The Better Life Farming initiative by Bayer, International Finance Corp. (IFC, a member of the World Bank Group), Netafim, and Swiss Re Corporate Solutions along with local partners is a significant private-sector initiative towards smallholder farmer empowerment and a major step towards a sustainable solution to rice sufficiency.
Low rice production is a growing multi-faceted global problem, one that can only be solved with both government and the private sector working together towards a single goal: The empowerment of smallholder farmers.
Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world’s population. More than 90 percent of the world’s rice supply is produced in Asia by predominantly smallholder farmers. Smallholders are particularly vulnerable to many existential threats, including adverse climate, pests and crop diseases, poor infrastructure, rural migration, fluctuating commodity prices and regulatory barriers.
Approximately 95 percent of two million Filipino farmers are considered smallholders. Unfortunately, majority of them lack access to advanced agricultural knowledge and sustainable practices.
Better Life Farming is an initiative to improve the rice production of smallholder farmers, as well as the profitability of their farms, and ultimately even their quality of life. Better Life Farming provides help in four specific areas:
High-quality input and technology. Farmers are provided with advanced technologies in the areas of seeds, crop protection, and fertilizers. When applicable, it introduces machinery which solves the problem of labor shortages and also introduces 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 advisors 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 partners’ finance, insurance and risk transfer products.
Since starting rice pilots in 2017, Better Life Farming in Asia has seen improved yield and net income for smallholder farmers in comparison to current farmer practices in the specific regions.
In Bohol, 69 hectares and 34 farmers were tapped to be part of the pilot project. As a result, productivity increased up to 57 percent more yield and 170 percent more income for farmers.
These positive results gave added confidence to scale up the model and to reach more farmers in the next season. By 2018, the pilot model had expanded to Leyte, Samar, Lanao del Norte and Zamboanga del Norte.