2023 among 684 BLF farmers revealed that most farmers who have worked with BLF in India for more than a year reported positive social benefits. 76 percent of farmers reported that their income increased because of BLF, 77 percent reported that they experienced a better way of farming, and 74 percent perceived an improved quality of life.
The BLF ecosystem provides training to farmers on sustainable practices and productivity. For example, farmers learn how to correctly use fertilizers and crop protection methods, thereby reducing input volumes and optimizing environmental footprint. Well-coordinated market linkages minimize storage times for fruit and vegetable production and thus potential food losses. Good water management practices may reduce consumption of water up to 70 percent, for example, in rice.
BLF is based on a business model to ensure long-term sustainability. The model allows partner companies to mitigate any potential high risks, open new sustainable profit generation opportunities in underserved agricultural markets, and give farmers long-term access to proven agricultural productivity-enhancing tools.
Figure 2: Meet our Better Life Farmer and Agri-Entrepreneurs